Jim, senior researcher for Archival Solution, writes about how his quest to identify all of the individuals in this photograph has resulted in new discoveries about his family research and new family connections. He shows how photographs can often serve as catalysts in our research, leading us to dig deeper and develop a richer, more comprehensive understanding of our family’s history.
Aine’s stories on her blog The Irish in America always motivate me to keep working on my own family project. For the past twelve years I have been researching the family of John Cormack who was born at Lochmoe in County Tipperary, Ireland in the last decade of the eighteenth century. According to family tradition he drifted up to Ballyedmond in Queen’s County (now Laois) where he married Catherine Purcell and started a family that would give several sons and daughters to the United States. My study has raised and answered many questions. Among those was: “What is the reason for the multiple spellings of the family name? Why are there some “McCormicks” and some “McCormacks”? That answer is for another day however.
One of the other long-standing questions involves a picture given to me by a cousin about seven years ago. I knew it was a photo of a family function and there were 107 people in it. Of those I knew the identities of five individuals, including my Grandfather Andrew McCormack and his brother Mike McCormack, always known as our Uncle Mike. Uncle Mike’s wife, Katie Hannon and two of their first cousins were the others that I recognized. Being rather new to family history at that point I set a rather lofty goal for myself. I decided I would identify all 107 people in the photo.
The picture was taken in July 1946 at the celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of Phillip J.K. McCormick and his wife Ellen, nee Craven. Phillip was my 1st cousin two times removed. My Cousin Zack Krueger, Phillip and Ellen’s grandson was very helpful in providing names for many of the faces. Every time I meet or correspond with a relative I pull out my photo and try to jar their memories. As of May 25, 2011 my goal is in sight. I have identified all but eleven of those pictured. Complicating the process is that there are both McCormick and Craven relatives as well as many friends and neighbors of the family. Another problem is that there are people in the photo that are related to some of my relatives but not related to me. For example out of the fifteen Dalys shown in the photo I am related by blood to about half of them.
A recent meeting with some of my Nugent cousins provided the identity of several more of the celebrants. Researching the faces in the photo has been very rewarding for me. By putting faces on the names many of the McCormicks, Dalys, McDonalds, Burns, Nugents, Peteks, and Kruegers, have become real people and not just names found on old census and church records, as well as birth and death certificates