Tag: <span>sepia saturday</span>

Sepia Saturday 241: Writing and Letters

Nellie Gasparri

I went back and forth on this week’s theme since I have plenty of letters, but very few pictures to go along with them.  The letter is written  to  Nellie Gasparri in the photo on the left (b. 9 May 1924, Dysart, Cambria County, PA, USA, d. 9 Oct 2007, Pittsburgh, Allegheny, PA, USA), my first cousin, once removed, or my mom’s first cousin (her mother’s sister’s daughter).  It was written by  Angelina Guerrini who is Nellie’s Aunt (her father’s sister).  From what I know from living family members, Nellie never learned to read or write in Italian, but had a friend who read/wrote back letters for her.  This particular letter was one in a series of letters written to Nellie that she saved for many, many years.  After her death, relatives found them and didn’t know what to do with them, so they ended up with my mother somehow who fairly recently found them in a drawer while cleaning and passed them on to me.  I had studied Italian at University as well as taking a semester abroad, so about 12 years ago, I was just about fluent.  It’s faded a lot since then, so in order to translate these, it’s quite a process.  First, I try to figure out what was written and type that up – it can be a struggle between the handwriting and spelling/grammar issues, but fortunately it’s just about the same region where I took my semester abroad, so that helps!  Then, I run the translation through Google Translate to see what it comes up with, correcting the Italian side to fix spelling issues.  Finally, I go through and do my own translation on top to fix odd phrasing that Google doesn’t really translate well and make it sound more like it was written in English.  Some of the phrases don’t translate well from Italian to English, and I tend to go for a more literal than flowery approach in terms of translation.  I’m always open to correction, so if you happen to be Italian and want to help me out, please leave a comment!

If you’re interested in the other letters, they can be found here:
A Letter to Great Grandma
Searching for a Son
Angelina’s First Letter

San Valentino, 6 April 1947
After several days of delays, I have come to respond to your dear letter that I received with much pleasure, to hear that you remember me with much affection and that you are in good health as are your brothers.

As for me, always little is well, but nothing is so serious, just a little bit of organic deterioration.  My husband and my daughters are doing well.  My husband is 60 years old, and I’m 50.  Grandmother is also well, she is 84 years old.  I haven’t had the courage to tell her the news of the death of her son, and I think that’s because my brother has found a wife so cruel that the old woman could not ever see her and stay in good health.  They have a 4 year old daughter and live quietly, but I ought to say very little to you about the awful things they did to this poor old woman.

If you send something to grandma, send it to me or write it to me because she doesn’t know how to read or write and she’s deaf such that to have her understand, it takes time, and even when you repeat it, she substitutes whatever she wants.

Dear Niece, I am happy to hear you explain in your letter so many things that I wanted to hear about you and your brothers.  Now all that remains is the desire to have a little written also from him and I’d even like to have a photograph, but first we must send you ours.  I would like to know about the brother that isn’t in the army.  Your aunt told me he works – what does he do?
I received the letter from your aunt with the photo of your father.  It made me happy and at the same time a little sad that he isn’t around anymore.  I don’t know how to find peace.  You tell me that you work in an office. I’m happy to hear that, and I hope you enjoy it.

I’m sad that I can’t give you any help being so far away.  You sent us the package and you said you can send another but what can I send you?  Do you want anything that I could send to you?  Tell me please!  Let me know if you read my letters yourself or if you have someone read them to you the way I do the with your greetings to me, your friend Gina Canali.

Thousands and thousands of dear greetings and kisses from us that you will pass on also to your brothers, your aunt, and even these coming days I’ll write more to you.
Many dear kisses from me, your aunt, Angelina Guerrini.

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Sepia Saturday 240: Criminals, ID Photos, Named Photos, False Pretences

I had a bit of an internal struggle with this week’s theme.  I do have recorded evidence of minor law-breakers (busted for “illegal barbering” and running a still) on one branch of my tree, but decided against posting those photos since they weren’t mugshots and might be considered a little bit insensitive to living family members.  I personally think  history is history and it’s no big deal, but best not to make waves, right?  Instead, I turn back to my husband’s Dutch family for a great ID photo.  Please pardon the quality – I shot these with my cellphone camera and didn’t get the chance to scan the actual document!

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Here we have the passport for Doede “Douglas” Jaarsma and Hilje “Hilda” Dijkema for when they came to the USA in 1951 with their three children, Douwe “Dave,” Elizabeth, and Hendrik “Henry.”  The blurred out section on the right contains the children’s birth dates, blurred intentionally to protect their privacy.  While not quite sepia photos, they do fit nicely into the theme as ID photos!  What’s so neat about the passport is that even though it’s Dutch, it includes French and English in the official, pre-printed sections, but  the written-in data is only in Dutch.  Just a couple things to help translate on the left photo, in the “Special Marks” section for Hilda is  “litteken aan de hals,” which translates to “scar on the neck,” per google translate.  Hilda’s hair color is listed as “gray blonde” even though the family says she was pretty much all grey even as early as her mid 20’s.  Overall, I think the passport is really neat, and I’m so glad the family saved it for so long.  It’s a great piece of history to have, documenting the move from the Netherlands to the USA, and is a fantastic primary source document for birth dates and places.


