Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Old Family Photos

In my last post, I talked about having my sister and niece visit us for a few days. Among the many things we talked about was our collection of old family photos. I have a lot of them, including several hundred slides. I told Robin that I'd scan some of the more significant photos and send them to her. She's going to get them all eventually so they can be passed down to her kids, but the electronic scans will do for now.

I've completed scans of maybe four dozen or so photos. Some of 'em were of our family back in the mid-60's, when I was roughly 11-12 years old. I was quite the little geek and you won't see those pictures. But I thought I'd share a few of the older ones.

These are my mother's parents. The picture must've been taken around 1925 when they were married. I remember them both as very gentle and loving people. He looks like quite the rake in this photo, though, doesn't he? Kinda like Jerry Lee Lewis. Trust me: he was nothing like Jerry, and that's a good thing.

This is a good one: my father's grandparents George and Phebe (left) and parents Skipper and Harriet (right). I believe this was taken in 1942, right around George and Phebe's 50th wedding anniversary. Skipper and Harriet also reached their 50th anniversary many years later. My father and mother celebrated their 40th anniversary before my mother passed away. I got my name from Skipper: he was the captain of a tugboat out of New York City, running tows up and down the east coast.

Here's my father, the handsome guy on the right. He was a Navy pilot in World War II in the Pacific. He flew the PB4Y Privateer, which was a modified version of the B-24 used for long-range maritime patrol. After the war ended, he was sent to Peleliu to do air-sea rescue operations. That's where this photo was probably taken.

Here's my mom at about age 15, a young girl in a small town in northern Mississippi. A few years later, she cut her hair short and wore it that way the rest of her life. Many years later, when I was in college, I grew my hair long. It looked remarkably like hers.

And here's my favorite: my parents at their wedding in 1951. They are a very good-looking couple, aren't they? They were married in a church in my mother's home town.

I've got all these old photos because I've been working on our family genealogy for many years. When I started the history, I was mostly interested in how far back I could trace it. But I wasn't too careful about keeping records, and eventually when I started getting conflicting information, I had no way to compare data sources. So I put it away for a while. Years later, I started over, and this time I documented the heck out of it. I also had a different focus. Instead of just trying to see how far back I could go, I wanted to learn more about who my ancestors were and what kind of lives they led. Why, for instance, did a number of them leave Amsterdam in the 1600's and head to what is now New York? At the time, Amsterdam was the wealthiest city in Europe, while the New World was about as developed as Borneo. The answer was that my ancestors were Protestants and Amsterdam was part of the Spanish empire. The Spanish Inquisition was then in full and very brutal force. The choice, for my ancestors, was to stay and possibly be killed, or leave and possibly live.

Don't worry, I'm not going to give you all the details of my family history. My point is that it's a very interesting study. History, as taught in schools, is often dull and boring. But when you're reading about your own ancestors, it's different. I'm a product of my mother and father. My character was developed under their guidance. My parents' characters were developed by their parents and the events of their lives. And so on. So, by studying my family history, I get an insight into who I am. And all the photos I've been scanning just add that much more to the story.

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