Thanks to the wonders of scanning and digitization and the Internet, the good old photo album sometimes gets little respect these days. While saving and sharing digital images, we may forget the value of actual photographs that can be hung on the wall or sent through the mail.
Before we dismantle old photo albums in the name of saving space, it can be worthwhile to inventory the photos in an album — in order — in case the process and resulting list give us clues about our family history.
The small album I decided to inventory recently did have its owner’s name inside the cover — Stanley Steeves, my maternal grandfather. He lived 1905-1993, so already I have some dates to help guide my thinking as I review each picture.
On page two is a black-and-white photograph of Guy Clukey, Amalie Clukey, Stanley Steeves and Edith Steeves, my grandmother, also born 1905.
Amalie, pronounced Moll-ya by her family, was my grandfather’s younger sister, born almost two years after him.
A good estimate of the date of the picture would be 1928. Guy Clukey married Amalie Steeves on Feb. 16 that year, and Stanley Steeves married Edith Roberts on June 2. A couple of pages later, a photo of Guy and Amalie has “The Newlyweds” written on the bottom.
Turning the pages, I come to a picture of two young children, marked “Dicky-Dout and Willard.” I remember that Uncle Arthur and Aunt Peck Steeves had children, including Willard, born 1921, and Richard, 1924. Some years ago, Willard’s children organized a Steeves family reunion at his house in Clinton. It was held just a few months after my dad died, so it was a wonderful boost to attend a family gathering with my mother and sister, connecting and reconnecting with cousins.
A photo of Uncle Eddie and Aunt Hazel (Roberts) Ireland prompts me to look up their wedding date, which was 1923. As my mother did in her childhood, I used to go to Sebec Lake once a year to spend the weekend with them at camp. Uncle Eddie called me Phoebe for no particular reason, except it made me laugh.
Next is a picture I’ve seen in more than one photo album, showing Lawrence and Gerald Steeves sitting on a pony. They were the two older children of Uncle Roy and Aunt Irene (Arnold) Steeves, who married in 1921. Lawrence was born in 1922, Gerald in 1924. This is in keeping with many of the photos in the book seeming to date around 1930.
And in fact, next I come upon a picture of Stanley Steeves holding his 1-year-old daughter — my mother, Joyce, in 1931.
There also are photos of Stanley with his mother-in-law, Etta (Eldridge) Roberts, and with his mother, Tressa (Given) Steeves. We know the picture with Etta had to be taken by 1933, because that is the year she died.
The first real mystery in the album is the identity of a man with white hair and mustache. He is standing next to Stanley Steeves, my grandfather; Eddie Ireland, Aunt Hazel’s husband; Agnes (Bray) Eldridge, my great-great-grandmother; and Edith (Roberts) Steeves, my grandmother.
Agnes Eldridge was Edith’s maternal grandmother. Agnes died in 1929, so the photo was not taken after that year. Could the unnamed man be her husband, David Eldridge? No, he couldn’t, because my records show that David died in 1911. If I didn’t have that information in my records, I could have sought a parameter for his life by checking whether he was enumerated in the 1910 census, yes; the 1920 census, no; and just to be sure, the 1930 census, no.
One Eldridge the family member I remember only slightly was my grandmother’s Uncle Ernest Eldridge of Dover-Foxcroft. He was born in 1880, according to my records. My mother remembers him much better than I do, so I’m hopeful she will know if that is the person in the picture.
Next comes a photo of two tiny girls in baby carriages. They would be Marion Clukey and Joyce Steeves, children born just months apart to the two couples from the front of the photo album.
Still another picture is a real prize because it shows all the children, plus one, of my great-grandparents, Harry and Tressa (Given) Steeves, who moved to Maine in 1911 from Saint John, New Brunswick.
There are Harry the father, Roy, Ralph, Tressa, Randal, Harry, Stanley, Amalie and Arthur.
They are all named Steeves except for the youngest, Ralph Baker, born in Millinocket. His mother, Lucy (Given) Baker was a half-sister to Tressa, but she died in the 1918 flu epidemic, and Ralph was raised in my grandfather’s family.
Ralph was born in 1917, and looked to be about 13 in the photo, which agrees with the photo having been taken around 1930 or so.
Obviously, I have seen these pictures many times, and over the years have acquired a good bit of information that is consistent with the era when they were likely taken.
Still, I will go over the pictures again with my mother. Sometimes I will ask her a question, and the answer will come to mind after she’s had a little time to think about it.
I hope you can see that just the act of making the list of people pictured can help genealogists think of new ways to research and put together their family histories.
And of course, do make copies of some of your photographs and share them.
A cenotaph, as we know, is a gravestone that is placed even though the person’s remains are not interred there. The stone honoring the memory of Korean War Pfc Robert J. Tait is a cenotaph no more, thanks to the fact that his remains were repatriated and buried on Oct. 5 in Bar Harbor.
Gov. Paul LePage and numerous Korean War veterans turned out to pay their respects to the 19-year-old who gave his life in service to his country.
Tait is one of 245 Mainers who were killed or missing in the Korean War. Their names are engraved on the beautiful pagoda-style granite Maine Korean War Memorial, in Mount Hope Cemetery just off Mount Hope Avenue in Bangor.
Readers can see the entire list of names on the monument by visiting the Genealogy Resources section of Family Ties on the Bangor Daily News website at http://bangordailynews.com/2011/09/18/living/maine-korean-war-memorial-inscriptions/?ref=inline
Come hear Al Banfield talk about “Traveling to Trace My Family History” at the meeting of the Penobscot County Genealogical Society at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, in the Lecture Hall at Bangor Public Library, 145 Harlow St. All are welcome, and refreshments will be served.
For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email email@example.com.