My Thrift Store Families


I was in a thrift store last year looking for some sewing patterns and found an envelope marked $5.00. Inside were some pictures of people from the early 1900’s that looked like they were related. In fact, several of the pictures were marked with names and one or two had dates written on them.

Wow! I thought, how can pictures as interesting as these have been donated to a thrift store? Did someone die without any family and someone unrelated had the task of cleaning out the household goods?  At any rate, I decided right then that I would buy the pictures, research the family on and post their pictures for other researchers to find and use. I have done this several times since then and call them my “Thrift Store Families”.

It took me a little time to get these scanned and the family researched, but I found them in the census records and other documents and built their tree. Below is a picture of Jonathan Hamilton Kelsey. He was born in 1873 in Iowa and died in 1935 in New Jersey. How did he end up in New Jersey? I’m not sure – according to what I found in the census records, he was seven years old and living with his family in New Jersey by 1880. His father was an insurance agent, so he might have moved for a job. In the 1900 census record, Jonathan H. Kelsey was listed as an insurance agent as well – like father like son, right? Well, he went on to become an attorney and had an interesting career.

It’s great practice to build the family trees of unknown people. If you don’t know anything about them, you have to use your skills and deductive powers to figure out their identities and their relationships, especially when you’re looking for someone alive before the 1850 census. Look for your own thrift store pictures and start a new family – you won’t be sorry!


About Edith

I learned many things in my previous career, but the most important was that communication opens minds and changes lives. I want to apply the same to my new venture in genealogy because we can all benefit from sharing tips and techniques. I have really enjoyed teaching adult classes in genealogy research techniques and want this blog to act as an extension of that experience. I'm currently researching my family surnames including Hawkins, Thomas, Bolling, Alexander, Gudger and Rogers. Enjoy the hunt!
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