A Front Porch Picture

Picture taken in 1927. From left to right. Joyce Monty Smith, 1919 – 2006, Emma Craft Monty, 1866 – 1938, Etta Monty Smith, 1857 – 1942, Doris Monty Lyon, 1921 – 2006, and Oreon Monty, 1850 – 1930. Picture from the Carl Gonya collection

The above picture is what I call a front porch picture. You know what I mean where everyone gathers on the porch for a group picture. Many times a porch is not even needed. While looking at the photographs in my collection, I have noticed many of these pictures. I have come to the decision that I will feature these from time to time on my blog. We can learn so much about the people in these pictures, and we should take note of them in our own family’s history. The people all shown above are relatives of my wife’s. They are left to right Joyce Monty Smith, her aunt, Emma Craft Monty her great-grandmother, Etta Monty Smith, a great-aunt, Doris Monty Lyon, her mother, and finally Oreon Monty, her great grandfather. The sad fact is that we tend to lose our ancestor’s stories that are three or even just two generations old. Here is how you can learn a little about your ancestors and perhaps recapture some of their stories.

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “A Picture For Philanthropists.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 3, 2017.


Oreon Monty was born in the year 1850 and died 1930. The year Oreon was born California becomes a state, and New Mexico and Utah are now territories. The Fugitive Slave Act is passed making it illegal to shelter runaway slaves even if they reach a free state. The new law forces under penalty of law the return of these slaves. 1850 saw the first women’s rights convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. Flogging is abolished as a punishment in the U.S. Navy. Also “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathanial Hawthorne is published.

Etta Monty Smith was born in the year 1857 and died in 1942. In 1857 Kansas ratifies an anti-slavery constitution. The Supreme Court handed down the Dred Scott Decision which stated in short that under the U.S. Constitution, Scott was his master’s property and was not a citizen of the United States. The Court also declared that the Missouri Compromise, which prohibited slavery in certain areas, unconstitutionally deprived people of their slaves. The Mountain Meadows Massacre takes place in which 120 pioneers are murdered. The National Association of Baseball Players is founded. New York City saw Elisha Otis, install its first elevator. 1857 saw the first issue of the Atlantic Monthly Magazine.

Baker & Godwin. The laying of the cable—John and Jonathan joining hands / W & P. , ca. 1858. [New York: Published and for sale by Baker & Godwin, Printers, Printing House Square, corner Nassau and Spruce streets, New York] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Accessed May 03, 2017.)

Emma Craft Monty was born in 1866 and died in 1938. In 1866 the National Labor Union was formed, which is the first national association of unions. The Atlantic Telegraph Cable is completed. The Plains Indians score a major victory when Capt. Fetterman and 80 Soldiers are killed. The Jesse James Gang robs a bank in Lexington, Missouri. Tennessee is the first Confederate State to be readmitted to the Union. Also in 1866 Lucy Hobbs Taylor, is the first woman to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree.



Horydczak, Theodor, Approximately, photographer. Telephone. Disk type dial phone I. Washington D.C, None. ca. 1920-ca. 1950. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Accessed May 03, 2017.)

Joyce Monty Smith was born in 1919 and died in 2006. The year she was born saw the signing of the Versailles Treaty (drawn up at the end of World War One) and the creation of the League of Nations. However, due to the politics of the day, the U.S. Senate rejected the treaty and adopted an isolationist view in our dealing with the world. We also passed the 18th amendment which prohibited the sale of alcohol. Also in the year of her birth race riots broke out in 26 major U.S. Cities including Washington D.C… The dial telephone was introduced to the public by American Telephone and Telegraph Company. Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity is confirmed. Johannes Stark from Germany (discoverer of the Doppler Effect) wins the Nobel Prize in Physics. Cincinnati won the World Series over the Chicago White Sox’s. This resulted in the Black Sox scandal in which eight White Sox players were banned from baseball for life, for intentionally losing games.

Harris & Ewing, photographer. [Tomb of Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia]. Arlington Virginia, None. [Between 1921 and 1929] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress. (Accessed May 03, 2017.)

