Friday, February 22, 2013

The First Rule

The First Rule that every budding genealogist learns is to go from the Known to the Unknown. This week's Sepia Saturday prompt is taking us to the Unknowns in our photo collections and forcing us to take another long hard look at them to attempt bringing them into the Known.

When my Great-aunt Lillian Jackson Cornell Radlek (sister of the infamous Uncle Lee for whom I still have not found enough time) died a dozen years ago, her daughter sent me Lillian's photo collection. Many of those photos were identified, but some were not and I didn't recognize the names for a few that were. The subjects in the photos looked very different from the people I already knew, so I decided they must be relatives of one of Lillian's husbands, either Lloyd Elwood Cornell or Gustave Radlek. I did find a researcher of the Cornell family and sent him the photos, but he was unable to identify them. So, I am still in that uncomfortable state of unknown.

Annas 75 års dag d. 7/10 1955

This first photo has an inscription on the back written in Swedish, Norwegian, or Danish (see the caption). According to Google Translate, the words "års dag" if written as two words is Swedish and Norwegian for "birthday". If you write it as one word, it means "anniversary" in both Swedish and Danish and means "year" in Norwegian. I initially thought that she was Anna Hansene Anderson Cornell, Lillian's first mother-in-law whose parents were born in Denmark. However, her birthdate is August 1876 which would have made her 79 in 1955. Also, the date is either 7 October or July 10, neither of which agrees with her August birthdate. So, either this is not Anna Hansene Anderson Cornell or the person writing on the back was misinformed.

Frank Parso <balance of word cut off> (Patka)

The handsome devil above has a name, but I don't know who he is our how he fits into the family! I am desperate to place him in my family tree. Who wouldn't want that gorgeous DNA in their family?

The three photos above are of unknown babies, which are impossible to identify. The one in the center has the added distinction of including an unknown woman as well. The young boy on the left has an inscription on the back: "Merit". I have never heard of anyone with that name in our direct or collateral lines. He does, however, look remarkably like a cousin whose father is Lillian's maternal uncle which makes it possible that he is a child or grandchild of one of Lillian's aunts or uncles. (Take a deep breath here).

The photo of the boy and girl standing in front of an airplane is intriguing. There is part of a word written on the back which looks like "Buddy". That is the nick name that Uncle Lee's sisters called him when he was a boy, so this may be him! The inscription is to the right. What do you think, can I claim them?

I think these two are the same young man. I imagine the one on the left is him showing off his first motor car. What self-respecting teenager wouldn't want to be immortalized with his first car? Then we have him with his baseball glove proving to us all that he is as red blooded as any American boy can be. I can also see a resemblance between him and the young girl in front of the airplane, which makes me think they are siblings.

This is another person that I would really like to claim as a blood relative. I think she is absolutely beautiful. There is nothing at all to identify her other than she was part of Lillian's photo collection.

The photo above is typical of the type of photos Lillian's mother and her grandmother loved to stage. I think that the woman with the tire around her neck may be my great-grandmother Frances (Lillian's mother) whom I have blogged about a few times. The woman next to her might be Anna of the 75 years, but I am only basing that guess on her spectacles. I have not a clue who the blond girl is nor where this farm is located.
Last but not least, the photo that I am using for my Blog header. This was in that same collection with no identifying marks. I don't know where this farm is nor who the woman that is hanging the sheets can be. But I claim it as part of my family tree and will defend it til my dying breath (or until someone proves me wrong).

Check out the Sepia Saturday blog to see other unknowns. Perhaps you will find something that you can claim for your own.

Thanks for dropping by.


  1. From the appearance of all these handsome people, I'd say your family DNA is in splendid condition. Frank, I have to agree is dazzling - he looks a little like Leonardo Di Caprio playing a groom. Hopefully he married another lovely from your family ranks. A fascinating array of unknowns.

  2. Such an interesting collection of photos and so many mysteries. How frustrating for you. Will you ever find out who they are?

  3. Heck, just call them distant cousins, and make them into their own branch of the family tree. This way you give them a new history and then avoid the arguments over whose memory is more accurate! We are all related anyway! :-)

  4. Since Europeans tend to say Day-Month, I'd put my money on 7 October.

    Thanks for the invitation to breathe because believe me, I was committed to following that sentence. As a fellow family historian, I can relate to the pain of explaining complicated connections.

  5. An intriguing collection of old photos that I am sure you are proud to have even although it leaves so many unknowns.

  6. I'm glad you included that staged photo. Now, I am wondering what others you might have of that type.

  7. The house is neat, but I've never seen a barn that close, or is it a garage?

    Great photos, the one with the girls and the wagon is pretty funny.

    Kathy M.

  8. I love the "staged" photo. What insight into the personalities of the participants!

  9. One of my favorite staged photos was the subject of one of my first blog posts at Another was the now infamous Uncle Lee as a baby with a pipe in his mouth.

  10. Very nice photos. I think that is one of the best parts of all this researching, it's all the going back and forth between the known and the unknown and walking away so much better for having searched there!

  11. I'm a fan of that staged photo too! I guess the house in the background only looks similar to the one you use as a header and probably isn't the same, but
    I thought it might be on first glance.

  12. The shot of the house is just wonderful! I could step right into that photo; move right in and live there. It's beautiful.

  13. I can see why you chose that picture as your blog header; it's perfect for the job. Good luck with sorting out your family connections

  14. What a great collection of unknowns and partly knowns. I do rather like the idea of putting descriptions on the back of photographs and them trimming half of them off, just to maintain the mystery.

  15. I agree with Little Nell, the photograph of the house and garden is charming, but how frsutrating not knowing where it is.

  16. Hi Sherri,
    Under the Blog,
    Friday, February 22, 2013
    The First Rule,
    You posted a picture of my dad, Frank Patka Jr. (Went by Frank Parsons sometimes--stage name). I am curious of how he fits into your family. My dad was married twice, with my mother being his second wife.
    He was born in 1915 around Chicago, and died in Wisconsin in 1982 @ 66 years old.
    If you want more info, you can contact me @
    Blessings to ya.