HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – A Massachusetts woman has successfully connected a more than a century-old baby photo taken in Hutchinson with a relative on the west coast.
Kate Kelley, dubbed “The Photo Angel,” started scouring her local antique stores for historical photos a couple of years ago.
Courtesy: Kate Kelley
“I just started buying photos with labels on them and just got the ball rolling, and I started meeting with success. It was just so exciting, and I thought, ‘You know what, I am going to start a Facebook group and start chronicling these stories,’ and before I knew it, the Boston Globe was calling me and then the Today show. This is taking a life bigger than I ever expected,” said Kelley.
That “life” recently connected an 1890s baby photo of Archie Leon Shepard of Darlow, Kansas, to his great-niece Lani Black in Washington.
“I was very surprised to see there was a message back from last November from a lady that said she was ‘The Photo Angel,’ and I thought maybe it was a hoax,” laughed Black. “I looked her up, and sure enough, she was real, and she really did have a picture of my great uncle.”
The photo of Shepard has his name handwritten on the back. It also had the photography studio, and the location of Hutchinson imprinted on it. Kelley used that information and a couple of ancestry websites to find Black.
“I cast a wide net. I reach out to as many people as possible that have posted a (family) tree on the person I am researching,” Kelley explained. “My general rule of thumb is I send it back to the person with the closest relationship to the individual in the photo.”
Black, a genealogy buff herself, said the photo has helped her learn even more about her family history. Kelley was able to share Shepard’s birthday, spouse’s name, and career as a sign painter with Black.
Black later learned from her mother that Shepard owned a sign painting business known for painting billboards in the Wichita area.
While finding and connecting long-lost photos is nothing new for Kelley. She said every time she is able to successfully do so, she is filled with joy.
“In a nutshell, I do it because it feels so good to help people piece together their family history. I get so emotional when I talk about it because it’s a calling, really, it’s a calling,” Kelley said.
Black recently received the photo of Shepard in the mail. She plans to frame it and put it in a special place in her home.