A Treasure And A Mystery

(For those of you with e-mail subscriptions to this blog, yes, I accidentally prematurely published this post yesterday. Sorry for the notification and the deleted post. Still wish WordPress had an “are you sure you’re ready to publish this post” step!)

Last week, during my visit with my cousin, Betty, she showed me this old family photo, and later e-mailed a scanned copy to me.


I had never seen this picture before. Unfortunately, there’s no information on the back as to who the subjects are. Betty and I stared at this for a long time during my visit and discussed many possibilities.

So I began an investigation. Many years ago, I was given a copy of our family history, which includes birth dates for my mom and her siblings. Based on that, here are my thoughts about the photo:

I really believe the girl on the left is my mom’s oldest sister, Mattie, the girl on the right is my mom, Donnie, and they’re holding their little brother, Thomas. If Thomas is three in this picture, it would have been taken in 1923. Mattie would have been 16, and my mom would have been 13.

Another possibility is that the little boy is my uncle Bennie. If he’s three in this picture, it would have been taken in 1924. Mattie would have been 17, and my mom would have been 14.

Or… it could be my uncle Stanley. If he were three, it would have been taken in 1925; Mattie would have been 18, and my mom, 15.

(Yes, my poor grandmother gave birth to fourteen children {two were stillborn} in just under 20 years.)

Of all these scenarios, I’m leaning toward the first one. I could be completely wrong though: the two girls look about the same size, not really like there’s three years’ difference in their ages. Sadly, my mom and all her siblings have passed on, as well as several of our older first cousins.  I’m not sure we’ll find anyone in the family who knows about this picture. But I’ve forwarded it to some cousins to get their opinions.

If I find that someone knows for sure, I’ll gladly pass that info along to my readers.

Meanwhile, this photo is haunting me. Not only to learn who’s in it, but just thinking about what they were doing moments before and after the picture was taken. Looking at their clothes, (the dog-eared socks) and knowing that the girl’s dresses were most certainly handmade, probably from feed sacks. For my mom and the little brother, they were most likely wearing hand-me-downs. Thinking of how rare it was (for our family) to have a photo taken at that time. Wondering if there were other photos taken then of the other children.The only question we can ever hope to have answered is who’s in the picture. So many questions!

If I’m correct about the date, our family would have been living at Bacon’s Castle (the homeplace in my header) at that time.

So, stay tuned; I hope I’ll soon have an answer.  And, in the meantime, please write info on the back of all your photos. If you have old family pictures, please ask your elders for information about them…before it’s too late.

And, thanks, Betty, for sharing this treasure with me.

~These Days Of Mine~

21 responses to “A Treasure And A Mystery

  1. I love old photos and it’s really interesting to find out more about the persons on it and maybe something about the story behind the photo.

  2. Your sleuthing sounds logical. Just need to confirm which of your uncles the baby is. btw Your post shows at the bottom “When Mattie Met Thomas”. The two girls do look like your mother and Mattie. One can see the resemblance over the years. I hope someone can tell you for sure what names to write on the back of this one.

  3. itsallaboutpurple

    wonderful vintage photos and such cute attire!!

  4. Seems like we’e all guessing about this picture!!! Sure hope we find a cousin that knows for sure!

  5. Dianna I know how you feel with the questions. Everyone on my Mother’s side is gone except a cousin and their kids I don’t keep up with. I wouldn’t know the cousin if I saw him on the street. Big falling out of the families when my Aunt died. Thomas sure looks happy.. 🙂 I hope you find the answers to your questions. I have been thinking about going through old photos again. Makes me kind of sad because after I am gone there is no one that will care about them. Great idea about encouraging people to write on the back of the photos and labeling my current photos for CH’s family.

  6. It’s a great old photo…..and mysteries are fun to solve – fortunately you have a lot of family who MIGHT help you solve it!


  7. First of all, I adore that snowy photo of Bacon’s castle in your header – just perfect! And I so agree about the old photos….label, label, label! It really is a treasure to find morsels of our history.

  8. What a treasure! There are so few casual pictures from that time. That makes this one all the more precious. I’ve gone through pictures with my Mom labeling and saving. We need to do some more. I see some scanning in the near future. Good Luck with your search. Keep us posted.

  9. Oh Dianna, you are so right to advise people to write dates and names on the backs of family photos! I have a few just like yours that remain a forever mystery and it’s so frustrating.

  10. Great photos Dianna! Old photos are old treasures with their stories❤️

  11. i do like the socks. 🙂

  12. How fun for you to have so much family history at your fingertips! It sounds like most of your family stayed in that general area. Mine is scattered throughout the country, and unfortunately, beyond immediate family and my mom’s siblings, we don’t have a lot of cohesiveness…just too much geography to overcome for meaningful relationship. I don’t even recognize it as that much of a loss, until I read something like this and hear about you sharing with relatives…that’s the treasure, in my opinion, as much as the photo! Good luck with your search! ~ Sheila

  13. Quite the treasure ! – and quite a sleuth job for you ! – so many questions arise when seeing a photo like this, and you’ve definitely put the years with the family history in order to see the possibilities… let us know what you find!

  14. Shirley Matthews Dunn

    Dianna, we have the same problem on the Dunn, Matthews, & Horne side. Unfortunately there is no one left for us to ask either. I love to look at old pictures and think about how time were for our family back then. I agree it is very important to write on the back.

  15. I was guessing the girl on the right to be your mother, just from pictures you have posted of her in the past. Very good advice about dating the pictures and who is in them. I’m trying to do this. Good luck with your search!

  16. Oh how wonderful! Family photo mysteries sure are tough aren’t they. My mum’s grandma was adopted and she has promised to try and track down a photo of her birth mother for her…It’s going to be a challenge though. (I’m glad I’m not the only one who has pressed publish too soon! I would like an extra button too!) hehe! =^.^=

  17. A few years ago my mother scanned a large bunch of old family photos. But she labeled them as 0024Bravo sort of file names. Not helpful for determining who was in the photos. So I had her sit down with me, the scanned photos, and I opened a Word document. We went through all of the photos and created a list of who was in each one, where it was taken, and the best guess on a date. I’ve since made CDs of the photos and the list and given it to the cousins on that side of the family. We also both now have copies of files of old photos and documents that have been downloaded from Ancestry.com and her one cousin has done some similar work on that branch of their family and shared them with us to add to the files. It’s a process, but it is important. I make sure that when I put photos in albums I put labels with them, scrapbook style, to indicate who and when. I hope that you find your answer to the current photo identification questions.

  18. Money sure was tight during the depression. I knew that people used to make towels out of feed sacks, but I never realized that children sometimes wore clothes made out of them until I read this post. I’m looking forward to hearing more about what you find out about this photo.

  19. It’s an amazing photo and charming mystery. That in my opinion fits with the enchantment of Bacon Castle.
    I hope you can find out how close your many thoughts are on the photo.
    Your advice is really great advice for dating and identifying photos. It becomes even more important when folks pass on and there isn’t really anyone you can call or visit and ask about the history and the people in it.

  20. We have several old photos that came from both my husband’s parents and mine (all deceased) that have no identification on them. Like you, I would love to know who the folks in the photos are and what their relationship to our family was. For many of them, even my parents didn’t know who they were. That’s why I always write on the backs of our printed pictures who’s in it and the date.

  21. I can’t help wondering what will become of photos now that everything is digital. Will anyone care about my collection of birds and flowers and anyone who crossed my path? Will they be able to access them when I’m gone?
    The wind is fierce tonight! Our world has turned white. Stay warm!

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