Tuesday, February 6, 2018
A Sterling Opportunity
When all else fails in trying to locate a suitable descendant to gift a long-lost family photograph, fling some cousin bait out in the ether and hope someone follows the stardust to this humble online abode.
Since I haven't figured out the likely California recipient of Alta Barnes Williams' hundred-year-old photo postcard by the usual, tedious method—building out her family tree and looking for closely-related researchers on Ancestry.com—this will be my next step. My favorite candidate for this attempt turns out to be a maternal first cousin to Alta, born in Kansas only three years before Alta's own arrival in nearby Oklahoma.
First, a little explanation about Alta's family constellation. Alta's mother was born a Tousley—a name less common than Alta's own surname Barnes, but so much more likely to suffer spelling abuse at the hands of the occasional census enumerator. Clara Tousley had an older brother named John, who spent most of his life in the location of the family home in Cowley County, Kansas, except for one special time. In March of 1905, he slipped across the state border to Kay County, Oklahoma to say those life-changing little words, "I do," to one Lillie May Alsip.
Whether that was the start to the Barnes and Tousley families' habit of jumping the state line, moving back and forth from Cowley County, Kansas, to Kay County, Oklahoma, I don't know. But what I do know is that John and Lillie Barnes became the parents of a long list of progeny, starting with their first bundle of joy in the predictable space of one year after their marriage.
John and Lillie named their firstborn son a memorable name: Sterling Punk Tousley. Like his father before him, Sterling lived most of his life in Cowley County, Kansas, except for the time when he slipped across the state border in 1929 to say those life-changing words to his own sweetheart, Bessie Jane Vaden, in Kay County, Oklahoma.
Still, Sterling lived and died in Cowley County, Kansas, and it seems his children followed his footsteps, as well. It's pretty obvious that this particular branch of Alta's family wouldn't provide a likely candidate in California for her to mail that old postcard to.
Neither would it make sense, if we used the principle of "voice"—determining just who she would have been speaking to when she wrote her notes about "Aunt Nellie." Sterling's family would have been too far removed to have known much about "Aunt Nellie," who would have been his older cousin. Besides, unless she lived past her teen years, she would have been only a dim childhood memory to him, if he recalled her at all.
As a lark in this genealogical quest, I'm simply throwing that name out there in hopes someone snags this page via a search engine query. One never knows.
Back to reality, though, it would be far more productive to query the other Ancestry researchers also working on this Barnes line. Perhaps one of them might know more about the current family members to help put me in touch with a direct descendant who would appreciate receiving the photograph.
That task, however, equates with grunt work—not riveting enough to follow in the minutiae of the details. Thus, until that day when someone calls to claim Alta's memento of her older sisters Nellie and Mollie, I'll tuck that photo away in a safe place and move on to the next discovery from my shopping spree through the antique shops of gold-rush-era California.