By Elizabeth Gracen:
If you have an Instagram account, you've seen the sheer variety of content created by people from all walks of life from all across the world. Being a visual person, it is my favorite social media platform, and I'm constantly coming across a fascinating feed that captures my imagination. THE FEED is our newest series on Flapper Press and features curators and their approach to creating their unique Instagram feeds.
This month, I reached out @facesofyesteryear.
What caught my attention about this particular feed was the mystery behind the faces posted. It begged several questions: Who are these people? Where did they come from? And who is the interesting person behind this curation?
EG: First of all, thank you so much being part of this new series on FlapperPress.com. Your Instagram feed is chock full of wonderful vintage photographs. Please share a little bit about yourself and how you got started with the curation of your Insta account.
Sarah: Hi my name is Sarah, and I live in Oregon and have my entire life. I grew up on a farm. I am married to one of my childhood friends and best friend. We have two dogs, a black Pug named Wednesday, who is 9 months old, and Senior Shelter, who is brown and a total mix breed we rescued when he was nine, and he is currently sixteen going on seventeen. We also have three cats: Tiberius (orange striped and white), Eevee (black), and Navi (tuxedo). I work as a Direct Support Professional with people with developmental disabilities, helping them with what they need help with so that they can be as independent as possible. I love my job because I truly think the person I support is one of the most wonderful, strongest people I have ever met, and it's an honor for me to help them.
I started collecting and researching photos in January 2020, but have always enjoyed going through old steamer trunks, so old they were full of memories of people my grandmother couldn't even remember. I thought that it would be cool to try to figure out who people were, so I got into genealogy. I have researched several friends, my own and my husband's family, so future children will know where we come from. I started the @facesofysteryear account on Instagram on May 20, 2020, as a way to share my ever-growing collection with other people and share the stories of the people in the photos when possible. Many times there is not enough information to research; however, my favorite thing is piecing someone's life together with as many details as I can find. It's a rush to put all the pieces together.
EG: When I scroll through your images, I see that almost all of them have unknown origins and names. I’m assuming that you have a fascination with vintage photography, but please tell me what attracts you to these particular images.
Sarah: The images that attract me the most are photos with names on the back that I can research, photos of people with animals, and photos of couples—especially weddings. However, I collect photos of people specifically, and I don't discriminate if the photo is of a person and is either antique or what I consider vintage (anything before I was born). I find faces compelling.
EG: There is something so mysterious about old photographs—especially black-and-white photos. Where do you find them and how do you decide which ones to post? Do you post daily?
Sarah: I have gotten my photos from family, friends, antique shops, flea markets, and online. I weirdly feel like I am rescuing the image from not being seen. I am interested in photos of people, so if a photo doesn't have a person in it, I would most likely not purchase it even if it was a cool location or an object. That is just not what I collect. I organize into different categories and try not to over-post from one category more than others so that everyone can see an image they enjoy that day. Hopefully. I usually post daily, but occasionally I won't post; but as this is my biggest hobby and something I enjoy doing for fun, I try to do it as much as I can.
EG: What do you learn from the photographs that you curate for your account? What can we all learn from them?
Sarah: I have learned that at the end of the day, people want to be connected with someone. They want to stay close to family or move and find their place and find their people. People want to be successful, have someone or something important, and want to find "home," whatever that is to them. I hope that people can recognize that everyone wants happiness, safety, and fulfillment . . . and that's what it is to be human. And I have learned that we can absolutely connect with an image of someone you have never met.
EG: You have a passion for looking back. Do you think it’s important to understand our history?
Sarah: I do have a passion for history and feel that knowledge of history is important so that we don't allow ourselves to make mistakes that others have made. We can learn from their examples. We can gain inspiration from their lives to live in ways we feel good about when we lay down to sleep at night. That's why I like sharing the stories of regular people for the most part. They are more relatable and deserve to be remembered, as everyone does. We can learn from everyone in history.
EG: Finally, do you care if people “follow” or “like” what you are posting? Would you keep doing it even if no one responded? Why do you like engaging in social media? Are you active on other platforms?
