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Angels on Earth - 140-year-old family photo album finds its way home
This is a story of a minor miracle, the two human-angels that facilitated it, and the grateful tight-knit family that was the recipient of it. Need a little uplifting, amazing news right now? Then sit back and enjoy this tale.
Rusty lives in southern Missouri and likes to go to antique auctions around Lake of the Ozarks. Usually, he looks for furniture, but at one auction, a brown leather photo album caught his eye. It was obviously old, but in pristine condition. He opened it. It was filled with family photos from the 1880s, all neatly labeled with names. It appeared that the album belonged to Walter and Mary Merritt of Bay City, Michigan.
Something compelled him to bid on it, and he won. He took it home and showed it to his girlfriend, Dixie. They marveled at its condition, looked at each other and decided, we have to find Walter and Mary’s descendants, and get this to them.
Dixie consulted genealogy sites, and eventually discovered a family tree that showed a line of descendants. She started searching Google for the names. Fortunately, one of the great-granddaughters had a last name with an unusual spelling. And then, eureka! This great-granddaughter just happened to make jewelry, and had a website with contact information. Dixie sent her an email.
“Hello Diane,” she wrote. “I am looking for ancestors of Mary J Potter and Walter Merritt to return a treasured family photo album. It came from an auction in Missouri. They lived in Bay City, MI in the 1880s… which is the timeframe of all the pictures. It is in incredible condition and is truly something special. It belongs with family members who will care for it properly and pass it down. I have been told there is a strong possibility you are a great granddaughter of this couple.”
Dixie’s search paid off. Yes, I am the great-granddaughter of Walter and Mary. I’ve been doing genealogy research on this line of my family, because my very tight-knit family are all descendants. Walter and Mary had three children; their only daughter is my Grandma. Some of you have heard the story of Walter’s father, Nelson, who went to Australia during that country’s gold rush and made enough money to buy 360 acres of farmland in Bay City, Michigan, where my father’s family lived for many generations. My family meets every two years for a family reunion, and we’re hoping to do it again this summer. Thinking that an illustrated family history Power Point presentation needs to be one of the activities!
Dixie and Rusty mailed me the photo album in February, 2020. I don’t mind telling you I teared up when I opened the box. I have no idea how the album made its way to Missouri. To my knowledge, we have no relatives there. But I now have a whole book full of new clues for more genealogy research, and a very treasured family heirloom that will be handed down to a new generation of descendants. There is no way to thank them for their time and kindness. All I can say is they are truly angels on earth.
I have added my new treasured album to my Heirloom Vault and plan to add more items to document the stories and histories of important family heirlooms.
San Diego, CA