Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Search: Beyond The Camera

The McKannan Family c. 1920:
(L-R) William Jacob, William Reuben, Robert James, Helen Walker (Fulton).
In the last few years of my grandmother’s life, she went back and forth between wanting to pass things along to many of us (I will never forget her telling me that she wanted me to have her, and my grandfather’s, High School class rings) and just wanting to get rid of things “because no one would want them”. Unfortunately, what she thought no one would want were the piles of family photos piled in many of the drawers in my parent’s house. In hindsight, I wish I had told her that I wanted to see them from time to time and ask her who everyone was. Definitely a missed opportunity.

Thankfully there are some photos that have survived and recently I came across a few of the older photographs that I don’t remember ever seeing. While sorting through the boxes and files that have been piled in my office for the past several months, I came across a Priority Mail box that my Aunt had sent to me just prior to our move out of the old apartment last year. I had put it aside with the plan of opening it once we got settled and looking through what I thought would be an album of photos from when my mom was growing up.

When I finally pulled the tab on the box I peered in and saw an expected album along with an envelope. I first pulled out the bound pages and only half of it was about what I was expecting. There were also photos from long before that time back to around the year that my grandparents met. I didn’t think that this discovery could get better until I put the binder aside and opened the envelope.

In this unassuming package I found, in layers and layers, a wealth of family history in images. Sliding from one photo to the next, I was unaware of the existence of each image. Some of them were simple portraits and family photos while overs told a little more about the lives of the people in those images. Knowing the basic family history beforehand only added to the story even behind those moments captured. Having done the research, I know that the following photo shows my grandfather around 1910 as a driver for a local grocery store (as was recorded in the 1910 federal census).

Additionally, looking at the family portrait at the top of this post (my great grandparents, grandfather, and great uncle) I can’t help but think about what is happening beyond the scope of the camera. The picture was take around 1920 and shows a family of four. At one point, in 1919 and early 1920, this was a family of six (my great aunts passed away in 1920 and 1922 respectively). By the end of 1922, this was a family of three with my great grandmother having succumb to a stroke in September of that year. It just goes to show that pictures are truly representative of a single moment in time.

Of course, this is just a couple of the photos that have been shared with me and just the stories behind the photos that I have been able to piece together. There are still a lot of images that I have yet to scan, people in those photos that I have to identify, and stories that I hope to find. It is an ongoing project that I hope never ends but I need help from the family to accomplish that… I just hope that I don’t come across another situation when people don’t think that anyone wants these pieces of family history. I want to do everything I can to avoid that situation and prevent that regret for not talking about the photos and asking about family history. Definitely a lot of work but well worth the effort.