Friday, October 29, 2010

Spooky Sunday - Ghosts from my Past in an Album of Unknowns

I am blessed to be in possession of a wonderful album of pictures that include the two above. I got into genealogy while I was stationed in Hawaii and was even more blessed to have my aunt and two uncles retired out there with me. My family and I were staying with my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Jeff as we prepared to leave paradise for good, and I stayed up late into the evening scanning the pictures from this scrapbook. I was hungry for pieces of family history (some things never change!) and when she showed me this album I couldn't not get a copy of it.

Since scanning it (the original is safely tucked away in paradise still!), I have intermittently pelted my mother, aunt and uncle with questions regarding the various people in it. Who were they? No one knew. What we did know was that the album came from the Quirk side of the family and that there was a picture of my grandmother at the end of the book in what appeared to be a high school graduation picture. So the book was tied to her...Mary Ann Quirk.

A few years later I was looking at the pictures with my mom back home in Pennsylvania. She pointed to a man and said that it was her grandfather, Edward Quirk. I suppose the fact that she knew Edward as an adult and the picture was of him as an adult, albeit much younger than she was used to seeing him, made it a pretty solid identification. My aunt and uncle agreed that it did look like their grandpa Quirk. So we got one step closer to identification...

The little girl in the mask above is the common denominator throughout this scrapbook. She appears more often than any other person in the scrapbook, but who was she? Reviewing so many of the other pictures in the book...a convention of the Irish Catholic Benevolent Union in Kingston, men at the shore, men and women in some pretty neat swimsuits....all illustrated what the creator of the book held dear. Events in her life that she wanted to capture, which included gravestones. Gravestones of family and people in mourning clothes...and I recognized the gravestones! I had pictures of them too. My pictures were 80 years later, while theirs were freshly covered. Graves of their parents and their grandparents.

We began going over the pictures again. This time concentrating on the ladies that appeared throughout the scrapbook, almost as frequently as the little girl above. So we asked...could the women in the pictures be Edward Quirk's sisters? Fondly referred to by my mother and her siblings as "The Aunts". They agreed that there was a resemblance, but so much time had passed since the last of "The Aunts" had died that it was hard to tell which aunt was which. More time passed and we finally came to a realization as to who this little girl was. It fit so perfectly that it was incredible we hadn't come to it sooner. The little girl was my grandmother, Mary Ann Quirk.

It all fit. Her graduation picture in the back of the scrapbook. Her being doted on by "The Aunts" throughout the scrapbook. The few appearances of Edward Quirk (her father) made almost solely with this little girl. It felt wonderful to realize that we had made some headway in identifying the pictures, but there was still a feeling of emptiness. I wish I knew what they had been experiencing when the pictures were taken. Pictures were not taken as casually as they are today. There was a deeper significance to them and the expense was greater. These pictures were important to the owner, but what was she trying to say?

There was an appearance of a little baby in the scrapbook about midway through. A baby that I can't identify, but something tells me I know who it is. Edward had 8 siblings. Five made it to adulthood. Only one other married....Bessie. Bessie died days after a c-section performed back in 1918. I can't even imagine a c-section back then! Instinct tells me that this baby in the pictures is her child, but I have no proof. She would be the only other Quirk relative in my line, but we completely lost track of her. Bessie died, and her husband, Dennis Dugan, moved and eventually remarried. The baby girl is found in the 1920 census living with him and his new wife and then never seen again. I don't know if she died or was sent off to live with other relatives. What I do know is that she isn't with her father and step-family in the 1930 census.

Each time I flip through the pages of this scrapbook, I remember that I need to ensure my pictures are labeled. It needs to be done as soon as they are developed or transferred from the camera to the computer. We think that we'll always remember the events and the people in these pictures. I'm 38 years old and I am already getting hazy about many of the details in old pictures. Someday I'll be gone, and my children and grandchildren will inherit my pictures. No doubt they will want to know the story my pictures tell. The events that are commemorated in them. Who is family in them. If we don't keep up on this task of labeling our pictures, we are destined to pass on many albums like the one I scanned from my aunt, and the images within become nothing more than ghosts from the past. Nameless. Not remembered...and to a genealogist THAT's a scary thought!