Monday, October 1, 2018

An Earlier Version

It is informative to compare photographs of the same ancestors over the years. Last week, I had shared a photograph of five children, all part of the Purkey family in Pocatello, Idaho. Thankfully, each of the children was listed in that photo with his or her first and middle nameswhich helped when I realized I had also found an older photograph of the three oldest of the set, along with their parents. Besides the younger agesnot to mention the addition of the parents' namesthe earlier photograph revealed that the family had moved to Pocatello from Menonomie, Wisconsin.

All this is helpful to learn, as it will assist me in my quest to return the abandoned photographs I find in local antique stores, here in northern California, to descendants of the families pictured in these portraits. In the case of the Brockman familywhich we reviewed earlier in Septemberand now with the Purkey family, though, I discovered a slight twist to the usual process: I had already sent a photo home which apparently belonged to this same set of family photos.

The connection is this: the family estate from which these photos likely came was one in Sonora, Californiaabout a ninety minute drive from my home, going up into the California foothills made famous by the 1849 gold rush. Apparently, the woman of that Sonora family was a Purkey descendant. And among those Purkey ancestors was a connection to a photo we've already rescued and returned home.

The photo of the five children we viewed last week showed the family of Erastus and Olive Purkey. They and their oldest three children are pictured below, in the photo from Menomonie. Whoever labeled the photo apparently did so in order from left to right, from toddler "Burt" to papa Erastus Manford, to oldest daughter Mabel, to mama "Rebecca O." to baby Lester in her lap.

We can determine the approximate date this portrait was taken, based on the information found in the 1900 U.S. census. At that time, the Purkey family was living in Pocatello, not Menomonie. That particular census, though, included all the children up through that year, with a statement on the month and year of each person's birth, along with the total number of years the couple had been married (seventeen in this case). Thus, the youngest child in the photo being Lester, his date of birth was given as January of 1888, back in Wisconsin. By June of 1890, when the next son was born, the family had already arrived out west.

It was a good thing the label on the reverse of the photograph identified the wife as "Rebecca O." and not simply as Rebecca. If you noticed, the 1900 census listed Erastus' wife's name as Olive, not Rebecca.

A quick glance over the census details showed that Olive was born in Indianaas was her husbandand that each of the children had, for their mother's place of birth, an entry with that same state of Indiana.  Still, a bit more verification to insure Mr. Purkey hadn't been married twice would help.

Since the census provided the Purkeys' report of when they were married, a little mental math reveals the year of their wedding to be approximately 1883. And, seeing that both the adults were born in Indiana, I went looking for any indication of the names of this couple in that same home state.

That, I found in the records of Marshall County, Indiana, for the September 10, 1882, marriage of Manford "Purky" and Olive Lewis. Olive in the 1900 census seemed to be one and the same as the Olive in that 1882 document. With "Rebecca O." being the wife in the Purkey family's photo taken around 1888, we can presume the "O." must have stood for Olive.

But Olive? Lewis? In Marshall County, Indiana? We've seen a name like that before...

Above: Photograph of the Erastus Manford Purkey family, taken in Menomonie, Wisconsin, circa 1889; currently in possession of author until claimed by a direct descendant of the Purkey family. Excerpt of the 1900 census, above, courtesy of FamilySearch, as is the section from the Purkeys' marriage record.

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