Friday, May 30, 2014
Genealogists Love Puzzles
Revisiting the box of Rescued Ancestor photos since I started this blog has had some unforeseen benefits. For the last couple of years I have struggled with "researcher's block". This is a malady similar to writer's block. When you hit researcher's block, you just can't seem to get focused enough to make any progress to that next generation back.
When you are a new genealogist, you can just go lickety split, finding records everywhere you look. When you are an old genealogist, you spend a lot of your time trying to batter down the inevitable brick walls you run into, when you just cannot find that elusive ancestor that will break the log jam and send you off and running again. You begin to doubt your abilities and wonder if you just aren't that good a researcher.
The brief research exercises that these photos are presenting to me are reminding me that I actually do know what I'm doing. Today is a nice case study in using tiny clues to find answers.
This photo was purchased in a Smithville antique store and while there is some identification, it is not complete enough to immediately latch onto the right family.
The reverse of this photo is printed with the Post Card markings to enable it to be mailed. In the name and address area is written "Mrs. Jennie Williamson".
On the front is written:
Uncle John, Aunt Lizzie & family
Mama & C. J. visiting them at their home in Hazen
Carlley 4 years old
To begin with, I had no idea if Mrs. Jennie Williamson was the owner of the photo or someone to whom the photo was given (relative or not). In either case, the front of the photo refers to Uncle John and Aunt Lizzie, so the last name of the couple would probably not be Williamson. If Jennie was family and it was her aunt and uncle, then Uncle John could be her mother's brother or her father's brother and even if I could puzzle out Jennie's maiden name, I still had only a 50% chance of it tying to this couple.
I first tried narrowing down the location of Hazen. There are a few in the United States, but the first one that caught my eye was Hazen, Prairie County, Arkansas. I had no reason, really, to pursue this except for the fact that I've done research in Prairie County on my McAfee line and it was the closest Hazen to Texas. I had to start somewhere, so I set my mind on Arkansas. Then I tried to decide what time period we were dealing with here. I decided to focus on the turn of the century. My first search involved looking for a John and Lizzie or Elizabeth who lived in Hazen in 1900. There was one couple named John and Lizzie Anderson, but nothing else fit.
I dropped that line of inquiry for the moment and decided to look for the only name I really had that was somewhat unique, "Carlley" who was 4 years old in the photo. I dropped back to Texas, since that was where the photo was found, and ran a scan for a Carlley who was born in Texas between 1890 and 1910. I found a possible match to a Carl Jeffrey Williamson who was born in 1905. A "CJ" and "Williamson" together seemed promising, so I went back to Ancestry and started poking around public family trees and census records and bit by bit, the family relationships began to emerge.
As it turns out, I was a bit off on the time frame. The Carl Jeffrey Williamson I found was actually the son of the Carlley Jeffrey Williamson who was 4 years old in the photo. Carlley was born in 1878, so if he was 4 years old at the time of the photo, the photo was taken in 1882.
Carlley's mother was Mary Virginia Carlley Williamson, who I'm betting was the Jennie Williamson noted on the reverse. Mary Virginia had a brother named John R. Carlley who married Sarah Elizabeth Anderson and John and "Lizzie" lived in Hazen, Prairie County, Arkansas.
So I have every reason to believe that this is a photo of John and Sarah Elizabeth Carlley's family, along with John's sister Jennie and her son Carlley. Now who is marked "X" in the photo, I'm not entirely sure. I would have sworn that was a little girl, but it is the only one in the picture who might be 4 years old and is standing behind a bush, so I can't really tell what kind of clothes the child is wearing. Likewise I would estimate that the woman in black is older than the 32 that Mary Virginia would have been at the time, but folks seemed to age more rapidly back then and the woman is somewhat heavyset and could look older as a result. I made no attempt to figure out who was who among the other young folks.
The writing on the front of the photo must have been done by one of Mary Virginia's children. She was married twice, first to a Mr. Price with whom she had a son Earnest, then to John Jeffrey Williamson, with whom she had Mamie, Mary Evelyn, Carlley and Ellon.
Maybe I'm completely off base, but I feel pretty good that I've identified the right family. Carlley "C. J." Williamson became an attorney who practiced in Lockhart. He died in 1943.