Up Close and Personal With A Dead Ancestor

It's 3 a.m. and I'm picking lint off my gr-gr-grandmother, Mary Weaver (nee McClellan) Cupp, who's been dead and buried for well over a hundred years.

No, I haven't gone out to Chicago Mound Cemetery south of Emporia KS and dug her up, but I can see how that might be your first thought considering my hubs about cemeteries.

The "lint" is the kind that appears on old photographs. Really old photographs that have been sitting in a trunk, a drawer or a shoebox on the top shelf of someone's closet for several decades. Put there not in acid-free albums, or in any of the storage media recommended by archivists.

Just tossed, dumped, or thrown loose into that trunk, drawer, or shoebox.

With a scanner and a good image editing program, anyone with time, patience, and a steady hand can electronically remove creases, dings, and "lint" from old photos that the naked eye might not see. Photos darkened by age can also be made lighter and brighter.

The original of the photo I'm working on tonight is wallet size, but glued to a larger piece of pasteboard by the photographer who made it 100 or so years ago. Removing the photo from the pasteboard frame is not an option this time. It can be done - very slowly and very carefully - with a metal pancake spatula, but if the photographer's name and city is legible, I usually don't.

What I've done instead is scan only the photo itself at a high resolution, meaning when I open it in the image editor, Mary's face is no longer the size of a postage stamp, but nearly life-size. And staring at me from the computer screen. Which at 3 o'clock in the morning is quite startling.

This isn't the only photo I have of Mary, but it's the first time I've seen her up close and personal. Her face is only inches from my own. She might've just paused to gather her thoughts...or perhaps she's waiting for me to gather mine.

Mary was my grandmother's grandmother, a woman whose genes I and my children and their children carry. She's around 75 years old here.

As I airbrush away a bit of "lint" here and a spot there, I can see every line and wrinkle in her leathery face. Lines I could easily remove with a few strokes of the mouse.

But I won't.

I know how most of them got there, and she earned each and every one.

Some are from birthing seven children in farmhouses in Pennsylvania, western Virginia before it became West Virginia, and Illinois.

Some are from working in the fields with her husband on those farms.

Some are from the death of a daughter taking the first step through the door of womanhood.

Some are from not knowing what happened to one son who never quite recovered from horrors experienced in the Civil War, and another who disappeared while working a case in Colorado for the Pinkerton Detective Agency and was never seen again.

The rest are from the year or so after the death of Michael Cupp, her husband of 52 years, after their youngest son ejected her from the Kansas farm she and Michael had homesteaded in 1866. The farm Michael's will said she was to continue to inhabit until her death, after which - and only then - it was to go to the son.

From documents on file at the Lyon County courthouse, I suspect Mary wore out several pairs of shoes going back and forth to it to regain possession of the farm that was rightfully hers - legally and morally.

But she did get it back, then rewrote her own will to leave the youngest son exactly one dollar.

I think you'll agree she earned every line and wrinkle in that photograph many times over.

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Comments 102 comments

robie2 profile image

robie2 6 years ago from Central New Jersey

Oh I love these family stories. They are such a strong connection to the past. I agree Mary earned every wrinkle and she sure fixed that greedy son of hers. She sounds like a very practical, down to earth woman. Thanks for introducing us all to her here on Hubpages

Bad_Company 6 years ago

As Rod Stewart once said " Every Picture Tells A Story " and you told that one well. Nice to see you back writing my dear friend, you I personally have missed loads x

Nelle Hoxie 6 years ago

Thrown off the land by her own son. That is betrayal at it's worst. And I agree with BC, it's great to have you back writing.

TamCor profile image

TamCor 6 years ago from Ohio

This was so interesting to read--I love how you mixed the "old"--your grandmother and her story, with the "new", how to improve old photographs!

I am as fascinated with my family history as you seem to be--it's very addicting, isn't it?

Thanks for a great hub!


ralwus 6 years ago

Oh Jama, I am so glad you finally did another hub. I can't imagine what it was like to get your photo taken back then, but it was time consuming. This is a fascinating story about your ancestor and now I must follow the link you provided about her greedy son. Genealogy is so much fun.

