My grandfather was an enigma and his mother even more so. Nearly 20 years ago, I began a genealogy hunt hoping to learn more about the man and some of the mysteries of our family.
Others have followed genealogy quests for similar reasons.
I quickly learned that some of the quirks I saw in family members may have been owing to a woman about whom I knew very little. They called her Amelia, but I soon discovered that was not her real name.
And thus began a 20-year quest: to learn about Permelia Hanks and to find a photo of her.
I’ve written about her before when I thought I might have stumbled on an old picture my grandmother, the daughter-in-law who never met her, spoke of. It’s of three girls in an oval frame. Permelia had two sisters. Could this have been them?
I still don’t know, but it was exciting to dream and wonder. Is that what Permelia–not Mealey, Melia, Malia, Ellita, nor Amelia–looked like as a girl?
(With all those variations in name, not to mention misspellings of her second’s husband’s last name, is it any wonder I can’t find records about her?)
I know she was born in 1867, the daughter of James S. Hanks and his wife Louezer (Louisa?). My research turned up an 1890 marriage to Ben Alex Dunn, brother to her brother-in-law T. R. Dunn, and she bore a son James. Ben died at some point and in 1897 she married my great-grandfather, another mystery person, had four children and then came down with tuberculosis.
My grandfather had few memories of her because she went into an east Texas sanitarium when he was a little boy, where she died in 1914.
But I think about her from time to time, wondering about the drama that played out through her 47 years. She lost her parents, a husband and a child, then coughed herself to death leaving four young ones behind.
And that hole, that loss of a mother, affected us.
I’ve contacted relatives, scoured the Internet and never found anything except that tantalizing oval photo above from an obscure website sent to me by a genealogy pal. The other night, not sleeping and filling in time putting together a Pinterest page, I drifted over to that East Texas Genealogical Society website. I needed to add a photo of James Hanks’ original farmhouse.
Carol Hafner had put up a few more photos.
Did you hear me scream?
Can there be any doubt?
What if I tell you–and my cousin agrees–those look like my aunt’s eyes? You can see them more clearly in the top photo.
What were they doing in San Antonio, Texas?
How would I know?
It’s enough just to look at her face and be thankful, for the millionth time, for the Internet’s research capabilities, not to mention the hard work of so many genealogists to provide information.
20 years of searching is over.
Now, do me a favor. Look at Permelia’s photo at the top and compare it to those three girls. She was the second of three–does the adult woman look like any of those girls in your opinion?
Update: The East Texas Genealogy society doesn’t know where these photos came from. Someone found a photo album at a yard sale, bought it and gave it to the society because she didn’t think such photos should be lost.
Thank you, whoever you were.
20 years of searching to find a face. Click to Tweet
Scan and share your old photos. Please! Click to Tweet