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Mystery Monday: The Gatewood Portrait
Nov 24th, 2014 by Jessica

Every once in a while, I wander through an antique shop or flea market.  Sometimes, I sift through stacks of old photographs or documents to see if I might get some clues as to their history.  Often I will find a name scribbled on the back, or a location or studio name on the front.  With enough information, I know I have a reasonable shot at figuring out who is in the photo.  That means I have a reasonable shot at returning it to a family member who might be very grateful.

Such was the case on November 8, 2014 when I was taking photographs at Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek, Arizona during their Antique Tractor show.  I stumbled upon this very scene and took a picture for a class assignment.

The photo as I found it

The photo as I found it

As I was standing there, the photo on the top spoke to me.  What a lovely image!  A young couple, dressed very nicely, with striking features.  I turned the photo over to find very light pencil marks with “John & Cecelia Gatewood” inscribed.  You really had to shift the photo back and forth in the light to see the pencil.  I almost didn’t see it at all.  On the front of the photo, I could see clearly the photo was taken in Hays, Kansas.

I decided to take a chance and buy the photo.  The dealer was asking for $5.00.  I didn’t even haggle with him.  After paying for the photo, I asked him if had other photos from the same family.  He didn’t know.  I asked him if he knew where the photo may have been acquired.  He didn’t know.  The only thing he could offer was that he got photos from “all over the place.”  That was all I could find out about it.

How did this photo of this lovely couple from Kansas end up in Arizona?  We still don’t know.  We probably never will.

After some funny looks from my friends, who surely thought I was nuts, I packed my photo away in my camera bag and continued on with my assignment.  Once I returned home, I started my hunt for the Gatewood family.

John and Cecelia Gatewood circa 1925

John and Cecelia Gatewood circa 1925

Ancestry.com made my search easy.  All I did was put in “John Gatewood” from “Hays, Kansas” with a wife of “Cecelia” and I quickly discovered their 1930 and 1940 US Census records.  I knew right away that the family moved to California from Kansas, and that they had their first son in California in 1926.  That dated this photo circa 1925, which seemed correct to me based on the style of the frame and their clothing.

From the 1940 Census, I knew the couple had two children named Howard and Ronald.  With the new information that they had lived in California, I used FindaGrave.com to locate the only John Gatewood buried in California.  Find a Grave confirmed that he had a child named Howard, and his wife Cecelia was buried in the same cemetery.

After less than 5 minutes of searching, I was confident that I had a photo of this couple:

John Howard Gatewood
Birth: Mar. 19, 1897 Kansas, USA
Death: Jan. 9, 1970 Bell, California, USA

Cecilia Groff Gatewood
Birth: Apr. 19, 1899 Kansas, USA
Death: Oct. 10, 1977 Los Angeles County, California, USA

Now, it was time to find somebody who cared.  I used what I had learned about the couple to search in Ancestry’s member family trees.  I easily found two members, Cynthia and Robin, who both had accurate details about this couple in their trees.  I wrote to both of them and sat back to await a response.

Cynthia wrote me back the same day. She was Howard’s daughter, so John and Cecelia were her grandparents!  I sent her a scan of the portrait and asked if she wanted it.  She confirmed that this was in fact her grandparents, and she had never seen the photo before.  I think she was a little hesitant at first.  Who gives something for nothing nowadays?  I assured her I didn’t want anything from her in return.  After receiving her address, I mailed her the portrait.  She was delighted!  She said she plans to bring the portrait to Thanksgiving dinner this year and tell her family the whole story.

Robin responded a few days later.  Cecelia was her great aunt!  I was able to explain the whole story and put her in touch with Cynthia.  I also sent her a high resolution scan of the portrait for her research.  It was the first time she had ever seen a photo of Cecelia before.

Success!  I am thrilled that I was able to reunite this beautiful portrait with its original family.  I hope this story inspires you to do something special to help someone today.  You never know what kind of impact your kindness may have on others.

