EDITH L. MELVIN (1891-1977) – The Teacher

Included in the album of photographs from Hemingford High School was a portrait of Edith L. Melvin.  I thought she was one of the students, but, in fact, she was their teacher.


Edith Lucy Melvin was born to Emery L. Melvin and Alma Ellen Savage Melvin on November 24, 1891.  When Edith was born, the family was living in Cedar, Nebraska, and she grew up there.  The 1920 U.S. Census shows her living in Willow Grove, Nebraska, where she was working as a teacher.

On the webpage for Hemingford High School, where I found the group photo of this class, Edith appears on other class pages as well, listed as the principal of the school in 1929 and 1930, and she also taught orchestra and chorus.


In 1930, just over 1000 people lived in Hemingford, Nebraska.  It was decidedly a farming village, and the town itself was not even one square mile.  The first home were sod houses.


Sod home in Hemingford


Sod home in Alliance, a nearby town

The town’s website notes, “In 1930, 1,893 carloads of potatoes were shipped from Hemingford and the town was known as the “Potato Capital of the World.”  Who knew? An absolute mecca of commerce in this little village!

Despite living in the hub of potato activity, it seems Edith wanted to reach for other things.  City directories for the years from 1931 to 1938 show her living in Lincoln, Nebraska, where she was working in the registrar’s office at the University of Nebraska.  Several articles in the Lincoln newspaper during that time, naming Edith in connection with various social events, usually include some sort of musical event or women’s organization.  I gather Edith probably had a real affection for young people, since her career path to this point kept her in touch with students and their education.

In 1941, a newspaper article noted her resignation as the assistant registrar at the University, as part of reorganization under new leadership at the University.

After that, there isn’t much documentation on Edith, until May 1960 notes from the Board of Elections in Santa Barbara, California, which mention her as a clerk for Judge Whipple of the Board.  I was unable to find any information on why she moved to California.

Edith had eight siblings: Etta (1890-1967); Rollin (1894-1980); Clarence (born 1896); Clarence (born 1897); Veva Isabelle (1899-1994) (married Christian F Nauenburg and moved to Colorado and then Santa Barbara, California); Harold (1901-1992); Donald (1904-1974); and Florence (1910-1952). I suspect Edith must have moved to Santa Barbara to be near her sister, Veva, who had a son, Harold Melvin Nauenburg.  Harold married Gwenneth Nadine Blair and they had three children. Perhaps this was the family that Edith was able to enjoy, since she did not marry or have any children of her own.

Santa Barbara Genealogical Society records reflect that Edith died in December 1977, was cremated, and her ashes interred at the Santa Barbara Cemetery.

I suspect Edith was a very interesting lady – a music teacher and high school principle, who later worked at a major university and was involved in several social societies and musical organizations, and ended her working career for the Board of Elections in California.  Perhaps her truest legacy was her connection with the students who came into her path.  A truly death-defying legacy – good for you, Edith!



Class of 1928 – Hemingford, Nebraska

I saw the first image on a website where I buy old photographs.  Look at her!


And there was even a name – Doris McKinstry.

I bid on the offering, not realizing that it was an album of faces – an album that is roughly 9 x 6, with a soft leather cover.  When I received the album, I couldn’t stop looking at those faces.  The seller called them a “beautiful portrait collection,” and she was right.  Almost all were identified – 13 out of 20.  There was no information on where the photos were taken, but the seller recalled purchasing this album at an estate sale in New Orleans, at a house on South Carrollton Avenue.  No information remained on the occupant or the family, but the home had been empty for a while.  So all I had were 13 names and 20 faces.

Some of the names were unique enough that I began with those, and one location kept popping up:  a village called Hemingford in Box Butte, Nebraska.  I continued to search all of the names, just to make sure they were all in that area, and they were.  In a situation like this, Google can be your best friend, so I let it run … and found THIS !!


Check it out – every single one of my faces is in that composite – and only three are missing names.  Fortunately, I have names for those three people from the album, so I had identified all 20 of these people.  The photo was on the webpage of Hemingford High School, set up as part of an attempt to include information on every graduating class.

So here they are – 20 classmates of Hemingford High School in Box Butte County, Nebraska.  But how did this album get to New Orleans? Spoiler alert: I still don’t know the answer to that question.

