Your Photos Hold a Story

Did you ever look at a photo and think: I know there is a story behind this! I just wish I could know what it is!? This happens to me more times than I can count.

Sometimes a family member is dressed up silly which is the case in a photo of my grandfather wearing nothing but a native Hawaiian hula skirt and a huge grin. Where did he get this skirt? What drove him to put it on? Was it even his?? Unfortunately I didn’t come across this picture until after he was gone to ask him these questions.

And sometimes it is just a group shot. All filled with smiles and I can only identify a couple of people in the photo. Oh, how I wish I could know who the other folks are and why they were important in the lives of my relatives.

This past summer I attended St. Augustine’s KirchenFest in Hecker, Illinois (the town where my grandmother’s journals are written from). St. Augustine was my grandmother’s home parish and the church in which she married. I enjoy going to this church festival every year with my husband and daughters as well as my mother (Bertille’s daughter).

While we were eating the delicious chicken dinner at the fest, I had the delightful opportunity to meet Iona Buehler Heidel. Her daughter had seen a photo that I had posted on the Tillie’s Tales Facebook page  where I knew some of the names but not all. Not only was Iona able to identify everyone in the photo but also had a great story to accompany it:


Her daughter, Janice Pautler, later emailed the details in full.

She wrote: “Willie Birkner was not present for this picture but his wife, Lena Birkner, wanted a partner for the picture. Lena said that Irvin Buehler, her nephew, should take Willie’s place. Willie wore a hat and had a mustache so a hat was put on Irvin’s head and Lena said to put some chicken feathers under Irvin’s nose for a mustache.

On the photo from left to right:
Lena Birkner and Irvin Buehler (Iona Buehler Heidel’s brother)
Mary Birkner and Fred Birkner
Frieda (Birkner) Buehler and Christopher Buehler (Irvin and Iona’s parents)

Willie Birkner and Frieda (Birkner) Buehler were brother and sister.
Fred Birkner was Frieda’s uncle. Frieda’s dad, Louis Birkner, and Fred were brothers.”

I am so appreciative to both Iona and Janice for sharing this wonderful information. I always wondered what that was in front of Irvin’s face but had no clue! Now we all know.

Do you have a family photo that you are curious about? Do you ask yourself: what is the story? Do you sometimes invent a story that could be the reason for that photo?

Yet another reason to share your photos with your family members while you are still here to share your story!

P.S. This is another great way to get older relatives to start talking about their past. Get out some photos with them in the picture and ask and listen!

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