On August 2, 1925 in the small Midwestern town of Frankford, Missouri, a former slave by the name of Frances (Fannie) Howard passed away unbeknown to most of the world. She left behind several relatives, 120 acres of land, and a few personal belongings. By many standards she was just an ordinary woman. What makes her extraordinary, however, is over a period of perhaps as many as 60 years she amassed an incredible rare and invaluable treasure–one not made of gold or jewels but something far more precious in so many ways.
Fannie’s 150-year-old treasure was a photograph album–a collection of 19th-century portraits of family and friends, mostly of African-Americans like herself. Many of the portraits had been made following Emancipation (several as early as the 1860s) and her album included almost 80 photographs of children, women and men who lived through or heard first-hand stories of the horrors of slavery and struggles of survival. In their eyes one can see both the pain and pride of survival.
Sadly, all of the photographs became lost to their families sometime between 1925 when Fannie died and 1984 when, nearly 2,000 miles away from where Fannie had lived, my mother purchased the album at an auction in Baltimore, MD. Our initial thought was perhaps something inside the album help answers to our own past. Many of the portraits in the album were taken in Missouri, near where our ancestors had lived.
Waiting to be Found: The Lost Treasure of Fannie Keene shares all of the photographs along with what we discovered about many of the people pictured and the lives they lived. Our hope is by doing so you will help us with our ultimate goal–to identify everyone pictured in Fannie’s album so one day soon we can unite anyone alive today with their ancestors.
Seven generations have passed since the first photograph was taken. No doubt there are more than a thousand people alive today who could be connected to someone in Fannie’s album. Because of what Fannie left behind the opportunity for descendants to “meet” their ancestors in a very special way is a reality. Who among us would not want to see what their great-, great-, great-, great-, even great-grandmother or grandfather looked like and find out even a little bit about how they lived?