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  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, 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, 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!”


SCAN0665 (2a)

SCAN0662 (2a)


*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  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 !!

I Meet The Most Interesting People



When you get started with a hobby like this, you have no idea how many very interesting people you will meet.  As an amateur genealogist, you would think I had learned by now that everyone has a story, but it seems I’m still surprised every time it happens.

Back in the fall, I picked up three interesting pictures at a flea market.  Meet Elmer F. McClelland, Mrs. Jenny McClelland, and their daughter, Elma McClelland.

Elmer F McClelland

Elmer F McClelland

Jenny McClelland

Jenny McClelland

Elma McClelland

Elma McClelland

I figured the names were just unusual enough that I might be able to find something, and I was right.  I won’t bore you with all of the research details, because the story of these folks is way more interesting than any description of me clicking away on a computer.  Suffice it to say that through information I found on and, with some help from Google and some archived newspaper articles, I found one of the sons of Elma McClelland.

Elma married Leslie Ernest Eichelberger in 1919 and they had two sons, William and Robert.  It didn’t take me long to find that Robert had died in California in 2009.  Other information indicated that William had died in Denver in 1981, so I set out to find their children, in hopes of finding living descendants of Elmer McClelland.  What I found was that William is not dead – surprise!

Bill Eichelberger is a lively 91-year-old living in Denver with his wife, and they have been active in their community, making a difference for seniors in a significant way.  I hope you’ll take some time to check out the website for the organization they helped to found, A Little Help (see below).

I contacted A Little Help in hopes of finding information on Bill, and they forwarded my e-mail to him.  We began communicating and I confirmed that Bill’s mother was indeed Elma McClelland Eichelberger.  So I packed up the photos and sent them off.  With a few exceptions, this tends to be the point where my contact with descendants of all of these “orphan photos” ends, but Bill was willing to share a little of his family’s story.

Elmer McClelland’s father, Joseph, and his family moved to Colorado in 1873, and Elmer eventually began working for the family newspaper, The Fort Collins Express, with his brother and father.  Elmer worked for different newspapers in the Denver and Ft. Collins areas, and he retired with his wife, Jenny, to their farm south of Ft. Collins.  Elmer and Jenny had four children, Henrietta Maria, Helen Jane, Elma Frances, and Joseph Simpson McClelland.

McClelland Family 1904

McClelland Family 1904

Elma married Leslie Eichelberger, whose family came to Pennsylvania from Germany in the early 1700s.  Elma and Leslie married in 1919.

Eichelberger 1919

Eichelberger 1919

Elma and Jenny 1935

Elmer and Jenny 1935

Over the years, the Eichelbergers lived in Topeka, Wichita, and Honolulu, and young Bill attended college in Colorado, eventually making his permanent residence there.  Bill has children and grandchildren, all of whom are curious as to how photographs of their great-great-grandparents ended up in a box of photographs in Atlanta, Georgia … we’ll probably never know.

I, for one, am glad those pictures showed up here in Georgia.  Bill has been such an engaging correspondent and willing to share as much of his family’s story as I want to hear, all of which is fascinating.  He has given me permission to use his name and these images, in hopes that other McClellands and Eichelbergers may find the information useful, and maybe even make contact.

Sometimes you make someone’s day … and sometimes you make a new friend.  How fortunate am I to experience both !!!

Best hobby ever ….

Don’t forget to check out A Little Help, in Denver:

Follow-Up on “A Different Kind of Old Picture”

Every once in a while, you get a message that gets things rolling.

Hoover Art Co., Hollywood

Hoover Art Co., Hollywood

Back in August, I posted about a different kind of old photograph … one that is hanging on my living room wall, which my husband and I bought for our second wedding anniversary.  Every year at our annual Oscar(R) party, our friends who are anointed with the gift of Encyclopedic Movie Knowledge (“EMK”) take a stab at what it might be.  No one has ever reached any real conclusions, though.  Until about six weeks ago . . . .

Because of this blog (yay!), I now have some answers.  I got an e-mail from a reader named Luke, who wanted to know if I had found out anything about the Hoover Art Company of Hollywood.  Seems Luke has a similar picture in his house – not the same exact image, but the same size and from the same era.  I immediately e-mailed the above-referenced friends with EMK to let them know we had new information and to see if anyone had any clue what the new information might mean.

courtesy Luke R.

courtesy Luke R.