What I do know is some of their stories … not all of them, not yet.  I don’t know which class member this album belonged to … was it Doris? Hers is the only photo that is colorized. Did it belong to Willard Donovan? His is the only one that mentions a year – “Willard Donovan ’28.”  Or maybe it belonged to Margaret Willcox – her name included a married name.

Maybe in writing about them, I can locate living descendants.  Barring that, perhaps I will return this album back to the school itself.  For now, I want to document what I have found, in case someone else is searching.  So here’s to you, Class of 1928, Hemingford High School:

Edith Melvin
Lavern Scott
Ella M. Bunce
Doris McKinstry
Albert Shindler
John Laeger
Lowell E. Bedient
Florence J. Planansky
Oneta G. Hucke
Mildred M. Myers
P.O. Johnson
Bernice Osborn
Dean Badger
Edna I. Myers
Willard Donovan ‘28
Margaret Willcox-Walla
Viola Ustohal
Neil Gibson
Jason Wiltsey
Tessie L. Plahn

I hope you will allow me to tell your stories.


Mary Boland Pequignot – I found her photo almost five years ago, and two weeks ago, I mailed it to a member of her family. For over four years, I have looked for her, researched her, wondered about her, marveled at her, and stared at her face. Not constantly … I would go long stretches of time without ever thinking of her. And then there she was again and off I would go, spending a couple of hours looking at census forms or Google search results or newspaper articles. It took me four years to figure out when she died, and I was convinced there would be an obituary, naming her family members and the children of her sisters, so I could find them. Nope – never found it.
If you want to know why I found this woman so interesting, you can read her story – the part I was able to uncover – here:

Mary Boland Pequignot


After that blog post, I continued to search, and found additional census records that showed Mary living in New York or Boston, sometimes with her sister, Kate, sometimes alone. A year or so ago, I was able to determine when Mary died (1942) and where she was buried (Winthrop, Massachusetts). Kate died a couple of years later. Great information to have, but it brought me no other answers about Mary’s life or her surviving family. So I put the photo back in the drawer. When I had time, I would go the tree on Ancestry where I was storing the records and information I found, but I never really found anything new.
Four weeks ago, it was a quiet Sunday afternoon, and I began searching again. I broadened my search a bit, and found a tree on Ancestry.com where she was listed, and I realized that the owner of the tree was probably a relative of Mary’s, likely descended from one of her sisters. So I sent a message to the owner of the tree and thought, “Well, Mary [I talk to her when I’m researching her … it seems to help] – here goes another fruitless attempt. You need to make him answer me.”
And he did.
That same afternoon.
The Lyons family of Massachusetts remembers Mary and her sisters, and has been gracious enough to fill in some of the details of their lives. It’s likely that Mary’s parents arrived in the United States from Ireland during the time of the Irish famine, so there is really no mystery as to why they came. They raised their family in Massachusetts and it seems, based on census records, that the sisters remained close and were a group of strong ladies. Mary’s sister Kate was a nurse (you may recall that Mary studied and taught nursing, and wrote a book about the care and feeding of invalids) and her sister Ellen lived in Lancaster and in Winthrop, raising her family there. Kate lived in Boston, and Mary lived in Worcester, although there are records showing that Mary traveled to Europe and she is shown in the 1940 census as living in New York City. (Interestingly, that census identifies Mary as a writer of fiction – I wonder if Mary gave them that information, and was working on something, or whether it was a misunderstanding of information given to them by the head of the household where Mary was a lodger?) As Mary aged, her family became concerned for her health and safety, and arranged to have her move back to Massachusetts, where the family saw to her care until she passed away. Nieces and nephews knew Aunt Mary was a teacher and that she was very smart, and that she had written a cookbook. Mary is buried in Winthrop, and Kate, Ellen, and Ellen’s family are all buried in Worcester County, Massachusetts.


Mary A. Boland Pequignot


I am so happy to be sending this photograph to Mary’s family. She has been quite an inspiration over these past years. To women born in the last 30 years, her career as a teacher and writer may not seem that spectacular. But for a woman of her generation to have achieved these accomplishments and this level of education in the years between 1876 and 1920 was nothing short of spectacular, in my opinion. She did not come from a family of wealth, which could have opened doors and made a way for her. She opened those doors and made her own way, thank you very much.
Indeed … thank you very much, Mary.

