Surprises! Who is The Little Girl in the Photo – and Whose Bed Am I Sleeping In?

The prompt for the #52Ancestors challenge this week was “Surprise.” I planned on writing about why Scott and I were at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC last week, but as usual, another opportunity presented itself which is an even better match for the topic this week.

A Seeley Surprise

If you have been following my blog, you are aware that I just completed a book project about Scott’s great-grandmother, Catherine C. FitzAllen (That’s the name she chose. Her “original” name was Catherine Kenny Seeley.) There are several unanswered questions about her life (birth, marriage, a motive for her antics…) and I am always on the lookout for documents that may help. So, I was very happy to hear that Scott’s nephew, Greg and his wife, Kathryn, had found some old photo albums among the many family boxes they are storing. (Shout out to Greg and Kathryn for being such wonderful stewards. Not only have they been willing to store what is found, but they also pass the items along so the stories won’t be lost!)

We spent my birthday weekend together – great fun! But we also took some time to go through some family archives. So, it was with great hope that we opened up the aged, dried-out leather album. After pretty much destroying Kathryn’s white tablecloth, we had a few “nuggets” to treasure. (Word of advice: temper your excitement – take a minute to put an old towel or sheet under old albums before examining them!)

Among the images of people we didn’t know and places we couldn’t identify, were wonderful childhood photos of Catherine FitzAllen’s only grandchildren; Kathryn, John, and William “Bill” Holman. There were photos of Catherine’s daughter, Katherine “Kitty” Pearl, who married John “Jack” Holman.

Sadly, there were no pictures of Catherine’s older daughter, Ida Mae, but there was… surprise!… the only picture I have seen of Katherine and Ida’s half-sister, Ada Seeley!! What a great find!

Ada Seeley and her half-nephew, William “Bill” Holman – mid-1920s

There were also a few pictures of family in Albany, New York which verified the accuracy of some family relationships.

Keniston family in Albany, NY. Catherine’s sister, Maria married a Dunn. Their daughter then married a Keniston. 

The best surprise was a few portraits from a photography studio in Albany. On the back of one is written, “two years, ten months.” I have been unable to verify the birthdate of Katherine Pearl, Catherine’s youngest daughter so this could be extremely helpful. I have scheduled a photo consultation with Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective, during my visit to RootsTech at the end of the month. Hopefully, she will be able to assist me in making a determination!

Possibly Katherine “Kitty” Pearl SEELEY

Poor quality photo of Catherine C. FitzAllen (Catherine Kenny SEELEY).
Catherine is seated to the left of grandson William “Bill” HOLMAN.
Standing behind William is his mother, Katherine Pearl Seeley, youngest daughter of Catherine FitrzAllen.
Others are unknown. This was possibly taken on Catherine’s farm in Illinois. Possibly 1914-1915

The Bed – A Holman Family Heirloom

And now, in keeping with this year’s theme of documenting “Our Stuff,” I share another surprise. For years, Holman family lore passed down the story of “the bed.” The four-poster bed (possibly mahogany?) has been moved around the country for years! 

This four-poster bed has been in the Holman family for more than a century!

According to the family story, Scott’s dad, William Winchester Holman was born in the bed. Bill was born on June 12, 1910, in the family home at 418 Oakdale Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. That makes the bed at least 108 years old. I’m betting his parents owned the bed since their marriage began, so that dates the bed back to 1900. Over the years, the bed “traveled” to Connecticut, back to Illinois, back to Connecticut, New York, Connecticut (again!), Nova Scotia, and Georgia, before settling in its newest home, North Carolina.

As I lay in the bed (new mattress, don’t freak out!) during our stay with Greg and Kathryn, a thought occurred to me—what if Bill’s mother brought the bed with her into the marriage? It is possible the bed actually belonged to her mother, the “infamous” Catherine C. FitzAllen. I lay there thinking, “What if Catherine did own this bed? Will she come and haunt me?” It took all I had not to climb under and around the bed to look for identifying marks. I did ask Greg who said there weren’t any clues as to where the bed was made. Hmmm…. another mystery to add to my list. For now, we will have to remain content with the knowledge that this family story is accurate; the bed is at least more than a century old! Thank you, Greg and Kathryn, for giving it such a beautiful home in the “Lackey Bedroom.”

This is the 6th post for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. This year, I am focusing on telling the story of “Our Stuff.”

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