March 9, 2020

I have a strange hobby. I like buying old photographs and photo albums of strangers. I try to buy ones that have notes or names on the back, as these tend to offer more information for me to find out who these people were.

Some people would look at these old photos and never know or care about the stories of the people within them. I like to find out these stories, to tell the tales of strangers that have been buried by time. With a little digging, and knowing where to look, treasures can be uncovered.

I love doing research, especially when it relates to genealogy. Old photographs are often so unique, so different from the photographs that we take today. So I buy photographs I find at the flea market. I have quite a large stash of old photos that I plan on writing posts about. A while ago I wrote about Ellsworth. At the time of the post I still hadn’t tracked him down. But I did, eventually, figure out who he was. Perhaps I’ll write a new post revealing all I found.

But today, I am focusing on a red velvet album, filled with old black and white photos from the late 1800s.

Most of the photos in this album have no names, only the names of the photographer where the photos were taken. But I did get lucky and find a few names, which led me to make some conclusions about whose album this was.

In the first part of the album, there is a single photo of two children. The names written on the back are Russell Parsons and Ruth Parsons. This is the only information I have to go on. And there are ages written about each of the children, so I can see how old they are.

This is all very helpful for determining the date when the photo was taken. I found out way more information about this family than I thought I would. But there are still some mysteries about some of the other photos in the album. And I don’t know exactly who is in each photo. I can only guess.

I was able to track down the Parsons family in Pennsylvania. Ruth and Russell show up together with their parents, Elmer Sharswood Parsons and Sarah Jane Cisney, in 1900 in Mt. Jewett, Pennsylvania. Sarah went by the name Sadie. They had two other siblings, Elmer and Willard.

Once I’d identified where they lived, and their parents, I searched newspaper articles for more information. I found that Russell was a doctor, and served in World War I. He died in France at the age of 27. He had gone blind after suffering complications from being gassed.

Ruth never married and was into music her entire life. She was a music teacher and studied at the Oberlin College.

They had five siblings, three brothers and two sisters.

Their aunt was Flora Parsons, who married Warren K. Clouser. One of the items in the album is a wedding invitation to the Clousers. This leads me to believe that the album may have been Flora’s. She and her brother Elmer were the only children of Franklin Dyson Parsons and Margaret Seibert. They had a sister who died in infancy.

I was researching this on March 6th, and that’s the exact day that Sadie’s father, William Henry Cisney, was born. I’ve encountered this before, where the research I’m doing happens to locate birth or death dates that align with the current date. I should be surprised by this. It’s weird, but I take it as sign that maybe I’m meant to be researching these people on this day, because it was their birthday or death day. It’s happened to me on several occasions.

I still have a few mysteries to figure out with this album. There is a postcard of a family on a porch, and the inscription is written to an aunt, but the handwritting is a bit difficult to read, so I am not sure who it’s from. Mae or Maz or Mar? With time, I should be able to figure out who these people are. My assumption is that they’re someone in the Clouser, Cisney or Parsons family. But I can’t be sure just yet.

Hopefully I can learn some more about these photos and the people within them soon.