Sunday, January 27, 2019

Meeting My Grandmothers with Photos and Questions in Hand

In this life I've known only one grandmother, Emma (Bickerstaff) Meinzen.  I dearly loved her and still do.  Is it any wonder my heart leans toward the grandmothers I haven't had the opportunity to know?  I'd love to meet all of my ancestors -- I have questions for all of them -- but just now I'm thinking of these three grandmothers.  If I could, I would introduce myself and hopefully ask them to tell me the stories behind these photographs.

Beulah Mae (Gerner) Doyle
Beulah is my father's mother.  She died in 1913, a month after my father was born.  Beulah, with her Gibson Girl hair style, is standing in the photo on the right.

Beulah is also in the photo on the left.  Gust is at the back, Leota is in the white dress, and Beulah is at the front in the suit.  (Yes, that's really Beulah!)  In the photo on the right, Gust and Leota sit near Beulah. 

I would like to ask Beulah about these photos.  When and where were they taken?  Was this a fun outing, a celebration of some kind, or . . . ?  How did she come to be wearing a suit, and where did she change clothes?  Who was the photographer?  I know there's a story here but, unfortunately, it was never recorded. 

Elvira (Bartley) Gerner
Elvira is Beulah's mother.  In this photo she is beside her daughter, Mabel (Gerner) Bannon.  I love how their heads are both inclined to their right.  Like mother like daughter?

They seem to be standing near a porch which has a hose coiled near the post and there appears to be something hanging from a clothesline on the porch.  They both seem to be in house dresses or work clothes, possibly protective pinafore-type coverings, though neither looks dirty.  Elvira's dress looks like it's gingham.

I would like to ask Elvira where they were, as in, at whose home, and what they had been doing before this snapshot was taken.  Were they getting ready to work or was this a break from work?  Were they spring cleaning, or canning, or . . .?  Who took the photo?  Who else was around that day?  Did they sew their own dresses?

I know that Elvira was the mother of 16 children and that she was a self-reliant lady who was also service-oriented.  She served as the neighborhood midwife.  What stories she could tell!

Elizabeth (Armitage) Meinzen
Elizabeth is my mother's paternal grandmother who emigrated from England in the mid-1860s with her father, siblings, and step-family.  Her mother died when she was a child.  She was the mother of 15 children.  In the photo below, Elizabeth is on the right and her sister, Ann (Armitage) Hardy is on the left.  I'm uncertain who the boy is though I wonder if it could be my grandfather.  This scanned image was made from a poor, black and white photocopy of a real photograph. 

I would dearly love to ask Elizabeth about this photo.  The three appear to be standing in a woody area, yet they seem to be dressed up.  Both ladies are wearing hats, white shirtwaists, and "ties" with pins at the neckline.  Annie is holding what seems to be a handkerchief in her right hand.  Her pose suggests a non-nonsense personality and the expression on her face is serious, if not dour.  And Elizabeth is holding a glass of liquid, maybe water.  I think I can see the hint of a smile (maybe?) on Elizabeth's face.

I would like to ask Elizabeth the story behind this photo.  How did they choose to be photographed in a woody area?  Why were they dressed up?  And why was she holding a glass of liquid for the photograph?  They look too serious for this to be a playful occasion and yet. . . .  Who was the photographer?  What year and month was this photo taken?  What happened before and after the camera shutter snapped?

I would love to get to know these three grandmothers, discover their personalities, and learn more about their lives.  As much as I want to learn the names and dates of events in ancestors' lives, I crave knowing their stories.  If only pictures could talk!

This post was written for Amy Johnson Crow's 2019 version of 52 Ancestors.  The post topic for the week was "I'd Like to Meet." 

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  1. Oh absolutely, please meet Beulah and get that story. Leota seems to think it's rather funny (and it is!!). She looks so girly and feminine in the picture on the right, but I was totally fooled by the picture on the left. In fact, I had to read that story 3 times to be sure I read it right.

    1. If only I could meet Beulah, or Gust, for that matter, Wendy. Or even Leota. But they're all gone. I wish someone had written down the story. Yes, Beulah does look feminine in the photo on the right. I think she has a Gibson Girl look about her.

  2. So many questions! You make me want to keep lists of questions with my pictures! Genealogy is mostly inquiry with answers hiding in the past.

    1. Yes, I always have questions for photos, Shari! It sounds like a great idea to me to keep a running list of questions for photos. Sometime in the future they might be answered.


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