the grumpy genealogist

I been collecting family photographs for a couple decades, and in recent years its been mostly great-great aunts and uncles, or other distant relatives. I can't remember the last time I got a "new" picture of one of our direct ancestors. That is until this week!

About a month ago, I discovered a new branch of my wife's family. When her great-great grandfather, Franz Rust (1823-1903), immigrated from Germany to Gubser's Mill, Kentucky in 1857, he brought along his 6-year-od niece, Sophia Rust. Unable to find any trace of Sophia after they came ashore, I assumed she had died sometime before 1860. But I couldn't have been more wrong!

It turns out that Sophia went to live with another uncle, Herman Rust, in Cincinnati. (Haven't found him in the 1860 census either.) So when Franz entered the Union Army in 1865, he sent this photograph to his brother Herman, and it wound up in the possession of his then 15-year-old niece, Sophia. She married in 1870 (before the census taker could register her by maiden name, of course) and moved to Tennessee in 1871.

Here's where it gets confusing for non-genealogist: Franz and Herman had a sister, Theresa, who also came to Cincinnati. Another brother, Johann (father of Sophia), was to join them in America, but never did. While I was researching Theresa's family and uploading it to the web, one of her descendants saw it and contacted me. He is a 4th cousin to my wife. As we helped each other fill in our trees, he mentioned one of his aunts met someone doing research on the Rust family, but he didn't know the relation.

Armed only with her name, plus the name of a relative she traveled with, I discovered this woman lived in Tennessee, and had done a family book which included some Rusts. But were her Rust family and our Rust family connected? A little more digging revealed that her husband descended from Sophia! I contacted this new 4th cousin-in-law, and as we swapped vintage photos via email, she said her husband's cousin's widow had a picture of Franz Rust in the Civil War! OMG! How cool is that!?!

I didn't get my hopes up too high, because I've seen my share of misidentified photos. But when she sent the scan a couple weeks later, I knew it was him right away. I have few pics of Franz in his older years. Here is the original scan. It's a bit stained, faded and off-center.

But now, almost 150 years after the photo was taken, it can be shared with Franz' descendants. Did you follow the trail that led to it's discovery? Franz sent the photo to his brother, Herman. who gave it to his niece, Sophia. While researching their sister, Theresa, her great-great grandson led me to Sophia's great grandson, whose widow had the picture. Just goes to show that searching for distant cousins can pay off sometimes.



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