Occasionally totally awesome and unexpected good fortune occurs while researching family history. This happened to me this past summer, but as you will see, this particular good fortune is both sweet and bitter. Earlier this year I met Mr. Charles Murphy on ancestry.com and we exchanged a few messages. Charles sent me a box of old photos of my Graham and Howell ancestors. It was an amazing experience to open and look through the approximately 125 photographs including cartes de visite, tintypes and many cabinet cards, most dating to the late 1800’s.
That’s the very “sweet” part. The “bitter” part is that very very few are labeled! I have no idea who they are! Charles said that a number of them had originally been rubber banded together and labeled “Howell” but the rubber band disintegrated over the years and those cards are no longer distinguishable from the others.
Charles received the photos about 2 years ago from Darlene McCall and stored them in the Colonial Charlestown Museum expecting them to collect dust for some time. He learned that Darlene received the photos from my Uncle Warren Graham (1923-2012). My theory is that Warren received them as part of his Uncle Francis Graham’s (1909-1994) estate, and that they belonged to Francis and his sister Reba (Rebecca Graham Murphy 1898-1979). They would have originally belonged to their mother, Sarah May Howell Graham (1872-1948), my great-grandmother, from Charlestown, MD. There are duplicate photos known to be Sarah in the box, which would lend credence to this.
Most of the cabinet cards were produced by studios in Wilmington, Delaware. Others were from studios in Elkton, Havre De Grace and Baltimore, Maryland. Others still from Philadelphia. All these cities were but a short train ride from Charlestown.
In hope against great odds for more good fortune, I will publish these photos on this website. Maybe someone out there will recognize one from a family photo that a 19th century individual had enough foresight to label. One can always hope.
At the least my children and grand-children along with other Graham and Howell descendants can look at and study these faces from the 19th century, knowing that many are most likely their ancestors or distant relatives, and wonder what they were like and what kind of lives they lived.
I have done very little restorative work on these photos other than remove some spots and adjust contrast and lightness/darkness.
In summary we are fairly certain that these photos once belonged to Sarah Howell Graham of Charlestown, MD, and therefore would be of her family and friends. We also know most were taken from the 1860’s up to the turn of the century.
This first set of photos are all children. Clink on a photo to enter slide show mode.
Written by Warren McIvor