Have you ever come across an old box of pictures that seemed to have been hidden away in some dark recess of the attic? Or perhaps they were in that old hard to reach box in the cellar. Then again, they may have simply been found near the back of that shelf in the closet of the family storage room. Wherever they were, they could contain the hidden gems of your family’s lineage. Perhaps you found some of those old pictures from the past depicting people you never knew, like the one you nicknamed, Wally the Walrus because he had such a big neck. Oh look at this one; she looks so dour that you’ve named her Aunt Keg O’Nails.
Admittedly, it can be fun to view those pictures from the past that don’t have anyone’s name attached. Yet about all we can do is let our imaginations play some games with them, unless we can find some way to connect them with other known people in our family lineage. This is why it is important for each of us to take upon ourselves the task of marking the known identities of the subjects of all the pictures we may have in our possession.
I never had direct access to any pictures further back than my own generation until the last few years. Now, however, as different family members have passed away, their descendants not wanting to burden themselves with the clutter of the past have been willing to donate boxes of old family photos and mementos to me because I’ve attempted to communicate my interest in genealogy throughout my extended family circles.
Digging through these sometimes musty, old boxes of photos has provided me with a treasure trove, resulting in the title of this article, UNBOUND EXUBERANCE. The boxes of pictures giving rise to this article have come to me from relatives on my father’s side of the family. Many of these pictures have proven to be more welcome than dollar bills! And probably worth more, even though I can’t spend them at any store! The reason for my unbound exuberance is that some kind soul took the time to write the names on some of these pictures of two uncles who died long before I was born.
One is a picture taken at a Worcester photography studio of my grandparent’s first child, Henry Ashley Bartlett who was born July 21, 1891 and having lived less than nine months, died on April 6, 1892.
The second is a picture of my uncle, Herbert Maynard Bartlett, who served in France during WWI, and about fifteen years later succumbed at the former Chelsea Naval Hospital on January 20, 1933. The only picture I’ve ever seen of my Uncle Herbert (as an adult), was taken in a photography studio in San Antonio Texas, where he is shown standing in his Army uniform. Interestingly, he bore a strong facial resemblance to my father, who was eleven years his junior! My undying gratitude continues for the person who marked these pictures.
The collection of pictures that I’m studying includes a black and white, torn-at-the-top, snapshot of a woman seated in an armchair gazing directly at me. Her gaze intrigues me, but her name isn’t marked, so for the time being, her identity remains a mystery.
As I think about who she could be, I recall having seen another sepia picture taken in my great-grandparents’ yard on Walnut Street in Shrewsbury. In this picture there are three adults, a child and a baby, including Frederick Bartlett, my great-grandfather; Sarah Abigail ‘Abby’ (Maynard) Bartlett, my great-grandmother, who is standing behind one of her grandchildren; and Lilly, my grandmother who is seated with a baby on her lap. This photo was taken from such a distance that the people’s facial features are indistinct. It was somewhat helpful for me, however, in recalling the overall proportions of everyone’s body image.
From another collection of pictures I view an old tintype of a family that includes my grandfather, Edward; my grandmother, Lilly, his only wife, adorned in a decorative floral hat; a young toddler, identified as my Aunt Edith; and the family dog, which appears to be an overfed Pug. I’ve previously dated this tintype as being from the 1895 era, although I now think it could be a year or two earlier.
Returning my attention to that unmarked, black and white, torn-at-the-top, snapshot of a woman seated in an armchair looking directly back at me, I examine her surroundings for additional clues to her identity. A mysterious, gilt-framed picture hangs upon the wall behind her head. A candelabrum extends its upward shaft from a side table whose corner is barely visible from behind the left corner of her antimacassar-covered armchair. Behind her right shoulder I detect the latch-type hardware that preceded the prevalence of round knobs, on the doorways of many New England farmhouses. As she gazes at me in her stately pose, I’m guessing that she is between 35 and 40 years of age.
Finally after viewing the other pictures and considering the household source of this snapshot before it arrived at my home, I decide that this woman in the torn-at-the-top snapshot is Lilly Luthera (Eaton) Bartlett, who lived from February 14, 1869 until September 5, 1912. This woman is my paternal grandmother!
Gradually, I feel overcome by a sense of UNBOUND EXUBERANCE!
Robert J. Bartlett
May 18, 2016