Do you ever get specific impressions of what your ancestors were like as people? What their personalities were like? Were they generally happy people? Were they honorable? Were sorrow and pain a constant companion?
I get a lot of my impressions about my ancestors from the photographs they left behind. I think we all do. I expect that’s the reason for the saying “a picture speaks a thousand words”.
That’s a picture of my great grandmother Esther Richardson (left), her mother Hattie Elliott Richardson (center) and Esther’s best friend Nannie Lee Farson (right). As in this photo, Esther is almost always smiling in her photographs. I believe she was generally a very happy person.
This is a portrait of my great-great grandmother Joanna White, wife of Thomas Jefferson White. This is the only photograph I have seen of Joanna and I know little of her life other than the basics. (Don’t worry White family cousins, Joanna is high on my list of upcoming research projects.) She looks so stern and has a worried look in her eyes. Is this how she saw life in general? Was worry a constant companion? Perhaps or perhaps not. She could have been up with a sick child the night before her portrait was taken.
This is a photograph of Martha Jane (Lett) Maddox obviously taken in her later years. She was only in her mid-60’s when this photograph was taken. My initial impression of her in this photograph is that she was a stern, no nonsense type of woman who lived a hard life. That may be true to a degree. She certainly knew the sorrow of losing a spouse and children during her lifetime. But this is a case where my impression of her just from the photograph is likely not an accurate portrayal. From her grandson’s journal I learned Martha Jane was a woman who taught a young boy how to fish. Fishing became a life long hobby for my grandfather. From an interview an elderly cousin, I learned how much Martha Jane loved her grandchildren. It was only her poor health that prevented her from taking in her daughter Mattie’s young children when Mattie died.
Here you have a few of my thoughts for a Thursday morning. I’m off to try to see how the facts support (or not) my impressions of other ancestors.