Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Bigger Picture

In order to explain just how a wedding photograph from West Point, Nebraska, might have ended up in the foothills of northern California, it is perhaps easiest to step back and take in the big picture. The big family picture, that is.

Thankfully, the wedding photograph I found in an antique store in Sonora, California, was labeled. We know that the subjects were Adolph Brockman and his wife Verna. We've since found them in census records and discovered that their only daughter, though long-lived, died in 2009 having left no descendants.

Of course, the question in my mind is always, "How did the picture get to the place where I found it?" In the case of the Brockmans' wedding photo, it may very well be a case of family passing along the photo from generation to generation until there was no one to pass it to. That, at least, is the conjecture of one Brockman relative, who shared with me his theory as to how the Brockmans' wedding portrait ended up in Sonora, California.

Before I explain, let's first take a detour to see the big picture of the Brockman family tree. Adolph was the oldest of eleven siblings, ten of whom made it to adulthood. Adolph, born in 1889, had siblings stretching from 1892 when his sister Mathilda was born all the way to 1916 when the caboose of the family, youngest sister Ruth, was born.

Keeping in mind that Adolph and Vernie were married about 1911, all but his youngest sister were already born, true, but at the time of the wedding, half of those siblings were ten years of age or younger. At that point, the distance in age might have rendered the family connection less informal than one would expect from a sibling relationship.

To further increase that sense of distance, after 1916, Adolph's parentsWilliam and Augusta Brockmanmoved from Nebraska, where all the children had been born, to Fort Morgan in Colorado, while Adolph and his wife set up housekeeping only one county away from their West Point home, back in Nebraska.

In every family, the rules regarding who gets to keep "the stuff"those coveted family heirlooms and keepsakescan be different. Often it is the oldest who is designated to receive many of those treasures. In the case of this photograph of Adolph and Vernie Brockman, however, it may have been one of the youngest sons who passed along the wedding picture of big brother Adolph.

Whether this was so or not, we can't be sure. But one thing I have been advisedthrough correspondence with a descendant of the next-to-youngest Brockman childis that youngest brother Edward married a woman by the name of Corinne Bernice Purkey in Bannock, Idaho, and eventually passed away in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Like his big brother Adolph, Edward Brockman left just one childin Edward's case, a son. And that son, curiously enough, ended up living guessed it...Sonora, California.

Above: The family of William and Augusta Brockman of West Point, Nebraska, including nine of their eleven childrenmissing Ruth, born in 1916, and Ernst, who died in infancy. Photograph courtesy of Brockman descendant Jeff in Oregon; used by permission.

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