Monday, April 10, 2017

Finding More About the Family
Through Photographs

Being introduced to someone dubbed, simply, "Grannie" in the photo album I found in a local antique store, we saw an unnamed woman in 1936, dressed to go to church. Her dark clothing painted a somber picture, yet her posture presented an alert, energetic personality. There was no way to know, at the time I first saw the photograph, that "Grannie" was actually Sarah Susanna Ruby, the seventy one year old widow of John Pim Penrose Hawkes of County Cork, Ireland.

There is something inviting but often misleading about forming mental pictures of strangers, based solely upon what you see in their photographic likeness. I would never have guessed that that 1936 photograph belonged to a person of that age, though now that I've learned the family's history, I can verify that.

It is helpful to be able to view other portrayals throughout the person's lifespan to catch a glimpse of the personality. Thankfully, now that we've learned who the people in that photo album were, and have subsequently connected with a living descendant of "Grannie," we have the opportunity to not only view other pictures throughout their lifetime, but to learn more about them from our new contact person.

Heather, the great-granddaughter of the woman we first met as "Grannie," kindly sent a photograph of Sarah in her younger years—a picture its owner granted permission for me to share with you. Undated, the portrait shows Sarah sitting sidesaddle on one of the family's horses. Apparently an accomplished horsewoman, she was skilled at riding in that difficult position.

When Heather and I talked earlier this month, she mentioned how difficult it was to ride sidesaddle. Interestingly, I had just been at a carriage museum in central Florida in which a sidesaddle from that time period had been displayed. The chance to closely examine the saddle's configuration was fresh in my mind when Heather and I discussed her great-grandmother's riding capabilities. Perhaps this discipline was what contributed to her posture and bearing, all those years later when her likeness was captured, heading out the door one Sunday morning for church in 1936.

Above: Sarah Susanna Ruby Hawkes of County Cork, Ireland, riding sidesaddle in an undated photograph from the private collection of a member of the Hawkes and Reid family; photograph used by permission.


  1. What a lovely photo! We had a side addle at the museum, I am certain I would never be able to ride that way...I suppose with enough practice anything is possible:0 Thanks to Heather for sharing the photo!!

    1. Oh, Far Side, you would have loved that museum in Florida! (Or perhaps you've already been there?) According to Heather, it takes quite a bit of strength in the core muscles to be able to successfully ride side saddle.


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