Old Photographs

The past few weeks were great weeks.  As a result of research done by the Karstula parish in Finland, I knew that my great great grandmother Mathilda had come to America in 1901.  Her husband had died, and she remarried and had another girl Ottilia at the age of 43.  Her new husband had already come to Ohio, and she was now following with her infant daughter and 19 year old teenager (my great grandmother).  Sadly, Mathilda died about six months after arriving, but my great grandmother found a husband, and here is their photograph circa 1902.

The only reason that I have this photograph is because I had been doing genealogy research before I came to Finland.  And so I researched the descendants of baby Ottilia and discovered that her descendants were living in Ohio.  That was great, and so I called some of them up just hoping for a return call.

They did call back and are very nice people.  And, in fact, they knew my great grandmother and some of her offspring.  When the eldest daughter of the people in the photo died, these descendants of Ottilia had the task of cleaning out her home, and they found the four photo albums and kept them safe.  FOR 50 YEARS!  Some photographs probably have no remaining duplicate.   REMARKABLE.  I have much to thank for my cousins’ careful attention to the matter.

This cautionary tale is reason alone to make this post.  Before you toss old photographs, consider whether there may be someone else for whom the photos may be invaluable.  That alone is enough.   But there is more.

As I flipped through the photos, I saw a photo of my son looking from the pages.  It wasn’t, but it was.

If you know my son George Hokkanen, then you will immediately recognize how remarkable the resemblance is between my cousin Tom and George of the same age.  ASTOUNDING.

My mother had opined (in that funny way that Finns may share their opinion) that George did not look like any of the Hokkanens.  There were multiple interpretations of that remark, some better than others if you know what I mean, and it was very much like her to make ambiguous remarks like this.  But she was certainly correct in the most literal sense–at least with respect to the family photos that we had, George made no appearance.  But we didn’t have the photos of Ottilia and her descendants!

Gene expression is a funny thing.  You get two copies of every gene, one of which may be domant until it isn’t, and gene sequences can pass for many generations unimpacted. And so your doppelganger may just be 2nd or 3rd cousin.