For me, doing Genealogy often involves looking at my family tree and noticing something that seems like it’s missing. Then I go about trying to find what’s missing. Recently I was looking at the family of my great-great grandfather Florin Herbert “Bert” Curtis (1875 – 1952) and I realized that I didn’t know much about any of his children except my “Great-Grandma Krueger”, Edith Edna Curtis (1903 – 1989), who married my great-grandfather Oscar Karl Robert Krueger. I know a lot about the Curtis family, and have also learned a great deal about the family of Bert Curtis’s wife, Edna Edith Mullins (1881 – 1964) whose parents John Mullins and Martha Hammond were Irish immigrants. But I didn’t know much about the children of Bert and Edna. My plan to remedy this situation was simple: find the youngest child (they would have the best chance of having kids who were still alive), fill out their family tree until I found living relatives, then ask those living descendants if they had any photos or family stories. I could not have possibly been more successful!
The youngest sibling I knew of in that family was Ruth Curtis, who was born in 1917, a full 14 years after my great-grandma Edith. Ruth had four children, and as I researched them I discovered that two of her daughters, Pat Williams and Judy Williams, were still alive. As is often the case, the numbers I obtained through switchboard.com were no longer in service, so I sent Judy a letter telling her who I was and explaining how we were related. A few weeks later, she called me and said she would love to meet. She told me she remembered my great-grandmother and had come to visit her and my great-grandfather at their Northern Wisconsin cabin when she was a little girl. She also said she had “a few old photos and some other things” I might find interesting. My mother and I arranged to go to Dubuque, Iowa to see her.
We arrived at her lovely home and met Judy, her sister Pat, and Judy’s husband Duane. We chatted a bit, and then she started bringing out bags of photos. Then more. Then more. Eventually her kitchen table was piled with incredible photographs. There were stacks of documents, pages of family history compiled by her ancestors nearly 100 years before… a true jackpot for anyone who loves doing family research. I let my iPhone record the conversation for almost three hours while I frantically scanned everything I could grab and the family stories flowed. My Curtis cousins could not have been more warm and charming. I enjoyed our time together and plan to go back and finish the job I started. By the time we had to leave I had only gotten through a portion of what Judy had assembled for me!
I wanted to post a few of the gems here that Judy let me scan. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
This is a good first photo to get you introduced to the family. It was taken on December 31, 1946 at a party celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of Bert Curtis and his wife Edna Mullins. They are surrounded by the children who were still alive. Their children Clarence (b 1898), Grace (b ~1900), Gladys (1905 – 1934), William (1913 – 1940) and Helen (1922 – 1923) did not survive to attend that party, unfortunately. My Grandma Krueger is on the far right.
(l to r) Ruth Curtis, Mildred Curtis, Teddy Curtis, Edna Mullins, Bert Curtis, Laura Curtis, Harold Curtis, Edith Curtis.
This next photo is of Judy’s mother, Ruth Curtis Williams. Apparently the Curtis family was very into roller-skating. Pat told me,”We practically grew up in roller-skates!”. This photo shows a very young Ruth in her prized skates:
Ruth Curtis c1934.
Staying on the roller-skate theme, here is a photo which was hand-tinted to add color. For some reason many of the photos of Ruth were hand-tinted, but the colors on this one were so vivid I was immediately struck by it:
Ruth Curtis roller-skating. Hand-tinted.
For selfish reasons, this next photo is one of my favorites. It shows Bert and Edna Curtis with their son-in-law and grandson. The son-in-law is my great-grandfather Oscar Krueger, and the boy is my grandfather Lloyd Krueger. I had never seen a photo of either one of them at such a young age. It was probably taken about 1935. The other boy is possibly my great-uncle Bobby Krueger.:
Bert Curtis, Edna Mullins, Oscar Krueger, Lloyd Krueger, about 1935.
This one is a hand-tinted photo of Mildred Curtis (who went by “Mickey”), and her first husband Percy Johnson whom she married at the age of 18:
Mildred Curtis & Percy Johnson, about 1929.
This photo has “Aggie Mullins” written on the front, but Agnes Mullins (sister of my great-great-grandmother Edna Mullins) died in 1891 at the age of 15. On the back of the photo is written “Grandma Martha Mullins, Ruthie’s Gram”. So the photo is more likely that of Martha Jane Hammond (1849 – 1930), my great-great-great grandmother, who came here from Donegal, Ireland in 1866 aboard the “Caledonia” with her sister Elizabeth.
[Follow-up: Users on the site vintagefashionguild.org have said of the photo “The hat is mid 1890s, say 94 – 96. The bodice might be 1890 – 93 ish. She may well have bought a new hat for her portrait.” Makes it much less likely that it was Agnes Mullins in the photo.]:
Martha Jane Hammond, about 1895.
This postage-stamp size photo shows Ruth Curtis’s daughter Pat Williams as a child, taken about 1942:
Pat Williams, about 1942.
Harry Curtis (1899-1983) taken about 1919:
Harry Curtis, c1919.
This next photo shows Clarence and Grace Curtis, children of Bert and Edna, who unfortunately both died in childhood. We don’t know exactly when they died, but the children look to be between a year and two years apart. Since Grace is not in the 1900 census, and since Clarence was born in 1898, it seems most likely Grace was born in late 1900 or 1901 and that both died before 1910 since neither Clarence nor Grace appear in that census.
Clarence & Grace Curtis, about 1901.
This hand-tinted photo shows my great-grandmother Edith’s sister Laura Violet Curtis (1909-1988):
Laura Curtis, about 1935.
One interesting thing about the Curtis family is that Bert Curtis married Edna Mullins, and Bert’s brother Guy Harvey Curtis (1873 – 1940) married Edna’s sister Elizabeth “Bess” Mullins (1878 – 1956). This photo shows Bess Mullins Curtis with her niece Ruth Curtis, her daughter Lois Maxine Curtis (1917-1985), and Lois’s daughter Carol Emmert (b 1937):
Bess Mullins Curtis, Ruth Curtis, Lois Curtis & Carol Emmert.
This photo shows Bert’s brother, the above-mentioned Guy Harvey Curtis, with two of his children. The boy is his youngest son Paul Robert Curtis (1922-1996). The girl is likely his daughter Mabel Edna Curtis (1908-1989). They are standing in front of the family restaurant in Grinnell, Iowa:
Guy Curtis, Mabel Curtis, & Paul Curtis, about 1930.
Edna Mullins with her son Harry Curtis. Taken in September 1954:
Edna Mullins & Harry Curtis, Sept 1954.
And, finally, the most remarkable photo in the collection. This photo shows a very young Bert and Edna Curtis with two of their children. Likely taken about 1900 in Great Falls, Montana, the writing on the back says “Bert and Edna Curtis with Clarence and Harry or Harry and Grace”:
Curtis family, about 1900.