Candie V profile image

Candie V 6 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

I'm thrilled to see you writing again!

Incredible! What a fighter she is (was)!! Now her spirit, strength and heart is now being passed on for future generations! My family has just such photos, and just such stories.

Many families don't have legacies to pass on, no photos, no stories. For the families that don't, I'd encourage them to start where then can, and pass these on.

Thank you JamaGene.. you made me grin this morning!!!

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

What a great Hub. Family history is always so interesting. Thanks for sharing.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks all! Nice to know I was missed! I know I've said this elsewhere, but people who confine family history research to names and dates are missing out on some exciting stuff.

Candie V, those who don't have photos or stories can type an ancestor's name into Google and see what comes up. Chances are other descendants have already posted stories (and sometimes photos!) about the same family and will be happy to share. Just be sure to double-check their "facts" for accuracy against censuses, local birth and marriage records, etc.

Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid

Jama! I can't believe you're posting again! And on the same day I also decided to post, too! Talk about karma! Wait, what does this have to do with karma? Laugh! Coincidence, I meant coincidence!

Rewriting her will to leave her son one dollar is such a nice "happy ending", all the more so because it's factual! Yes, I agree that she earned all the wrinkles -- and I agree that folks shouldn't be so ready to hide and obscure "war scars", since more often than not those are the traits that distinguish one individual from another, and those distinguishers often mean a strength of character that is sinful to remove with "makeup".

BESOS to you!

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

A wonderful story, Jama, and it's good to make contact again. I only wish I had your talent with photos -- I've got a few myself that could use your deft touch.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Besos to you too, Elena! How funny that we both posted again on the same day. Wow....

Bill, I use an ancient image editing program called PaintShopPro 4.0. I upgraded to newer versions but found them to be memory hogs with a lot of effects and features that I didn't or would never ever use, so I went back to the older version.

Beware of programs that claim they can restore old or damaged photos "automatically" because a lot of detail and sharpness will be lost. Restoring old or damaged photos is not a project for the impatient.

KCC Big Country profile image

KCC Big Country 6 years ago from Central Texas

First of all, the title caught my attention, then I saw it was JamaGenee!! JG, I have missed you! So glad to see you back!! Great story too. I got involved in geneology in college and got my parents hooked on it. They had the time to conduct the research and found loads of info and pictures. It is a very exciting hobby.

Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon Hamilton 6 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

Fascinating story and activity. Loved the Hub and would like to add my name to the long list of people glad to see you back active on Hub Pages again.

The Old Firm profile image

The Old Firm 6 years ago from Waikato/Bay Of Plenty, New Zealand

Hi JG,good to here from you again.

I learned- (That scanning on high resolution is the way to go)

and a little bit of history.



It's just me profile image

It's just me 6 years ago from Alaska

My middle child is in the process of trying to talk my mother into allowing her to scan all of the old family photos. With such a large family we think it will benefit everyone to have picyures of the faces to go with the family stories. You seem to have done a wonderful job with yours. Thank you for sharing.

jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

Hi JamaGenee,

It's great to read a hub from you again! I have been wondering what happened to you.

I was really intrigued by your title. I thought it was some kind of apparition at first.

What a clever way of putting photo restoration and genealogy together. You are right about not getting rid of the wrinkles. They really tell great stories.

I really enjoyed this hub! Thank you for sharing!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Its just me, I do hope your mother can be convinced to allow the old family photos to be scanned and shared! Otherwise, they could end up with someone who'll either hoard them or (worst case), dump them. This almost happened on my mother's side. I shudder to think where a trunk full of pix, albums, and letters would be if my gm hadn't had the presence of mind to give them to another granddaughter rather than leave their disposal to the children of the daughter she lived with. That cousin has scanned and shared many items in the hoard, others she has simply given outright to family members to scan and share with their own children. Without that trunk, we could never have identified long dead relatives, or as you pointed out, put faces with the stories.