Doris Monty Lyon was born in 1921 and died in 2006, the same year as her sister Joyce. In 1921 Arlington National Cemetery Tomb of the Unknown Soldier had its first burial. Governor Miller of New York told members of the N.Y. League of Women Voters in a speech “that the league had no excuse for existence.” The speech was not warmly received by the women. Albert Einstein is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton, wins the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Rudolph Valentino is becoming known as the movies best-known lover. James Joyce’s “Ulysses” is published in Paris. 500 copies which were sent to the U.S. were seized by the U.S. Post Office and burned as obscene material. The N.Y. Giants win the 1921 World Series, defeating the N.Y. Yankees.

Charles Lindberg by his plane The Spirit of St. Louis.
Charles A. Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in background, May 31, 1927. , ca. 1927. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress


The picture was taken in the year 1927. Here are some of the events that took place in 1927. The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) goes on the air. Saudi Arabia becomes independent of Great Britain. The last Model T Ford is produced. The pilot Charles Lindberg crosses the Atlantic in the first non-stop flight in his plane “The Spirit of St. Louis.” Golfers in S.C. are arrested for violating the Sabbath. The U.S. Supreme Court permits forced sterilizations of various unfits by states where such surgeries are practiced for eugenic reasons. Perhaps the worst school mass murder was committed in 1927. In Bath, Michigan 45 people are killed of which 38 are elementary school children. Also, over 50 more people are injured. The “Jazz Singer” was the first movie to synchronize sound and picture. A Roman Catholic priest Father George Lemaitre was the first to espouse The Big Bang Theory. Babe Ruth hits a record 60 home runs in a single season. His N.Y. Yankees also win the 1927 World Series. The must-read book of the year was “Elmer Gantry” by Sinclair Lewis.

While we have learned very little personal facts about these people, we have in fact learned much about them. By knowing and having some understanding of the events that took place in their lives you gain some understanding about these people. These events could not help but have an influence on their beliefs, opinions, and how they lived their lives. All the events of each generation have an effect on the people living through them. This is passed down to each new generation which is mixed in with their new experiences until finally, it is our turn. I guess the best way to say it is that my great-grandfather on my father’s side (who I never met) has through the years echoed down to me his life experiences. My wife’s Mother Doris Monty Lyon was to have a child (my wife’s brother) with Downs Syndrome. Now read once again the events of 1927 and imagine how Doris was affected. So take out those old front porch pictures and see what you can learn.







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44 Responses to A Front Porch Picture

  1. What a great post, I really enjoyed and appreciated it. Great read and history!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I have been able to really remember historical events because of my interest in genealogy. You are right that everyone lives at a particular time in a particular place and the more we learn about those things, the better we can imagine our forebears’ lives.

    • chmjr2 says:

      It is certainly a starting place. Which is one reason we all should interview our oldest relatives so we may better understand their story and how history played a part in it.

  3. Su Leslie says:

    Eugenics is a word I haven’t heard for a long time. It can’t have been easy for the family to have a Downs Syndrome child back then. Even the terminology was different — my mother still forgets sometimes and refers to “Mongols” when she means Downs Syndrome.

  4. higginsmj says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed your post. Your approach provides context and place, as we can only imagine the lives our forebears lived. My memories go back a few generations so that only takes me back to the 1950s. While I don’t think that is very far back, my children and grandchildren think that is eons ago. And they are right… in their experience. My grandchildren were all born in the 2000s so they are bemused by the fact that I was born in the middle of last century! Bless them. Anyway, many thanks for the inspiration. I have a few photos that I might take another look at. Looks like I may have some research to do. Thanks again!

    • chmjr2 says:

      What you say is so true. Growing up for me was the 60s with the Vietnam war and Civil Rights movement very fresh in my mind. However for my children and grandchildren just a short page in their history books at school.

  5. That’s one of the reasons why I love genealogy so much – it makes history so personal.

  6. KerryCan says:

    We can gain insight to our ancestors by knowing the history they lived through and we can learn a lot, and care more, about history because we can relate to it differently, knowing our ancestors were there. This is a great post, Charles!

  7. Peter Klopp says:

    I like the way you juxtaposed the birth dates of your family members with key historical events that certainly had an impact on their personal lives. A very fine example for all genealogists to follow!

  8. This is very true. Eventually world events and national events touch everyone’s life. I go the opposite route using newspapers. First I research a particular time period in the person’s life using the local news. Sometimes I have found events that took place in the same school or on the same street. The local events give the family stories and histories great immediacy, too.

  9. chmjr2 says:

    I also have used newspapers as you do with great reward. However it will depend if I have access to newspapers of the area and proper dates. We have so many tools we all can use in our family history research. I also have uncovered a few family secrets doing this.

