My mother, who passed away shortly before Christmas of 2009, gave birth to me a bit "late" in life. (She was 39, older than most women were who were having children back in 1956.) And as that parenthetical reference should tell you, I myself passed the half-century mark slightly over three years ago.
That means that although the earliest family photo I can find is of my mother's two eldest siblings, the photo above is still over 100 years old.
The picture probably dates from 1906. The lad on the left is my Uncle Peter (named after his dad), born in 1904. On the right of the photo stands his impish-looking older sister Josephine (named after her mom, my maternal grandmother), my "Aunt Josie," whom I unfortunately never met. Peter would have been about two years old, while Josie -- born in 1902, I believe -- was about four in this photo.
As for my mother herself... well... she wasn't due to show up for ten years or so! And since not a lot of photos were taken in the 20th century's first decade (I'm referring to my mom's family, of course, and not the world in general), the third Sepia Saturday in which I participate will probably show the earliest known photo of my mother!
All told, my maternal grandparents -- immigrants from Lithuania sometime around the turn of the century -- had seven children, two girls and five boys. (Well, as the saying goes, everybody needs a hobby!) Aunt Josie was the oldest, and my mom was the youngest, so the two girls provided the Alpha and the Omega to their little family group.
I'm not sure when and why, but at some point after his entry into the USA, Peter Streimekis -- or Stremekes, or Streimekes, or Streimikis! -- became Peter Hartman, and that's the name all of his American-born children were raised as. Family lore has it that the change was actually made by a brother of his.
But why "Hartman," I often wonder.
Now, I can understand when some impatient dork at Ellis Island lopped a syllable or two or three off of an immigrant's name -- a switch from "Kantrowitz" to "Kanter" comes to mind, as does an eventual progression from "Lafayette" to "Fayette" to "Fay" -- but how on earth do you get Hartman from Streimekis?
There's too darned much about these people -- my grandparents, that is -- that I will never know. I don't know if they came over from Lithuania as a married couple, or if they met here in America. And I have no idea when the name change became legal... but my grandparents' 1923 divorce decree lists their surname as Stremekes.
The above document -- right-click on it if you want to see it in a (hopefully) slightly larger form in a new tab or window -- is the official "Stremekes" divorce decree, listing the cause of divorce as being "adultery and desertion." Said adultery and desertion was committed by my very own "grammy," who left her husband and six minor children roughly four years before the above document was issued... when my mother was approximately two years old.
Family legend has it that Grammy Josephine, who walked away from it all to cohabit and canoodle with her boyfriend, became a bootlegger of sorts during Prohibition. I came along many years later, of course, years after things had been somewhat patched up between Grammy and her children. Not being one of the children she abandoned, therefore, I never harbored any feelings of resentment toward her... although as a very young child, I often wondered why my father's parents were "Grampy" and "Grammy" Lynch, and my mother's mother was "Grammy" as well... but her husband was simply referred to as... "Dominic."
And to this day, I still think it's kinda cool that my Grammy was a bootlegger!
Next time, whenever that "next time" may be... I'll introduce you to my dad!
And speaking of "time," thanks for your time.