I have lots of family pictures, boxes and boxes of them. About fifteen years ago I actually had the foresight to sit down with my mother and ask her to help me label these old photos. In the course of talking and labeling and noshing I realized that there were very few photos of my maternal grandmother’s family, the Steins. My mother was puzzled by this as well, but then she said, “There’s that picture of the Stein family.”
There’s a picture of the Stein family? I didn’t recall ever seeing such a picture.
“It’s in my bedroom behind the bureau.”
Behind the bureau, interesting spot for a picture, perhaps why I didn’t remember it.
I dashed upstairs and there behind the bureau was a picture in an ornate frame with a wire for hanging. The picture was a formal portrait of my great-grandmother surrounded by her eight children. It had clearly been hanging on a wall at one time; I have no idea how it ended up behind the bureau. I will say that stashing things in odd places was completely normal for my mother.
I have written before about the moment many years later when my son pointed out that my grandmother was actually surrounded by nine people, not eight. Too many Steins.
I have looked at the photo many times, wondering who the extra person was. Finally I sat down to figure out the age and sex of my grandmother and her siblings and was able to determine that the extra person was a woman. The ages of my grandmother and her siblings were close enough and uncertain enough that I couldn’t sort them all out.
In preparation for attending the IAJGS conference in August I finally started entering my old handwritten notes into my database. I had a page for each person and a series of pockets holding copies of naturalization papers, census copies, and scraps of this and that. One of the scraps, in my handwriting was a list of people in that photo. I had completely forgotten ever having this information.
Standing, left to right, Sophie Moonblatt…. Sophie Moonblatt? Two minutes later I knew that Sophie Moonblatt married Joseph Stein, the man on whose shoulder her hand is resting. The rest of the people are indeed my grandmother and her siblings. For the record standing next to Sophie are Becky, Bessie, Jennie and Celia, my grandmother. My great grandmother, Lily, is seated in the middle.. On her left are Martin and Joseph and on her right, Morris amd Yetta.
Then things got even better. There is a Stein family tree on Ancestry.com. My grandmother is not in it, but the rest of her siblings are. There are pictures of citizenship papers with ancestral towns and ship names. I have not been able to locate a passsenger list yet, but I am hopeful. Of course, there are people to contact. I will do that after I post this. This has been a very exciting day in genealogy for me when I was not expecting it and all because of a scrap of paper.
I know that there is lots of talk among genealogists about what to throw out. I have seen the rule of 3 and the ten things a day approach and lots of others. Here is my rule. Keep everything!. Yes it was awful when I had to clean out my mother’s house. Given her propensity for stashing things in odd places I had to look in every sock, examine every nook and crannie, wade through almost 50 years of accumulating and saving everything. Yes I swore I would not let this happen to my kids. I don’t care anymore. Those kids owe me. I’m keeping everything.