Thursday, October 4, 2018

Myrt and Mabe

Oftentimes, when I find an abandoned family photograph in an antique store, it is a one-off event. While I can research the subject of the portrait, based on the clues I find marked on the picture or its frame, up until this most recent rescue mission, I hadn't found any photos that connected with others.

And then I found Rachel Webb, and returned her photo to a direct descendantbefore discovering that another family member's photo was in the same batch I had purchased from the same antique store in Sonora, California.

Keeping this in mind, I am proceeding very carefully, as I move through the rest of the photos. After all, so many of the bunch I found in Sonora all came with the same sort of label on the reverse, all apparently written in the same hand. You know there are going to be other connections coming to the surface in this bunch.

When I ran across the photo of two young women, labeled only with what looked like, "Gramp's  sisters - Myrt + Malie," I figured a productive first search would be to revisit the family tree of the Brockman in-law whose other photos I had already identified. That meant looking at the line of the Purkey family descendants from Indiana, Wisconsin, Idahoand then, eventually, California.

My hypothesis was that "Gramps" was a grandfather of the Brockman descendant whose recent passing in Sonora precipitated the loss of those family photos. Keeping in mind my concept of determining the "voice" of the written records I find, the only "Gramps" I could find who had sisters anything close to those names was actually that Brockman descendant's mother's father, so that would indicate we are talking about someone in the Purkey familythe same line as the lively children we discussed the other day.

Taking a look at the Purkey family tree, it turns out that the two daughters in the family of Erastus Manford and Rebecca Olive Lewis Purkey were very likely the ones nicknamed Myrt and "Malie"although it turns out I misread that second name, which was probably Mabe. According to the 1900 census, the Purkeys had a daughter named Mabel, whose birth was listed as November of 1883. And the only other daughterthe rest of the Purkeys' six children in the 1900 census were sonswas listed as seven year old Myrtle.

Thus, with a little assistance from a document dating back to 1900and considering the provenance of the many other photographs I obtained that apparently belong to the same family collectionwe can conclude that the photograph of two young ladies found in Sonora, California, were likely that of the two Purkey daughters from Pocatello, Idaho, Myrtle and Mabel.

Above: the only identification provided on the photograph of two young women, found in an antique store in Sonora, California; the type of label and the handwriting similarities point to the likelihood of the same source as the other pictures I had found at that same location.


  1. Cool beans! Some of that handwriting is barely more than scribbles - maybe done in haste.

    1. Interesting you mentioned that observation, Iggy. Since I don't exactly have the best handwriting in the world, myself, I hadn't given it much thought.

      BUT... now that you mention "done in haste," I do recall asking at the antique shop about that detail. Almost all the photos I purchased from this shop had the same type of label with that same handwriting. I was concerned that someone had gone through all the albums, taken out the photos, copied the original notes from the albums, and separated out the pictures.

      The answer I got at the store was enigmatic, to say the least, but now that I've researched this set of pictures, it has almost certainly come from the same one location. Perhaps it was time pressure plus the tedium of copying all those labels that resulted in that appearance for the handwritten notes.


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