Friday, February 3, 2017
Seeking Another Alice
In genealogical research, we sometimes end up testing hypotheses which turn out to be wrong. If we want to find the answer after such a false lead, obviously we need to get back on the research trail.
While we can congratulate ourselves that we have likely identified the right key people in the mystery photo album I found abandoned in a local antique store, there is still more work to be done. Among other things—and keep in mind, I have yet to share a few more photographs from the album with you—we need to identify who the woman called Alice in the pictures might have been.
But there's another pursuit, as well: to determine just who the writer was who left those white-inked comments on each page of the album. While she only used the identifier, "Self," I have my guesses. One of those guesses is that she also carried the name Alice.
Let's look at the first identification puzzle today, and I'll continue with the other one when we pick up the tale again on Monday.
Rather than the one who sent the photo album as a Christmas gift in 1936, signing it from "Harry and Alice," I wonder if the Alice we're currently eyeing might have been the visiting Alice. Keep in mind, if this guess is correct, not only are we talking about a cousin of Penrose as well as a fellow New Yorker, but a daughter of the man who started the company which Penrose had been invited to join—the T. G. Hawkes cut glass manufacturers in Corning, New York. Of all the Hawkes cousins, it is most likely that Penrose's closest relatives would be those with whom he shared an adopted hometown, over in the States.
True, this Alice, daughter of Thomas Gibbons and Charlotte Isadore Bissell Hawkes, was born quite a bit before Penrose—the age difference was about fifteen years—but taking a look at the few photographs we see labeled as Alice, she does seem to be a bit older than both Penrose and his supposed sister, "Self."
Since we learned, from Alice Hawkes Robinson's own story, that she returned regularly to Ireland after the death of her parents to attend to the family's property there in County Cork, we can presume this might have been one of her routine journeys across the Atlantic.
But the question remains: why didn't Alice's older brother Samuel take on those responsibilities? Or, for that matter, her older sister Charlotte? This is clearly an area that needs to be inspected further. Not to mention, as strong-willed and capable as this Alice might have been, by 1936, she was the mother of a nineteen year old son—Thomas Gibbons Hawkes Robinson—and her fourteen year old daughter Alice Dewart Robinson, whom we've already met. If the photos in the album were of this Alice Hawkes Robinson, why didn't her family join her during this visit in 1936?
Still, as far as I can tell so far, this is the only Alice who presents herself as a possibility in the Hawkes family constellation.
We can't conclusively say we've done an exhaustive search yet, by any stretch of the imagination—even though we can convince our discerning minds to decide that the Alice in the photo album looks, oh, about fifteen years older than Penrose and his sister.
While it might be nice to identify the Alice mentioned in the album, rather than continue in a tight loop, let's move on and ponder the possibilities for the other mystery person: the young mother who calls herself simply, "Self."
Above: Photograph of the family's picnic visit to Crosshaven, County Cork, during the summer of 1936. From left to right: "Self," Harry and Alice.