It’s not often you get such a clear picture of an old relative. My aunt discovered this photo when she was moving. In my grandmother’s handwriting on the back it says “My grandmother Wade.” Given all the online sleuthing tools available, it was a just few short steps to trace back from my grandmother to her grandmother, Mary Wade, born in 1851.
According to the 1880 census, Mary Wade lived in Daviess County, Indiana. She was four years older than her farmer husband, David. Her fourth child, Bertha, married in 1898 and gave birth to my grandmother a year after the wedding. After another child was born, Bertha died. Mary Wade took care of my grandmother and her brother at times while they were growing up. Her status as a farmer’s wife doesn’t tell us much about her—even today that job could mean almost anything, from poverty to prosperity. She looks more on the prosperous side here, though.
I’m guessing that the photo comes from the early 1920s, which would put Mary Wade in her early seventies. Surplice necklines were a fashionable style in the 1920s, and frequently recommended for older women. The blog Witness to Fashion shows a 1920 Butterick sewing pattern with many common elements to her dress above, with a pronounced collar and slightly dropped waist. Mary’s long string of beads, wrapped about her neck, are another 1920s detail.
I don’t feel any sense of kinship looking at Mary Wade. However, finding an ancestor looking hale and hearty into her seventies is not a bad legacy to claim.