Friday, March 8, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Scratches and Wrinkles and Tears, Oh My!

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.





This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a photo of steamers along a river near Sydney, Australia.  The photo is badly scratched, much like many in my own collection of old pictures passed down through the family. 

Even if scratched or torn, old photos keep alive those family members we’ve never known.  Take for example this photo of John Joseph Killeen, the first husband of my great grandmother Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh, and father to my sweet great-aunts that I have written about so often.

John Joseph Killeen 1863-1905
John Joseph Killeen
1863 Ireland - 1905 New York

If it weren’t for the brittle yellow tape, one or both pieces of this cabinet card might have been lost, taking with it one glimpse into my great grandmother’s past as just a young wife and mother, widowed far too soon at age 36.

Not wanting Mary Theresa to be lonely, John Killeen’s family introduced her to John Fleming Walsh who a year later became her second husband and my great grandfather.  Until a couple months ago, I had never seen a picture of him, nor had my dad seen pictures.  But Daddy said he had always heard that his grandfather John Walsh was handsome. 

My aunt gave me an envelope of old photos to scan.  Out of the envelope tumbled two tiny chips of cardboard, each less than a square inch.  When I pushed them together, I saw my great grandfather for the first time.

John Fleming Walsh 1868-1918
John Fleming Walsh
1868-1918 Portsmouth, Virginia


But I saw something else too.  That cleft in his chin – my dad and I both inherited that physical trait.  Now I know where it came from.  Still I’m left to wonder what happened to the rest of the picture and why this is the only one of him.

To genealogists and family historians, the scratches and wrinkles don’t decrease the value of those old photos.  But sometimes little hands get in the way, resulting in this:



No doubt this is an autographed photo of SOME baseball player, one of two Daddy owned (the other is a photo signed in 1941 by Bob Feller, pitcher for the Cleveland Indians).  Who scratched out the autograph and signed Daddy’s name?  Not Daddy.  His penmanship was more refined, downright beautiful with its strong right slant and distinctive lower case “e” resembling a backwards 3.  And Daddy would never have scribbled a baseball into the pitcher’s glove – how ridiculous is that?!  Obviously the culprit had no knowledge of the kinesiology of pitching.  

I don’t know why we have kept this photo.  It certainly wouldn’t fetch anything on eBay, “Antiques Road Show” or even “Pawn Stars.”  Maybe we hope the picture will offer a glimpse into our past, and that one day we’ll figure out whether my sister or I engaged in this bit of photo enhancing activity. (Eh – it was probably my sister.  I was always the good one.) 

Visit Sepia Saturday for more photos and their stories.




© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

36 comments:

  1. Hi Wendy ... your Grandpa was quite handsome! Both of them were, actually. I wonder what the signature is that was crossed out, and if the guy was very famous.

    Several years ago, I got a box of 3500 baseball card for $10.00 We sorted through them and most of them ended up with our Grandson Cameron, who became a serious collector. One was worth $900!

    Have a great weekend,

    Kathy M.

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    1. I'm sure that "enhanced" photo was our one shot at wealth before little hands found a pen. LOL So how did you spend your $900?

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  2. Nice to have these two photographs more or less intact, although the tape is an anathema to conservationists. Difficult to remove now without damaging the photograph, I suppose, but it will eventually cause damage to the photographic emulsion.

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    1. I know what you're saying about the tape. I keep thinking it's brittle enough that it just might flick off on its own.

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  3. Even with damage, you can make copies and future generations will know what he looked like, cleft chin and all.

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    1. That's true. And I must do that.

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  4. Wendy, I just wanted to let you know that I highlighted you in my "Favorite Fearless Females" Posts today: http://bit.ly/ZnrQWY

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    1. What a surprise! Thank-you! But the best part of your list is that you highlighted another person who wrote about potato salad. Now THAT's funny!

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  5. I think I did it too. It seems like something I would have done. Not all of us can be good some of us have to be pretty.

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  6. What a nice post. It's true that it doesn't matter if these old photos are torn and wrinkled. Especially when they're of a treasured relative. I love it that you finally got to see your grandfather, even tho he was torn in two.
    Nancy

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  7. Those old photographs—no matter their condition—are so important. How wonderful that you were able to see your great-grandfather. :)

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  8. The feeling of seeing an ancestor for the first time is wonderful, isn't it?

