Monday, July 29, 2019

Rescuing the Tucker Family

Do you have any Tuckers in your family? If your trees—and your DNA test results—are anything like mine, you likely have a surname like that tucked in your file. Thus, last time I visited the antique stores in the Gold Country of northern California, I nearly walked away from the chance to rescue a hundred-year-old family photograph, despite seeing that it had been carefully labeled. Problem was, the label told me the name was Tucker. What are the chances?

This Tucker family, at some point over a century ago, walked into the Anderson photography studio in a little town called Wahoo. Only problem—for me, at least—was that the bottom right corner of the card stock was broken off, so that all I could see about the state where Wahoo was located was that it started with an "N." Of course, immediately you'll think of Nevada, but don't think too quickly. It could have signified New York. Or Nebraska. Also, remember that we've discussed photos from that same shop in Sonora which I subsequently sent all the way back to Canada. That "N" might represent Nova Scotia.

Fortunately for us, a quick check of towns by the name Wahoo revealed that, other than a fish taco restaurant chain by that name in both New York and Nevada, there is only one location which fits this "N" state category: the city of 4,500 people in Saunders County, Nebraska. And that's a good thing; I can't handle ambiguity.

The great thing about this photo from Wahoo, Nebraska, is that someone took great care to label it. Though it starts out with a less-than-helpful "Grand Dad Tucker," the label includes the names of the rest of the family members in the portrait. We learn from the tiny but tidy script that the Tucker family includes a toddler by the name of Ralph, along with names such as Jim, Ernie, Maud, Annie, Frank, and Elmer. Sadly, we also learn the detail that Frank was killed in World War I, showing us the perspective of the person who wrote the label. The label concludes with the note that "Maud is Mom B's mother," giving us another puzzle piece to manipulate as we search through this Tucker tree.

Despite a surname as common as Tucker, the fact that the photograph was taken in a town of such limited size—at the turn of the last century, the city of Wahoo had a population of just over two thousand, less than half the size it is today—gives us hope that we won't get mired in the dilemma of choosing between several families of the same name. That, alone, would be encouraging—until, that is, we realize that there really wasn't any family by the name Tucker to choose from. At least, there wasn't, at the time of the 1900 census.

There was, however, another possibility for this Tucker family constellation—but we'd have to move all the way to Oregon if it turned out to be the right bunch.

Above: Label from the reverse of an old family photograph, naming the Tucker Family: "Grand Dad Tucker - holding Ralph, Jim - Ernie - Maud - Annie - Frank - Killed in WWI + Elmer, Maud is Mom B's mother." Photograph in possession of author until claimed by a direct descendant.


  1. Thank you to the person who took the time to label the photo! I love these novellas.

    1. Yes, we're fortunate someone was so careful to label this photograph--I say, with a twinge of guilt, as I recall all those photographs of mine that are yet to be labeled!


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