How My Sister Tracked Down a Family for Old Photos Found in a Thrift Store Dresser

By Diane Haddad

Lawyers and genealogists have a lot in common (just ask the Legal Genealogist), including investigative skills. My lawyer sister used hers recently to find a home for a collection of family mementos.

It’s a happy story, so I asked if I could blog about it.

A stranger called my sister, Jen, at work, about old photo albums, papers and trinkets she found in a dresser she bought at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop.

(Reminder to double-check inside any furniture and behind picture frames before you donate them!)

The woman looked for a name, found Jen’s married surname with a photo, googled it, and found Jen’s profile on her law firm’s website. Jen went to pick up the stuff.

She pored over it with her husband and his sister. It was a big collection. “There were nine photo albums of old black and whites from about the early 1900s to the 1960s, plus an album of color photos from the 1970s and ’80s, old Disabled American Veterans and American Legion hats and pins, and Freemasons certificates and mementos,” Jen says. (She didn’t take a picture; the box pictured above is just for illustration.)

Except for the one photo, which showed my brother-in-law’s great-aunt and -uncle, none of the items appeared to be from his family.

Another name appeared a few times amongst the items (not included here for privacy purposes). Jen googled the names and came up with two obituaries for a husband and wife. One was fairly recent and mentioned no surviving children, only unnamed nieces and nephews.

Jen put on her lawyer hat and reasoned the family might still be dealing with an estate. She visited the Kenton County (Ky.) Property Valuation Administrator’s website and found a home listed under the deceased couple’s names. She googled the address—it was for sale. Then she tracked down the real estate agent in charge of the listing, contacted him with an explanation about the stuff, and asked him to forward her contact information to his clients.

A few days later, one of the nieces called Jen. “I described what was in the photos and what some of the names listed in the photos were, and it was all familiar to her. She came to the office to pick everything up, and was super excited about getting it.”

The niece is related to my brother-in-law, at least through marriage, because his great-aunt and -uncle are her relatives, too. Happy ending!