I started (halfway) serious genealogy research because I loved hearing stories about my ancestors. Once I got started, looking at photos of them shot up the charts to rank a close second.
Between albums I've looked at most of my life and digital photos on sites like Ancestry.com of relatives I never met, I've amassed hundreds of images. These are some of my favorites.
5. Elden demonstrates gun safety
This is my dad, audtioning for the part of NRA safety instructor. Actually, he got this .22 revolver for Christmas one year before I was born, and I think my Aunt Vada and grandmother, Leona Wilson, were as surprised by his immediate reaction as Dad was to receive the gift.
This photo spawned many imitators, by the way. Here are Debi and I with an FNP 40 my dad got me for Christmas a few years ago:
(That Debi's a natural, isn't she?)
4. Cora Wilson Stewart in her finest
My maternal first cousin three times removed, Cora Wilson Stewart, gained renown as an adult-literacy crusader and was a study in contrasts. She ran in circles with Ida Tarbell and Jane Addams, yet she often parted company with Progressives — for instance, inisisting upon teaching materials that were practical and applicable to adult students' everyday lives. She also resisted Progressive-era projects that conflated adult illteracy with efforts to teach English to immigrants.
Cora was the daughter of a country doctor, and she developed an appreciation for the mountain folks of meager means while traveling with him on house calls. Often, she helped her father's illiterate patients by reading letters from sons serving abroad in the military. She marveled at the voices of folks singing from hymnals they could not read. The experience made an impression and led her to a career as an educator.
Even as she gained national and international reputation, she never forgot or denied those humble roots. Nonetheless, she also acquired a reputation for her appreciation of finer things — travel abroad and fine dress, for instance.
That's why I love this photo of her — a mountain girl wrapped in high-society fashion. I'm not sure under what circumstances it was taken, only that it was the work of Mary Elliott Flanery, who was not a relative but interesting in her own right. (Flanery was the first female state legislator in Kentucky and was born in what is now Elliott County, from which many of my relatives hail. Cora, by the way, was the first female to serve as a Kentucky county superintendent of education and did so before women had the right to vote.)
3. My sweetie pie as a little girl
Have you ever seen anything as cute as my wife? She has the same cheeks and the same smile as a adult. Better bangs, though.
2. Mom, the majorette
This photo was taken in my the front yard of the farmhouse where my mother grew up. That's her on the far right, in the majorette uniform. She was about 11 or 12. Her friend and neighbor, Mary Ann Meneer, is next to her in a princess' gown. My grandmother, Leona Wilson, made both costumes for some sort of school pageant. My Aunt Ina, one of my mom's younger siblings, wasn't decked out in costume, but she still wanted to have the photo taken.
1. The world's first photobomb?
I'm not sure when or where this photo was taken — in Springfield, Ohio, I think — but it depicts my great uncle — Allie Wilburn Williams, "Uncle Bill" to my mother — and his wife, Geneva Trent Williams. Uncle Bill died in 2002; I believe Aunt Geneva is still living. (She would be in her early 90s.) I never spent a lot of time around her, but I remember her always having a smile on her face, and she evidently had a great sense of humor.