I recently connected with a second cousin on Ancestry and discovered that he had uploaded a photograph from Christmas of 1903 which included our great-grandmother, far left (Mary Regina Smith Hamilton 1866-1909) and our great-grandfather, far right (Thomas Scott Hamilton 1865-1945) and their children (one son is missing and one toddler daughter had passed away a few years earlier). Both lived in Philadelphia their entire lives.
I have been researching my family tree for over 35 years and this was the first time I had ever seen a photo of either of my Hamilton great-grandparents. So I was so thrilled to find this! And very happy to be able to put faces to names I had known almost my entire life.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. My great-grandmother looks less-than-excited (she was probably tired!) My great-grandfather looks a bit creepy and perhaps mad. My grandmother told me about how strict he was, but I’ve also heard stories about what a kind and good man he was. The house (if indeed it was theirs) looks more upper class than I had previously believed. The toys were certainly those of at least an upper middle-class family. My great-grandfather was a clothing cutter so I don’t imagine they were rich. Looking at the house and beautifully-decorated tree, it appears as though they were quite comfortable.
This is such a beautiful snapshot in time. My great-grandparents would go on to have three more children (including one set of twins — my grandmother, Margaret Hamilton Gable, was one of those twins). Just six years after this photo was taken, my great-grandmother dropped dead suddenly when her twins were only 18 months old, leaving her husband and oldest daughter (Kate, the smiling one on the right) to raise the children.
This photo illustrates such a different time in history than we are living, a simpler time. Yes, mothers and fathers still die suddenly and widowers and widows are still left to raise children. But many Catholic families are limiting the number of children they have. I can’t begin to judge any other couple, but I know in our own case, we remained open, despite the doctors’ orders that we stop having children.
We can learn so much from our ancestors. Back then, contraception wasn’t even a thought in most Catholic couples’ minds and really wasn’t readily available anyway. Most welcomed children as they came. I’m thankful to my Hamilton great-grandparents for welcoming children as they did, even when it was so obviously difficult and challenging. My grandmother, Margaret Hamilton Gable, was one of twins in Mary Hamilton’s last pregnancy. If they had stopped having children, if they had discovered contraception, I wouldn’t be here today.
My grandmother (Margaret) went on to elope with my grandfather (Fritz) and eventually they had four children (my father was the second oldest).
This was indeed a wonderful find!