Sepia Saturday 239: Postcards, proverbs, mischievous women

I’m going with two postcards and one non-postcard to make this post today since two postcards fit into the theme  of postcards (even though I can’t be sure if any of those women were mischievous)  and the third image helps support the history behind this particular family.



The first postcard is a postcardized photo which seemed to have been a common treatment for that time period.  The little stamp box in the top corner helps date photos, and there’s a handy dandy guide I use here.  That particular stamp box means 1904-1918 or so which is where I’d guess it as well.  The pencil was written on by Mary E Harris, daughter of Alfred John Harris and Hannah Alma Gertrude Davies.  Hannah and Alfred were born in England (Hannah in Wales, Alfred in Devon not far from where Jessie’s family was from) and came to the USA to settle down in  Pennsylvania, near where my great-great grandparents Alfred Powis and Jessie Battin lived.  They had some things in common with coming from England to PA, so I’m sure they got along well, and judging by the number of photos we have for them, it’s pretty clear they kept in touch over the years.  The postcard says,

This is all most of family.  Besure and let us know if you are coming down on Wed – Mary

The pen was added on by my great grandmother, Olga (Powis) Kitko much later in life.  It seemed that she went through the trunk of photos at some point in an attempt to identify who’s who before she passed away.  Uncle seems to be a honorary title for “Alf” and doesn’t denote any blood relation as far as I can tell.  There is some Harris up further on Jessie’s line, but I haven’t been able to make a connection yet.  Blandburg refers to a small town in Cambria county, Pennsylvania.  Alfred and Hannah are seated in the middle, and I believe Mary is seated on the far right holding a baby who is likely Merle Harris Wagner, Born 1910, fitting right into the date range from the stamp box.  No postage though!



This is a much more stiff and formal portrait of just Hannah, Alfred, and their children.  The stamp box seems to be the same as the prior one, so I’d put this closer to the 1918 mark.  The back says,

A merry xmas from all, Hannah.

On the front, written in pencil along the left side is, “13 Harris,” perhaps a photographer’s mark indicating 13 people in the photo for the Harris family.  Possibly some sort of travelling photographer.  I don’t quite know who’s who, but the children’s’ names were George, Alfred J, Thomas D, William D, John Daniel, Anna Mae, Mary E, David James, Luther, Edward, and Charles D (in age order, oldest to youngest).  The youngest child was born in 1898 which would make him somewhere around 18-21 when this photo was taken which looks about right if we guess that the youngest is on the far left.  Mary is, I’m pretty sure, seated on the far right.

Scan10626One final, not a postcard photo of the family again with their very own band!  I haven’t been able to find a mention of the band in any of the newspapers local to that area, but searching for a common surname like “Harris” makes it a little difficult.  There’s no mention of the band in either Hannah or Alfred’s obituary, and it looks like this was taken earlier than the other two photos, maybe around 1902 or so.  Still, what an incredible thing for a family to do, have their own band!  It’s clear these folks kept in contact for a long time and there are plenty more photos of this family in the collection I have.



Sepia Saturday 238: Signs, big signs, small signs, men with their hands in their pockets

I had quite a few ways to go with this one, but decided to go with a few from my husband’s family.  His genealogy nearly all traces back to the Netherlands, so there are some really neat photos from his family that I absolutely love, with a great history and tons of stories from living descendants.


First up, a photo of my husband’s paternal grandfather, Doede “Douglas” Jaarsma (b. 22 Apr 1911 Tjerkgaast, Friesland, Netherlands, d. 12 Feb 1995, Haledon, Passaic, New Jersey, USA) in front of the shop where he worked after arriving in the USA.  They arrived by boat in 1951 with their three children, including my husband’s father.  From the sign, I think “Aukema” is  Art Aukema  who is related through Douglas’ sister, Grace (Getje) who married an Aukema.  I’m pretty sure the building for “Sussex Welding” doesn’t exist anymore since that’s the area I grew up in and I can’t remember seeing it ever.  The photo was probably taken about 1953 or thereabouts.

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Another one from my husband’s family, continuing in that vein.  These are three unknown girls in front of a sign that says “An De Weg” – “Aan den weg” in Dutch, so google tells me, translates to “On The Way, so a slight misspelling, but it might be a regional dialect sort of thing.  I haven’t been able to turn up where this was taken or who is in the photo, but you can tell from the back it was taken in July of 1930 (or 1938?) in “Lunters” which I’m assuming is Lunteren, a small town in Gelderland.  The taller woman in the back almost looks like my husband’s paternal grandmother, but it’s hard to make out if that’s really her in the photo.  I did a quick search to see if the place still existed but came up with nothing for the sign and no photos that looked like that via google image search.  If you know where this was taken, please leave a comment!