Saturday, November 24, 2012
I have come to love the unexpected surprises that come with the genealogy hunt. Just when you think you've exhausted every single avenue, you find out that you haven't.
The one "face" I was missing in my search was my great grandfather, Anthony Hermann Kerkhoff. I had photos for every other great grandparent but not him. At first, my father told me that he didn't think there were any photos of Anthony. How could there not be? He died in 1905. Someone had to have had taken a photo of him. None of Dad's siblings remembered any photos, and Dad's first cousin (Aunt Inez's son) didn't remember any photos of Anthony. I had also asked the granddaughter of my Uncle Frank Kerkhoff (Grandpa Joe's oldest sibling) if she knew of any photos, and she didn't.
And at some point, my dad told me about a photograph of the entire Kerkhoff family. It was taken on the porch of their home on Mt. Hope Avenue, and he told me that he remembered looking at it in a frame as it was hanging on a wall. But he couldn't remember which home he saw it in. He knew it wasn't his, so we concluded it was his Grandma Kerkhoff's (Annie Vodde Kerkhoff).
Was there really a photo out there somewhere?? Unfortunately, no other Kerkhoff remembered seeing it. But Dad was adamant about seeing that photo when he was a little boy. He relayed the details to me that he was told about it. It was taken by a "door to door" photographer who had knocked on their door and asked the family if they'd like a photograph taken. I have been told stories before that had turned out not to be true (see The Immigration Story that Wasn't), so I didn't assume that all the details of the photo were correct. I didn't even assume that there was definitely a photo of the family. But Dad's memory is still incredibly good, so I decided to go with the assumption that there was probably a photo at some point of the Kerkhoff family.
Fast forward to yesterday and lunch at my newly discovered cousin's house. She, her brother and two cousins (all grandchildren of Uncle Frank Kerkhoff) met with my parents and me. I brought some documents I thought they may like having, and they brought out some photos. One of my "new" cousins brought some photos from her hosue that she had grabbed at the last minute.
Most of them were from her grandmother's side of the family (not related to me), and then she handed one to me. And I started shaking. Because I knew I was looking at the face of my great grandfather. And he didn't look anything like what I had pictured him to look like in my mind! Don't ask me what I thought I'd see, but this wasn't it. Maybe I thought he'd look younger? Or with darker hair? I don't know. But he was even better than I ever imagined him to be. Because I realized that his baby boy, my Grandpa Joe, grew up to look like his daddy. Balding and fabulous.
Waking up yesterday morning, it never occurred to me that I would go to bed that night knowing what my great grandfather looked like. What an incredible way to start this blessed holiday season.
My Grandpa Joe is sitting in the front, right in front of his daddy.
This photo is owned by the Kerkhoff family.
Please do not copy, forward, or download. Thank you.
Joseph V. Kerkhoff