Monday, March 16, 2015

Consider Why Your Ancestor May Have Paid More for a Special Photograph

Digital cameras have made photography so easy and cheap to take hundreds of photos that younger people may not know that it once required a bit of thought and money.

They also may not know that most people, including professional photographers, took black-and-white photos.

Before color film and prints became cheap and easily purchased, photographers offered hand-colored black-and-white prints to make them look like color photos.

No doubt hand-colored prints cost a little more than black-and-white prints.

Beatrice Valara Pierce (1921-1993), who almost everyone called Bea, had this hand-colored print made for her high school graduation in 1938.

Note the diploma scroll in her right hand. She graduated from Wilmer High School in Wilmer, Alabama, after the 11th grade. At the time, high school stopped at that grade, at least for those in the country school..

Inspired by one of her teachers, Bea often repeated her dream of becoming a teacher. But she never pursued the dream.

Clearly, having this photo commemorating her graduation was important to Bea.

Do you have similar family photos in your collection? Have you thought about why they may have been important to your ancestor?
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Were you closer to one of your siblings than to the others?


Two of the five sons of N.B. "Bonie" Pierce and Julia L. Moody pose in what is probably the front yard of their farm at Pierce Level, just south of Wilmer, Alabama.

On the left is George Carl Pierce (1916-1989), always called Carl. Beside him is Ralph Bailey Pierce (1917-1984).

Notice the difference in the two boys' dress. Carl is in overalls and barefooted. He looks ready to play or perhaps work in the fields. Ralph, on the other hand, is wearing a white shirt, bow tie, dress pants, and dress shoes. Perhaps he was going to a party or a formal event of some kind.

Being born just 18 months apart, the two brothers may have been closer to each other growing up than they were to their other brothers and sisters.

Were you closer to one of your siblings than to the others? Why?

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Do You Have Family Photos That Contradict Family Stories?


Julia Moody Pierce poses in the front yard of her family's Wilmer, Alabama, farm with daughters Velma Moree Pierce (1913-1993) on the left and Beatrice Valara Pierce (1921-1993).

Notice that Julia and the children appear well dressed, including nice shoes. The children are not in play clothes and they may be dressed for church or some other event. Clearly the family took pride in its appearance and could afford to be well-dressed.

As adults, the Pierce children often talked about how poor they were as children. Family photos show only a selected moment in their lives. Yet, living on a farm meant they had food, even if they had to work hard for it.

What the Pierce children may have meant about being poor is that they didn't have a lot of cash to spend. And that was true. But while they may not have had a lot of money for the things they wanted, they seem to have had the things they needed.

Do you have any family photos that seem to contradict family stories?

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What is Eula Moody Harvey's Birth Date?



Eula Moody Harvey (1897-1972) is pictured here holding a child, possibly one of her children.

Eula was one of the five sisters of Julia L. Moody Pierce (1886-1965) of Wilmer, Alabama.

Eula's gravestone says that she was born in 1900 instead of the 1897 calculated from census records. Because family members often are the source for death certificates and gravestones, they can make mistakes in dates.

Do you have any records that confirm Eula's birth date?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

When the In-laws Came Calling


Napoleon Bonaparte "Bonie" Pierce (1880-1964), on the right, poses with two of his in-laws who came for a visit to his farm house in Pierce Level, a farming community just outside Wilmer, Alabama.

Oliver Cayton (1895-1964), on the left, was the husband of Lillie Moody, (1893-1982). Lillie was the sister of Bonie's wife Julia L. Moody (1886-1965).

Don Vickers (1893-1965), center, was the husband of Hazel Lee Pierce (1905-1985). Hazel was the daughter of Bonie and Julia. Don and Hazel owned a farm in Faunsdale, Alabama.

Did your in-laws visit regularly? Did they come on a particular day? Did your family go visiting other family members?
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Monday, December 29, 2014

Did You Visit Relatives Down on the Farm?


This photo from the late 1940s shows some members of the Pierce family visiting the Faunsdale, Alabama, cattle farm of Don and Hazel Vickers.

From left are Julia Moody Pierce (1886-1965), her son George Carl Pierce (1916-1989) always called Carl, Carl's daughter Carol Ann (b. 1943), her mother and Carl's wife Jeannette Elizabeth Hagen, Carl's father Napoleon Bonaparte "Bonie" Pierce (1880-1964), and Don Alva Vickers (1893-1965), husband of Julia and Bonie's daughter Hazel Lee Pierce (1905-1985).

The Pierce kin visited the Vickers about once a year to get a side of beef to put in the freezer back home in Mobile, Alabama.

Did you and your family visit kin down on the farm? What memories do you have of the visits?

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Family Business Tells Changing Story of American Commerce


A steady stream of delivery men to the Reservoir Inn at 4900 Moffett Road in Mobile, Alabama, told the changing story of American commerce.

As companies grew and merged over the years, you could watch local or regional product names change to national brands.

In the above photo, Wilmer Graham, a delivery man for Graham's Dairy, stands beside his truck with Beatrice Valara Pierce (1921-1993). Wilmer and Bea were lifelong friends. This photo was taken in front of the Reservoir Inn, which belonged to Bea's father, N.B. "Bonie" Pierce.

At the time, the Reservoir Inn was an early form of the convenience store that sold gasoline along with convenience food items. It also included a bar, whose patrons often included milk delivery drivers just getting off their shifts early in the mornings.

Note the 8-digit phone number for the dairy painted on the truck. The truck lettering also gives the location of the dairy as Moffat (now spelled Moffett) Road.

Bea is wearing bobby socks and saddle shoes, which became popular in the 1940s. British and American governments rationed silk and nylon during World War II. So women couldn't wear traditional stockings. The British came up with a substitute, a short ankle sock. Young girls and women picked up the British style, calling it the bobby sock after the British slang word for police officers. This style remained popular into the 1950s.

Wilmer is wearing either spats over his shoes or wing-tip shoes.

Note that the ground in front of the Reservoir Inn is unpaved. Later it was paved.

Did your family operate a business? What story does it tell?