Sepia Saturday – Puzzling Penmanship

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs.

Today’s prompt suggests men and youths, sports, hats, men in shorts and socks or men in suits, and politics. The photo is of Irish Revolutionary Leader, Michael Collins, at the Senior Hurling Championship match against Dublin on September 12, 1921. He’s talking to the Kilkenny hurlers at Croke Park in Dublin.

I have selected a photograph with a man in a hat, youths, and a building in the background.

Thomas F. and Sarah Hoskins Home

The building is the home of the Thomas Franklin Hoskins family. The perspective makes the people seem small and what was surely a small house seem large. That’s Tom (in the hat) with three of his children. My grandfather, Thomas Hoskins, is on the right. On the far left is Ethel and the girl in the middle is Edna. They lived in Mystic, Iowa.

Sarah Stokes

You may remember Sarah Stokes from my post last week. That 11th child she gave birth to (Sarah Elizabeth Bryan), grew up and married Thomas Franklin Hoskins. Pictured here are three of Sarah Stokes’ grandchildren and son-in-law. 

Too bad the two Sarahs aren’t in the picture!


But it is the undecipherable handwriting on the side of the prompt picture that led me to choose my photograph today. This is what’s on the back of my photograph:

Believe me when I say it took me a while to decipher this. Here is my solution to this puzzle:

April 2 1913

Well I got hear all to Ottumwa I sayed with Rance last night I found him lots
better he looks bad the Ottumwa doctor said he had got passaned some how he give him medicine that helped him write away well i got home to day the rest of the folks wa all write with love sis Hoskins

Then the postcard was turned upside down and reads:
This is our house an tom an tommy an Edna an Ethel 

The postcard is addressed to
Frank Storms
IO  (Iowa)
route 3 

Thank goodness for the legible printing along the side to identify the people in the photograph!

Frank Storms was the nephew of Sarah E. and Thomas F. Hoskins. Frank’s mother, Joanna (Ann) Hoskins Storms, was living with him in Montrose. Lewis Storms, Ann’s husband, was deceased at the time. Although Sarah didn’t sign her name, she is the obvious author.

It seems that Sarah and Tom’s older son, Rance, had been sick and Sarah had gone to Ottumwa (Iowa) to stay with him. The doctor thought Rance had been poisoned. (Food poisoning?)  Although Rance did not look well, the medicine worked and Rance was feeling better.

Google maps estimates the trip from Mystic to Ottumwa takes an hour by car today. I don’t know Sarah’s mode of transportation or how long it took her to get to her destination. I wonder if she took a train?

Here’s a portion of Galbraith’s railway mail service map of Iowa from 1897 so that we can imagine Sarah’s route from Mystic, in Appanoose County, northeast to Ottumwa, in Wapello County.

I love this map! The illustrator had quite a sense of humor. For the full version, look here.

“One of eight large-scale pictorial maps of midwestern states showing routes and post offices of the Railway Mail Service. Designed by Chicago railway mail clerk Frank H. Galbraith to help employees of the Railway Mail Service quickly locate counties and post offices. The maps were rented for practicing or prospective workers who numbered over 6,000 and traveled over a million miles a year on the rails sorting mail. A printed title cartouche accompanied by a list of counties for each of the states by McEwen Map Company of Chicago is pasted on the maps.”

Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division; Reference: LC Railroad maps, 220

Now hurl yourself on over to the Sepia Saturday blog and see what others have puzzled together this week.


Sepia Saturday – Mystery Couple on a Bike

Sepia Saturday provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.

I wonder how far these couples succeeded in riding arm-in-arm and in heels and a rather tight skirt?

This prompt provides me the perfect opportunity to share a couple of mystery pictures that were among my grandmother’s photographs. My “couple” are a girl and a dog.

Mystery Girl and Dog

Mystery Dog


I have no clue as to the identity of this little girl or the dog. My suspicion is that these pictures were sent to my grandmother by her English relatives. My grandmother, Eveline Coates Hoskins, corresponded with several of her cousins and her aunts who lived in Durham, England in the early to mid 1900s. They often included photographs and postcards with their letters to her. The surnames of those she corresponded with are Coates, Elgey, Hall, and Dawson.

I don’t know enough about postcards to know if the back of the postcard provides a clue as to its origin. Help, anyone?

Another possibility is that it is some family member in the U.S., or a neighbor. In either case, the location would likely be Mystic, Iowa or somewhere nearby. Our family names in Mystic, Iowa are Coates and Hoskins.

In any case, the dog looks like he has done this before.

You can find more lovely photos by following the link to the Sepia Saturday Blog.






Motivation Monday – Becoming Real

I can’t really call myself a genealogist, or even much of a family historian. Every bit of information I have gathered has been via the internet, family papers and photos, or talking with relatives. I have sent off for a few vital records and once I even requested a couple of microfilms to view at the local Family History Center…. That’s kind of like a real genealogist.

But I had never actually gone to a place where my ancestors lived. No visits to county courthouses. No cemeteries. Nada.

Just like the Velveteen Rabbit needed to be loved to become real, I need to get out of the house and do some research to become real.

Two days after Jo’s funeral, Dad(Jerry) needed to get out of the house, so we took an afternoon drive to Van Buren County, Iowa. I had done a little bit of preparation before leaving Texas – but not much given that funerals and the travel involved are typically unexpected and offer little time for advance preparations. I found “Tips for Genealogy Research Visits” on the Van Buren County Iowa Genweb Project website, and I printed out a genealogy report for the Smith side of my family. That’s all the preparation I had time for.

Our first stop was the Van Buren County Courthouse in Keosauqua. Unfortunately, we arrived at lunch time and no one was there. We looked at the historical pictures on the walls and the visitor brochures and were about to leave when an employee returned. She directed us to the Keosauqua Public Library where she thought we would have better luck finding information. Dad was getting tired and needed a little nap, so a stop at the library would serve his purposes as well as mine. Libraries are quiet and usually have comfy chairs for napping reading.

The librarian pointed me to the genealogy corner maintained by the local genealogical society and said Teresa was back there and she would be able to help me. Teresa makes frequent visits to the cemeteries in the county and contributes to Find a Grave, so she was able to give me specific directions to the cemetery I wanted to visit. I didn’t have much time – just 40 winks worth – but Teresa helped me locate a file on my family and while I was copying the contents, she found an obituary for me. When I left, she gave me her cell phone number and email address so I could contact her if I needed gravestone photos. Genealogical kindness at it’s best!

I didn’t want to leave the library. I hadn’t begun to scratch the surface of what is available. There is so much more! But my 40 winks were up and we wouldn’t make it to the cemetery if we didn’t get on our way.

I thoroughly enjoyed my baby step into “real” genealogy and look forward to another visit to Van Buren County!

Next up – our visit to the cemetery.