Saturday, July 29, 2017

Thinking of August

Yes, I know August is just a few days away. It isn't the calendar that prompts my thoughts about August, though. It's the full circle of an eighty year long journey that is finally going to be completed in just a few days. And I can't wait until it happens.

If you recall, just after Christmas in 2016, I began a series in an attempt to figure out the origin of a mystery photograph album I found in an antique store near my home.

With work on the puzzle taking nearly four months to conclude—and with lots of help from many interested friends—the album which was sent as a Christmas present in 1936 finally gave up some of its secrets. The senders, it turns out, were one Harry and Alice Reid from County Cork in Ireland. The recipients may well have been the family of Harry's emigrant brother Richard, by then living in upstate New York.

By mid-March, I was talking to the granddaughter of Harry and Alice, who then put me in touch with the suspected recipient—well, actually, Richard's daughter, who now lives in Oklahoma. By the second week of May, that little photo album—no longer a mystery—began the first leg of its journey home to Ireland when I mailed it to Richard's daughter Rita, who wanted to see it once again.

And now begins the rest of the journey homeward. And this is why August is on my mind: in a matter of days, Rita's daughter will be traveling to visit family in Ireland. When she returns to County Cork, she will be bringing that little album, which she'll return to Harry and Alice Reid's granddaughter in the very place where the journey once started.

Of course, I'm thrilled to see the album come home again. But more than that, I'm pleased to see others catch that same enthusiasm for finding tokens of micro-history—those small treasures representing a family's history—and personally becoming part of the solution in guiding those objects back home to those who will appreciate their return.

Just the other day, someone found me courtesy of an online search, on account of that very issue: trying to reunite photographs with family. I'll share that story tomorrow, but as it turned out, those who are familiar with genealogical research techniques are already suited to the task at hand. And once the goal is accomplished and the objects reunited with the family of origin, the enthusiasm for sharing a part in that process is indeed contagious.

The beauty of stories such as this is that we all can play our part in reuniting these lost treasures with their families of origin. As one, then another success story makes its way out, to be shared with others, the effort seems to be amplified. More people realize ways they can help. The dynamics of crowdsourcing kick in, and word spreads—perhaps through blogs or social media, perhaps through groups or friends-of-friends. The more that help, the more those success stories multiply.

We are all so much more inter-connected than we realize, especially in this age of instant and global contact online. In an unofficial yet organically-grown way, our genealogical skills are leading us to a very different kind of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.

Above: Front cover of a photograph album sent as a Christmas gift from an Irish couple, Harry and Alice Reid, to an undisclosed recipient in 1936. The album is soon to make the final part of its journey home.   


  1. It's like we are all on that journey with that wonderful photo book! Yeah! :) I am far behind on reading again, summer is so busy, or I am not managing my time as well as I should:)

    1. That's understandable, Far Side, with your ever-present (and demanding) to-do list. Hope you are enjoying your summer. And yes--don't you wish we all were traveling along to Ireland right now???


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