2024 Feb 29 Thu

A Random Act of Kindness

A Random Act of Kindness
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A couple years ago, I puzzled over a photo that my grandfather had kept. It had a cardboard backing on it and he managed to scratch very light X’s on his mother, father, and sister. He was a small boy in the picture and I knew him to see him (even though I never knew my grandfather). He looked to be about 8 years old so I guessed the picture to from about 1906. I puzzled and puzzled over the picture trying my best to sort out where it was taken and why. I eventually abandoned the issue for another day after dedicating way too much time to it.

Through my research of other relatives, I came across a newspaper article from 1906 about a golden wedding celebration that included a picture of the couple. They looked familiar but I couldn’t really place where or why. It made the front page, which made it really easy to find, and told the story of the couple and even named several of the persons at the party. My great-grandfather was listed among the persons who spoke.

I know it was months before I managed to put the picture and the article together. I don’t know why or how but one day something clicked and immediately pulled both of them up on my computer. It took only a minute to sort out where the couple were sitting in the photograph and it dawned on me that this was a picture of their golden anniversary party!

According to the article, there were 3 pictures taken. One of the couple. One of the couple and their children and grandchildren. One more of everyone at the party.

There are 72(?) persons in the picture (if I remember right). I’ve managed to only name a few of them, aside from the ones I already knew. Hours became days and I resumed the hunt to place faces with names. Several more names popped up and I managed to label a few more people. I even managed to figure out exactly where the picture was taken too.

I do believe that I am related to most of the people in the picture. One fellow in particular I wasn’t related to happened to be a Reverend and a friend of the golden wedding couple. I did an internet search for this fellow wondering if I could find any more articles about him while keeping an eye for a picture (to verify it actually was him). Lo and behold, a descendant of his had placed a family reunion picture with some pages dedicated to their family online. Even though the picture was 30-some years later, I could tell that I had the same guy for sure. I immediately took a deeper interest in him and did some more research on this fellow to see what happened to him.

As it turns out, he had just been married a couple weeks before and his new bride was standing beside him in my picture. He took a job preaching in NY and went to meet his new congregation just days after the picture was taken. It wasn’t quite a month or two later that they were in NY when this newly wed couple were separated by death. His wife had caught a disease that she was unable to recover from.

He eventually remarried and continued to be a preacher.

I went page to the web site where the family reunion photo was that I used to positively identify him. The person who set up the web pages had named the Reverend as his grandfather and gave his email address. I sent correspondence his way, not knowing what would come of it. The man replied the next day thrilled that I had contacted him and asked to see the photo. I cropped out the Reverend and his wife and sent it back with a little bit of research I had done, asking if this was for sure his grandfather. As it turns out, it was.

I then sent the whole picture and the newspaper article to him and the next thing I knew I was receiving emails from other members of his family thanking me for taking the extra effort to find them and share the picture. One of the emails I received was one of the Reverend’s grandchildren who was named after him. They told me they knew of his first marriage but nothing further or what happened to her. As far as anyone knows, it is the only surviving picture of her.

I couldn’t tell you what inspired me to do such a thing, but I really wanted to share that picture with them and I am glad I did. It truly was an inspired random act of genealogical kindness.

I’ve paused to wonder since then ‘what if there are pictures of my ancestors out there somewhere too?’ There must be pictures of my grandfathers and grandmothers sitting in someone’s attic or basement waiting to be discovered. Encouraged, I keep looking believing that that they are out there somewhere.

I don’t give up the hope that I might find them one day and pray that someone else will do the same thing for me that I did for the Reverend’s grandchildren.

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Editor-in-Chief for The Daily Journal

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