Giving Life to Distant Ancestors

There is a picture that has moved from basement to garage and back again, and from rowhome to rowhome in Philadelphia.  It is a picture of a family, joined together in the family bakery in the late 1910’s.  I first saw this picture as a child and it was thought to be lost for the years since.  I’ve managed to scan it and take in the details amongst the water stains and torn paper.  My great-great-grandmother is in the picture.  It was taken in her sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Michael’s bakery.  My great-grandma is there too, as a little girl.  More than just a photo, I recently learned it was a Baptism celebration for Elizabeth and Michael’s son, Nicholas.

I never met these bakery owners.  But I know they are the reason my great-great-grandparents chose Philadelphia when leaving Europe.  They made a home there and found employment doing odd jobs in the bakery.

More than finding dates and places of birth, I spend much of my time doing ancestry research, trying to put together a puzzle in my mind, trying to piece together what this person was like.  What kind of struggles did they go through?  What did they look like?  I was able to recently find a picture of Elizabeth and Michael recently, along with some records and pieces that give me an idea of who they were.  They came from Hungary, single, young and poor.  Michael was tall with dark hair and “deep blue” eyes.  He labelled himself a self-employed baker when he stepped on the shore of New York, at the age of 19.  He came from Hungary but spoke German.  Had several children, became a Naturalized citizen right off the ship, battled pneumonia in 1918 and had the highest appraised house on his block by the time he was 40.  By this time he filled out his draft card for World War II, he was gray, but still slender and still baking.  He spent the last sixteen years a widower.  He lived to 93, the year before I was born.  It makes the connection feel closer in the frame of time but there was a world of difference between our lives.  When I look at the picture of he and his wife though, I can’t help but feel like they are characters.  I like to think she was sassy.  I like to give them a story.  In a way, I wouldn’t be here today without them, distant relative or not.

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