LOUISE GENESTA BEAVOR WEBB LEONARD, or How Did a Friend of J.P. Morgan End Up at a Goodwill Sale?

This story could also be subtitled “The Society Girl and the Mounted Policeman” … but more on that in a moment.

Where to begin?  How about with a random search on a Goodwill website that took me to a scrapbook?  In my never-ending quest for old photos that are crying out to be reunited with their families, I ran across a scrapbook.  Some of the posted photographs looked interesting, so I bid on it, and won the auction.  Several days later, a treasure dropped into my hands.

Louise Genesta Beavor-Webb Leonard

Louise Genesta Beavor-Webb Leonard

Louise Genesta Beavor-Webb, daughter of Alice May (of the Washington, D.C. May family) and John Beavor Webb, identified in the 1900 U.S. Census as a naval architect living in Nassau, NY and in Manhattan, on Park Avenue, no less!  It seems Mr. Beavor Webb (born in Ireland) designed yachts, two of which, the Galatea and the Corsair (owned by J.P. Morgan) competed in the America’s Cup.  Obviously, J.P. Morgan was a fan.  They became friends – such good friends that Mr. Morgan left Mr. Beavor-Webb $250,000 in his will.  To you and me, here in 2015, that is the equivalent of roughly SIX MILLION DOLLARS!  That was some friendship!

John Beavor-Webb, naval architect

John Beavor-Webb, naval architect

John and Alice had three daughters – Louise Genesta (named after one of her father’s yachts, The Genesta), born in 1892; Edith Sybil, born in 1896; and Alice, born in 1898.  The girls were raised in privilege, and all became accomplished horsewomen.  This was a family who moved among the top society families, and, just as in 2015, their names were regularly in the newspapers.  Back then, they called them “society pages” – today, we call it Entertainment Tonight and the Internet.

Louise was the first daughter to raise eyebrows.  While riding along a bridle path in Central Park, she encountered a young mounted policeman, Thomas J. Leonard.  Eventually, a romance bloomed, and the two were married in 1920.  Those three sentences do not come anywhere close to conveying the newspaper coverage of this relationship and marriage.  I found articles everywhere – and by “articles,” I mean half-page, above-the-fold, big headline ARTICLES.

Louise article

Louise article photo

But wait – there’s more!  Barely a year later, Edith also “married beneath her” – another horseman!  Edith married George Miles, who was the head groom at a nearby estate in New York.  The newspapers were filled with stories of how she had followed Louise’s footsteps, and there was even an article about how horses had brought love and marriage to these two couples.

Alice, however, broke tradition – despite an article asking quite cheekily if she was looking for a horseman for herself – and married a banker, David Rees Richards.

Sadly, all was not sunshine and roses for the Beavor-Webbs as the girls grew up.  John and Alice separated, and by the 1920 Census, they were living apart.  The daughters lived with John on Park Avenue (31 Park Avenue, to be exact), and Alice was living elsewhere.  They never divorced, but Alice was quite blatantly left out of John’s will, which was drawn up in 1916, according to the Buffalo, NY Courier Express of April 5, 1927.  John died in March 1927, so he likely did not live to see his daughter, Alice, marry David Richards.  I am not certain of when they were married, but believe it was some time around 1930.

The good news is, all three marriages appear to have lasted, and all three produced children.  Louise and Thomas had a son, John (also called Jack), and a daughter,  Alice; Edith and George had a daughter, Edith; and Alice and Richard had two daughters, Joan and Gwen.  Which brought me to the big question – who put together this album, and how did it end up at a Goodwill store in Florida?

Jack Leonard, son of Thomas and Louise

Jack Leonard, son of Thomas and Louise

Skating at White Lake, NY

Skating at White Lake, NY


As I read articles about this family, I found it so curious that I could never find an obituary for any of the daughters.  This seemed to be such a prominent family at one time – why no further coverage?  The likely answer is that the changing times brought changing attitudes about what was interesting, and then, as now, newspaper readers were looking for the next hot story.  The Beavor-Webb girls appear to have settled into happy marriages, raising their children – not enough scandal? – or maybe they fought to keep their names out of the public eye, for the benefit of their children.

