Monday, April 17, 2017
The Last Hurdle
It's been quite a trip to go from finding a discarded photograph album in a local antique shop to actually determining whose family was featured on its pages. At this point, the goals of discovering the 1936 family's identity and getting in touch with a direct descendant can both be checked off our list. At some point soon, the little photo album will be making its way across the ocean, back home to Ireland.
There is, however, one more goal I'd like to see accomplished: to figure out just how the album made its way from County Cork to San Joaquin County in California.
While I've been writing about the various facts uncovered by researching the Hawkes and Reid families—the families of Alice and Harry, originators of the album—I've been testing possibilities for a family tree. Once I had discovered the likely identity of our easiest-to-determine member of the family—Penrose Hawkes, Alice's brother who immigrated to upstate New York to join a family member's business concern there—I had started sketching out a rudimentary family tree.
There were, of course, twists and turns. Guesses aren't always as insightful as we might hope they are. In time, I just gave up with the pen and paper route, and opened up a new tree on my Ancestry.com account. Making the tree not only private but unsearchable—lest someone think I was actually a relative or, worse, think I was the very one who held the key to bust through their unfathomable brick wall—I felt free to test my craziest hypotheses and juxtapose conjectures alongside confirmed relationships.
Since discovering Penrose's surname—well, maybe since confirming I had the right Penrose (as if there could be any others)—I had been working on my secret family tree. Since early January, the slow process of testing and discarding possibilities has yielded me a tree of 127 names. A modest count, that number is sufficient to help me find my way around the family constellation, although certainly not enough to confirm relationships I've since become aware of. After all, Penrose's father had twelve siblings, some of whom remained in the area around their County Cork home and some of whom had also made the trip across the Atlantic to either the United States or Canada.
In trying to put together a path of descendants—and thus the likely trail taken by that mystery photo album to its final destination in California—I've tested several possibilities which subsequently had to be discarded. I couldn't quite figure out who might have been the recipient of Harry and Alice's Christmas greeting album.
Of course, their granddaughter Heather has since reminded me to look to the other side of the family tree for answers. And, in that same phone conversation a couple weeks ago, she made a suggestion of her own. Perhaps if I contacted one specific family, I'd be able to talk to someone who might have some ideas on the subject.
Once again, I find myself reaching out and then holding my breath, hoping for an answer, but all the while thinking this is, indeed, a crazy pursuit.