If your mc has a laptop and a fairly new scanner, the photos could be scanned (in the highest resolution) in your mother's presence, then edited/cropped elsewhere. When my gm dusted off the huge Cupp family bible in the early '80s, the only public Xerox machine was at the library. She only allowed it to leave the house on the condition that I would have it back in an hour. (That bible, btw, disappeared after Grandma died and whichever of our other cousins has it isn't talking.)

Remind your mother that as long as she has the only prints of those photos, one natural disaster (such as a fire or flood) and they could be gone forever.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Jill, I didn't stop writing, I've just been doing it on my blog, Saturday's Child (the link is in my profile), where there are dozens more family stories and photos. ;D

Nancy's Niche profile image

Nancy's Niche 6 years ago from USA

A great article and your blog is beautifully done too. I finally went through boxes from my mother’s home that I had stored after her death. I and found so many treasures. The task was a combination of joy, tears and excitement. I found old photo's of family members that will help me complete my ancestry book and other special possessions.

Michelle PG Richardson 6 years ago

Love this to pieces. I'm always fascinated by family history, others' especially for some reason. And I'm always fascinated by the stories behind the wrinkles. What a marvellous looking woman your great-great-grandmother was.

pgrundy 6 years ago

Awesome photo and story! I have a box of old photos like that that I keep meaning to scan into the computer and do something with for my kids, before no one is left to remember who they are. Thank you for sharing this story with everyone.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Nancy, good for you! Yes, 'joy, excitement and tears' pretty much sums up what happens when people finally go through boxes of old photos and such. Such treasures they hold!

Michelle, I'm sure your own family history is just as fascinating! Someday you should share it with us.

Thanks, Pam! When you do get around to scanning those old photos - hopefully sooner than later - be sure to print out a copy for each child and one extra. This will save many nasty squabbles later on as to who should have the pix of great-grandma. It's also a good idea for safety's sake. A cousin had always thought all his baby photos had been destroyed in a fire when he was 3. He was thrilled to learn they hadn't, because his mother had sent copies to my mother, which I happily scanned and sent to him.

Duchess OBlunt 6 years ago

I'm among your other fans who are happy to see you back! I love the story you told of your ancestor Mary and I have to agree, I think she earned every single wrinkle.

jayjay40 profile image

jayjay40 6 years ago from Bristol England

what a lovely read this was. Thanks for sharing

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

jayjay40, you're most welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.

De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

Oh, you lucky person! To be able to look at your own genes in the eyes and to see that interesting face, to count the medals of honour that are those wrinkles! I am envious :-)

Missi Darnell profile image

Missi Darnell 6 years ago from Southern California

Fascinating... especially for us genealogy freaks. Well, at least I'm a freak about it. What a lovely story and tribute to your ancestor.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Missi Darnell, so glad to know another genealogy freak enjoyed this. However, "freak" sounds like something out of a circus, so I prefer to call myself a genealogy **addict**, for which there's NO cure, only more questions in need of answers. Considering the popularity of "Who Do You Think You Are?", the addiction is spreading. YAY! ;D

JaneA profile image

JaneA 6 years ago from California

Great article. I spend a lot of time scanning and restoring photographs as part of a personal history business and know that feeling of looking long at hard at an old image and having a kind of "communing" moment. Old photographs really are windows into the past.

brtaiwo 6 years ago

The description is marvelous I love the way you merge the old and new. May I'll come some couching in writing

SilverGenes 6 years ago

Very compelling, isn't it, to gaze into a face like this. I find that working on these photos is as intimate as grooming someone else or applying makeup. The connections are very different from what I expected (though I'm not sure what that was) and rather empowering. It's the embrace we would otherwise never have. Lovely to find someone else who is doing this, too. I've started sharing some of what I've 'unearthed' online for others who are looking for long lost family - maybe that's another hub.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Share away! I'm all for whatever it takes to get people interested in their family's history. And you're right - gazing into the face of a long-dead ancestor while scanning and restoring old photos IS the "embrace we would otherwise never have".

Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 6 years ago from The English Midlands

I love family history ~ and especially old photos.

Great hub! :)

habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

I love old family stories and vintage photos. Enjoyed the read!

epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

Always a pleasure to be scared out of my living wits by one of your spooky but thought provoking hubs!

About a month ago my deceased mother (which I believe) moved my computer mouse (of my old desktop - now I am on a laptop) to another table 5 feet away. It was found sitting face-up with the cord neatly wrapped around the answer machine. Yes I have two cats but the most they ever do is knock it over onto the floor. I live alone and about a year ago a 5 gallon water container (empty as it were) was moved out here to the main room from the bathroom. Again it was not moved by me and I found it sitting upright!

The only other two people who have ever lived here was my mum and dad who built this place back in 1956.

We were a close family and I have no brothers or sisters.


Also my favorite ghost movie is the original THE HAUNTING as directed by Robert Wise in 1963!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

epi, I think you either have a homeless person living secretly in the cellar OR...your mum is still picking up after you. She doesn't seem to be a fan of modern technology either. lol!

Seriously now...unless you find evidence of another live human in your home, I wouldn't worry about objects being moved around. I had the silly notion when my kids left home that things would remain where I put them. The spirits who pop in on a semi-regular basis put the lie to that one. It's to the point that I wouldn't know how to act if things *didn't* move about "on their own". ;D

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

genealogy is fascinating,isn't it?

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Genealogy is addictive! lol!

bladesofgrass profile image

bladesofgrass 6 years ago from The Fields of Iowa

Fantastic breakdown of the family. I especially loved the fact that she left Jerry only a dollar. Priceless :D

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

So did I! Doubt that she would've left him even that much if it hadn't been the minimum amount required by law to keep him from contesting the will!

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California

Wow. I can't decide what is more beautiful: Your story or the way you wrote it. I'm going to go read about the Pinkerton Detective Agency after I hit post on this... not sure if that's your hub or something else, but, just an awesome read. Props to you for this wonderful work and props to De Greek for shining the light on it for me.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Shadesbreath: Wow back. Can't tell you how flattered and honored I am to receive such high praise from you. (No, the Pinkerton hub isn't mine, only linked from here.)

saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 6 years ago

I thank De Greek once more for pointing me to your hubs. What an interesting read, old photos somehow have a mystery of their own, finding them is pure gold and having the talent to restore them like you and Silvergenes is a bonus. I will have to now wander to Silvergenes hubs and have a read. Thanks for the share, hugs and peace.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

I too thank De Greek for sending you here. Snapshots are great, but I think because studio "portraits" (as they were known then) were posed and a subject had to sit perfectly still for several minutes, one gets a better "read" on what type of person an ancestor was away from the studio. Happy and relaxed, for instance, or uptight, or just plain bored with life.

chasingcars 6 years ago

Yeah for Grandma! Great story. Aren't there always great stories in the past? A trip through Ancestry.com would bring a wealth of material.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

Jama what a fun person you are. I can just see you in the wee hours cleaning up this image and reading history in the wrinkles and eyes--divining the story the records missed. I have great grandparents that have that sort of history in their eyes and faces and farther back--"Fiddling Gus" and "Bold Robin." What tales we could tell if we could decipher the clues. Thank you for taking us along. =:)

masmasika 6 years ago

Great hub to ponder upon. I love my ancestors and maybe I could be writing about them too. You gave me an idea to write about thanks. But I do talk about them in my blog. http://tan-0-umalikayo.blogspot.com/

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Yes, do write about your ancestors! I also highly recommend your blog http://tan-0-umalikayo.blogspot.com/ to anyone interested in the culture of the Philippines.

mysterylady 89 profile image

mysterylady 89 6 years ago from Florida

I am so glad De Greek directed me to your hub. I enjoyed the hub but also your comments. I am going to try locating some of my ancestors on Google. Many thanks!

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain

What a fascinating hub, I loved the photograph, and your telling of it's history which you did wonderfully. I love family history I just wish I had asked more questions when my parents were alive. Thanks for sharing I enjoyed every word and of course the photograph too.

