the grumpy genealogist

While cleaning out the attic of an apartment house I own in the historic district, I came across a box belonging to a previous owner. A couple who bought the house in the 1930s for rental income, and later lived there, after retiring in the 1960s.

The box contained two custom leather-bound albums from the husband's retirement party (imprinted with his name, and full of letters and telegrams of congratulations), a box of personalized Christmas cards, his railroad pension papers, and lots of family pictures dating from 1890 to 1970..As a family historian, I felt a duty to rescue these items and get them back to their rightful family. So when I got home, I did a little genealogy work to find out what happened to them.

Turns out the couple went to a nursing home in the 1980s and the house was sold in 1990, after their deaths. They had two children and four grandchildren. I was a bit heartbroken to see that the son had died just four weeks before I discovered the photos, and the daughter passed away the year before. Both were in their mid-80s.

But by the end of the night, I was able to locate a great-granddaughter living in North Carolina, and contacted her on Facebook. Here is her reply -

"Rusty, Yes, I am her [great] granddaughter and it's amazing that you have come across those items and were able to find me! I know my family would be very interested in them. My father is in Cincinnati often and may be able to meet you sometime. I'll go ahead and send him your email address so he can contact you. Thanks for taking the time to look into this! They would have been lost forever and this is something that I'm sure my family will want to hold on to. Sarah"

So then I get an email from the grandson -

"Rusty, wow thanks for finding my family. I'm Sarah's dad,  the son of Patty and grandson of Wayne. I live in Lexington and am in Northern KY quite often.  I'd love to get together to see what you have.  Please give me a call or email. Thanks so much!  Dave"

Sent him my cell number, and told him to call whenever he's in the area. A few weeks went by without any word, so I called and left a message on his voice mail. There was no response. That was almost two years ago.

Last week I was cleaning up at the apartment house again, this time in the basement, and uncovered a second box of old photos belonging to this family.

continue reading part 2 >>>



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"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance." - George Bernard Shaw