Genealogist Amy Johnson Crow, who blogs at No Story Too Small, has set a challenge to write about one ancestor each week. I’ve decided to take up that challenge to wake up my (somewhat) languishing blog, but to honor my ancestors. I plan to post every week on Sunday, and I encourage others to join the challenge with me.
This is one of my all-time favorite photos in my family’s collection. I love the detail that can be seen in the coat of his sack suit, buttoned high on the neck, with a handkerchief peeking out of the welt pocket. I love his mustache and tidy haircut. He looks like a nice young man.
He’s my great-grandfather, who was born, like many on my dad’s side of the family, in Elmira, Chemung County, New York. Frank G. Roberts (b. 25 September 1862) was the son of Henry S. Roberts and Hannah L. Beaumont; their 6th child together out of eight. (Henry also had six children from his first marriage, for a total of 14 children!)
In the 1800s, many of my male ancestors worked as miners and blacksmiths. By the close of the century, you can see that this trend changes in favor of clerical and business-related occupations. As a young man, in what was perhaps his first job, Frank worked as a telegraph operator, according to the 1880 census. About 12 years later he was a clerk and newly married to Mary L. Gulick, and by the time he was 28, he was a grocery clerk. He must have done well, and was running his own store a few years later.
From snippets in the local newspapers, I found that my great-grandfather also worked as the head janitor for the City of Elmira (1904), and briefly left the area in 1911 for Northumberland, Pennsylvania, to take what the paper called “a nice job.” It must not have lasted long, because he was back in Elmira in 1915. The last job he held, as listed in the 1920 census, was as an inspector in a manufacturing plant.
Frank and his wife May had three daughters, including my grandmother Ruth Ellen Roberts. Except for a possible short stint in Pennsylvania, they lived in Elmira all of their lives. My father remembers him well. Frank lived to the age of 88, and died in 1951 of general arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
One day I was going through my photo collection, and I came across a picture of my son when he played an old man in a high school play. Using TurboCollage photo collage software, I joined my great-grandfather’s photo with my son’s. The result:
I thought it was pretty amazing. Of course it’s probably just the mustache.