When I posted the draft slideshow I made of my father’s life in Boinx Software’s FotoMagico, someone remarked that I was lucky I had all those photos. Well, luck actually had nothing to do with it! (By the way, I had to delete and upload the video again after correcting a couple of dates and typos.)
I found out after my son was born that my great grandfather was a professional photographer. My Dad always took awesome pictures when we went on vacation, but I don’t think it ever sank in that he was taught how by his grandfather. When I started scanning my Dad’s thousands of slides, stereo slides and movies that I had been given, I started digging deeper. My sisters and mother had no interest and thought I was just living in the past. Their loss…
Well, it turns out my little sister started researching the genealogy of the family in the 1990s, due to her own husband’s long history in the US. My son’s father’s family also goes back to the Pilgrim days. Alas, our family came here in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Names were changed, the census recorded incorrect names, and places of birth weren’t even recorded, so our history is much harder to track. My sister wanted photos to post with her lineage that she put on Ancestry.com, so finally I could share some of my scans.
We aren’t a very close family and my parents were not happy that I insisted that all our living relatives back to their first cousins were invited to my son’s Bar Mitzvah in 1997. I’ve never regretted bringing all those people together. At that time, I had neither the time nor the interest in locating family photos. That changed with the new millenium.
I was told that there were no surviving photos taken by my great grandfather, Louis Hoffman. When my Dad died, knowing how my Mother likes to toss things, I scoured her house for photos. I found a few photographs of my Dad in his first years of life in placards with Hoffman Studios on them! I found his Dad’s scrapbook and his scrapbook. In my Dad’s scrapbook was all his rejection letters to medical school, newspaper articles and report cards. Who saves stuff like that?? (grin) To me that was a goldmine. I even found some 1940s mild porn slides, which was pretty funny. When I dig them out again, I really must remember to scan them! Only the family photos have been scanned so far.
In 2010, two years after my Dad’s death, my Mom decided to visit her brother in Massachusetts. She lives in Florida and had not been back for at least ten years. My sister and I organized a luncheon with a few of those same relatives that had come to my son’s Bar Mitzvah. Some had not seen each other since that event either, which is odd because they all live within 15 miles of each other. My Dad’s first cousin Harret (see below) graciously hosted the luncheon at her house.
My little sister and I visited a few of them separately and went through their photos. We borrowed some to scan and return. Sadly, three of those relatives died last June. Even more sad is that no one in our family ever bothered to contact us to tell us. My sister found out when she was updating our family tree in Ancestry.com in January 2014. UGH.
Ok, back to my point. The bottom line is that the reason I have the photos I used in my Dad’s memorial video is because my sister and I visited seven relatives we barely knew, walked off with their precious archives for a few days, and I scanned much of what we found. We videoed and taped stories too, but those video and audio archives will take a lot longer to put into any kind of meaningful form.
Oh, in case you are wondering, few of my Mom’s relatives survived until our interest in our lineage started. We have no one to interview and no one to contact to even locate photographs. It’s really a shame we didn’t start doing this earlier in our lives.
So let’s see, Marcus (1984), my son, is standing next to his Grandfather’s first cousin Harriet (1925) sitting in his great great grandfather’s chair.
Harriet is alive and well and holding his Great great great grandparents picture (Grisha and Pauline Hoffman or Goffman). I think that’s it.
Click the photos for a larger view.