How do you make a pearl? Well, you start with an oyster, and you insert a grain of sand into its shell. In the same way that a small pebble in your shoe becomes a major irritant, so that grain of sand spurs the oyster into isolating it by building up layers of nacre, or oyster-shell lining, around those rough edges. Eventually the pearl takes on a lustrous round shape, but at the heart of that pearl is still the irritating bit of sand.
What has that to do with my mother's family? Meet Aunt Pearl. Yes, that was her real name, and I'm sure my grandparents had no premonition that their new baby girl would grow up to be the irritant in the family shell. But she certainly did so.
I started to realize that fact when I was going through family pictures. Here's one of Grandmother Caroline and all eight of her daughters. It was taken sometime around 1915 on the steps of the family home, "The Old Nye Place" outside of Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. Can you spot the contrary one? Of course you can. Mother and seven daughters are dressed in almost identical white dresses. In the front row we see Ella, Grace, Caroline, Mary, and Minnie. In the back are Margaret, Lola, and Florence. Pearl is wearing plaid.
Here's another, taken in Canton, Ohio, sometime around 1930. Three oldest sisters are missing. Ella and Mary were both dead by then, Mary just recently, which accounts for the appearance of mourning outfits. ; Minnie was still living back in Ellwood City. Here are the other five: Grace (in the fur-trimmed dark coat), Grandmother Caroline, Lola, Margaret, and Florence -- all dressed in dark dresses with long sleeves and just a touch of white at the neck. And at the edge of the group is Pearl -- in a frilly short-sleeved light-colored summer frock.
Lesson To Be Learned
Genealogical researchers should pay careful attention to what the pictures of their subjects are revealing.