Instant Ancestors: Catherine

by 2ndhandroses on 2011/08/27



Baby Catherine

Pretty little girl


I met a new friend today.

At a thrift store.

In a plastic bag along with other fading photos of anonymous faces.

Crammed between a chipped coffee mug and a dented frying pan.

A bargain for $1.99 for the whole lot.

I picked it up, brought it home, and forgot about it.

Until the other day when my son tossed the bag onto my desk, asking me who these folks were.

Sometimes I wonder why I am attracted to these things, these societal castoffs.

What draws me to a dilapidated bag of old photos of people I don’t even know?

And why am I so compelled to bring them home and transform them into what’s known euphemistically around my Fair City’s antique stores as….

Instant ancestors.

See, this is the second time this has happened.

About a year or so ago, I visited a local antique mall and stumbled across a collection of vintage photographs. Not just one or two but an entire shoebox full of long-ago faces imprinted forever upon now-sepia paper. Above the box some clever vendor had a simple sign, “Instant Ancestors.”

It moved me enough to write a post about it.

Why would family discard such an intimate keepsake?

Why didn’t the portrait of this dear old relation garner enough love to stay within the family?

I mean, this was somebody’s mother, aunt, grandmother, uncle, father, son, grandpa, Nana, sister, or brother.

I find it hard to get my mind around the reason why I keep finding these vintage photos.

Like last time when I brought home a portrait of my new great-aunt Ivy, restoring her to the dignity of an elegant frame upon a shelf, evidently again I felt moved enough to bring this new bag of photographs home.

This time I not only speculated on who peered out from the now-sepia paper, conjuring an imaginary person to match the image.

I looked her up.

Her name was Catherine Agnes. She was born on August 3, 1916 in Pickneyville, IL.

They loved her enough to take a couple of Christmastime portraits of her in 1917. I have one of them here.

Reading baby

Catherine was well read

 Catherine had a relation who was a military officer. Perhaps someone smarter than I will know what type of uniform he’s wearing. His name was James.

Army man?

James, Catherine's relation

She married a doctor. They had no children of their own but she had some nieces and nephews.

Catherine was smart. She went to university and received a Master’s degree in teaching. She taught both little ones and college students.

Catherine loved animals and liked to help with anti-cruelty societies.

But she sure loved to fish!

Catherine and fish

Made the men jealous!

She loved to spend time with friends and family. She enjoyed reading and gardening.

And she loved antiquing.

She passed away in 2006 in Morton Grove.

Her photos made it from there to a Saver’s thrift store in Aurora, Illinois. Next to Old Navy.

Catherine may have been forgotten by some, but her memory hopefully lives on in this post and on my wall.

I may go visit her someday to officially make her acquaintance.

I feel I know her so well already.

Catherine was beautiful.

To find out about your ancestors, instant or otherwise, try the Family Search website, a huge database maintained and continually updated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

 “Every man is a quotation from all his ancestors.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson





{ 3 trackbacks }

Connecting with Instant Ancestors | Second Hand Roses
2013/09/12 at 8:56 am
Giving Instant Ancestors New Life | Second Hand Roses
2014/03/12 at 11:40 am
2014/08/13 at 5:24 am

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Ms. Marsha 2011/08/28 at 5:50 pm

I love this! I have run across photos like this so many times in antique stores and sometimes my husband and I stand and sift through them. It always results in us driving home wondering whose they were, how they ended up there, and who would buy them. Now I know! 😉 I love that phrase, Instant Ancestors.

So glad I found your blog. And how much do I love that you live in a town called “Sandwich”?!

2ndhandroses 2011/08/28 at 7:56 pm

Hi Marsha,
Glad you liked the post and blog. I’m happy to meet you! It seems we are sharing this junktiquing road!

Yes, I love my little town and the very cool name!

Perhaps one day we shall meet but for now I remain in spirit, your friend.


domain 2014/10/22 at 4:21 am

Great article.

2ndhandroses 2014/10/22 at 11:56 am

Thanks much. Glad you liked it!

Lynn Maxwell 2016/04/01 at 9:12 pm

Lovely article! Something about catching a moment in time in sepia

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