…doesn’t every mystery start with a question? This one did… from my Mom, she sends this picture in an email to me, and our cousins Anke and Jan. Do we know who the woman is on the right? The young couple are my maternal grandparents, Ruth Elinor Edwards 1910-1983 and Jurgen Cornelius Jurgens 1907-1979. Mom, Virginia Jurgens Brown, sent the email just over a year ago, May 2018. She wondered, well of course then I wondered.
I thought, hmm…, the era is right to be Grandpa’s mother, but Anke disagreed vehemently the woman was not her grandmother, Oma Friedericka Hansen Jurgens, my cousin Jan said she didn’t know either… Fast forward 2019, 1 year almost to the day, a visit with Anke, we’re going over a photo album which had belonged to my Grandfather, Jurgen. Anke’s father Ingwert and Jurgen were brothers. Technically she is my 1st cousin once removed, but cousin will do! She was helping me translate the German as well as some of the handwriting in the album, which was dated with images from about 1920-1940s.
Within the album, so much treasure and history in his images… We found 3 pages of images including a copy of the one Mom had questioned in 2018. There we had it, but alas, no names on this set. The only writing “Vacation in Pasadena 1928.”
Now for the back-story… Jurgen emigrated from the island of Fohr, off the coast of Denmark and Germany. Sponsored by a cousin, who lived in Oakland, California, he arrived December 3rd 1926, age 19. His citizenship was in the mid 1930s.
We have to examine the clues in the photograph and note. 1928 Pasadena – a family, to me they must be important for Jurgen and his then girlfriend, Ruth, to drive from San Francisco to Pasadena. He and Ruth later married February 20th 1930, in Reno, Nevada. That’s it … don’t know them, don’t recognize them.
But wait there is a house number in the photograph, at first glance it’s 1266, I zoomed in and then read it says 1286.
Google to the rescue, search term, 1286, Pasadena, California. Up pop some possible street addresses;
1286 E Villa, Pasadena
1286 Lida, Pasadena
1286 Los Robles, Pasadena
1286 E Orange Grove, Pasadena
1286 Avocado Terrace, Pasadena
1286 Summit, Pasadena
1286 N Mar Vista, Pasadena
1286 E Elizabeth, Pasadena
1286 E Topeka, Pasadena
1286 Lida, Pasadena
Not too many, now in the last 81 years the house could be gone, it could be an office complex or a dirt lot but with this list it wasn’t too hard. My husband and I were watching a baseball game, as I puzzled this out loud, (translation, I talked during the game, we’d pause the TV and talk about what I wanted to talk about…) He said, give me the list I’ll find the house, and in about 5 minutes he had the house on the iPad.
We looked at the image on Google Maps, we did the Google Earth view, and then Google Street view, sure enough he had it, spot on! I played with the street view of the two houses, based on the view of the photograph I have and the street view of the houses, we looked at the perspective, the upper roof and side yard windows of the house in the background, we believe it’s the house on the right.
Goal one identify the home, DONE!
Next who are the people … still don’t know, normally if I have a name I can look in the census and find the house. Well I have the house and no name? 1930 census and city directories would be the answer.
I would back-door or go-around using the census by surname. On the right side of the screen we can search by state, county, city and therein the districts within the city show up in a short list for each district. There are 87 districts, I didn’t want to search each one, I went back to the Google Maps, looked at the cross streets … I then used the “find” feature on the Ancestry page, typed in “Villa” and looked at the matches until I found the cross streets close to the address. I then searched page by page on the census for those districts I’d matched, looking for that street & house number, to find the family.This search page by page, which was narrowed down quite a bit, took me about 2 hours. The baseball game on the TV was still in progress. Voila! I found them!
Now I have their names, this took over 2 hours to puzzle out, not terribly long. The next question to answer who are they to my grandfather? This is where the expertise of my cousin Anke comes in, she has the church registers and genealogies for the families on the island of Fohr. Oops I skipped a step, I worked on Theodore’s name and found he was a native of the islands. I therefore made an assumption he was “related?” Hmmm remember what they say about assuming?
I passed on the information to Anke, she sent me back this… I found them in the GRJ (Geschlechterreihen St. Johannis) after all! (Church records gold mine for genealogists with ties to the island) Turns out I’d focused, mistakenly, thinking the “man” in the pictures was the relative, oops, the closer relationship was the woman. It turns out that Josina Ellen Hansen is a sister of Uncle Jurgen's grandfather Jacob Simon Hansen. So Josina, was the great or grand aunt to my grandfather, Jurgen…I was correct in assuming the relationship was important…My cousin Anke & I were able to take the tidbits in the clues and flesh out the story…
...if we'd not ID'd the couple in the images with my grandparents, I wouldn't have known they were here about 8 years after the photographs were taken. They were still living in Pasadena, but had made the drive all the way to Oakland to visit the Jurgens family.... all of this from a photograph with clues...