How to label a large group shot: Emil DeRose and Julia Lezer’s 1919 wedding

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Wedding at Sacred Heart Church, South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana. As identified by the bride and groom’s daughter, Carolyn Louise (DeRose Fredericks Niblick) Hess, they are, back row, 1: unknown; 2: William Lezer, brother of the bride; 3: Mrs. Csardi, an immigrant friend; 4-9: unknown; 10: Emery Lizer, Alex Lezer’s brother and the bride’s uncle; next row, 11: unknown child; 12: groom’s stepfather; 13: groom’s mother; 14: groom, Emil Julius DeRose; 15: bride, Julia Ethel Lezer; 16: mother of the bride, Caroline Gymoti Lezer; 17: father of the bride, Alex Lezer; 18: 10-year younger sister of the bride, Theresa Lezer; 19: unknown, not of the Lezer family; 20: brother of the bride, Michael Lezer

Perhaps you have one, a family photo featuring so many faces you can hardly differentiate them. Carefully tracing a silhouette outline of the people in the photograph and numbering them can provide an easy thumbnail sketch for labeling who is who.

To complete the effect on the portrait above, I covered the photo with an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of white copy paper, though tracing paper would be even easier. Taking care not to press hard, I sketched a rough outline of the heads and shoulders of the photograph subjects and numbered them. I scanned the sketch and used Fotor Photo Collage, a free online resource, to manipulate it. The site makes it easy to stitch the original photo and the silhouette together and save it as a new file. From there, the captioning is a cinch!

There are so many unanswered questions in this wedding portrait of Emil Julius DeRose and Julia Caroline Lezer, and I’m not talking just about the “who is this guy?” kind.

It was taken for their wedding on June 25, 1919. They married at Sacred Heart Church, South Bend, St. Joseph Co., Indiana. Their marriage license lists the alternate spelling Emiel DeRoose for Emil, as well as identifying Julia as a seamstress.

Two families, including the Hungarian Lezers, became one, but only for a short time. Emil and Julia divorced after the birth of their only daughter, Carolyn. The divorce was in 1923. The reasons are not entirely clear, though there are rumors of infidelity and a maid. On my to-do list is to obtain the divorce record from St. Joseph County to see what the historic record can tell us.  The Centers for Disease Control has a handy site that shows how to obtain vital records by state, so I know I need to go straight to the county for that information.

After the divorce, Carolyn had limited contact with her birth father, explaining the gaps in our knowledge about who stood in their wedding. We don’t know Emil’s parents names, yet, but I am on the trail! Carolyn did recall that Emil’s stepfather was present at the wedding, and she filled in all the labels she could. I plan to revisit the lovely St. Joseph County Library, where an online South Bend Tribute obituary index shows me exactly where on microfilm to find his obituary. I hope that will shed some light on his parents’ names. U.S. Census records are an obvious next step, as well.

The Lezers were a family of Hungarian immigrants. I find it interesting that Carolyn labeled Mrs. Csardi (she explained it sounds like Shard-ee) in the photo as their “immigrant friend.” I plan to look at U.S. Census records to see if that last name appears in their neighborhood.

The danger in these blog posts is that I may never post them, because I keep thinking up ways to further my research!

Book Review: Family history how-to ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ goes beyond TV

wdytyaIn “Who Do You Think You Are: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History,” genealogist to the president and others Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak takes readers on a genealogical journey, breaking down the basics of vital statistics, the U.S. census, family interviews and other types of research in a breezy way that makes facts and figures lively. Her tone is cheerful and reflects her love of the craft. She may walk among us, but you can tell she loves no place better than the stacks of the local history room at the library.

She shares her own journeys into the past, from the family reunions with cousins heretofore unknown, and those of others. Her story of tracking the true Annie Moore, first passenger to arrive at Ellis Island, is a don’t-miss.

Smolenyak (yes, she has two of the same last names, itself its own story) has incorporated personal history into her daily life, with framed pedigree charts and ancestors’ names ringing the walls of her dining room like a wallpaper border. Amid an extensive how-to for family historians, she shares inspiration about how to get the family history out of the computer and into the quotidian experience.

This is a great primer for experienced and would-be family historians. If you’ve considered researching or merely dabbled, her prose will make you want to dive deeper. If you’re an experienced researcher, you still can pick up useful hints.

For those who are drawn to the book because of the TLC television program, a center-section on glossy paper shares the genealogical journeys from the show of famous guests including Matthew Broderick. Some of the subjects of the TLC program of the same name and their own journeys into their families’ pasts are revealed. It’s a fast read that you’ll want to read a second time just to give those research tips a whirl, sticky tabs in hand to mark passages you’ll refer to again and again.