Dardia profile image

Dardia 6 years ago from Michigan

Wonderful hub. I wish I had the photos and the information of my ancestors to pass on. Our trail has gone cold right away. My grand father on my father's side came to the USA from Norway and there are several stories about it and we don't know which is the right one. He was gassed twice once as a Merchant Marine and again in WWI. He was very quiet and so no one really knows much about him.

A great photo restoration software (also inexpensive considering the others) is Adobe Photoshop Elements. It is not all that difficult to use but if anyone does buy it and finds it difficult I guess I could begin writing hubs on how to use it.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Dardia, you already know more about your immigrant grandfather than some do after years of research! Have you requested his WWI service records? Or records from his time in the Merchant Marines? If he became a U.S. citizen, his Application for Naturalization will contain a gold mine of information about his past. Don't give up yet!

Dardia profile image

Dardia 6 years ago from Michigan

I have tried to get information from Norway, but without being able to read it I can't get anything out of what I have found online. They say that I have to go to Norway, which I would love to do but can't afford. Then I would need a translator. I guess he joined the U.S. Army in WWI to become a citizen. I guess they may have information. That is a start. He had people from Norway looking for him in 1940's. They claimed to be his family but he said they were not. We are not sure why they would claim him if he wasn't related or why he would say they weren't if they were.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

I have heard Norwegian is a difficult language to learn. Is what you've found online handwritten documents? If not, Google's translator should turn it into English. If handwritten, look online for any Norwegian immigrant society in the U.S. Such organizations usually have members who are happy to translate old documents. Again, don't give up!

Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 6 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

Thank you for the story. Loved it. I will be back to read more

Dardia profile image

Dardia 6 years ago from Michigan

Thanks for the information JamaGenee! I will be trying all of your suggestions.

marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 6 years ago from USA

Hi JamaGenee, I felt like I was sitting with you looking over your shoulder. You and I have so much in common with our life and relatives. Once again, I too, have an old box with photos that need some TLC. Looking at the land and background in my photos, I can tell how they labored.

Though I'm grateful for refrigerated air, I wish I could re-capture those hearts and the respect they felt for each other, hard work, and honorable values. They were still victims of "scoundrels" to be sure, but now it seems we're bombarded by them and truth is so much harder for some to see.

Bless your efforts to bring your ancestors to life!

alexmita profile image

alexmita 6 years ago from London

Jamagenee beautiful story. Firstly because photography is my first passion, and I love restoring old images. Secondly, it's incredible that you know so much about your great great grandmother. I wish I knew more about mine. She was a very strong and determinded woman. I know that my great grandmother was a midwife in a village shared by Greek and Turkish Cypriots. She would ride visit families on her horse and she would get paid with sweets, food, and clothes.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

alexmita, I knew little or nothing about my ancestors when I become hooked on genealogy 25+ years ago. Everything I know now is the result of diligently searching for information wherever I could find it. Just be curious enough to keep asking questions until you get answers. If possible, visit the village where your ggm was a midwife. It's not a stretch that descendants of the babies she delivered still live there and would be thrilled to meet you.

alternate poet profile image

alternate poet 6 years ago

Nice treatment - these little snippets from the past should be kept along with the photo's - nicely done!

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, I love the way that you brought alive in this hub, she became a real person again, instead of just a photo. I have inherited hundreds of photos like this since my elder relatives have passed away, and I spend many an hour trying to figure out who is who. I wish that they had all written their names on the back, it would have been so much easier! cheers nell

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, Nell! "CSI" and similar shows have nothing on a genealogist with a good eye when it comes to putting names to faces in old, unlabeled family photos. I too inherited hundreds of them and became quite adept at identifying most of the people in them by comparing facial bone structure and other physical characteristics to the few photos that WERE labeled!

CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Other people always seem to have such interesting ancestors! It makes you realise what pampered live we lead today when you read about the hardships our family had to live through. Very interesting hub

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

CMHypno, 100 or 200 years from now, descendants of your family will find your life interesting enough to scour records for every tidbit about it, warts and all. But official documents and family stories aren't always accurate, so I plan to write (and leave many copies of) "Great-Granny Was No Angel" about the "warts" and what *really* happened to cause them. ;D

alberich 5 years ago

Amazing life story!

If we piled up all the hardship that our ancestors went through to get us here, we would be able to climb far out in the infinite universe. And that’s what it is all about, our life’s echoes in the universe. Bringing life into the barren infinity..


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

"...our life's echoes in the universe. Bringing life into the barren infinity". I like it. Very much because it's so true. Thanks!

Pearldiver profile image

Pearldiver 5 years ago from Tomorrow - In Words & NZ Time.

Hello there... I'm pleased that you are writing again, as I Like your work and style so much. This is an excellent piece and she is lucky that time and a loving ancestor have brought her back to life again. Hope your life is good JamaG and you are remembering to snap a few pics of you for the kids of 2200 to write of. Take Care and Be well.. Thank you for sharing one of your talents.

Mrs Cookie profile image

Mrs Cookie 5 years ago from United Kingdom

What an incredably moving story!

Old photographs are an excellent way of connecting to an ancestor and makes you realise that they were real people with real lives instead of just names and dates. It always makes me wonder what our ancestors would think about having their photograph out there for the whole world to see and viewed by a strange machine sitting in the corner of a room.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thanks, Pearldiver, for the encouragement. And thanks to you too, Mrs. Cookie, for a good laugh! Some, but not all, of MY ancestors would be thrilled to know people are still looking at their photos, no matter the method of display! ;D

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Your great-great grandmother certainly had some spunk. Glad that she succeeded in getting her home back and repaid her son in turn for what he deserved.

In the case of my widowed great-grandfather and his children who were still at home, the wife of the oldest son who inherited the farm made it so miserable for the remaining family that my great-grandfather moved them into town into another lodging. This included my grandmother and her siblings (except, of course, her oldest brother who stayed on the farm).

Guess many families have stories like this if they dig deep enough. It was common practice for the farm to be given to the eldest son generations ago.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

I suspected and now you've verified that the son's wife was the reason your ggf moved himself and the three girls into town. Usually though, it was the widow who was forced off her property, not the widowER, but most never got it back. Quite unusual for that time that my gggm actually did get the family farm back, but then Mary's husband's will clearly stated that the farm was hers until her death, and only then would Uncle Jerry inherit it.

He had what I call "Ignoring the Surviving Spouse Syndrome". One spouse dies, but the other is still very much alive when one or more of the children swoop in right after the funeral to take the house and everything in it as if the surviving spouse didn't exist anymore. This happened to a friend's father just last year, and to another friend when her husband died. The response of both was "Back off! This is still MY home and nothing leaves it unless *I* say so!". ;D

kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

Thanks for this hub, very moving. Getting to know our ancestors can be a little creepy at first but then again there's always a lesson or two to learn from them. It's also fun to know how they look like!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

You're most welcome, kerlynb. Knowing what long-dead ancestors looked like is even more fun when you are lucky enough to have photos of *their* ancestors. One of the family treasures is a grainy pic of Mary's parents taken around 1870. From the expression on his face, it's easy to see that her dad (James McClellan) had a sense of humor, apparently not appreciated by her mom, Abigail (Cornwell) McC! ;D

Don Bobbitt profile image

Don Bobbitt 5 years ago from Ruskin Florida

Good Read. Voted UP and Interesting. Thanks!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thank you, Don, for stopping by and reading my musings.

Freeway Flyer profile image

Freeway Flyer 4 years ago

Clearly, this woman lived in a whole different world than the one that I am familiar with. When I look into her face, I see toughness, like she has a face of leather. I also can't help wondering what is running through her mind.

Using her wrinkles to tell the story is a terrific technique. Thanks for sharing.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thank you, Freeway Flyer! Mary lived in a world I was certainly unfamiliar with, and I'm certain I couldn't have survived in it, let alone as well as she did. As for the wrinkles, it would've been impossible to tell her story without using them!

