I'll start this post by saying that my family trees are online all over the place. Ancestry, TribalPages, MyHeritage, WikiTree, you name it. Whenever I hear of a new (free) family tree website where I can upload my GedCom, up it goes. I make sure all the living people in my tree are identified only as "living", but I want my ancestors out and about where other people (perhaps second, third and fourth cousins) can discover them and communicate with me.
Even so, last October I was unprepared for an email that was forwarded to me by a distant cousin, who said, "Claudia - I believe this is your line." The forwarded email said:
For anyone searching for the following names, I have a photo album that has the name R. A. Reed, Beulah, MI stamped in the inside front cover. It is loaded with old family photos including the following people: Herbert Reed (b. 1907, d. 1983), Orville Reed, R. A. Reed, Edith Reed Wolfe, and Maurice Reed. Jeanette Burton and Betty, 1950 on one photo. Ruby and Edith Reed, 1947. The outside of the photo album says, "Kodak, 1901, Miami, FL". Please contact me if you are part of this family.
Well, of course I contacted her - she told me over email and on the phone that her father (a lover of antique shops and garage sales) had bought this photo album somewhere in the South (possibly Florida) about 20 years ago. I gave her my address and she shipped it to me. When I opened the box, there was an incredible treasure - photos of great-grandparents (and other relatives) that I had never seen before.
First of all, the album had beautiful soft leather covers. On the front, as she had said, was carved Kodak and 1901, Miami, FL, along with a beach scene of palm trees and a sailboat. The back cover was carved with the initials MBR, which I puzzled over. Eventually I decided that they must stand for Mary Beem Reed, my Grandpa Maurice Reed's mother. While I had lots and lots of photos from the Reed side of the family, I had seen very few from the Beem side.
Most of the photographs in this album are unlabeled, and so it's an exercise in detection to try to puzzle out who, when and where!
This is the photo that clinched it for me - a family gathering, probably in Michigan, in the late 1890's or early 1900's. On the forward part of the picnic bench, sitting in the middle, is a little boy in a dark jacket and hat, that I'm pretty sure is my grandfather Maurice L. Reed. He was born in 1891, and if this photo was taken about 1900, the little girl in braids on the opposite side of the table, looking at the camera, could be his younger sister Edith, who was born in 1895.
Here's another photo, which (I'm guessing) is of Maurice Reed's maternal grandparents, Albert and Aurilla (Lane) Beem. This would have been taken before 1903, when Albert died during Sunday morning worship, of a heart attack. Aurilla in this photo would have been about 50 or 60; and this woman looks too young for that.
So, to formulate another hypothesis, maybe this is a photo of one of Mary Beem Reed's sisters. It could be Alice Maude Beem, born in 1864 and married to Bert John Olney. They had several children, who were about the same age as my grandfather. Hmmm - I think I'll try to track down some Olney descendants to see if they have any (labeled!) photos that we can compare.
And here's another photo, I think taken on the same day as the dining room scene, of the same woman with her cat. The framed certificate on the wall fascinates me - I've already tried scanning & enlarging it, but it still can't be made out. It may be a baptismal certificate or a marriage record.
There are many other photos in this album that I'll be examining closely and perhaps posting. I think I'll be tracking down other Beem descendants, as well as studying some of Maureen Taylor's books on identifying ancestors through clothing and hairstyles.
And, of course, there is the question of why would a Michigan family have a photo album with "Miami" on the front cover? That's a story for another day!