I continued to research, and although I have not located anyone directly descended from Louise, Edith, or Alice, I found a tree on Ancestry.com created by Derrick and his sister, Judy, that seemed to line up with the names, dates, and places I was finding, so I fired off a message and kept researching.  Very quickly, I received an e-mail from Judy in Australia – AUSTRALIA???  As we compared notes, we realized that my Beavor-Webb scrapbook was about the family of her grandmother’s cousin.  So much information has been lost over the years – and she was over the moon about getting a crazy email from a random stranger in the U.S.!  Together, Judy and I have pieced together some further details of the Beavor-Webb sisters and their families, although we know there is more discover.

As you read this, the album is making its journey from Atlanta, Georgia to Australia – full of lovely surprises for Judy, Derrick, and their family.  Judy graciously allowed me to share some pictures with you, and some of her family’s details.  If any of these names or faces are familiar to you, feel free to contact me, and I will put you in touch with Judy and Derrick.

Thanks for stopping by – it’s always such fun to tell these stories!

Still Searching … Are You My Descendant?


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It’s so great to be able to post photo reunion stories. I have had several recent reunions and it just makes my day every time I put one of those pictures in the mail. That’s always a good day. Over the past three or four months, I have sent pictures to Pennsylvania, Colorado, California, and even Hawaii.

Then I see my boxes (yes, “boxes” plural) of photographs and photo albums and even family Bibles that are currently unattached to their families. Even if I never bought another one, I would have enough projects in those boxes to keep me occupied for a good, long time. But it’s sad to look at those folders of names, and those fascinating images, and think that no one sees them except me. So I’m sharing … who knows? Maybe someone is researching one of these folks, this week.

First, we have Charles Heald Bennett and Jennie May Bennett – no dates, no place named.

Charles and Jennie Bennett

Charles and Jennie Bennett

At first, I assumed they were a married couple, but if you look at them closely, it’s fairly easy to tell they are related. And sure enough, I found them listed in the 1900 Census for Cayuga, New York. Father, William I. Bennett, age 54, was a “picture enlarger.” Mother, Maria, was 51, and their son, Charles, age 26, is listed as a physician. He and his wife, Mittie (age 29), and their daughter, Genevieve (age 3), were living with his parents, along with his sister, Jennie, age 22, who was a music teacher. There they are! Charles and Jennie – very exciting! I continued to find evidence of Charles, Mittie, and Genevieve in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses, and a 1902 City Directory for Auburn, NY, lists Jennie as a music teacher, living at 8 Hoffman Street. I found Genevieve in the 1940 census, still named Bennett, so … never married? Last, I found two cemetery listings for Genevieve and Mittie. Mittie died in 1960 and Genevieve in 1948. But nothing on Charles or Jennie. Perhaps another rainy day research project?

This next one is a different kind of puzzle – not sure what the name means, exactly:

Mama and Jennie Wren

Mama and Jennie Wren

On the back, this photograph says: “Mama with ‘Jenny Wren’ and her mother. (One of Mama’s baby’s [sic] – Ft. Mac during WWII)”

I found this in Chamblee, Georgia, so I made the leap that “Ft. Mac” is Fort MacPherson, in East Point, Georgia, just south of Atlanta. During WWII, the U.S. Army Nurse Corps had a presence there, so I assume this baby was the daughter of one of the enlisted men. But here’s the thing: “Jenny Wren” may not actually be her name. When you enter “Jenny Wren” into the Google search bar, the first listings are references to a song by Paul McCartney, and I’m going to assume Sir Paul likely never met a girl born at Ft. Mac during WWII, although it is certainly possible when he was here 49 years ago with three of his friends. There is also a nursery rhyme which mentions a “Jenny Wren,” and both Shakespeare and Dickens used the name. But I can’t find any instance of an actual person born in Georgia during the war named “Jenny Wren.” It was likely a nickname that “Mama” used for her little girl babies. Not sure I’ll ever figure this one out, but the picture captivates me.

And finally, please meet Abbie Bullis Weiser and her FABULOUS hat!

