Sometimes, when I research an abandoned antique family photograph with the hopes of sending it home, I never do find signs of living descendants. I'm still holding several of those pictures, waiting to run across a family member who would love to receive them.
Others are quick finds: the subject's tree is readily discovered online and traced down to the most recent generation...and the descendant is actively working on that tree and responds quickly to messages from other researchers.
But there are some who posted their tree online and then, seemingly, just walked away and never gave another thought to their family history. I can send messages to such people, but I seldom hear back from them.
Such has been the case with some of the photos I've found during this last trip to the antique stores of Sonora, California. I've figured out who the descendants might have been. I just can't seem to entice them to answer me—including some researchers who seem to be closely related to the family of William Malphus Knapp.
So, after a run of such experiences, I hadn't had much hope for a quick answer when I reached out to a descendant of Flora Knapp Jones a week before Thanksgiving.
It was Thursday evening, November 15, and I had just returned home from our genealogical society's last meeting of the year. I decided to send a late-night message to a researcher whose tree included Flora Knapp, sister of William Malphus Knapp, whose story had run in A Family Tapestry that same morning.
By the next morning, I had received a reply from Lauren in Dallas, Texas, explaining that Flora was her second great grandmother. Lauren actually remembers, from her childhood years, Flora's daughter Mildred. According to Lauren, her great grandmother Mildred, Flora's daughter, was quite talented. Mildred was Lauren's first piano teacher, and the family still has one of Mildred's paintings. To have this connection to Mildred's mother in the form of a photo of a young Flora Knapp confirms that her picture is returning home to a family which still cares very much about their personal heritage.
Flora's photo was in the mail the very next day, slated to arrive in Dallas on Monday. By Tuesday, I got confirmation that Lauren had indeed received the photo, and that it had arrived in good condition without any mishaps.
Any time I've been able to return a photograph to family, it has always been with expressions of gratefulness for being able to receive such a lost treasure. We seldom know what we don't have, of course, though most of us can imagine how we'd feel if such an unexpected gift were handed to us.
Of course, when something like this transpires during the holiday season, it seems to come with a second spurt of joy, just as happened last Christmas when a descendant got to surprise her husband's grandmother—still alive at ninety three—with the photo of her father, whom she lost as a child (John Blain, the mustached man who died as a young father after being hit by a train in Kansas).
At this point in researching the extended family of William Malphus Knapp and his wife Clara Alice Hoover Knapp Banfill, so far we've managed to return one photo back home to family. I'm still waiting on responses to two other messages. And we've still got another Banfill descendant and one Knapp descendant yet to meet—as well as some Knapp cousins, likely from a preceding generation. But for now, I'll celebrate one more who has made her way back home to family.
Above: Close-up of undated photograph of Flora Knapp of Douglass, Kansas; original now returned to a second great granddaughter in Texas.