Friday, October 30, 2009

Shades Of The Departed will be highlighting those "Friday From The Collector" contributors who have been nominated in The Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs! Bob Franks's Blog, Itawamba History Review has been nominated in the Local/Regional category. Congratulations Bob!


I’ve always heard a picture is worth a thousand words. In the faces of our ancestors complex stories are told. And they are stories a thousand words simply cannot begin to describe. Stories of hope and happiness and tales of sadness and despair are projected from faces on yellowed and fragile images captured generations ago.

William Throckmorton Gillentine was my great great grandfather. He posed for such a portrait photograph in uniform during 1861 shortly before leaving his small family farm in Mississippi headed for Kentucky with fellow soldiers in Company F of the Second Mississippi Regiment. While in Kentucky the winter was brutal as snow lay on the ground for weeks. Unaccustomed to such harsh winter weather, the Mississippi soldiers suffered and many came down with camp diseases including measles. William was no exception and he died of that dreaded disease in early 1862 leaving a widow and small children. For years his large portrait in uniform had hung on the parlor wall of his modest family’s home until one cold December day during the Great Depression, a spark from a popping fire in the fireplace caused a house fire, reducing the old soldier’s portrait to ashes. This was the only known photograph of William Throckmorton Gillentine.

The destruction of the William Throckmorton Gillentine portrait illustrates how rare images of our ancestors can be destroyed in a matter of seconds – whether it be from fires, floods, other natural disasters, or simply being thrown away in the trash heap by those after us, who do not realize the importance of archival photographs in regards to history and family heritage.

One way to preserve the photographic heritage of our ancestors and help other researchers is donating such precious and rare images to the local historical society, library or archives. The donations need not be the original images, but can be professional-quality reproductions as well. Many local societies have an archival photograph collection and these growing collections serve as an excellent documentary detailing everyday local life throughout the country. Such collections are regularly utilized by thousands of researchers and students.

The tin-type is probably John H. Cason. He served in Company C (Town Creek Rifles of Itawamba County) of the Second Mississippi Regiment and was killed at the Battle of Second Manassas in Virginia during August of 1862. The old portrait was found in a family trunk.

My local society has a photographic collection including both original and quality reproductions. As with many organizations we are currently digitizing the collection and making the images available to researchers online. So far we have placed more than eighty of these images online with plans for many more to be added in the near future. There are many such organized collections online from various societies and archives throughout the country and the list is continuously growing. A good feature of a local society’s photographic collection is such a collection is usually geographic specific with all images relating to the area the society, library or agency serves.

When considering the donation of photographic materials - whether originals or copies, to a local society, library or archives always check with the agency first about their guidelines for such, and describe what you are offering to share. Many such agencies have a donation contract that will need to be completed and signed. These contracts usually discuss the potential uses of donated materials and other pertinent information.

Evergreen's First Automobile
The Evergreen community of
Itawamba County, Mississippi

I recall more than twenty years ago an elderly lady dropping by the local historical society for a visit. After chatting awhile with society volunteers she timidly asked if the society would like an old portrait from her farmhouse of her great grandfather. After the society accepted her gift, I helped her remove the old framed picture from her car. I remember it was neatly wrapped in a worn patchwork quilt and I could immediately tell the old portrait was precious to her when we removed the quilt wrapping. From her purse she gingerly removed a little neatly folded piece of paper torn from a writing tablet on which she had carefully written information with a pencil about her great granddad.

Two years ago I was working at the society’s museum when a group of school children arrived by bus for a visit. I couldn’t help but think of that particular generous lady, long since deceased, visiting the society on a hot summer day more than twenty years earlier. I quietly watched from a distance as the group of school children looked upon the old framed portrait, wide-eyed in amazement as the life story of her great grandfather was being told, long after her death.

When thinking of preserving your family’s photographic history for future generations, please don’t forget the local historical society, library or archives. It could mean thousands of words told in our ancestors’ faces from the past being preserved for those who come after us.

Photographic Sources:

The Itawamba Historical Society Photographic Archives


Blogger hungeryjack said...

Nice post - pictures of measles ..Keep Posting

pictures of measles

October 31, 2009 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Abba-Dad said...

When I saw William's middle name it sounded familiar. So I checked my database and found that my wife's 12th great-grandmother was June Throckmorton who married Benjamin Tugwell, probably in London, England around 1525. I haven't researched that far yet, but that has to be an unusual name.

Great post.

November 2, 2009 at 8:11 PM  

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