Abbie Bullis Weiser

Abbie Bullis Weiser

Abbie Bullis was born in 1873 in Iowa. This photograph was taken in 1895. In 1914, a ship’s manifest lists Abbie and her husband, Charles Weiser (born 1865), arriving in New York City from Hamburg, Germany, on their way home to Decorah, Iowa. Traveling with them were “E. Weiser and Grace Weiser,” ages 47 and 40, respectively, who were headed for Fargo, North Dakota. Charles’s brother, perhaps? In 1920, Charles and Abbie are listed as living in Decorah, Iowa, with their three children: Horace, age 21; Charles, Jr., age 18; and Hubert, age 11. Charles was 55 years old at the time, and a banker; Abbie was 46. Twenty years later, the 1940 Census finds Abbie living in Los Angeles with her son, Hubert, the assistant manager of a hotel. Interestingly, the census lists Abbie as “divorced” … wonder what happened? Finally, Abbie passed away in 1955, and is laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery. Oooh! Wonder if she is buried near Clark Gable and Carole Lombard??? Oh, well … Abbie looks like an interesting person, and I hope that hat went to a granddaughter (although I have not yet found one). More research – this picture belongs on SOMEbody’s mantle !!

As always, if you see a name you recognize, please contact me. I would love to get these pictures in the hands of living family members.

Capt. Jose David Luna – for Memorial Day



Capt Luna


When I was in middle school (we called it “Junior High School” back in the day), we all began wearing bracelets … bracelets with the names of American POWs on them.  They were made of nickel and I think they first showed up around 1970.  I probably got mine during the 1971-72 school year.  My bracelet bore the name of Captain Jose David Luna, of the United States Air Force, captured 10 March 1967.  For over a year, I wore that bracelet.  I didn’t know him or anything about him, except that he was a prisoner of war “somewhere over there.”

In the Spring of 1973, my family and I were at my grandparents’ house.  I don’t recall how I knew – whether we saw it on the news or had some sort of advance notice – but I spent a huge portion of the day watching television, because there were POWs getting off an airplane somewhere.  I remember watching for a very long time … and then, there he was!  Captain Jose David Luna, USAF – getting off the plane!  I remember crying, and thinking, “He’s home! He’s home!”

Fast-forward to 2013-2014, and I know a little more about Jose David Luna.  Based on information from various POW websites, he was held at the “Hanoi Hilton,” among other places, before being released in 1973.  He stayed in the Air Force, married, and lived in Maryland.  I believe he finally retired as a Lt. Colonel  – I did not find an obituary, so I assume he is still alive.  I didn’t really research any further than that – it was enough to know that he is still around.

Today, on Memorial Day 2014, I dug out that bracelet.  Forty-plus years later, and I remember that day so clearly.  Lt. Col. Luna – I salute you today on Memorial Day.  I am grateful for your service and for your sacrifice.  I may never meet you, but you still hold a special place in my memory.

If You Ask It, They Will Come … eventually

So, it has been a while since I posted.  Life gets busy, doesn’t it?  And while I was busy, things were happening out there in Old Photo Reunion Land.

This success story began back in January 2013.  I found a couple of photographs online from a seller at Etsy.com.  They were interesting, so I thought I would buy them and see what I could find out.

Mary Evelyn (Hammond) Latter

Mary Evelyn (Hammond) Latter

The first is a photograph of a young woman identified as “Mary Evelyn (Hammond) Latter” and the other is of a girl identified as “Nellie Latter.”

Nellie Latter

Nellie Latter

The first one seemed specific enough that I should be able to find her, and I did.  On FamilySearch.com, I found a Mary Evelyn Hammond married to Norman James Latter, and additional research yielded more information on Norman than on Mary.  According to U.S. Census forms, Norman was born in 1887 in Ontario, Canada, and by 1900, he was living in Los Angeles, California.  I found his draft registration for WWI, and a death notice from May 1961.

I also noted that this particular Etsy seller had a photo of a little boy named Charles William Latter, but it had already been sold.  Nonetheless, I thought the name may be a clue.  I found him in a 1930 Census for Los Angeles.  The household listing showed Norman J. Latter, age 42, a plumber, who had arrived in the U.S. from Canada in 1895 – must be our guy!  According to the Census, his parents were both from England.  His wife was listed as Mary E. Latter (yay! Mary Evelyn), age 30, born in Missouri, and their two children were listed as Norman Latter, age 6, and Charles W. Latter, age 5 (the other photo – I’m on a roll!), both born in California.  In the 1940 Census, all four were living at 6423 Elgin Street in Los Angeles.

