All that it cost me was twenty dollars. For those twenty dollars, I received hours of fun and entertainment. So as far as I am concerned I obtained more than my money’s worth. All this was found in a box of pictures and documents at an estate sale. When I started looking through the box, the dealer informed me that that I would not find anything local since she brought the box up from Florida (I live in New York State) from the estate sales she did while living down there. The box contained well over a hundred pictures and documents, so I started to group items that had names in common. Eventually, I had four groups that drew my interest. After a little negotiation, the dealer and I settled on the price. Now all I had to do was to research the people staring at me from those photographs. I needed to see if I could find them a home to which they belong
The above picture is of John F Rollins who was born in Springfield, N.H. in the year 1835. The Rollins family was easy to find as they have several family trees on ancestry.com. I did discover that John Rollins had moved to Florida by the time of the 1880 census where his occupation was listed as receiving U.S. money. That sounds like a job I would like. He was still in Florida for the 1900 census where his occupation is simply listed as a Capitalist. He must have moved back up to N.H. after 1900 because death records show that he died there. However, his time in Florida may explain how these pictures ended up there. I have five pictures from this family, John in the picture above, Gertrude Rollins, John H Rollins, Nora Rollins, and one which is written on the back as Great Grandmother Rollins. I received two quick responses to my inquiries regarding the pictures. One person only wanted digital copies but the second person wanted the photographs. I was pleased to send the photographs and not have to destroy them as I have a limited amount of room.
The picture above is of the Rexer family. On the back of the picture is written Aunt Erma, Grandpa Rexer, Uncle Bill, Dad, Grandma Rexer, and Aunt Gertie. With a little research, I was able to put complete names to these people. They are left to right Erma Rexer, Oscar A Rexer Sr., William O Rexer, Oscar A Rexer Jr., Frieda Spiehs Rexer, and Gertrude M Rexer. I also have a picture of Oscar Rexer Jr. taken for his high school graduation and a picture of his wife to be Helene Nietmann. However, they also had many documents and such mixed in with the photographs. Someone had taken great care to keep these items together as a group as many were placed in Sheet protectors of the type that would be placed in a three-ring binder. Some of the items were a death certificate, a letter written in German, a map highlighting a city in Germany, and among other things, a statement of personal history filled out by Oscar Rexer Jr.
From these papers, I was able to start putting some of the facts needed to research this family. Also, I was able to get some records from ancestry that was of great help. The Rexer family immigrated to America in December of 1910 from Germany. Oscar Rexer Jr. was about six years of age. They arrived at a difficult time since hostilities were soon to break out between Germany and the U.S. World War One broke out in Europe in 1914, and the American public became apprehensive toward people of German heritage. Then with Germany, increasing submarine warfare life for German immigrants became much harder. When the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917 the lives of all German-Americans were to become very difficult. Most German-language publication ceased to exist; German music was no longer played, streets, buildings, and even some cities were renamed. German language instruction in schools was stopped. Many German immigrants and German-Americans were subject to mistreatment, and some were killed by mobs that got out of hand. Many were jailed without charges and released after a day or so. On an application that Oscar Rexer Jr. filled out is an interesting tidbit. To the question “Have you ever been arrested” Oscar gave the following answer. “May 1924 Port Arthur Texas. While on a weekend trip to Texas was picked up on suspicion, held overnight on open charge. Released without charges being preferred.” While this was after World War One it was during a period in our history of negative reaction against immigration, and also perhaps there were some ill feelings toward people of German heritage.
I also was able to make good use of digital newspapers on the internet. I found many news articles like the obituary shown above that allowed me to learn more about the family but also to locate living relatives that may be interested in having these items returned to the family. This was very useful since the Rexer family had very little in the way of family trees on ancestry. I was able to reach out with social media and by phone to well over six family members. Only one was to return my messages. However, she is currently living outside the country and said she would have me mail the papers and photographs to her when she comes back for a visit. She should be back in the country now per the dates she has given me, but so far I have not heard from her or anyone else from the Rexer family. I will keep these items for a little while longer.
The happy smiling man shown above is a sad story. It is the only item I have for him, and his smiling picture was what drew me toward keeping it and seeing what I could learn. On the back of the picture was written J. Silver Hill, Nov.1905 Dixon, Calif. I did some checking on ancestry and soon found what I believed to be the right family. Also once again online newspapers proved to be very valuable in the search for Mr. Hill. I was to learn that his full name was Joseph Silver Hill and that his father was James Hill. However, it seems that everyone called Joseph by his father’s name of James and sometimes even put a Jr. after his name. This was a little confusing when I first started to do my research on Joseph. As you can read in the newspaper article below Mr. Hill committed suicide as he perceived that he had not won the love of his new wife.
This took place in 1915 just ten years after the picture was taken. Mr. Hill was well off finically leaving his new bride $35,000 which would be in today’s value about $861,000. I was able to very quickly contact Susan, a relative of Mr. Hill who very much wanted the photograph. I had asked her about Lillian, the young bride and she was able to tell me some more of her story. This is what she wrote. “You inquired about Silver’s wife, Lillian. I did a bit of checking and found she did not remarry. She was a librarian prior to her marriage in 1914. She returned to her profession, wrote a number of children’s books, became “chief” of the California State Department of Education in the 1930’s & 40’s. She died in Los Angeles in 1973. She’s buried just south of San Francisco in Colma.” I was also able to find some of Lillian’s children’s books for sale online. I cannot guess as to the reason she did not remarry, but it seems she was able to carry on and have a full and very meaningful life. I find it very sad the Joseph Hill was not able to do the same.
The pictures below I believe are all from the same family. This last group proved to be too difficult for me to gather any information on. The people have the following names, Haynes, Sue, Kate, Jimmy and not shown in the pictures below Evelyn. Several pictures are stamped Florida, and I believe that is where they were taken.
I will keep these photographs for a while in the slim hope that a family member may come across my blog and would want them. This was a pleasant diversion from working on my family lines and helps to keep my research skills sharp. Also, I think that this is something that all of us that work on genealogy should do. Just imagine if each of us did this just once a year the number of family heirlooms that could be returned. Besides, it is fun to do, and when it all works out; it gives you a nice feeling of accomplishment.