In a matter of a couple of hours, BOOM! We had it !  Our friend Lee, who has the most EMK of anyone I know, works for a company here in Atlanta that I will simply refer to as “We Used To Be Just Billboards” (readers here in Atlanta will know what I mean). Lee has many Friends Who Know Stuff, and reached out to a group of them to see if they could dig up any information on these two pictures.  And they responded very quickly – with a black-and-white still photograph that matches our color one exactly.

"The Alien," courtesy George Eastman House

“The Alien,” courtesy George Eastman House

Our image is from “The Alien,” made in 1915, starring George Beban.  I think George is the guy in the very front, who is reacting in shock to something off-stage.  According to Wikipedia, George was born in San Francisco, and worked in Vaudeville and on Broadway, often typecast as a French character.  In attempting to break that mold, he began to study Italian immigrants in his New York neighborhood, and added those mannerisms to a character in a vaudeville sketch about an Italian laborer mourning the death of his child.  He called the sketch “The Sign Of The Rose,” and it grew into a full length play, and then a feature film – “The Alien,” directed by Thomas Ince.

George died in 1928 from injuries he sustained when thrown from a horse while on vacation.  His son, George Jr., also became an actor, and died in 1977.

There is still a lot to learn about this picture.  Is it possible this could have been part of a series, since Luke’s picture is the same size and is framed similarly?  Can you imagine a group of these, hanging in the office of a movie studio executive?  Lee and his cohorts have not given up on finding out about the image in Luke’s picture, either.  We’re hoping they’ll get a hit, either on the image itself or a possible film link.  I’ll keep you posted.

Oscar(R) night at my house this year was as much about “The Alien” as it was about “Argo,” “Lincoln,” or “Silver Linings Playbook.”  I think George Beban would have appreciated that.

Genealogy and My Christmas Tree


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Genealogy Lessons Learned While Decorating the Christmas Tree

1.  Location is key.

Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells

Some ornaments must be hung in specific places – in front of a light, deep in the tree, near the end of a branch – for best effect.  If you don’t put them in the right place, the tree can look wonky.  Similarly, you can’t force an ancestor into your tree in the wrong place.  Don’t try to make your Uncle Jim his own grandfather.  Watch those dates.  And if great-grandmother Mary lived in Rockville, Virginia all her life, but isn’t there in the 1900 census, you have some investigating to do!  Don’t assume she was just left out.  Maybe she was in a place other than the one you expect.

2.  Sometimes, the old, cracked, and broken are the most interesting.

Ornament from my parents' first tree

Ornament from my parents’ first tree

Sure, all the pretty ornaments are great, and can make your tree look quite elegant.  But the most meaningful are the old ones, which are gonna show a little loving wear and tear.  Memberships in the DAR and the First Families of Virginia are terrific – good for you!  But come on, the story about your great-aunt’s first husband getting shot in a card game is way more interesting (true story from a friend’s genealogy).

3.  There’s always gonna be a blank spot you just can’t fill.

The blank spot

The blank spot

No tree is perfect.  The branches don’t always form a perfect pyramid for you to decorate.  And you don’t always have an ornament that just fits that weird gap.  I have two of those gaps in my family tree (known in the genealogy world as a brick wall, but that term doesn’t fit my Christmas tree metaphor).  Keep searching … somewhere, someday, you will find the perfect ornament for that spot.

4.  Don’t ignore the back of the tree.

Back of the Tree

Back of the Tree

Unless your tree sits in the center of your room, you are surely tempted not to decorate the back.  Who’s gonna see it?  Remember, though, that trees aren’t solid things.  You can see through the branches to other branches, and light shines from the back to the front.  Sometimes, bits of information you deem unimportant can cast illumination on something that’s critical to your immediate search.  Don’t ignore any of it.

5.  Sometimes, you have to start all over.

2012 tree, 2.0

2012 tree, 2.0

Last Tuesday, I came down with bronchitis.  After spending the better part of three days in bed, I came downstairs to find that all of the lights had gone out on our fully decorated tree, except for one strand in the back on the bottom.  My poor husband has been working in overdrive, taking care of me and several projects from work, so I just couldn’t ask him to do anything about it, but I was crushed.  Finally, yesterday afternoon, I dragged myself off the sofa, un-decorated half the tree and found the dead strand.  We re-strung a working strand, and ta-daa! Lovely tree once more.  Had to re-decorate, but it’s all pretty and sparkly again.  I think my metaphor is clear here, yes ???

