Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fun With Old Photographs

As genealogists we take great delight in finding new names to add to the family tree, but perhaps nothing is more exciting than being able to add a face to go with that name. The Central Brevard Library has a great collection of books that can assist you in finding out more about any old photographs you might have in your family, from tips on dating them by studying the clothing of the subjects, to the type of photo itself. The first type of photograph that was used widely in America was the Daguerrotype which was patented in 1839. After the daguerreotype came the ambrotype, tintype and then the paper prints we are more familiar with today. In addition to our great book collection the Brevard Genealogical Society will be offering a workshop on how to identify and date old photographs on Monday Sept. 12 at 9:30 at the Central Brevard Library in Cocoa. So come and bring some of your photos to share with the group.

College Park House Today

I have always been fascinated by old photographs and have collected many of family members both recent and pretty ancient. It is amazing what old photos can tell you about the subjects and perhaps yourself as well. Those of you who know me know that I have a thing for the Spanish style architecture of the 1920's and that I have restored several houses from that period. When I bought my first house from that period I showed a picture of it to my now 100 year old grandmother, who promptly said, "it reminds me of our house in Lake Worth Florida." Well, I almost fell off my chair as I had never heard that my family had been in Florida before my parents, and I certainly didn't know anything about them having a house there. I did know that my great grandfather, Abel Post, was a noted builder and contractor in Michigan and turns out that during the height of the Florida land boom in 1925 he followed the masses of people that moved to Florida to make their fortune in real estate. My grandmother attended school in Lake Worth and told me about some of her adventures including how she skipped school one day and ended up flying in a bi-plane over the coast, which got her lots of trouble with her mother later! My grandmother did not remember the address of the house her father built there, but did remember the general location and the style of the house. I high tailed it to the Palm Beach County courthouse where I located the deed with my great grandparents names on it and the clerk helped me determine its current location in the College Park Subdivision. A drive by found a beautifully maintained Spanish style bungalow that was exactly "my style."

A year or so ago when my grandmother moved to an assisted living facility the family cleaned out her house and found the snapshot above, which said "Florida 1926" on the back of it and also gave the identities of the people pictured. My mother handed it to me and said, "Isn't this the house in Lake Worth?" I recognized it immediately and was thrilled to finally have a photo of my great grandfather and his children, including my grandmother in the middle, standing in front of their newly constructed house. You can see that the front yard is still sand and the now lush landscaping is brand new. Anyway to me finding this picture and the stories behind it helps explain why I am so drawn to that period of history and to that type of architecture, as I know my great grandfather must have been as well. Just one photograph opened up a whole part of my family history that I had never known about, and I am sure some of the photos in your collection might be clues to finding out some of your family's past as well. I encourage you to get started by using the library's resources and by attending the upcoming workshop!