  10. Great post Charles! Historical context adds so much to our understanding of our ancestors. I have this awesome list that my Grandma’s sister compiled of all the inventions/innovations during her lifetime that she could remember. Things like, the moon landing, nylon stockings, ballpoint pens, etc. It’s fun to read because it shows a lot about what was important to her or affected her day to day life. I love those old front porch photos, I love seeing the home with a big crew in front. 🙂

    • chmjr2 says:

      I started thinking about a list I could do of all the inventions / innovations I could make. The size it would need to be is just too much for me. So much happens in our life times that we just do not notice until the years go by and we start to think about it.

      • I think it would be much harder to create a list like that today. Advancements are coming faster all the time. She created her list based on memory and referring to her journal for dates. She created it well before the internet so she didn’t feel the need to research. Our access to technology would make the task a lot more overwhelming for sure. I do think it’s interesting though to choose a few key items and share those changes with our children. For instance, I have two teenagers and one preschooler, my teenagers grew up with a landline, my preschooler did not. He doesn’t even know what a landline is. I think choosing a handful of the really big innovations and sharing how they impact daily living – for the good or the bad – can be enlightening for our posterity.

  11. Amy says:

    What a great idea to build a story about the family based on the public events going on in their lives. Great photo also!

  12. taysway says:

    I have to look at my photos and see how many are front porch pictures (ha ha) I really liked how you incorporated historical events into the lives of your wife’s relatives.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Glad you liked the picture. I am going to try and do a few more of these pictures but talking about them in a different way.

      • taysway says:

        That’s a great way to keep your genealogy interesting. I will try that as well. Thanks for the idea.

  13. saymyname56 says:

    Do you have earlier ancestors to the Monty’s ?

    • chmjr2 says:

      We go back to the first Monty who came to what is now Canada. Do you have a Monty line?

      • saymyname56 says:

        My delamontaigne line had many different changes to the name. Monty is one that was used…Montany…Montonna and many more.

      • chmjr2 says:

        The first Monty I know about is Jean Monty about 1693 – 1755 who married Marie Marthe Poyer 1710 – 1796. Variations of the name that I know about are; Monte, Montee, Montie. These all came well after Jean Monty mostly as they moved and settled in the Untied States.

      • saymyname56 says:

        What country did your Monty family originate ? The family i refer to were french Huguenot involved with the dutch in new Amsterdam , Hudson river area, and Albany Name changes to simplify and make more English sounding.

      • chmjr2 says:

        Jean Monty came from France. He was a marine in the company of Capt. Jacques Hughes Pean de Livaudiere. His Parents Were Dominge Monty et Jeanne Benoist.

  14. vlpfeil says:

    I really appreciate the research you put into placing your family’s events into historical context. And, thank you for liking my post A Mother’s Day “Tryptich”! Consider myself more a family historian than a blogger… too busy lately to post frequently.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog. Since I have always liked history doing the research was fun. I have read a few of your post and all I can say is I wish you had more time to write. Family historians are needed in every family, for if they don’t tell the stories who will?

      • vlpfeil says:

        Exactly! It’s why I started writing things down when my father died. I wished I’d done it earlier when he’d been younger and his memory was better, because he was a verbal storyteller. Now I have a lot of questions that it’s too late for he and my mother to remember. I’m writing down my stories for my daughter and other family members. As I know from personal experience, they will mean more to them in future. I will have to read more of your posts now!

  15. I always thought that teaching history through family history would help children learn and remember these events better. Associating their ancestors with these events would bring the events alive in their young minds. A child should know the events in history which helped to form the life of their parents, grandparents, great grandparents and all who came before them. I love old photos too. It is amazing what you can learn from them. After all my years of research, I really do feel like I know all my family members that I never met but especially those who we have photos of…. but ones who we have no photos of speak to me through census records, birth certificates, and death records…,the more you research the more you find…Thanks for the reminder! Jan

    • chmjr2 says:

      History for me is the best novel written, except it is true. We have many different ways to teach history it is a shame that so many in school do not like the subject. The reason I believe is that it is being taught wrong. History is about people and their stories and who does not like a good story. We need better story tellers teaching history.

  16. You can learn so much about the life and times of an ancestor by learning the history of the time they lived in. It’s so relevant. Thanks for the LIKE and the comment btw

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