Tuesday, March 20, 2018
A Clue from Baby Louise
Genealogy is always presented in a neatly-tied package when a researcher can ably articulate how she got from square one to the final conclusion.
When it comes to how I found the connection between some of the names in this collection of abandoned photographs from a northern California antique shop, don't count on me to supply such a tidy explanation. Yes, it was wonderful to realize I was gifted with a full name, Thirza Cole—or was it Thiega Cole?—for one of the pictures in the set. But that didn't help me connect the dots between Thirza and the other people identified in the collection bearing her name.
With the picture of baby Louise, however, I did get a viable hint. There was an inscription on the back of the photograph.
Let's face it: baby pictures are pretty nondescript. If you've seen one baby picture, you've seen them all—at least, this is how some people feel. The receipt of a baby photograph is really just a gesture of inclusion from some pretty proud parents. So this photo of baby Louise could have been from anybody—close family, distant relative, army buddy, college chum.
Thankfully, it wasn't, as I found out. Still, it took a lot of wandering about, poking through files, forming hypotheses and then seeing them dashed to the ground, crashing and burning with the discovery of subsequent documentation. I wasn't kidding when I said this search is not following any logical, linear pattern.
The note on the back of baby Louise's darling picture began, "For Thirza + Pauline" and was signed off, innocuously, "With love from the Baby."
I realize that doesn't tell us much—in my head, I'm screaming, "Whose baby?!?!"—but it did introduce a possibility. Who was Pauline, I wondered—a much more rational (not to mention, sedately-uttered) question that started my research in a solid direction. My first goal was to find a nexus between Thirza Cole and someone named Pauline.
Someone, presumably much later, had added in a different hand and color of ink, "Louise Van Noate," which will turn out to be another useful hint.
Between these two names and the one I already knew—Thirza Cole—I was ready to hunt and peck my way through online documents to see if any possibilities popped up.
Above: Reverse of photograph of baby Louise, bearing the inscription, "For Thirza + Pauline, With love from the Baby." The name, Louise Van Noate, appears to have been added later. Photograph currently in possession of the author.