Darkmetaly profile image

Darkmetaly 4 years ago from Iceland Höfn í Hornafirði.

interesting story here in Iceland we have a website called Íslendingabók where we can see are ancestors from the year 1800 and something to now. I found out that I was related to a really bad man who murdered a child. the thinks we dont know about are ancestors.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Darkmetaly, how wonderful you found that website, but remember that ancestor is only one of hundreds from which you inherited your genes. You are also lucky in that, due to its near-total isolation from the rest of the world for 900 years or so, the genealogy of Icelanders has been meticulously recorded and preserved, so I'm guessing there are far more pleasant surprises in your family tree!

Darkmetaly profile image

Darkmetaly 4 years ago from Iceland Höfn í Hornafirði.


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

I would love to read more about this remarkable 4G grandmother of yours, Jama. Going through old family photos brings out many stories from the past -- I must get a scanner and work on my ancestral photos like you do.

I enjoyed reading this hub.

Up, A, B, I, and H+

Hankscita profile image

Hankscita 2 years ago from Florida

Love this Hub. I really love historical family stories, and even more I love the pictures. I was with you through every word on this one.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

@Phyllis Doyle, thanks for the "alphabet" of kudos! Yes, DO get a scanner and start on those old ancestral photos! One advantage, you'll be able to enlarge old snapshots to see things you never dreamed were caught on film (like my dad as a child sticking out his tongue!)

Alas, there's not much more to tell about 4GGM Mary McClellan Cupp, as very few of her letters still exist. The one I treasure - or a copy of it, rather - is one she wrote from Kansas to a brother on the occasion of her and her husband's 50th anniversary. It's priceless because it's the only documentation extant verifying the date of their marriage. They married in a county in West Virginia whose courthouse burned to the ground during the Civil War. I'd despaired of ever getting proof for the marriage date until a distant cousin discovered boxes of old letters in the attic of the farmhouse that had passed down through several gens of descendants of Ggm Mary's brother.

@Hankscita, glad you enjoyed the tale of my ggm. If one really looks at them, old family photos are more than just a person or group holding an expression for a few minutes.

Thanks to both of you for reading and commenting! ;D

ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

It does sound as if she had a difficult life, and that she did earn every wrinkle and gray hair. But at least you know her as much as possible, given the years between you.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Hi, I am so glad she got it back, and left him a dollar! lol! what a lovely photo, I am sure I have read this before, but with memory being the size of a pea at the moment I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again! lol!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Nell, you did read this before (and commented!), but I understand perfectly "memory the size of a pea", since I suffer from the same condition. But, I prefer to call such lapses "senior blond moments". Since you aren't a senior citizen, just plain "blond moment" or "down to my last working brain cell" works equally well. That said, I'm thrilled that you enjoyed reading it again! ;D

kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dear JamaGenee,

This hub is terrific, remarkable and very moving. Wonderful work, my dear friend.

Voted up and all of the choices--I would have voted Perfect if it were a choice.

Keep up the great work.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Thank you for the kudos, Kenneth! And thank you for reading and commenting! Restoring old family photos is the best way I know of to really get to "know" a long-dead ancestor, but alas this is the only known photo of Mary. I only wish I had one of her when she was younger! ;D

kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dear JamaGenee,

I enjoyed this piece very much. And the way you wrote it, made it that much richer.

Keep up the fine work.

Your Friend for Life,


delia-delia profile image

delia-delia 2 years ago

Great story! I love it...she left one dollar, good for her!

My family had several like that, where they left most to the poor people or a trust for the city.

Virginia Allain profile image

Virginia Allain 2 years ago from Central Florida

What a great story. Our ancestors may have known each other as mine lived in Lyon County and Greenwood County, Kansas also. I wonder if you have any Martin, Joy, Kennedy, McGhee in your family tree in Kansas?

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Virginia, LOL! I DO have GW and LY county MARTINs in my tree, dozens in fact! Thomas Claggett MARTIN was my 1C4R *by marriage* thru wife Mary "Polly" SULLIVAN, whose mother was a Cornwell.

