Published February 25, 2018

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I’ve been fortunate enough to benefit from loads of good relationships in the larger genealogy world during my years of participation in it.

But it’s fair to say that among the very best of those ties is with the folks at F+W Media, who put out Family Tree Magazine as well as my three commercially published books.

So it really caught my eye a couple of weeks ago when my friends there put together a Valentines Day special article called “Sharing the Genealogy Love: Our Favorite Ancestral Couple Photos.”

In the article, publisher Allison Dolan, magazine editor Diane Haddad, book editor Andrew Koch, instructional designer Vanessa Wieland and senior designer Julie Barnett took a photograph of an ancestral couple and gave readers the “story behind the story” – in addition to putting together some genealogy tips relating to the type of story they were telling.

Especially darling was Wieland’s photo of her Greatest Generation grandparents, Carl and Dorothy (Ashford) Davies, who disagreed (with good-natured passion!) about the exact circumstances of how they met.

This got me thinking about my “favorite ancestral photo,” and there wasn’t a question in my mind what I would choose.

An ancestral couple who are especially dear to me are my great-great-grandparents, Wellington Bickel Machmer and his wife Emma Rebecca (Dehart). Though they each died more than a decade before I was born, my mother – who was primarily raised by Wellington and Emma, her “Pappy” and “Mammy,” after my mother’s mother died – had vivid memories of them.

I had seen many photographs of them in family scrapbooks but a few years ago, I cleaned out my home’s attic – the home that Wellington and Emma bought into the family in 1920 – and found a large-sized portrait of them, probably taken for their 50th wedding anniversary.

They are dressed to the nines – probably for one of the few times in their countryside lives – and Pappy is patriarchal with his full beard. Mammy looks just plain stern.

I recall telling my mother that while she still lived and she said that probably didn’t represent the full character. They lived through American history from the Civil War to World War II, with the Great Depression toward the end of their lives.

They also outlived four of their eight children, including their youngest, a boy named Willie who was to take farming for Pappy.

But Willie went to World War I. And did not come back from France.

As a result, