Thursday, June 9, 2011

let's start at the very beginning

My maternal grandparents were dead before I was born, and my paternal grandmother died when I was only five. One of the best ways I have been able to keep in touch with my roots is by going through my parents' large collection of family photos with them. With photos dating back to the early 1900s, it truly is a treasure trove.

I don't have a scanner, so on my last visit home I photographed hundreds of these photos, and took notes. I'm planning to show these off here (as well as on my Tumblr blog), because--in my completely biased opinion--they are wonderful!

Grateful thanks to my parents, Larry and Mary Ann Meyers for their enormous help with this project. Also thank you to Stephen Hollinden, who compiled an amazing genealogy of my paternal great-great-great-grandfather Johann Hollinden and his descendants that is full of helpful and fascinating information about the family. (As always, clicking the photos here will enlarge them to see them better.)

This is Johann Hollinden's wife, my great-great-great-grandmother, Anna, on the family farm in Ferdinand, Indiana. This was likely taken sometime in the early 1900s.

This is Johann and Anna's granddaughter, my great-grandmother Mary Hollinden (on the left), at her First Communion, circa late 1800s. I love the ghostly quality of this photo.

Mary and my great-grandfather William Wamhoff in their wedding photo, 1896.

I think William was really quite handsome!

And this is my other paternal great-grandfather, John Meyers. He has a very kind face, and facial hair a Williamsburg hipster would covet. (Poor Williamsburg! Butt of all hipster jokes.)

This is John Meyers' home in St. Louis. My family--on both my mother's and father's sides--has roots in St. Louis going back many generations (as you can see from the photo studio addresses on many of these pictures). I was born there, but only lived there until age 7. My mother still has a St. Louis accent, which means she pronounces the word "fork" as "fark."

This photo is of my paternal grandmother, Edna (center front row), and some of her brothers and sisters, circa 1913. These are the children of William and Mary Wamhoff. I love how all the kids are holding hands or have their arms around each other. Edna had eight brothers and sisters in all! Sadly, two of her brothers died very young, at ages 22 and 23, and her sister Gertrude (who I believe is the older girl to Edna's right) died at only age 9, probably not long after this photo was taken.

These next two photos are also of Edna. Yes, she was the cutest thing EVER. She continued to be adorable as she grew older. I could make a whole separate blog documenting Edna and her amazing outfits through the years. You'll be seeing lots more of her in future blog posts.

This is John Meyers' son--and Edna's future husband!--my paternal grandfather, Dan (known to me as Paw Paw) with his sister, Beatrice, circa 1905. I am very curious about that muff/scarf thingy Beatrice is sporting.

Dan and his dog Mupsy, 1908. Can you say adorable urchin?

Dan (on the right) acting as candle bearer for his brother Gene's First Communion. Apparently children received their First Communions later than the Catholics of my era. This photo makes me think of the Corleone family in the first Godfather film, though my grandfather's family was not Italian. I think whenever I see early 1900s + Catholicism + sepia tones I'm going to think "The Godfather."

Dan on a kickass tricycle.

I don't have any photos of this era from my mother's side of the family--most of the photos I have of them are from the 1940s and later, so you'll be seeing them in future posts. My maternal grandmother and some of her brothers and sisters worked in the St. Louis garment industry. It makes me wonder: could a a vintage dress I owned or had sold in my shop have passed through any of their hands?



  1. A very fun history lesson. The girl Gertrude, looks exactly like the little girl in Fried Green Tomatoes. Gosh, they could have based the character off this photo! Great share!

  2. How lucky you are to have all of these. And everything they say about Williamsburg is true (sorry)!

  3. Wow. I'm so envious! I wish I had old family photos like these. They're super charming. Thanks for posting.

  4. Wow!!! How amazing to have these photos!
    These are fabulous! Can't wait to see and hear more :)

  5. Wow, these photos are amazing. I wish I had something like this. The spider web background on your great-grandfather's picture is awesome! (saw it on tumblr the other day.)

  6. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

  7. Oh wow, I love old photos and these are amazing, how special too. x

  8. I love old family photos and recently scanned some from my mom's place when I visited. Have you seen this?:

  9. This is absolutely wonderful! Thank you for sharing. :)
    How completely awesome are the sleeves on your great-grandmother Mary's wedding dress!

  10. LOVE these pics, how great to have them, especially that first one, little lady in the chair! nice one! couldn't you just look at pics like these for hours wondering what it was really like?

  11. Wonderful! You really are lucky to have so many of them.

    I loved your comment about the possibility that you have handled some of the work of your family members. A fascinating possibility!

  12. Awesome. Dan had some sweet boots throughout the years.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your family photos. The first thing I do when I go to someone's house for the first time is look at all the photographs they have out . . . and then sometimes ask to see albums! It was super fun to see where you come from :)


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