Elgin Street (2014)

Elgin Street (2014)

When I searched for Nellie Latter (in the second photo), I found a listing for her in the 1895 and 1896 Los Angeles City Directories, and it listed her as a dressmaker, living at 1415 Barbee, with a “Miss Rose Latter,” also a dressmaker. Unfortunately, that house number no longer shows up in a Google Earth search, and I didn’t have any real luck with a quick search of the U.S. Census for 1900.

I was able to find a few birth listings for the children and grandchildren of Norman and Mary Evelyn, but most of the information came to a roadblock or two when trying to find living relatives.  After a couple of days, I decided to post an inquiry on Ancestry.com, and see what happened.  Then, I waited.

And waited ….

And then life stuff happened, and I wasn’t really thinking about it anymore, except when I boxed up these old photos when we moved.  It became one among many in a whole roomful of “one day when our new office is set up” boxes.

Then, in late March 2014, I got an e-mail from a woman named Peggy, who identified herself as one of Mary Evelyn and Norman Latter’s four granddaughters.  After digging around in the “office” (nope – still not set up yet), I put my hands on the photos and e-mailed Peggy to let her know I had found them.  She and I e-mailed back and forth a few times, and she was able to give me a little more family history.

Peggy told me that her father, Mary and Norman’s older son, was an avid photographer in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.  We both wondered if this picture of Mary was one that he had taken.  Peggy was also able to tell me that Nellie (the girl in the second photo) was Norman Sr.’s sister, one of two unmarried sisters.  Apparently, both sisters – Nellie and Mabel – lived in Highland Park, California, and Peggy remembered them as wonderful ladies.  The family still owns some of their bedroom furniture, and Peggy herself has two beautiful ostrich feather fans given to the girls by someone who owned an ostrich farm near Highland Park.  There were also brothers, but Peggy did not know them well or have a lot of information on them at the time.

Mary had siblings as well – her brother, Paul, met and married a French woman, Marie, during WWI, and they lived in Oxnard, California.  Mary also had a sister, Elsie, who married a man named Clair Barnum, and they lived in San Francisco before retiring to Seaside, Oregon.

Peggy was gracious enough to send me some of her own family photos, including this one of Norman, Mabel and Nellie:

Norman, Mabel and Nell

Norman, Mabel and Nell

And this one of “Big Grandma”:

"Big Grandma" (a/k/a Mary)

“Big Grandma” (a/k/a Mary)

Peggy was able to share with me some further information on Mary, Norman, their children, and grandchildren.  If anyone is interested in contacting Peggy for a little family research, get in touch with me here, and I will put you in contact with Peggy.

With all apologies to W.P. Kinsella – author of “Shoeless Joe,” which became the film “Field of Dreams”- I guess if you ask it, they will come … eventually.


James Justice, On His Way Home


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It’s reunion week here at Grandma’s Picture Box !!

First, the Waage/Plocher/Krenzer album made its way home.  And then the very next day, I got a message in response to the photo of James Justice.  I found Rev. Justice’s photograph in Asheville, NC last April, and posted about him in July.

James M Justice

James M Justice

This week, I was contacted by Rev. Justice’s granddaughter, Jennifer.  She is the daughter of his only son, Samuel, and has four siblings.  Jennifer was also able to give me more information on James and Samuel and their careers and families:

