By Lori Freeze
Renee Carr of the Rushing community has found a new angle to pursue her passion for genealogy research – returning abandoned or misplaced photographs to the families of those pictured.
Renee was shopping in a Clinton flea market just more than a year ago when she saw what appeared to be a 1920s-era wedding photo offered for sale. The back of the paper frame contained names written in faded pencil. She thought it was a shame that the photo was in a flea market rather than displayed in a home. Intrigued by the thought that she might be able to research the names and locate a descendant to whom she could return the photo, she bought it and took it home.
Renee is volunteer director of the Family History Center in Mountain View, one of 3,600 centers around the world sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The centers provide personal assistance and training to those who want to research their family trees, so Renee used her expertise to enter the names at FamilySearch.org. She immediately found several census records to pinpoint their place of residence in 1930 and 1940. Using the names and location, she searched using Google and found the groom’s 1990 obituary, which listed the names and cities of residence of their children. After another online search for a phone number, she was able to talk to a daughter of the couple, who Renee said was flabbergasted to know that she had purchased the photo and was eager to have it returned to the family.
“I returned the photo as a gift to a happy recipient in Kansas and a new hobby was launched,” Renee says in explaining the story at ReturnThePhotos.com, a new website devoted to her hobby.
“I love helping people reconnect with their ancestors.”
She is about to mail her fifth photo since the project began.
The website classifies photos and their stories as “Solved,” “Under Investigation,” or “Cold Case.”
One of the most recent finds was a fairly simple case to solve. She purchased a photo at a Mountain View flea market last month. The booth owner had recently moved to the area from Illinois and believed she had purchased the photo from an estate sale near Rockford, Ill. The photographer stamp on the mat said Waterloo, Iowa. After figuring out the names (predictably, in faded pencil) read Hannah and Charlie Jameyson, she again went first to FamilySearch.org and input the names and state. She found a marriage record for the couple, who married Nov. 27, 1902 in Norway, Iowa. The 1910 census listed the couple and four children, with a fifth appearing in the 1920 census, residing in Nebraska. Further research revealed death dates of the couple as well as each of the children.
Renee shifted her search to grandchildren of the couple. A Google search found an obituary for one of the children, Ruth Jameyson Hruska. One of Ruth’s children was Donald Hruska of Omak, Washington. Of course, Renee found a phone number and called him. He was excited to learn about the photo, as he had never seen a photo of his grandparents together.
“It’s amazing to me that it gets easier and easier, almost by the month, to find information online,” Renee says.
Sometimes a newspaper story can help return a photo to where it belongs. She was able to place a 1939 class photo with a 92-year-old woman who was pictured thanks to a story in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. The photo is of a Southside High School class, which is a pretty generic name, but the photo was sponsored by a jewelry store that Renee was able to discover was located in Memphis. After the story about her efforts was published, a drawing was held to determine which of the several respondents would receive the original photo. The newspaper provided copies for the others, some of whom were descendants of graduates pictured.
If she cannot find family members of people to accept the photos, Renee will attempt to find a museum or library in the area where a photo was taken. Renee said her project makes her even more mindful to mark and date family photos, so that “maybe they won’t be showing up in flea markets.”
The Family History Center, located at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Highway 9 just south of the courthsquare, is open Wednesdays from 1 to 5 p.m. to assist people with researching their family tree.
March 14 is National Genealogy Day.