Thomas and Polly's dau Mary Eliza m. Charlie VAN ORDEN, a great and long-time friend of my mother's side of the family for many decades.

Are these your Martins??

Virginia Allain profile image

Virginia Allain 2 years ago from Central Florida

Yes, actually, it is. Thomas Claggett Martin's brother named Charles Coleman Martin is my great-great grandfather. From there, it goes John Thomas Martin - Charles Lorenzo Martin - Clyde Owen Martin - me.

kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dec. 16

Dear JamaGenee,

Hey. Just passing through and thought I would stop by and wish YOU and yours a Very Merry CHRISTmas. Be safe, have fun and remember to laugh.

I think of you often and very fondly.

Write when you can.


Kenneth, Your Friend for Life

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

@Virginia Allain: GREAT! At least I know spending half the night tracking John Thomas MARTIN's STONE in-laws wasn't just an exercise in unbridled curiosity! (Even it had been, that's my idea of fun...) And...I also verified your CARROLLs and my CARROLLs aren't related in any way, either. Yay! (For proving the point once and for all.)

Enuff of this. I emailed you offline about our Dearly Departeds. Climbing up and down family trees is NOT everybody's idea of "fun"! ;D

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Hay, Kenneth! A Very Merry Christmas to you and yours, too! May you all be safe while having a fun-filled, laugh-filled holiday! ;D

Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 2 years ago from West By God

I know this is an old hub, but it is still a very good one. I have done extensive work on my genealogy and also researched much of the WEST Virginina area and how it became a state from Virginia. That was hard work. Old stories will always being many memories back and yours did. That is a great way to keep them alive and your directions for photography is great. Thanks for the share and briging this back to light fo the new hubbers whe have here.

It is nice to see you again!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Lady G! Lovely to see you again too! Having tracked many of my own ancestors and the ancestors of others in WEST Virginia, I wasn't focused on that state's history as much as trying to figure out why they were bouncing back and forth across the border with SW Pennsylvania on a regular basis, before I finally caught on that THEY didn't "bounce", the state line did. Bravo to you for hanging in there and sorting it out!

As for this being an "old" hub, nice to see people still find it worth reading!

Happy holidays to you and yours! ;D

Sarah Jewel profile image

Sarah Jewel 5 months ago from Nashville

Awesome story, I love it! Have you done anything on ancestry.com? I spent about a year on it (seemingly constantly) and boy did I find out some stuff! Keep up the good work!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 months ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Sarah Jewel, thanks for the kudos! As for Ancestry dot com, I've spent many years there looking up my own ancestors as well as those of friends and co-workers. Just yesterday, in fact, I found the entire Probate file of my gr-gr-gf who'd emigrated to Kansas from Sweden in July 1865. I'd assumed from censuses and such that he hadn't been a "poor immigrant" when he and his bride of six months landed at NYC with her parents and most of her siblings and their spouses. But I had NO idea just how well he'd succeeded in the decades after their arrival! Once again, my "World" subscription to Ancestry has proved to be worth every penny!

As for "boy did I find out some stuff", isn't that the idea when one goes poking around in one's family tree? I'm ever amazed at how many secrets I've unearthed and mysteries I've solved since I began rattling the family skeletons 30+ years ago! How far back have you gone???

Sarah Jewel profile image

Sarah Jewel 5 months ago from Nashville

I've managed to back to the 1600's in England on my dad's side. The funny thing is my gr-gr-gr -gf settled within 30 miles of where I was born. I guess once they hit middle Tennessee they never had any desire to go anywhere else! Also found out I'm descended from Pocahantas on my mom's side.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 months ago from Central Oklahoma Author

Sarah, most humble apologies for not replying sooner! How wonderful that you've managed to get back to the 1600s in England on your dad's side! Where specifically? County/shire (i.e. Yorkshire, Sussex, Hampshire, etc) or region (the South of England, the West Country, etc). Just curious. ;D

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