Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Cards Past

Here’s to untraceable faces from Christmas cards of the past.

Mabel Gosline Christmas 1952 greeting card
Who is Mabel Gosline? You’d think that identification on the back of this Christmas greeting would present straightforward marching orders for an online search. Armed with Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, NewspaperArchive.com and others, I thought it would be child’s play to knock out all those toy soldier false leads in the twinkle of an eye.

But no, there are no false leads—well, other than several California Voters’ Registration listings for a Mrs. Mabel Gosline.

I don’t think this Christmas card is from a married Mabel Gosline. With the card dated 1952, showing a young woman of a marriageable age, I don’t think this Christmas greeting would be sent with a picture like this if it were representing a married woman. Back in 1952, a married woman would have proudly posed with her husband at her side.

Finding an unmarried Mabel Gosline presents an entirely different search, one at which I’ve not yet been successful.

This card comes from my collection inherited from the Bean family. Remember last year, about this time, when I started the series on that extended family? I would have loved to include this card in that series, but one thing held me back: I couldn’t figure out who Mabel Gosline was. Friend? Family? Direct descendant of a common ancestor? Third cousin fifteen times removed?

There is no way—at least up to this point, a year later—for me to tell.

So, now that the year has rolled around to that same point in time, Mabel is getting her fifteen minutes of fame. Why? She is reminding me of all those faces which, while not nameless, still present the diligent family history researcher with an unsolvable quandary.

If I’ve got them in my stack of mysteries, I know you do, too. So, in this season that calls us back to family and remembrances, don’t be shy about pulling out those photographs that still stump you. Maybe your visiting aunts and grandparents can provide the missing puzzle piece that connects your mystery picture with memories of times long gone.

Here’s to a Christmas that reconnects us with our past, that knits us back together with our heritage—even the forgotten parts.

1952 Christmas card with photograph of young woman by fireplace mantelpiece


  1. See is quite slender - I am unaccustomed to trying to guess women's ages (especially from older times) as it is - but I would say it's possible she is as old as 45.

    I wonder, given her fitness, if she was a skater for the ice show the poodles were in.

    1. That's a good guess, Iggy. Since I hadn't had any luck with pre-1950 documents, I thought I'd try old newspapers, but the site I use seemed to be suffering from computer glitches at the time. I'll be trying that route soon, in hopes she was mentioned in some other local activities. Maybe even some ice show fame :)

  2. Seems like a unnatural/strange pose, I wonder what the horse? on the mantle signifies? I thin she is in her 20's or early 30's..but that is just a guess:)

    1. Well, I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time ;)

      Good eye on the horse, Far Side. Hopefully, it might be a hint...or just a decorating preference. I was thinking she was in her 20s or 30s, too, but I also thought Gosline was her maiden name, yet no sign of any younger Mabel in the 1940 or even 1930 census. She really has me stumped.


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