Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An Orphanage

The 85th Carnival of Genealogy asks that we discuss the two types of orphans associated with our family history research.

In my family history research there are three separate and distinct types of orphans. The first type of orphan refers to those ancestors or relatives who lost their parents when they were young. The second type of orphan would be those siblings or cousins of our ancestors whom we think of as “reverse orphans.” They are the relatives who, for whatever reason, died at a young age, never having married or had children, or having children who did not survive to provide descendants.

I have added a third type of orphan; those beautiful photographs we've inherited that remain unidentified yet gnawingly connected to our family and their research. No name indicated on the image; just those imploring faces, staring, challenging. They want to be identified, to be reclaimed for their sake and for the sake of our shared family history.

Last Christmas my sister, Biblio, sent me a box of orphan photographs, enough orphans to establish an orphanage. These are photographs that had been saved by my Great Grandmother, Grandmother, Mother, and now by me. Saved, cherished, but darn it, not identified.

Each of these is a miniature mystery and you know how much I love a mystery. I developed a research strategy for individuals and areas/locations during my nine month course with the University of Washington. I am now applying those principles to a research strategy for identifying orphan photographs. I will share the process when it is complete.

A few of the orphans in the family orphanage.
Don't they look as if they are taunting me?

Come on fM, who am I?

(There are so many more!)


Blogger Joan said...

I will be watching your progress with great interest as I too have a box of orphan photographs that taunts me, haunts me, with "are you the one."

December 2, 2009 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger Greta Koehl said...

Darn - I forgot about orphan photos! And as long as no one knows who they are, it is as though the people in them have been abandoned. Hope you have tremendous success in your search for their identities.

December 2, 2009 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger J.M. said...

You had me nodding my head in agreement, thinking of the stack of unidentified pictures I still have lying around. Great post.

December 8, 2009 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Great post, footnoteMaven! I, too, have many orphans who implore me with earnest eyes to find out who they are. They also remind me to write names on the backs of current photos. Thanks for your post. I hope you make great progress identifying your orphans.

December 9, 2009 at 7:44 PM  

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