Friday, January 26, 2018

Invite to Dinner: Questions For My Grandmother ~ 52 Ancestors #4

I am participating in this year's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Each week has an optional writing prompt and this week's writing prompt is Invite to Dinner.

Although inviting a long-ago ancestor to dinner to ask probing questions is always a wish of genealogists (who were your parents, Susan Rood Chapin?), thinking of questions that we want to ask of a grandparent who died almost 30 years ago happens all the time.

I am going through a stack of old negatives of different sizes from the 1910s through the 1950s (maybe 500 of them?) in order to determine which ones I will pay a local company to scan for me. Due to the large size of many of them (3.5" x 5"), as well as the curling that happens with these older negatives, it could be extremely expensive for me to have them all scanned. Hence, I am trying to narrow down what I truly want scanned.

However, I just figured out what setting needed to be adjusted in order for my flatbed scanner to scan many of them (as long as one side is shorter than 2.5") so I only have to pay for the larger ones to be professionally scanned.

I inherited these from my mother and her sister. Their mother was Helen Lysle Hunter (1907-1990), and although she was not a genealogist, she was a collector of family memorabilia and much of it has come to me as the family historian, including all these negatives, almost all of which are from her family, both as a girl and young woman, and of her daughters.

While going through these, I am thinking about the questions I would love to ask my grandmother over a long, leisurely dinner:

I recognize you in this photo (at right) and your sister Caroline in a few other photos, but who are all those people you are on the beach with? How old were you in this photo? is this in the mid-1920s? Tell me your stories about vacationing in North East, Pennsylvania. (I know that the Hunter family of Pittsburgh spent their vacations in North East, and I have photos of my mother and her sisters there in the late 1930s. That is Lake Erie in the background.)

How did you end up with the stack of negatives from Goldfield, Nevada? Did you get most of Uncle Jack's negatives at his death in 1984? (See 52Ancestors #3 about Uncle Jack.) Did he share more stories about his time in Goldfield?

Did your father, Percy, travel to Goldfield too? It appears that there are some additional, different-sized negatives of buildings in that town.

Is that Uncle Jack in the apron preparing dinner? And who are the women in the blurry photos? Is it true that he placed a $100 bill under everyone's plate at his 100th birthday party?

What can you tell me about your family's short time living in California in 1912? It appears that I have a few negatives from that period of time.

These are among the many, many questions I would love to ask my grandmother if I could invite her to dinner. Looking at photographs is a great way to trigger memories and get people to tell stories about those memories.


  1. I love that you'd take some time to ask about these family photos! (And, I think it's great you figured out a way to scan most of these at home.) The $100 under each plate made me tear up for some reason. Maybe because he must have been a very generous man to think about GIVING on his 100th birthday, instead of getting.

    1. As I noted, photos can really evoke memories and stories from people so I love to have someone look at them and tell me what they remember. I wish I could somehow confirm the $100 under the plate story, but it's a fun one. Thanks for commenting!

  2. So many questions - WHY didn't we think to ask them while we could?

    1. For me, my interest in genealogy was only in its early stages so I wouldn't have known what to ask. When I meet a young person today who shows an interest in family history, my first suggestion is to ask questions of their older relatives.