The past year I’ve switched my focus to completing graduate school and starting my librarian career. That has caused me to put off updating this blog and a number of other things. Now I’ve graduated, I have a good job, and I’m back with a number of ideas for future posts. One is the Antique Store Find.
A few years ago, an item caught my eye when I entered a small antique store in Clarksville, Missouri. I picked it up briefly and went on. As I walked around the shop, it kept calling me back. I didn’t fall in love with it, have a practical purpose for it, or even desire it. But somehow I knew two things: 1) it didn’t belong there and 2) it was supposed to leave with me. Twenty-five dollars later, it was mine, but I was still unsettled because I didn’t feel like it was really mine.
The item was a scrapbook from a girl’s grade school graduation in the late 1920s.
The book was filled with a stenciled illustrations, congratulatory cards, and memories. What a beautiful piece it was.
I was bugged that the book was separated from those to whom it might mean something special… not likely to be the owner, who was probably dead, but to her descendants, siblings, nephews, nieces, etc. As neat as the book was, I didn't really want to keep it because it had no personal significance to me.
As I read proper nouns – people and places in the girl’s life – I wondered if I would be able to use my research skills to discover who she was, develop her family tree, and locate her survivors.
Through death certificates, obituaries, and census records, I did so. The girl, from St. Louis, died as an elderly woman. She was survived by her sister, who still lived in the St. Louis area and whom I was able to telephone. When I described the journal and the names in it – including a classmate who later became the girl’s husband—the sister explained that the book probably got confused with other items when the girl’s house was cleaned out. She had no idea how it ended up in Clarksville, which is some two hours north of St. Louis. I sent her the book. As far as I know, it’s still safe in her possession.
Since then, I’ve occasionally purchashed old scrapbooks and photographs in antique malls or stores. Including the Girl Graduate journal, I’ve been able to reroute four items to relatives or researchers. All of these people have reimbursed me for the initial purchase (usually $1 or $2 for photographs), so I am breaking even and keeping genealogy a relatively low-cost hobby.
In the future, I intend to use this blog to document the occasional photo or scrapbook search when I hit a brick wall in my research or in finding someone to take the photo. I will include the names and locations (I chose not to do so in this post to respect the privacy of the owner). If you see your ancestor, contact me, and the photo is yours.
When I go through photos in antique stores, I’m always saddened to see so many without my prerequisites for purchase: name(s), location, and reasonable price. I can’t possibly purchase all of the photos I see that meet these prerequisites. Still, I love making someone's day by providing a photo of a long-gone relative. That’s the thing with ancestors being long-gone… we think we won’t get any more of them. But we can. People leave traces of who they were everywhere they lived. And sometimes in Clarksville too.