Sunday, August 8, 2010


 The past month or so has found me not doing much art, but doing lots of sleuthing in regard to family history.  I have had this charming photograph, taken about 1908, since my grandmother died.  On the back she penciled, "Aunt Gert.  Lots of fun, red-haired."

Who was this Aunt Gert?  Was she an actual aunt?  Nothing in my family research fit that.  So, perhaps a friend of the family?  The answer came to me after a hunch and a trip to the library to check  I also had help from super genealogist Bill Buchanan, a distant cousin who maintains massive family data bases.

My grandmother, the former Bernice Adams (age five or so in this photo), had no siblings until much later when she was a teenager.  Her biological father was out of the picture, so her mother sometimes took her to visit cousins who lived on Lopez Island, in the San Juans of Washington.  Bernice's aunt, Jennie Hodgson Buchanan, raised a tribe of nine children, enough to perhaps take the sting from Bernice about having no brothers or sisters or father.  Jennie and her sisters had been orphaned young and raised by a cousin's family on the island.  The cousin was Thomas Pearson (T.P.) Hodgson, and his wife was a red-haired Irish girl, Gertrude Ridley, originally from Maine.  In 2007 I took a copy of this photo on a visit to Lopez Island, but nobody there recognized the woman.  She was too old to qualify as any of the Gertrude Hodgsons whose relatives I met.  Gertrude was a popular name, and there were several.  But recently I matched names and dates again, and Gertrude Ridley's dates fit. 

But I needed more proof. First, I emailed Bill Buchanan to see if he knew something I didn't know.  While I waited for an answer, I headed to the library.  Our local library has a subscription to, and it was there, in census records. I was able to not only see where Gertrude Ridley and he husband Pearson Hodgson (aka Uncle Pearson) lived, but who lived with them, including Gertrude's father, Frank Ridley of Maine, and a sister, Grace.  I traced his family, found his parents, the sister, dates, places, all the fit the scraps of information I already had. 

Then Bill Buchanan emailed me back with basically all the same pieces of the puzzle.  Bingo!

Mystery solved. 

1 comment:

Sharon said...

What a sleuth you are, Sherry. That photo is adorable.