Wednesday, July 11, 2018
One of the benefits of those old-fashioned genealogical societies is that they gave family history hobbyists an outlet to meet other like-minded enthusiasts. One detraction we find on the other side of the digital divide is that lack of face to face interaction. There are, however, virtual attempts at reconnecting long-lost relatives and facilitating collaboration among distant cousin researchers, and Ancestry.com, for one, has made sure to include such options in their offerings.
When I build a tentative tree for the subjects featured in these abandoned, hundred-year-old photographs I find, I keep an eye out for those Ancestry shaky-leaf hints which show other subscribers who are also researching the same line.
Granted, they can't find me—I'm always careful to mask my research "sandbox" by making the tree private and unsearchable so no one gloms on to my guesses and transforms them into gospel truth by adding them to another tree, unverified. But by paying attention to what other Ancestry subscribers are doing, I can find serious researchers who are carefully constructing their tree through sound reasoning and ample documentation.
While it might be nice to cross check what I am doing with these well-documented trees, what I am really looking for, in this process, is a close family member who might be interested in receiving the actual photograph. It is fairly easy, on a public tree posted at Ancestry, to tell who is a close relative of my photo's subject, and who is someone like me, researching fifth cousins and beyond for the sake of DNA testing or other personal goals. It's those close relatives I'm looking for—someone who not only is particular about the accuracy of their research, but who is also close enough to appreciate the opportunity to receive that relative's picture.
But now we come to the photo of Henry with John Reed's daughter. Henry who? And which daughter? Do I even have the right John Reed? These are questions that plague me as I try to determine whether enough work has been done to send this little treasure home to family.
For one thing, I had to make the choice between two men. Knowing how much less people cared about precise spelling of names in that era of time, it was quite possible that either of two men with similar names could be the right one: John Holmes Reed, a teacher and farmer from the outskirts of Guelph, or John Read, the machinist from the north ward of the city.
Then there was the consideration of which of John Reed's (or Read's) daughters would be the right one. John Read's older daughter seemed a bit too old, yet his younger one too young. John Reed, the farmer from Erin Township, had two older daughters, either of whom could have qualified as the woman in the photograph.
The added benefit was the demonstrated connection to California—location where I finally found the photo, over one hundred years later—where John Reed's brothers had several descendants take up residence.
While I'm still not sure which Henry was the right identity for the man in the photograph, we do know that the woman in the picture was one of John Reed's daughters. Since the most helpful Reed family tree I found on Ancestry belonged to a direct descendant of John Reed, himself, it seemed the most reasonable choice to send the photograph to this descendant, who, incidentally, is interested in receiving it.
So, despite the remaining doubts, off this photo goes to its new home across the border, where a descendant of the only one whose first and last name were provided in the photo's inscription will gratefully add it to the family's records of their heritage.