There’s something very addictive about genealogy: the work is never done, but every discovery just whets the appetite for more. As a lover of history, the thrill of finding a long-lost photo of a relative from generations before, or of uncovering a story about someone on your tree that brings that person to life…those are the things that keep stoking the coals for me. And every time I think I’ve hit a dead end, once and for all, on a particular line…something new pops up, one way or another.
I was laughing at myself a couple weeks back when I got SO excited over a photo I found on a British website, the Billion Graves Project. It’s a headstone. Yes, I got excited over a headstone. But it was for Robert and Hannah Goosey, a couple (one set of my thrice-great grandparents on my mother’s side) who represented one of those proverbial dead ends for me. I’ve been stuck trying to research that line for a long time now. Finding that headstone not only confirmed information I already had and added a bit of character to the data, it also gave me a new lead. Robert is listed on the headstone as the third son of his father John…so now I know he had two older brothers, and I know his father’s name…clues I can work with.
While I think getting much further on this will require a visit to England (a goal of mine anyway), this discovery just renewed my desire to research every source I can find to try to put some more meat on the bones of this latest discovery.
Similarly, a few months back I came across some great old photos online from my father’s line. There’s a classic photo of my grandfather (whom I met just once in my life) with his eight brothers, I’m guessing it’s in the 1920s, and they’re all standing outdoors on a sunny day in Kansas wearing suits and hats of the era. This might be a Sunday morning after a church service. A tree is barren in the background, leading me to believe it’s late fall or wintertime. This one deserves a frame…it just captures a time and place so well.
And then I discovered another photo, a portrait of those brothers’ dad, my great grandfather Lanning, of whom I’d never seen any pictures before. Suddenly a whole new generation was staring at me, someone who I’d only seen as a name on my tree before.
I continue the search, and get excited at every photographic find simply because those add so much to the story. Last month I found a photo of a more distant relation, Wesley Brainerd Arnold, a third great grand uncle in the Arnold line on my mom’s side. I’m keenly interested in this line – the Arnolds and Brainerds trace directly back to the earliest families of Connecticut and the founders of Hartford, Haddam, and East Haddam, as well as the Revolutionary War and, in the Brainerds’ case, the earliest missionaries in colonial times, who worked to “educate” (i.e. assimilate) Native Americans. This photo has Wesley’s three daughters in front, and their husbands and children are included, making some of the specific identifications a bit more challenging. Based on the approximate ages of everyone in the photo, I’ve been able to determine at least the decade the photo was taken, and I’m pretty sure which daughter is which.
It’s an important find for me because I have no images from anyone in the Arnold line otherwise, save a few headstones and newspaper clippings of death notices. Those are merely markers of mortality…photos like these bring these people back to life. And it’s always fun to look for physical characteristics that might have been passed down through the generations. These might be uncles and cousins generations removed, but they come from the same forebears as I do, and their story is connected to my own.
My newest challenge…identifying these two guys…
I believe they are brothers of one of my second great grand aunts on my dad’s side, back in the mid-1800s. That means one of these two MIGHT be one of my great great grandfathers, but I’m not sure, because Rebecca had three brothers. I need to study up on the clothing and try to guess at the correct ages of these two lads…and then maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to determine with some sliver of certainty which two brothers these are, and whether one of them is my great great grandfather William Little…a first-generation American, the son of Irish immigrants, for whom right now I just have a photo of a headstone and little else.