|1924 Helen Louise Linn age 13|
I am sure each of us who call ourselves genealogists have a list of names that continue to mystify and haunt us. I have several who qualify and in the midst of my "fall cleaning" I came back across Helen Louise Linn. Helen was the daughter of Allen Linn who was my second cousin three times removed. Actually, it is not just Helen who fascinates me, it is her whole family - her parents and siblings.
The story of my fascination is interesting in itself because it is one of those that you tend to read about rather then have happen to you. About two years ago, September 2008 to be exact, I was doing one of my regular runs through E-bay in hopes of finding something connected to my family. I had had some luck in the past, but mostly in the form of location related items such as postcards and books for various towns my ancestors had lived in. I looked upon these as icing on my genealogical cake since I really do believe that family history is much more than just the dates of a person's life.
On this particular E-bay hunt, I happened upon a photograph of a Linn family in front of the Rankin House in Ripley, Ohio. Most of the roots of my maternal line are in Ripley, and the town's main cemetery, Maplewood, is populated with my ancestors, including the Linn's. After contacting the owner of the photograph to check on the details, it was determined that this Linn family was indeed a branch on my tree. As luck would have it, the owner of the picture had acquired a box of Linn family photographs as part of an estate sale in New Jersey where the last known living family member, who I am assuming was Helen, had died. I was able to purchase the whole lot of photographs through the owner's E-bay store. I was thrilled! I had read of these fantastic Internet finds, but never thought I would be one of the lucky ones.
|Mary Elizabeth, Kenneth, and Helen Linn|
So, along with this box of photographs, I began to research the family of Allen Linn, his wife Sarah Neafie McCollough, and their three children, Kenneth, Mary Elizabeth, and Helen. The basic research wasn't that difficult. The family lived in Manhattan and were found in each census year from 1910 to 1930. I found records of their travels to Europe. Allen had been a silk salesman and manufacturer and he had registered for the World War I draft. Kenneth had joined the Army during World War II. He had been a student and teacher at the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York City. I had the dates, the occupations, the census, but it wasn't enough. It was the pictures that kept haunting me.
The life of a family, all laid out in a box of forgotten photographs. A life with all its ups and downs, joy and sorrow, the details of which can not be found in any database. The photographs reveal some of the obvious. The Linn family was not poor. The children had formal portraits taken. There are pictures of what could only be vacation memories. The clothing was fashionable. Time spent with friends was enjoyed.
The photographs also show the pain that had to have lived with this family. There are numerous pictures of Allen and Sarah's middle child, Mary Elizabeth. Mary Elizabeth suffered from what must have been some form of muscular disease. She is pictured with her live-in nurse, being carried, her limbs wasted and thin, but her face always had a smile for the camera. Her pictures tell some of her story and I have been able to fill in the dates. I found her death in the New York Times and her burial record in the Trinity Church Burial Records. She died at the age of thirty in 1939.
I came across that box of photographs again the other day. I've added several lines to my To-Do list. I'm going to scan the photos to add to the Linn Family Tree that is on Ancestry.com and then the photographs will find their way into a nice album along with the research I've done. There will be no grandchildren or great children who will come looking for them as all three Linn children died without ever marrying or having children. It is the end of a family line, but not the end of the family. I am happy that they remain safe and secure in my care.