Family Photos: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Growing up, I never saw photos of my parents as children. Over the years, a few photos of my mother as a teenager surfaced, but that was it. My father died in 1994 and after my mother moved to assisted living in 2015 my siblings and I were left with the task of trying to find things in her house.

My paternal grandmother lived with my parents, off and on from shortly after their marriage, and then once they built their house she came to stay, so she was with us from the 1940s on. Over the years she developed what was most likely Alzheimer’s disease. First my mother stopped working so that she could be home because my grandmother couldn’t be alone. About 1969 my grandmother moved to a nursing home and in 1972 she died. She’d never had much, but I found out years after she died that my father had one box of my grandmother’s things.

My father, ca. 1928-29.

I knew the box was around but had only seen it a couple of times. I don’t know whether my father had ever gone through it thoroughly or whether he just kept it because the things in it had been his mother’s. When we finally started to look at the contents, not too long before my mother moved to assisted living, we found that it contained newspaper clippings, letters, and photographs. Among the photographs was the one above and several others that appear to be from the same session, of my father when he was 10 or 11. These were the only photos I’d seen of my father as a child. For most of 1928 and the first few months of 1929 my father lived with family friends far from his family. His mother and siblings moved from Philadelphia to Canada to find work and he stayed in Philadelphia. I think that there was no one to take care of him after school while his mother and older siblings were at work and unlike his other siblings, he was too young to be left alone after school. I think these photos were taken to send to his mother while they were separated.

My father with his mother, ca. 1918.

Then in 2016 one of my cousins sent me some family photos, including the one above over my father as a baby, with my grandmother. I had never seen a photo of my grandmother when she was young. I’m still so grateful to have this photograph and be able to share it with my siblings.

One very funny thing happened after I got this photo. My great niece, my parents’ first great-granddaughter was born in 2017. I shared this photo on Facebook last year and her maternal grandmother commented on how similarly her hair had come in to the way my father’s appears in this photo. It wasn’t as obvious because she’s blonde, but the more we looked at it the more certain we became of the resemblance. In addition to being funny, it was lovely to be reminded that my father is still with us.

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