6.  Some of my ornaments are really goofy, but I love them.

Cowboys ornaments

Cowboys ornaments

Garlic ornament - yes, garlic!

Garlic ornament – yes, garlic!

Spider web - from my grandmother, when I worked at Univ. of Richmond

Spider web – from my grandmother, when I worked at Univ. of Richmond

I have several ornaments from a unicorn phase in my twenties.  I also have a bunch of Dallas Cowboys ornaments … what?? You know you have your team on your tree somewhere.  Our family has a beloved ornament that is a horse’s … ummm … rear end, painted on a big sand dollar.  But every one of those ornaments goes on the tree every year, because they are MINE!  They represent who I am, and who I was, and where I was, and who loved me enough to get me something small when they were on vacation.  Likewise, my family tree may not be dramatic or noteworthy, but they are mine.  Salt-of-the-earth farmers in Virginia, some of whom fought for their country, and some who just lived basic, everyday lives.  Nothing shiny or sparkly, but very special to me.

7.  My grandma’s ornaments are my favorites.

Handmade by Grandma, #1

Handmade by Grandma, #1

Handmade by Grandma, #2

Handmade by Grandma, #2

Handmade by Grandma, #3

Handmade by Grandma, #3

No real genealogy point here … just the warm feelings I get when I look at the three ornaments my grandmother, Irma Frances Elliott Shelton, made for me.

Merry Christmas, y’all ….

A Man and His Cats


, , , , ,

Let me begin by saying (a) I don’t have any cats and (b) I don’t speak German.

How’s that for an intro?  Got your attention ?

So here’s what happened.  My friend Linda told her friend Teresa about this blog.  Later, Linda and Teresa were talking about cats.  Teresa mentioned a photo album someone had sent her a few years ago because they knew she likes cats.  The person found it at an antique store/flea market and bought it because they couldn’t stand to leave it there.  [ How many purchases have I made for just that reason? ]  She told Linda about, and Linda decided that I should set my Mad Detective Skillz to finding its family.

But here’s the thing – it’s all CATS … and what little writing is there, is in German.
[See first sentence above.]

I’ve done everything I can think of, but it remains what it was when I got it — a  photo album containing well over 50 pictures of cats who were clearly loved, with an occasional photo of a man I presume was their owner [as much as one *can* own a cat].  There were also some names written in the album.  Here’s a sampling of photos in the album:

Exhibit A – The Cats

Exhibit B – The Man

Exhibit C – Some Names
Penrose Krech Manegold
Else Tenner Kalbfleisch Weitz [not sure all those actually go together]
Friedrich Roschlau
Ruth Schreckenberger
Wiltrud Grotzner Beseler

The problem with the names is, they are under spaces that obviously held photos at one time, but don’t now.

And what does this mean?  “SpieBenleite. Gutwillige Zugabe der Familie Kalbfleisch”  According to Google’s translation, “SpieBenleite” means “pike redirect” – “Gutwillige Zugabe der Familie” means “intentioned addition of family” – and “Kalbfleisch” is either a family surname, or it means “veal.”  Using my woefully inadequate translation skills, perhaps a family adopted a pet?  No idea …

Exhibit D – The Little Girl

On the back of this photo is a stamp that says “Lollar’s, B’ham, Ala.”  Lollar’s was a photography retailer in Birmingham, in business from about 1910 through the 1940s, according to Google.  There’s no name for the little girl and nothing that would identify where she is.  Could the photo have been taken in Germany and developed in Alabama?  Is she a child or grandchild of The Man With The Cats?  Who knows? Insert your own story here.

My main purpose with this post is to get the information on the internet in hopes that someone will be searching for … what? “man with cats and a little girl, possible family name Kalbfleisch” ??  What are the odds that someone will be searching for exactly the right combination of words to lead them to this album?  I guess stranger things have happened on the Internet – and perhaps the searcher can answer my questions:

Was the man a cobbler? (he’s wearing a leather apron in several photos)
Did he live alone? (other than the little girl, there are no other people in the photos – only cats)
Why did someone take out all of the pictures of people?

And why did the cat have her picture taken with Asta? *

So … got any ideas, faithful readers?  I’d love to hear them.

*NOTE:  If you don’t know who Asta is, watch “The Thin Man” with William Powell and Myrna Loy IMMEDIATELY !!  And if you do know who Asta is, watch it again.


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