I was raised by my maternal grandparents, Richard and Mildred Greene, who never stopped talking about their families. One of the stories my grandmother loved to share was how my Grandad’s father, Grandpa Green, ruined a bunch of tintypes. I used to love listening to her go over all the details. Decades after the fact, she was still “stewing” as my Grandad would say.
The story was told to me this way. When Grandpa Green was in his 80s in the mid-1960s, he used to live with my grandparents. At the time, my grandfather was a funeral director/embalmer who owned his own funeral home in Brockton, MA and my grandmother was always by his side to help him. One day, while they were overseeing a funeral, Grandpa Green decided that he wanted to label all the tintypes that he had in his possession. There were about 30 tintypes that had been taken in the late 1800s and early 1900s in New Jersey. They included photos of his family and friends. My grandmother remembered coming upstairs after the funeral only to discover that Grandpa Green had labeled the tintypes by putting the names of the people on the FRONT side of the tintypes. It always irked my grandmother that he didn’t think to put the names on the back of the tintypes. She always believed that he ruined them.
While I could certainly see her perspective on this, I always believed that Grandpa Green felt an urgent need to document the names of my ancestors and their friends before he passed away. It seemed to me that he wanted the names on the front for a reason— almost as if to say, there once was a person named…I believe Grandpa Green was leaving us a gift. Who knew that decades later, his gift would be welcomed with open arms and that he would leave clues for me and Andrea to follow in our family history search?
I remember seeing the tintype of my 2nd great-grandmother and realizing my own mother was a “throwback.” My mom didn’t look like her parents, but she looked a whole lot like her great-grandmother Laura Thompson Green.
When I first met Andrea, she only knew her great-grandmother’s name, Goldie, but had never seen a photo of her. My aunt, who has the tintypes in her possession, gave Andrea the tintype of Goldie. What a gift that was. Thanks Grandpa Green!