I am always inspired by the lost-and-found-photo stories in the genealogy community, when a simple upload to Family Search or Facebook connects a photo found in an antique store or yard sale to the subject’s present-day descendants. I love thinking about how many times the photo may have changed hands over the years before coming full circle and finding its way back home. But more than that, I love thinking about what the odds must be of a photo making it back to the subject’s family, and I wonder if I’ll ever have such luck one day.
My grandfather was an only child, and he inherited all of the family photos after his parents and grandparents passed away. One day, we took the box of family photos and Bibles off the dusty storage shelf, spread the photos onto the kitchen table and scanned and labeled each one. Gramps remembered everyone in each photo; that is, everyone except for the family we found in an old Swedish Bible. The photo depicts a young mother with her two children–a daughter and a son–posing in a photography studio. On the back, in pencil, someone has written, “Mother Lodie Don,” and I have yet to come across these names in my family tree.
My guess? The trio were likely family friends of my Peterson ancestors, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how this photo found its way into the Peterson’s Bible. I’ve spent the past few years searching for the trio and their descendants, using every combination of names I could think of. I’ve searched for “Lodie Don,” perhaps the mother’s name; for Lodie and Don, the two siblings; for Charlotte or Leota, with “Lodie” as a nickname; for “Lottie,” thinking the writer may have mispelled the name; and for Donald, with “Don” for short. I’ve combed through the census records in Dunkirk, Fredonia and Pomfret–the towns in which my Peterson ancestors lived–for a potential match, but still no luck.
That is, not until last week, when I happened upon a Swedish American family living at 4 Forest Place in Fredonia, New York in 1930. The parents, Charles and Victoria Taylor, had four children–Lottie (b. 1912), Marjorie (b. 1913), Donald (b. 1916) and Kenneth (b. 1922)–making the couple slightly younger than my Peterson ancestors. Victoria was a naturalized citizen from Sweden, and Charles, an American, was working as a mechanic in an auto garage. Lottie, aged 18, was a dining car waitress, and their son Donald, aged 14, was still in school.
If any of you are photo detectives, what do you think? Have I found the right family? What proof do I need to establish a connection? Can you date the photo? Is a four-year age difference between “Lodie” and “Don” likely, based on the image? And, most importantly, how can I find their descendants? I would love to hear your lost-and-found-photo stories and would welcome any advice you may have. This has been a brick wall at the back of my mind for years now, and it’s my dream to reunite the photo with Lodie’s or Don’s long-lost family. Until then, I’ll just have to keep searching–maybe I’ll find that we are related, after all.