Sunday, January 13, 2013

Whenever I go to an antique store I look for old photographs and check the backs for names. Only a small number have names, it is sad to sort through dozens of anonymous photographs. Of those that do, I buy the ones that are likely to be identifiable, typically those that have an unusual name(s). So I took Mummy to the antique store yesterday for something to do and as a way for her to get some exercise. I purchased four photographs, including the one below, which was marked on the back "Frank and Mary, Melville and Della." The photo was taken at the J. C. Wertz studio in Chanute, Neosho County, Kansas.

Based on the children's clothing, I thought it was likely the picture was taken sometime between 1900 and 1910.

So who were these people? I started with the 1900 and 1910 US censuses on Ancestry.com. You can search for children by their parents names so I started with Melville and variants of that name, with parents Frank and Mary. Since I wasn't sure whether Frank and Mary were the parents or the children, I also checked to see if there was a Frank with parents Melville and Della. Nothing turned up.

I then checked for a Della with parents Frank and Mary. I quickly found the family. On 1 June 1900, census taker George Winfield walked through Chanute and recorded the people living there. The French family consisted of father Frank, mother Mollie (Mollie is a nickname for Mary), son Melven, and daughter Della. 

French family in 1900, Chanute, Neosho County, Kansas.

The father Frank worked as a barber, he had been married for 17 years to Mary, they owned their home, and the two children had attended school for eight months in the last year.

People can create family trees on Ancestry.com four people have connections to this family. I contacted them and three have answered back, all excited by the photograph. I will send it off to the person most closely related.

I've been working on the other three, not so lucky so far.

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