      James Monroe Justice – born 4/10/1876 was the Superintendent of Henderson County Schools at the age of 19.  At the age of 23, he decided if he was going to remain in education that he should get the necessary education credentials and he attended the University of North Carolina for 2 years.  During this time he decided to go into the Ministry and transferred to Wake Forest and then went to the Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.  He spent a year in Cuba tutoring a family of children and as the story goes he taught them English and they in turn taught him Spanish. He returned to the US and married my grandmother – Mattie (Martha) Lou Cox in 1908 in Georgia. I believe it was in 1912 that they went to Buenos Aires, Argentina on a mission and my dad was born on 8/28/1913. It was in either 1917 or 1918 when they returned to the US.  The history reports that they lived in Hendersonville for 6 months, then in Black Mountain where he was a Pastor until 1922, next in Bryson City for a year.  They then moved to Kansas City, MO, where he was in charge of the operation projecting work for the Baptist Convention working in both Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, Kansas for 3.5 years.  They returned to Black Mountain around 1927 and then to Hendersonville to recuperate from his ill health.  He died in Hendersonville on 10/28/1938.  I believe my dad was in college at the University of Missouri – School of Journalism at the time of his father’s death. My grandmother died in 9/47.
      My dad [ Samuel Justice ] moved to Charlotte, N.C following college and wrote for the Charlotte Observer.  As you know he joined the Navy and was a Lieutenant.  He met my mother at a dance in New York City when he was on leave and they married 6 months later on 11/20/44.  He spent the majority of his career in  Public Relations.  He was the Washington correspondent for Business Weekly and the family lived in Maryland for approximately 10 years.  We then moved to NY where he worked in the banking industry in Financial Public Relations.  We lived in Yonkers, NY for 30+ years.  After retirement my parents lived in New Jersey and then Sarasota, Fl.  Both are now deceased.  Dad died 12/14/2000 and my mom 3/17/2003.

Jennifer, thanks so much for telling us the story of your family.  I just knew that face had an interesting life ahead of him.  Speaking of the face, apparently Jennifer’s sister really looks like their grandfather – amazing to see yourself in a photo from this era!

Two fun parts of this reunion story:  (1) The Justice family is headed for a family reunion this summer – what a happy coincidence that Jennifer discovered this photo in time to have it there for everyone to see; and (2) Jennifer’s husband is a historian in their community – wouldn’t I just love to spend an hour picking his brain on research techniques ????

Every time this happens, I am amazed and excited and reminded once again that this big ol’ world isn’t always so big.  Every life is an important one.  Every family is completely unique.  Every person leaves an imprint.

Welcome home, Reverend Justice … you’ve had a long journey !!

Auctions, Olive, and Me


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Who watches “Auction Kings” on the Discovery Channel?  It’s okay to admit it … I won’t tell anyone.  It’s one of those guilty pleasures I will “marathon” when my husband is out of town … and sometimes when he’s in the next room.  I can’t seem to watch just one.  Anyway …

A friend from work regularly attends these auctions here in Atlanta.  One day, she invited me to go with her to pick up her bidding number, so we made a lunchtime run to Gallery 63.*  While she was picking up her number, I noticed a gorgeous old photo album, loaded with pictures.  I could tell that a few had some identifying information, so she offered to bid on it for me.  I gave her my top price, and figured I’d never hear about it again.  I was wrong.  She bid for me and won it.  This is the cover of the album – you can see why I had to bid:

Waage/Plocher/Krenzer Album

My friend and I were particularly delighted to discover that not only was this a beautiful album, it was also a music box.  The music box no longer worked, but the concept was very cool, and some quick online research showed that these are out there, and VERY expensive.  I got mine for a song – ha! did you see what I did there? Music box? got it for a song ???  I kill myself …

Inside the album was this photograph, leading me to believe that I probably would not have the album for long.  It was such specific information, I knew it was only a matter of days before I found this family.

Waage Headstone

Waage Headstone

I was technically right, it was only a matter of days … many, many, many, many, MANY days ….

Here’s what I knew, right off the bat:  Christian Waage (1818-1866) and Mary (Marie) Waage (1816-1888) were the parents of Herman N. Waage, Henry C. Waage, Anna C. Waage, and Sophia M. Waage, and the family lived in Illinois.  The album was almost completely full of photographs, most of which had no identifying information.  A few had names – Mrs. Amalia E. Iberg; Ferd Krenzer; Rose Plocher; Ernst Plocher – and one said, “My mother’s family Waages, grandmother, grandfather, Aunt Anna, Uncle Herman, Mother, and Uncle Henry.” Clearly, this had been Sophia’s album at one time.

Inside the front cover of the album was a small notation – “Olive wants this album.” To me, it seemed obvious that I needed to find Olive, to determine whether she ever had this album.  Using the names of the Waage children, I was able to determine that Sophia Waage married Franz Plocher; they had at least eleven children who survived into adulthood and had children, including their daughter Emma Louise Plocher, born in 1878.  Emma married Ferdinand Krenzer, and they had three children – Orville, John, and Olive … OLIVE !!  It’s almost too easy, isn’t it??