Sarah: I want people to like and follow if they enjoy what I share. If they don't, that's okay. There are lots of pages they may enjoy more. I don't take it personally. And, yes, I would still be doing this if no one responded, because I enjoy going back through and looking at the photos on my feed and rereading my research, because it makes me feel accomplished. I like engaging on social media because I feel like sharing these photos is important and something harmless that brings people interest or joy.
EG: Thank you so much for sharing your story and your passion. Would you please tell me about some of the images you have curated?
Sarah: Of course! These are just a handful, but I think they are special.
Sylvia Juanita Jones. I received the images of her in a photo lot from Ebay. I found her name on some images and the location on another and was able to find her—which was amazing given how common a name "Jones" is.
Sylvia Juanita Jones, born September 9th 1921 in Rushmore, Virginia, was the eldest daughter of Mamie Cypress who was only 13 when she had Sylvia and Fred Yarbrough who 20 at the time of her birth who wed in 1923 they had another daughter together Helen Louise in 1924. Mamie remarried in 1928 to Charlie Jones who was the man who raised Sylvia she and Helen they were given his last name that was their Daddy. More siblings were born Dorothy 1928, Charles Jr 1933, Frank 1938, and Rose Marie 1940. In 1940 Sylvia was 18 living at home and working as a housekeeper. She never married. She had 2 daughters Jacqueline and Darlene and 2 sons James and Clyde Jr. She was a Baptist and member of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Norfolk City, Virginia. She had worked in Moving and Storage. When she was 69 she had a heart attack and passed at her home in Norfolk City March 13th 1991. She is laid to rest at Roosevelt Memorial Park in Chesapeake, Virginia.
(Left to Right)
First 2 photos taken when she was 16 in '37 or '38
Next 2 photos would have been taken during her 20s in the 1940s
5th photo taking a break from washing her car
7th photo with her parents and siblings and a few significant others and children; she is the lady holding the smallest child
8th photo she is the lady in the white dress kneeling behind 3 children; unsure on everyone's relationship here
9th photo blurry but sweet photo of her holding one of her children
Emma Farrar. I found her on Ebay as well. I was excited by this image because her name and the name of her father were written on the back, which was helpful research-wise.
Emma Farrar was born in November 30th 1915 the 4th child of 7 in the family of Robert Farrar a farmer and Ida Powell the family lived and farmed in Buckhorn, Virginia. Sometime after 1920 the family moved to Hackensack, New Jersey She married Julian McCoy Sr. and then married someone with the last name Gibson. She had 2 children— Juanita and Julian Jr. She had 4 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren at the time of her passing. She had worked as a domestic servant before she retired. She was a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church in South Hackensack and she was a senior member of the usher board there. She was a member of both the Hackensack and New Jersey chapters of Order of the Eastern Star. Emma entered into rest Christmas Eve 1990 she was 75. This photo was taken in 1933 when she was 18 years old.
James Milton (nickname "Butch") Jones was from a different photo lot and no relation to Sylvia that I am aware of. He is the only person that I have researched that I know for certain was murdered.
James Milton "Butch" Jones was born November 4th 1941 in West Virginia the son of Roy a coal miner and mother Violet Prunty he had 5 older siblings and 4 younger half siblings. His father Roy died at 59 when Butch was 15. When he was 18 on June 1st 1960 to 17 year old Shirley Mae Harvey. They were married less one year. He remarried when he was 24 to 19 year old Blanche Beverly Ferguson on March 9th 1966. Butch worked as an Orderly at Bluefield Sanitarium/nursing home. On January 15th, 1969, he was murdered. He was shot in the chest with a 32 caliber pistol after he and Paul Alexander Martin age 29 were arguing over a woman he died shortly afterwards he was 27 years old.
Mary Adams (nickname "Addie") Harp. She seemed to be the rock and caretaker in her family and had beautiful doe-like eyes.
Mary Adams "Addie" Harp was born in New Castle, Delaware in 1842 and was baptized on January 28th 1843 in the Presbyterian church there. She was the second born child of Robert a Blacksmith and Mary. She had an older sister Catharine 1841, younger sister Eliza 1847, and younger brother Hen