After my grandfather’s death in April 2010, I spent the better part of the summer researching my family tree. It felt like the right thing to do as I worked through my grief — particularly since his death came only three years after my mother’s — and tried to sort through his belongings.
What I discovered while sorting my grandfather’s papers were boxes of old, historic family pictures, documents and postcards. (I’ve not done a good job yet of preserving them but I’m working on that.) Because I knew my grandfather had been the family historian, I wasn’t surprised to find these old photos and papers. But they weren’t clearly organized — a sign of my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s disease most likely.
Regardless, I did what I could to log the photos and scan them as digital images. Many of them had markings or writing on the back, but certainly not all of them.
One set of photos came from my great-grandmother’s scrapbook or family album. These pictures, mostly of her brother, mother and father, were pasted onto black paper akin to construction paper in a bound volume, much like an old-time scrapbook.
Among these photos was one of a group of women with no accompanying documentation except their first names written on the back.
Duckworth sisters from Posey County, Indiana, circa 1890s
I had nothing more than this photograph (shown at left) and their order from left to right.
Using the search function in Ancestry.com, I was able to determine quite a bit of information about these women. A few documents I found online helped me ascertain the approximate date the photo was taken — roughly in the 1890s. And, that’s primarily based on the collars and necklines of their blouses. Some census data also helped me put an approximate age on them.
But what was the most exciting part of this discovery is that it’s fairly likely that these women are the aunts of my great-grandmother, Amy Ruth Duckworth Simpson. And one of them is likely the person she was named after.
There’s not any real way of verifying this information about her namesake, but there are discrepancies in the census documents related to my great-grandmother’s early life. I know that her mother left her to be raised by grandparents; in one census she’s listed with a name other than Amy and my guess is that her name changed sometime after she moved in with Mam and Pap.
Again, I don’t know much about her parents except to know that they left her to be raised by grandparents at some point in time. And, I don’t know much about her connections with her brother Cecil either.
Regardless, I had great fun tracking down the names of these women: Harriet, Essie, Amy and Mariam (from left to right) and discovering a bit about their lives and connection to my Grandma Simpson.
Have you used Ancestry.com and census records to trace an ancestor? Share your story or a tip in the comments section.