Clothing styles can offer clues in historic photos. In sorting through my Josephine (Josie) Jones and Alice McSherry family images, I have an awareness of style in the Joneses’ Quaker circles, and even as it moved away from traditional Plainness, it continued to contrast with the fashions of wider society, which would have included the McSherrys.
One portrait, in particular, diverges sharply from Josie’s collection, and since Alice’s parents owned a jewelry and millinery store, the subject’s relatively extravagant dress of the late Victorian era leads me to tentatively identify her as Alice’s mother, Mary Magdalene (Bahill/Bayhill) McSherry. The little I can make out from the photo of Alice’s parents as they posed in front of their store supports this assumption. And from that, I’m looking at another portrait that runs along the same lines.
Woven through any decent genealogy is the matter of place. For each individual, this can begin with birth, marriage, and burial. For families that remained in one location for generations, the story can unfold quite differently than it does for families that were constantly on the move. And, if we’re lucky, we might even be able to trace our lines back to “the old country” where we originated.
Place introduces its own sets of opportunities and challenges for researchers. Movement makes it more difficult to find appropriate courthouse, church, and burial records, at least until you have the track nailed down. I rather envy those whose families never left Lancaster County or some town in New England. Let me say that trying to trace a Pennsylvania Dutch family’s relocation into the Allegheny Mountains in the last decades of the 1700s until they reappear a generation or two later in western Ohio can be quite challenging. My Swanks are perhaps the most challenging of my linage in that regard, but they’re hardly alone.
There’s also the experience of traveling across the country to visit some of the locales. Sometimes you may know nothing of your family connection, yet feel something special, as I did in Whittier, Iowa, even when I was asked if I was related to Hodgins. Little did I know at the time. Or to stand in a burial ground and know that five generations of my ancestors are buried in the yard, all but one generation in unmarked graves, was quite a sensation.
I’ve heard many Irish-Americans speak of their pilgrimage to their village of origin. More recently, at a Greek Orthodox dinner, a man told me of his trip with his father to the village his father had left. “I felt a connection,” he said.
How does place enter into your own genealogy quest? Have you had noteworthy experiences in visiting family locales? What were these like? What would you advise to researchers who are just beginning?
A genealogy regarding Piedmont Quaker pioneer George Hodgson and his lines