Sunday, March 6, 2016


   Finding photos to add to faces is one of the more exciting parts for me, when it comes to my research. I am ALWAYS excited to see family photos.

I've had a little fun lately coming across some photos that have shown the always intriguing power of genetics. 

Sometimes, I open a file that was sent to me and my mouth drops, because my brain thinks it sees someone I already know looking at me from back in time! It's exciting when that happens.

  Last week my cousin sent me a photo in a text, and at first glance I thought it was me. She captioned it "Fornelbow 2.0?"
  ** Backstory.... our great grandmother, Esther wasn't always a woman of many words but when she didn't like something, she let you know with en elbow jab. She was famous for them. Or, possibly, infamous. That (in)famous elbow..... Before she had passed she had remarried a wonderful man, Axel Fornell, and thus became "Esther Fornell". One night, on a drive home from our annual craft fair, they were telling a story of my Uncle who had to sit in the back seat with her once. Anytime he said something she didn't like, most likely some jokes he was cracking... BAM, a curiously strong elderly elbow jab in the ribs. Any time you did something she didn't want, BAM, that sneaky elbow would getcha! 
And in that moment, in a pure stroke of genius, I married the two words, and her infamous elbow jab became forever after, lovingly known as.... The Fornelbow.**

So, this picture, my kids thought it was me. My friends thought it was me. It wasn't me. It was My great grandmother. I took a side by side and posted it. A lot of people thought IT WAS ME. I showed my daughter the photo and asked, "Who is that?" She said, "That's you. How did you do that to the photo? How did you make it that brown color? Can you do that with one of mine?" 
    Now, we aren't identical by any means...but, You can tell it's her genes that came through in me. 
I made a quick snapshot to do a side by side. I wish I had a better comparison, but I think the whole point still comes through with this one. ;)

Me, in my early 30's, and Esther Eugenia Stenman (b. 2.25.1901) in her late teens.

  I more recently came across a photo of  My 3rd great grandfather Joachim Sæther, (b. 6.30.1835) and was able to compare him to a photo from our family that I had confirmed by another person was indeed his daughter, Emma Ingeborg Sæther.(b. 3.19.1866). A great resemblance with their dark set eyes, and nose. But it passed on even farther to my great grandfather, Emma's son, Helge Jonsson   (b. 11.13.1897) I put them side by side, with a younger photo of Helge on the left, and an older one of him on the right. It was fun to compare the resemblances!

L-->R: Young Helge Jonsson, Joachim Sæther, Emme Ingeborg (Sæther) Jonsson, and older Helge Jonsson  
Three generations in one photo, side by side. Father, Daughter, Grandson. How Fascinating!

The next was one we never saw coming. We knew my maternal grandma looked like her dad. I had seen photos, and she definitely favored her dad over her mom. But when a cousin I found online sent me a photo of  my 2nd great grandmother, I thought.... WOW. This genetics thing just hit a whole new level! Haha! 

On the right, Ida Smith
b. 9.5.1856

On the left, Ida's 
Mary Jane Smith

Crazy, right? 

I think I find it so fascinating, because it's literally a visual reminder that our ancestors live on through us. The thought itself is a beautiful one and a reminder to stay connected to our past. But when you see the face of someone you've never seen before, who lived 150 years before you were born and you can recognize yourself or your parents in them, everything feels brought to life. These aren't just names, dates and places added to a long list of more names, dates and places. These were lives lived. These are people. These are YOUR people. Their contribution to who you are isn't always just entered as data on a website or written in a file or passed on in a story. Sometimes it's right there, looking you in the  mirror and you never even realized it. Kind of amazing, right?

     I love seeing the resemblances to past generations. If you can find them in your own roots, please feel free to post a link in the comments, because I'd love to stop by and take a look.

- Dani

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