Family history research can become a tangled web sometimes. Trying to keep names, dates, and relationships straight is often a challenge for my mind. I'm sure as a child I gave my mom more than one glazed-over look when she would try to explain the relationship to me of an ancestor she had just found. I understand the impulse to just nod along politely, but please, try to keep up with this post because it is just THE COOLEST THING EVER.
Last week when we were out on our date, John suggested browsing at the local antique store. I readily agreed, as we both like going to this particular store. It is huge, and specializes in everything. (If you want/need a zebra pelt, I know where to find one.) We never know what we are going to find.
Last week, what stood out to us was an oval framed photo. The store was packed with framed photos and artwork, so there was no reason this particular photo should have grabbed our attention. The small price tag was labelled, "Grandma Whitehead's photo". I wondered how in the world the store owners knew the woman's name. I turned over the photo and found this:
I know that the writing is hard to impossible to read from the photo, but it says:
Marriage to Michael Whitehead
Date ? [The question mark is written there]
There were 4 children
Milton born 1849--Married Sallie Mayo
Two children died before they were a year old
(H.E.W.-1865 and Alvaria 1852)
Ethan E. Whitehead Born 1859
Married Nell B. Wright --18
[There is an arrow pointing down from Ethan's name]
One child only
I was stunned with the wealth of information--particularly the information about the children who had died so young. I imagined that someone, somewhere, would want to know about this family. Having done family history research, I know how difficult it can be to know about children who don't show up on a federal census.
I considered buying the photo, but thought it would be an expensive precedent to start purchasing old photos of people to whom I'm not even related. John and I left the store, but all weekend I brooded over this photo. I couldn't get this family off my mind. I called my mom and told her about it, and she asked, "Did you say 'Showalter or Stowalter'?" At that point, I didn't really remember, but Mom explained that we tied in distantly to a Showalter line.
Monday afternoon, I could stand it no longer, and I returned to the antique store to purchase the photo. I figured that at the very least, I could post the information on an online genealogy board. I spent most of the evening on ancestry.com, trying to see if there was a link between the woman in the photo and my own family history lines. I suspected there might be, based on the fact that both families were living in the same states at the same times, but it wasn't until this morning that I finally found the link!
(Here's where you need to pay close attention to prevent the glazed look of genealogy overload):
My great-grandpa, William Roy Pierce, had a brother named James Pierce, who married a woman named Eva May Showalter. Eva May's grandpa, John Showalter, had a brother named Abraham Showalter. Abraham Showalter was the father of Anna, the woman in the photo.
I don't even know how to begin to calculate the odds of this occurrence! As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I believe that family relations can continue beyond the grave. A major purpose of our temples is to provide ordinances which allow families to be forever. I think it is more than coincidence that brought this photo to my attention. I think about Anna, and her concern that her children not be forgotten. Family history really is a labor of love, and I think that we can be guided in our research--even when we might not know who we are looking for.
I now know who you are, Grandma Whitehead!