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  9. :) love the story! And what a discovery of your great grandpa's photo. He is handsome indeed. From where I come from people who have a 'divided chin' are treated with so much fascination and fondness. Adding mustaches, crossing out writings or 'deteething' unfortunate some - we also do that. Or they do. I was also always the good one (lol)

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  10. One of the things I like about Sepia Saturday is to see the discoveries people make like this, especially as we can find only one photo in our families from before our parents' time. Great to see you have 'found' your great grandfather.

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  11. The little bits and pieces of photos become even more interesting when scanned and posted on the web.

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  12. Love the shot of your great-grandfather -- those two pieces fell together nicely, yes? It's always wonderful to find physical characteristics...

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  13. I always admire on Sepia Saturday the inventive way different people interpret the theme, and I enjoyed your original "take" away from away from rivers and boats. The name of your great grandmother is so distinctive - you cannot help but draw stories from it.

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  14. Beards seem a popular item to draw on a photo but a ball and a signature now that is inventive, I wonder who is behind the disguise. Those fragments of photos are a wonderful find for remembering their subjects and at least electronically they cannot deteriorate any further.

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  15. I'm in full agreement with others about the way the discovery of your very handsome grandfather was made. The first thing I noticed was that chin; I've always had a weakness for dimples, But I have to say I thought the coming together of the two pieces of the crumbkl picture, was quite momentous - almost like a jigsaw being completed, and must have felt very satisfying.

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  16. I can totally see some little girls having fun and maybe even some little boys especially if they didn't care for that player. But it almost looks too good like maybe an adult may have drawn the mustache? But gee your grandfather is/was so very handsome indeed! It's too bad how some folks back then didn't have as many photos of themselves taken, but maybe you be lucky to find something about him, from other relatives or ?? It sure is worth the hunt. Especially since you and your father share the cleft together, how cool is that!

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  17. It is funny to see that apparently kids all over the world do the same thing when they can lay one hand on a photo and the other holds a pencil. It is equally funny to hear that a cleft goes from generation to generation to generation. It saves you a DNA test.
    And I happen to see a Dutch surname on the first CdV: Spier.

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  18. Great post. It's a wonderful feeling when you see the face of an ancestor for the first time!

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  19. I think finding the puzzle pieces of your great-grandfather with the cleft in his chin had to be terribly exciting even with the missing pieces. Every time I come across another picture of an ancestor I have never seen before, perhaps supplied by a distant cousin, I am elated!

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    1. As grateful as I am to see those two little cardboard pieces, I am greedy and so curious about what is missing.

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  20. Even with an old, torn photograph, the real man shines through. Lovely.

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  21. Oh Wendy! To find the photo of your great-grandfather must have been so exciting for you. Do you know what kind of uniform he was wearing in the photo?

    Oh, that little aspiring artist who "improved" the baseball card! I wonder what your dad thought about his altered baseball card.

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    1. It WAS indeed exciting. I'm amazed that those two little chips hadn't been lost by now. I believe the uniform is a fireman's uniform.

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    2. Wendy,

      I just wanted to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/03/follow-fridayfab-finds-for-march-15-2013.html

      Have a great weekend!

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  22. A neat story of treasures, Wendy. The mixed up albums of shared family photos always seem to contain the missing piece that fits into a puzzle. I like the hat too. What was John's occupation?

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    1. I have been able to find John Walsh only in the 1910 Portsmouth, VA census where his occupation is ordinance man for the shipyard. However, Daddy said he was a fireman. But when and where, I don't know. This does appear to be a fireman's cap, don't you think?

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  23. I have a photo of a grandparents home that fell apart into pieces. I don't really how they created them but it must have been a bad rendition of cardboard. I liked seeing you old photos of relatives.

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  24. Ow! The light from that halo is blinding! ;)

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    1. Did you notice the shine on my sister's halo? Be careful - you might want to peer through a pin-hole in a piece of black cardboard.

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  25. Your great grandma had good taste in men,
    or was she just lucky that way?!?
    :D~
    HUGZ

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    1. Ha - evidently she was pretty lucky. She was attractive, so maybe that improved her luck.

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