A STORY OF A PHOTOGRAPH-
IS IT MY DAD?
Coincidences rarely happen to me when I'm pursuing my family history research, but recently I had an interesting one occur. Here's what happened.
I had been reading an interesting memoir about searching for lost ancestors called
THE LOST: A SEARCH FOR SIX OF SIX MILLION by Daniel Mendelsohn. The author was meeting with
Holocaust survivors in Australia and showed a picture of his Aunt Fydka to her best friend
from the 1930s. Mendelsohn realized that although he had seen the picture hundreds of times as he
was growing up, he had been very casual in his travels in showing these pictures to the
survivors, who had lost all--- photos, their homes and families.
Mendelsohn goes on to say
“...showing them the rich store of photographs that my family had owned for
years....images of faces that, for me, had no real emotional meaning at all in and of
themselves, but which to the people to whom I was now showing them had the power to
recall, suddenly, the world and the life from which they'd been torn so long ago. How
stupid, how insensitive I had been.”
Recently, I had a personal encounter with an old photograph, supposedly of my father as a
young man, that made me think again of this section of Mendelsohn's story. My husband and
I visited a small library located in a town North of our home. We wanted to see the
renovation of an old building completed several years ago by the same architecture firm
that our local library has hired. While there I would search for information about the farm
where my father worked before his enlistment in the Army in July 1917.
I began checking
births and marriages, directories and other local records.
My husband explored a Vertical
File labeled “World War I Soldiers”. Each person had a folder, and husband found one
with my father's name on it –with a photo of the soldier.
I noticed that all the basic facts about my Dad – his birthday, etc. were correct, but below
the form was written in different handwriting - “died in accident. Buried in Gerald, MO.”
with no date of death. “. I was surprised by this, since my Dad died at home- no accident,
and is Not buried in Gerald, MO. Then I looked at the photo more closely. It didn't look at
all like my Dad or any photograph that I had ever seen of him from that time period.
was this person in the photograph?
IS THIS MY DAD OR SOMEONE ELSE?
When I got home, I scanned my copy of this record which also had a notation on the back of
the page as follows: “Jan.1, 1939 Brought up to date by Iowa War Records Survey Ida
Manke and Floyd Pierce” What is the Iowa War Records Survey and where can I learn more
about it? I also noted that the occupation listed for my father was “student”. And a notation in different handwriting indicated that the for wa
While still at
the library, we examined a scrapbook called “World War Newspaper History of Hamilton
County's Service Men” which was a compilation of local newspaper stories about the local
men in military service. At the very bottom of the page was written “Scrap-Book-World-
War I- pages 7-8-9-14-65-171” and three additional pages 18-51-196.
"Grace Notes":A Blog By Marti Compiler of this
impressive Scrapbook was Charlotte Crossley, a librarian who spent 7 years compiling it.
We checked these page numbers. In each, my Dad and his brother were both listed as part
of the 168th Regiment. The last three only mention my Dad's brother Adolph.
I knew that my Dad's younger brother Adolph, had gone to Iowa with him to find work on a
farm, which was a different one from where my Dad stayed. Could the photo be of Adolph,
who died in 1920 when a tree fell on him while he was cutting it to start a lumber
One further surprise came to me when I decided to send a scan of this interesting form to
my brother. He emailed back that the handwriting on the form was my Dad's. When I
looked at it again, I could see that it was! Who asked veterans to fill out such a form and
who took the photo and added it to the form?. Just another one of those genealogical
mysteries known as a brickwall! How the form found its way to this library and why the
photo was added is another question. I'm just glad I found it and hope I can solve these
mysteries. "Finds" in your research often lead to more questions rather than answers.
What coincidences have you come across in your family history research? Met a close relative on a plane? Found a record of your great grandfather in an unexpected place. Stopped for the night at a hotel in a little town that your wife's family lived in 100 years ago? Let us know! We love these stories. Email me at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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