Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kilroy was here...

My Grandmother Claire (Cummings) McIntyre is not the bride but the maid of honor in this picture. The Bride is Ann Kilroy and her high haired betrothed is Frank Keenan. Tom Kilroy is the best man and the picture was taken approx 1936 or 1937.
I know this because the picture is such labeled on the back in the handwriting of Claire's sister, Catherine (My great Aunt "Kay").
I absolutely love my Grandmother's gorgeous velvet dress, the flowers, the snazzy gloves on the men but what I really like about this picture is that it was labeled.
Even tho the portrait was obviously an important occasion, by the time this picture came into my hands, there really was no one left to ask the question, who were all these people?
My Grandmother Claire (aka Cecilia or Celia) passed away in 1967, 3 years before I was born. Although it is nice that my Mother is available to readily identify her own Mother in pictures, she had no idea who the other people were and without the label, this lovely portrait of a rather important time in thier lives could be completely lost.
I'm going to ramble a bit here and I would like it if you would hang with me for a paragraph or two because my point is one that I think is important.
There have been 2 significant fires in my life.
The first destroyed my Father's home nearly taking the life of my sister and her Mother along with it. The second occured a few years later in the house where I had grown up but had not lived in for about a decade.
Both homes were total losses.
That is to say, everything was destroyed either by fire or by the water used to fight it. Both of the families living in those homes at the time of those fires lost everything.
It is very easy to say,
"But they kept the most precious thing of all, thier lives."
And yes, thankfully, very thankfully, all of the people living in those homes at the time of those fires, survived without serious physical injury.
But think for a moment about what they really lost, not just things but thier entire history, thier original birth certificates, thier children's first teeth, and all of the photographs that their parents and grandparent had lovingly preserved in albums for future generations, gone forever in less than 12 hours.
Generations of history, just gone.

This is also related to my point,
trust me for just a little bit longer...

My Paternal Grandmother (Ruth (Simmons) Pearson collected post cards for decades that she would pick up in antique and trinket stores along the routes of her many travels. One one night a couple of years ago while browsing through her old albums, I took it upon myself to Google the name and address of one of the recipiants of a post card that had caught my eye. I found a link to a geneology page for a decendant of the adressee and contacted him about the card. I asked if he was indeed related to the recipiant, amazingly enough he was and I was able to scan the card and email it to him.
You never really know where things with your name on them will wind up after you are gone...
My sister Sarah made a pretty great family hisory discovery when she was only about 15, knowing that her Grandfather (Roy Pearson) had writen several books and had a habit of inscribing them for friends and family on special occasions, she searched "Roy Pearson" on Ebay and Amazon and found some of his books for sale that were inscibed by him to friends and co-workers.
I have since found a few more of his books and and with every one we dig up out of the modern web, it's like a friendly little note from the past saying,
"Hi, I was here."
The point of this whole ramble is this:
Most of us are taught from a young age that modesty is becoming and shouting to the world in big flashy letters just how magnificent it is that a person born bearing our name turned out to be as great as we think ourselves to be is unelegant and distateful behavior.
I, a formerly extremely shy person, have now to seriously beg to differ...
If we don't shout our names to future generations by labeling every possible passing thing that we come into contact with, "I WAS HERE" than what will become of our memory?
Sure, your decendants will save every scrap they can but what if that all that care and hard work goes up in smoke?
What if somewhere along the way, you had the misfortune to lose a home?
What if there is a picture somewhere of your ancestor, completely unrelated to the owner of the photo who happens to get on line one night and Google your ancestors name in the hopes of finding someone else out there looking back for the same person?
All I can think is how wonderful it would be if someone contacted me with a photo of my family that I had never seen before.
Who knows if the modern Kilroy family is even insterested at all in thier own ancesators, maybe they were real jerks at heart and best forgotten. Who knows?
I will try in my spare time to hunt down the modern Kilroy's (such a common last name, I might not have much luck but then through the generosity of my friend Elizabeth, I found a modern McIntyre cousin, 5 times removed, in NH so stranger things have happened...)
So, the whole point of my ramble is,
I know who those total strangers are because someone took the time to tag this photograph,
"Kilroy was here."


  1. I agree wholeheartedly, Laura. I don't have any kids but I want to let my niece and nephews
    and their children know about my life,because it will tell them something as well about my brother, my sister and my parents as well. I think about what I have never known about my
    Mom's father and his family and wish she'd saved the pictures of him she threw out in anger. So keep shouting!

  2. Love the photograph and your post! Shout it out and good luck, one day someone just may contact you through this blog!

  3. Thank you both for your lovely comments. : )