Hubris will get you every time.  I found almost nothing further on Olive.  Beyond two censuses and some city directory mentions up until she was about 20-ish, I found nothing.  It was as though she had dropped off the face of the earth.  I knew this likely meant she had either died or married, but I couldn’t find records of either event, so I was stuck.  I figured my only way to get this album back into the hands of family would be to track descendants of Olive’s brothers.  So I did … and I found them!

To make a very long story short, I contacted the living descendants I had located and they were able to give me more information on Olive.  She had married, and moved away from Illinois, first to South Carolina and then to Marietta, Georgia.  Olive and her husband had a son, and I believe he also had a son.  I was unable to find contact information for either of them, but I was given contact information for another cousin who is interested in the family’s history.  So I shot off an e-mail and waited.

While waiting for her response, I searched for more information on this cousin.  By a complete fluke, I found her name in the comment section of her granddaughter’s blog. I contacted the granddaughter, who was very happy to pass along my information to her grandma, and the album is now headed home.**

It’s going to be hard to let go of this beautiful album.  I’ve grown accustomed to seeing it on my table.  But it belongs with its family, as do we all.  So, to paraphrase Barbra Streisand … “Goodbye, Gorgeous!”


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*NOTE: I am not being paid by Auction Kings or Gallery 63 to promote them in any way.  It’s just where the story started.  Plus, it’s a very fun place.

** NOTE #2: If you are searching for information and photographs on the Waage, Plocher, and Krenzer families, I will be happy to put you in contact with the folks who now own this album.

Reunions … and Angels

This week, I was fortunate enough to be a part of two family reunions.  I would love to take complete credit and pat myself on the back here, but I really can’t. 

In the first situation, Roy, the husband of a co-worker has been trying to figure out what happened to Veronica, a woman who was his stepmother for about three years when he was young.  She and his father eventually divorced, but Veronica made a real impression on Roy and he always wondered what became of her. Roy’s wife, my co-worker, knew about my “picture reunion” hobby and asked if I thought I could find anything.  I was able to find out that Veronica passed away in 1979, but the story didn’t end there.  Based on information in an online news article about a mine explosion in 1947 and a monument built in the town, we were able to determine that several of Veronica’s siblings are still alive.  Roy took this information and boldly made a couple of telephone calls, and Veronica’s brothers and sister were thrilled to hear from him!  I found information, but he took a leap of faith and made the call.  Good for you, Roy! 

In the second situation, another co-worker was part of a conversation I was having about locating the family of an old photo album.  She told me she was adopted as an infant, and asked if I thought it was possible to use that same kind of research to locate her birth mother.  The family story was that her mother was a 16-year-old who met a British soldier in Chicago in 1944, got pregnant, and had twins in 1945, whom she gave up for adoption (my friend and her brother).  I suggested that she request her original birth certificate (which arrived very quickly!), and with the information from that document, we were able to determine that the young woman was actually 20 years old at the time the twins were born.  We also learned that she had been married and divorced, and had given birth to two children prior to this pregnancy, and that she had a also subsequent marriage.

As part of my initial search, I posted an inquiry on the message boards at Ancestry.com.  A “research angel” named Heather contacted me with some information, and then she began to run with it – and boy! did she run!!  For two days, I got e-mails all day long from Heather, who was, in her own words, “hotter than a firecracker”!!  Based on the information we got from Heather, we were able to follow up and find out that my friend’s birth mother is still very much alive and active, at age 88.  My friend took a chance, called the woman, and confirmed her identity – and will be traveling to meet her birth mother for the very first time next week !! 

This adoption reunion would never have been possible without the abundant kindness of a perfect stranger named Heather, about whom I know nothing other than her e-mail address.  So I am using this public forum to thank her as profusely as I know how.  The gift she has given my friend is immeasurable, and I was honored to work alongside her and be one of the beneficiaries of her mad research skillzz … what she helped us accomplish was life-changing. 

So, thank you, Heather … and thank you to all of you who reach out in this way, simply from a love of the hunt and a generosity of spirit.  Angels do exist, and they are YOU !!