An oval, framed photograph found in the attic of my husband’s boyhood home remains a mystery to us. Every once in a while I take it out and try by force of will to get the picture to disclose who the people are.
My latest theory is that the woman in the photo is the oldest sister of Bill’s paternal grandfather. Could it be Mary Josephine Hickey and her husband Charles Asa White?
Born 4 July 1857 in rural Ramsey County, Minnesota, Mary Josephine was the oldest child of Irish-born Patrick and Julia Hickey. The Hickeys later settled in Waseca County where they raised their family of nine children.
The 1880 U.S. Federal Census shows 22-year-old Mary Hickey living in a Minneapolis boarding house and working as a cook at a hotel. One can imagine many scenarios in which she might have met a young railroad employee, Charles White, born in Maine in 1854.
The Hickey family Bible records the marriage of Mary Hickey and “Charley” White on 13 October 1884.
By the 1900 U.S. Census, the Whites and their three children were living in Hellgate Township, Missoula County, Montana, where Charles was a railroad inspector.
Mary and Charley died in the 1940s. As far as I know, there’s been no contact between the Minnesota Hickeys and the Montana Whites since then, and I’ve located no descendants. I keep hoping to find someone who can confirm whether this is a photo of Mary and Charley, perhaps a great-grandchild who will cherish it.
This week I happened upon an Ancestry family tree which included “our” Charles Asa White. Over 11,000 names in the tree! I exchanged messages with the tree’s originator, and I was disappointed with her response: “My family of Whites lost touch with their cousins who went west a long time ago.” Her tree goes back to Charles White’s third great-grandfather, John White (1672-1739), who was born in Ireland!
I wonder if Mary and Charley knew they shared Irish heritage?
But more importantly, are they pictured in our photo?