Nine years ago, I scanned a photo into my computer. It is a photo which I had looked at many times. When I scanned it in, I could identify five family members. I knew they were Smith relatives from Fort Wayne so the photo was named, Fort Wayne Smiths. This photo unfortunately was undocumented. No one wrote on the back of it. I have looked at it often wondering what event would have brought these family members together. A birthday perhaps... or a baptism...or a simple summer reunion of a family from Indiana. No way to know what the event was. No way to know why this groups of Smith relatives all gathered for this photo. A snap shot that they would later be shared with my grandfather, Everett Smith.
Through the years of research, I have made many discoveries about these people which I have documented on this blog. People who I now know to be members of my family. I have learned when they were born, who they married and when they died. I have visited many of the grave sites.
For many years, I was stymied by who the woman in the center was. She figures prominently in several other photos which were carefully kept by my grandparents.
On the back of this photo she was identified as Oella's sister by my grandmother Lillian Smith. Oella Denney is my gggrandmother and she married James W. Smith. She is the grumpy looking lady on the right. She looks the same in all of her photos! I spent years searching for the other woman through the well documented Denney family trying to find Oella's sister. I wrote about this discovery in my September 23, 2009 blog found here... http://jlsmithfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2009/09/dellas-sister.html This woman is Susan M Smith Rehnen, the sister-in-law of Oella and sister to James Smith. Her granddaughter, Susan Brown would identify her for me.
I will used her date of her death and the passing of other family members to try to identify who these people are in the photo. So let's take a closer look at this photo.
We will start with the three woman in the center. They are Smith woman. Dora Smith Jackson is on the left with Susan Smith Rehnen in the center and Della Smith Sparks Hart on Susan's right(looking down). Dora Smith and Della Smith were easily identified from other photos which my grandparents had kept. They are sisters and Oella, identified in the photo above is their mother. Aunt Della and Aunt Dora (as they were known by Everett) visited the Smiths in Flint on several occasions which helped to make them identifiable.
First we will try to date this photo by using Susan Smith Rehnen who died on December 2, 1933. So we know that this photo is prior to that. The woman to the right of Della is her daughter Nora Sparks Patten. She died on February 24, 1933 so we know that the photo is prior to that. The baby who is being held by Dora Smith Jackson is (I believe) Marlene Emrick who was born on January 29, 1932. So I think it is pretty safe to say that this photo was likely taken in the summer or fall of 1932.
I have looked through my research with the hope that I can finally identified the rest of this people in this photo.
Beginning in the front row with the children.
1st row left to right: Walter Emrick(1927), Martena Sparks (1922), Loydell Malone (1923), Loren Sparks (1920), Bernard Sparks(1923)
2nd row left to right: Dora Jane Jackson (1926), Dora Smith Jackson(1876)holding Marlene (1932), Susan M Smith Rehnen (1852), Della Smith Sparks Hart (1874), Martha Patten (1914)
Standing 3rd row left to right: Talmage Sparks(1899) holding Gaylord (1931), Lydia Sparks (1898 - I believe she is pregnant with Talmage Jr born later in 1932), Ruth Jackson Emrick(1903), Melba Jackson (1917), Vesta Browersock Jackson (1898), Marjorie Jackson (1921), Virgil J Sparks (1902), Nora Patten (1897), William Hart (1862)
Row 4 left to right: Wm Harvey Jackson(1871), Ralph Emrick, Oscar Jackson (1895), Alvin A Sparks (1904), Grover Patten(1888)
After an afternoon of concentrated effort, I think I have identified everyone in this photo! And an amazing event happened at the beginning of this process. This afternoon, while I was studying this photo for the umpteenth time...I received a letter in the mail from the baby in this photo, Marlene Emrick Hill. My husband handed it to me...and I told him, " you are not going to believe this...but this letter is from that baby!" pointing to the baby on Dora's lap! Got goosebumps yet? ... I did!
Everyday that I am able to uncover and solve another of our family mysteries, I think of my grandmother, Lillian and her dusty old box of photos. With each new discovery, I feel her warm hug and hear her telling me, "I knew you could keep these families alive! "