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The handwritten note on the back of the photo says “Spence’s Indiana Sister of Grandma’s Garee mother”.  I would guess the photo dates from between 1880 and 1890 and was among my husband’s maternal grandmother’s things.

Who wrote the note?

After a bit of checking in my database I knew that the person who penned the note was referring to Rebecca Garee nee Hamilton’s mother Martha Ann Sparks.  Unfortunately, all I knew about Martha was her full name and her husband’s name.  I proceeded to find out more through the census but didn’t have much luck with that.  Next, I decided to hunt for marriage records in Indiana for a Spence who married a Sparks estimating that their ages might be similar to Martha Ann’s.  After browsing through the index I found one match.  Amanda Sparks married a Peter T Spence in Wabash, Indiana on July 4, 1855.   Could it be Martha’s sister?

I began searching for Peter T. Spence in Indiana who was married to an Amanda and found a listing in ancestry.com that included an article and a photo. When I compared the man in that photo with the photo I have, it looks like it could be same person.

I still needed more proof to know if Amanda might be my Martha’s sister.  All the naming patterns of their children are similar.  One of Amanda’s researchers on ancestry had her parents names and searching for them in census records I found she had a sister named Martha Ann born at the right time and in the right location.  As I’ve continued to research I now feel confident that Amanda Spence who married Peter is my Martha Ann’s sister.

The warmth of the room with the fireplace, quilts, crocheted items and fabric on the floor all bring me in to wonder about these people and their lives.  Now, I know their names.

In researching this I also found a photo of Amanda’s sister Jane. Seeing photos of the two sisters and their niece, Rebecca Garee, reveal their physical similarities.

Update: my mother-in-law told me that her brother wrote the note on the back of the photo.