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Mystery Monday – Two Lines Crossing
Sep 26th, 2011 by Jessica

I found this portrait along with the Baptism of the girl I wrote about last week on Mystery Monday.  I believe this is a young couple from one of the Karpuk, Stroik or Dreffs families.  I don’t think it is Rose Karpuk and Ed Dreffs.  They were married February 9, 1946. However, Aunt Rose didn’t wear glasses.

My mother believes this is Marie D. Betlinski and her first husband Mr. Dabrowski.  Marie later remarried again and when she died her last name was Augustyniak.  She was born June 26, 1911 and died January 7, 2007 in Bay City, Michigan.  Marie was my grandmother Mary Rose Stroik’s best friend.

This photo seems to be earlier than the 1940’s.  If anyone out there is good at determining the age of a photo by the style or the clothing, please chime in below in the comments!  I need some help with this one.

Happy Couple, Chicago

Happy Couple, Chicago

What really struck me about this portrait is the inscription at the bottom of the beautifully embossed paper frame:

Z. Rozanski, 1073 Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

Z. Rozanski, 1073 Milwaukee Ave., Chicago

The inscription reads, “Z. Rozanski, 1073 Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.”  Now to most people, this is a clue that the couple was married in Chicago.  That got me thinking; I don’t know of anyone from these families who moved to or lived in Chicago during the first half of the 20th century.  Marie M. Betlinski was born in South Chicago, Illinois so it is likely this is her wedding portrait.

Milwaukee Avenue… I have seen Milwaukee Avenue before in my research.  Where did I see it?  EUREKA!  My husband’s family was from Chicago.  Andrew’s great-grandfather Andrew Jędrzej Dominik was a portrait photographer in Chicago starting around 1915 until he moved to Arizona in the early 1950’s.  In fact, the 1916 Chicago Polk City Directory lists his place of business at 923 Milwaukee Avenue, just a few blocks down from the studio of Z. Rozanski at 1073 Milwaukee Ave.

By the 1930’s, Andrew’s photography business had moved to a new address.  Scholl Studios was relocated to 1563 Milwaukee Avenue.  We have an original portrait envelope from the studio with the new address printed on the front.  It even says “between Damen and North Avenues” so you can be sure to find it:

Scholl Studio Photographs, 1563 Milwaukee Ave, Chicago

Scholl Studio Photographs, 1563 Milwaukee Ave, Chicago

Milwaukee Avenue must have been Chicago’s Photography Central in the early 1900’s.  It’s just neat to see the family lines crossing like this.  To think that my husband’s family who moved to Arizona in the 1950’s could easily have photographed someone so close to my mother’s family from Michigan in Chicago is just a little crazy to me!  I’m hoping someone out there can tell me who the happy young couple is above, or at least help me date the portrait a little better.

Good luck solving your genealogical mysteries!

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Mystery Monday – Portraits Inside Portraits
Sep 19th, 2011 by Jessica

Daniel Ray Dreffs, circa 1970

Daniel Ray Dreffs, circa 1970

This is a picture of my wonderful Uncle Danny (Daniel Ray Dreffs) while he was serving in the US Army in 1970 at the age of 18.  The picture was taken inside his mother’s house in the living room by the front door.

What drives me crazy about this picture – and don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful – are the two portraits inside the portrait.

Did you notice the portrait of the graduate on the wall to the left?  Who IS that??  My grandmother had 12 children who lived to see 18 years old, and many of them did not graduate from high school so this portrait intrigues me.  It may have been one of my cousins.

Check out the portrait on the television.  Clearly it is a military portrait with a flag in the background.  It might have been Uncle Danny or it might have been Randall Dreffs, another family member who was in the Army.  I’ve never seen that portrait outside of this photo.

Did you see the portrait of the woman on the table?  I believe that is Uncle Danny’s mother, my grandmother Mary Rose Stroik.  I have never seen that portrait in person and cannot be sure.  It is a mystery, and it’s driving me mad!

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© 2013 Jessica M. Green