Friday, August 16, 2019

Discovering the Family Network

One of the challenges of rescuing abandoned antique photographs is being able to see how the puzzle pieces fit together—and not being shortsighted in the process. I've always managed to juggle the few hints I've found in one particular photograph—indeed, I won't purchase a picture unless I know for sure there are enough viable hints to lead to a targeted family—but until now, I hadn't given much thought to how several different photographs might represent family lines that, eventually, weave themselves together. That's what has just unfolded before our eyes as we traced the migrating family of Samuel and Annie Tucker from Nebraska to Oregon.

Granted, I've missed those clues before—in particular, when I hadn't realized that Erastus Purkey's wife was a Lewis, the very surname contained in a photograph I had just sent home to other descendants. Now, we're realizing the connection to the extended Purkey family once again, this time between Samuel and Annie Tucker and their daughter Maud, who married Burt Purkey. Even that picture set I neglected to send home to descendants last January—the family of George and Elmira Wymer of Indiana—turned out to have connections to that extended Purkey family once again. And yet, the trail all began when I traced the origin of a wedding photo bearing the surname Brockman. How was I to know it would all end up connected to the Purkey family?

While this provides an excellent opportunity to see how all these surnames intertwined, we don't really get the bigger picture until we work our way far from the starting gate. Who's to say when to stop researching the connections and start doing the work of reuniting pictures with family members?

On the other hand, waiting while pursuing the bigger picture can help pinpoint the "voice" of the person writing those coveted labels on the backs of the photographs. I now know just how the Purkeys, Goodmans, Tuckers, Brockmans, and even Fullers connect, though I didn't know it at first—and that gives me a better idea of just how all those photos ended up in northern California from places as diverse as Indiana, Nebraska, and Oregon. At first, it all seemed like a jumble of unrelated pictures; now, it's clearly a well-coordinated family photo collection.

I don't, though, do well with patience. I want to get to the punch line yesterday. This becomes a lesson for me in seeking to find the bigger picture—and then stopping to examine whether there's an even bigger picture.

It all reminds me of that feeling I get when I look at those hundreds of DNA matches. All those names, all those trees—those many puzzle pieces don't seem to line up, at least at first. But then, looking over the names, perhaps uploading them to a spreadsheet where I can sort through the similarities and stir the puzzle pieces around, sometimes a specific surname does come into view. And connects. And leads to another link.

Just because it seems to take "too long" to stare at all those puzzle piece possibilities doesn't mean there isn't a connection to be found. Someday, it will become apparent; just not now. But keep working. When you learn the route like the back of your own hand, the way around the next bend somehow brings you to just the connection you were seeking. And then, it will all make sense. And you'll realize you've found the way home to your answer.


  1. You have done a tremendous service rescuing these precious family photos.

    1. Thank you, Miss Merry...but I am certainly not the only one tackling such a project. I got my inspiration from Far Side and her blog, Forgotten Old Photos. I know there are many others out doing the same thing--and I've been thrilled to learn that some of them are even fellow blog readers at A Family Tapestry. Hopefully, even more will try their hand at reuniting these abandoned photographs with family members.

  2. Yeah for a whole family of connections and photos! :0

    1. Yes! It certainly makes the task easier when they all come from the same family. Only problem is: locating someone who is a descendant of that same, big family!


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