This week in #52ancestors and #52familyphotographs I thought I would try to crowd-source the identities of all the people in this photograph.
Florence Wells and family
This image is pasted into a photo album created by my grandmother Kathryn Prince Jones Preston. The accompanying notation says Florence Wells and family. Most of the images in this album date from the first year of her marriage, 1924. With that clue, and a list of Florence and Moses Wells‘ children:
The only grandchild who could have been the right age for this picture would be Helen Grace Wells, b. 1916, daughter of Willard and Grace Hewlings Wells. I have no idea who the two men and the younger woman are. Florence is on the left. Possibilities are Mattie and Samuel Horner and Willard K. Wells. I am hoping that my Haines cousins will have some insights.
This week in #52Ancestors and #52familyphotographs I start on the process of fleshing out the branches of the Van Syckel family tree. I wrote about Chester Van Syckel last year and at the time did a bit of research on his siblings but not enough, never enough! So this blog is about Amanda Van Syckel (28 June 1834 to 28 September 1917).
I can find very little about Amanda prior to her marriage to Theodore J. Hoffman on 22 February 1855. There’s not that much available on her after that fact either. She and Theodore had eleven children, seven surviving to adulthood. She does not even merit an obituary, although Theodore got special accolades for being the oldest alumnus of Rutgers when he died in 1922. He was a lawyer in Somerville, New Jersey and I suppose she occupied herself with eleven pregnancies and raising seven children:
Alletta Hoffman (1855-1941)
Joseph V. Hoffman (1857-1894)
Kate V. Hoffman (1859-1862)
Mary E. Hoffman (1861-1943)
Alexander B. Hoffman (1863-1864)
Louisa C. Hoffman (1865-1866)
Ann E. Hoffman (1868-1868)
Alice V. Hoffman (1869-?)
Clara Hoffman (1871-1949)
Frank C. Hoffman (1873-1943)
Ogden Hoffman (1876-1948)
Amanda Van Syckel died 28 September 1917 and is buried in the New Somerville cemetery in Somerset County, New Jersey.
That moment when the identified photograph ends up being more confusing than the unknown? That’s this weeks #52ancestors and #52familyphotographs rolled into one!
The man sitting in the plus fours is my great grandfather’s older brother. Born Elwood Andrew Jones on 12 October 1869 to Benjamin and Mary Carroll Jones, He may have worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad as an engineer. In 1891 he married Amy Emmons. They lived in Pemberton and raised five children: Inez, Paul, Oscar, Gladys and Myrtle.
I think the people named on the label are as follows left to right:
Apparently my grandfather was a genius at photographing children. In both of these photographs you see the joy in each person for the other. #52ancestors #52familyphotographs
Jean Van Syckel was born on 28 July 1875, probably in Flemington, New Jersey, to Chester and Mary Jane Mount Van Syckel. She was the youngest of their four children and the Flemington, She never married but the Flemington, Jersey City and Detroit, Michigan newspapers tracked her visits with her brother and sister. Louise Tompkins tells stories about the house and garden at 182 S. Main St. where she “vacationed” as a child. Mary and Jean kept a large garden and small orchard in the back yard of that house. Mary succumbed to dementia on Christmas day in 1952.
Last January 2018 I decided to try an experiment: from the birthday list generated by my RootsMagic program, I would make a list of ancestors and blog about one person per week for 52 weeks. I knew that I would have trouble following the schedule and topics outlined in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. My job as well as various commitments would have derailed me if I had not been able to write the blogs ahead of time and schedule them to publish each week. But the weekly inspiration from those who were following Amy were really helpful and when I could I tagged my blog with her topic.
What I learned
It is really hard to write 52 fully researched, carefully prepared, fully documented and illustrated essays. But that’s not the point of the exercise, so please keep reading.
The birthday theme only goes so far. Some weeks I just gave up on finding the perfect match and just picked someone I thought interesting.
My writing got boring. I found myself writing every post in chronological order: born, married, died, buried.
I really resented having to stop researching and just start writing. I found myself saying “just one more source” way too often. When this happened I had to remind myself that this was not “the end.” I could always come back if I found more.
Some ancestors just aren’t that interesting. “Lives of quiet desperation” aside, quite a few of my female ancestors, especially, just left me very little to work with.
You really can write 300-700 words quite easily if you just start writing.
You can have really interesting conversations with family members around what you got right and wrong (in their opinion) and learn new tidbits of information as you go.
What I want to do in 2019
52 weeks of family photographs. I am going to try to post a picture of a family member, group or dwelling place, write a short post identifying what I know and what I don’t.
I am also going to try to go back to all the folks I passed by on my birthday list. This may not result in long essays but I really enjoyed giving a voice to these people, and I want to continue writing.