Monday, July 5, 2021

Family Photos Span the Generations


Even if I have none of my own to enjoy, I still find it fun to watch a family's photos trace the changes reaching backwards in time through the generations. Finding that stash of Marilyn Sowle Bean's family pictures at a local antique store, thanks to notification from a genealogy-loving student, has afforded me such an opportunity.

When I had first interviewed Marilyn, so many years ago, about her family history, I remembered her telling me about her dad, David Moore Sowle, and his sister. She mentioned how the family had moved from La Crosse, Wisconsin, to Los Angeles—a big change in so many ways. Although she did share some information on her mother's Norwegian ancestry, she really didn't say much about her father's parents, except to mention that they, too, had made the move to Los Angeles. And yet, come to find out, she did have at least one photo of her paternal grandmother from those early years.

One photo of Marilyn's dad was neatly labeled, "David M. Sowle, high school grad, 1924, 16 yrs. old." I couldn't help but laugh when I spotted the hairstyle from nearly one hundred years ago—not because it was so different, but because I've seen echoes of that same style in the past few years, as well.

Beyond that point in time, there was nothing until the era of baby pictures. In one, aggravatingly trimmed from a post card and leaving only the tantalizing sign of a letter written to "Dear Joe," was the note identifying a snapshot of baby David at fifteen months. It was dated August 10, 1909. I couldn't help but compare it to a similarly aged shot of his only daughter, Marilyn, and wonder just how much she favored her father. She certainly acted like she was a "Daddy's girl" even from comments she made to me so many years later.

Slipping back even further into the family's history was a photo of an infant David posed with his mother, Dora Moore Sowle. Though the photo—cut, once again, from a picture post card—was undated, I already know that David was born May 5, 1908. Whether Dora was modeling the height of current fashion, I can't tell, but let's just say this wasn't an informal setting she dressed for.

Dora, the "Gram" in the photo with Aunt Jo I shared last week, came from a family with a long history in the logging region around Onalaska, Wisconsin. At least, in several newspaper articles on the family, the phrase "pioneer family" was often mentioned about the Moore family.

Among the few photos on this part of Marilyn's family, there was one picture included of Dora's brother, which of course prompted me to do a bit of research on this family. Though the photo wasn't very clear, tomorrow we'll take a look and learn a bit about Dora's family, mainly in hopes that someone researching that family line might be interested in receiving a copy of that photo. 


  1. Yesterday I spent some time looking at 100's of pinkish snapshots I took 40-50 years ago. The pink makes them pointless in the 21st century and the instamatic used makes them not quite in focus..... we are spoiled with our smart phones..... (they may not know how to spell what we want to text but they take a super photo) For the most part I have left them for now ...... but did pull a couple to send to relatives of folks now gone. These kids are young 20-40 but have had life altering medical events where they are very limited in what they can do at this point, so staring at a lousy photo might interest them. I will tell the story of the day the photo was taken. enough perhaps to make it into someone's genealogy.....

    1. Sharing the photos along with the stories will certainly be helpful. And with photo editing programs now, perhaps that pinkish discoloration can be somewhat restored to normal tones, as well. Yes, that perennial wish: that someone in the next generation will pick up the tale and pass it on.

  2. Love that hat! It was an occasion to have your photo taken!

    1. Well, this one was certainly an event she dressed for! Interesting the shifting perspectives we've held, regarding our relationship with media over the decades.


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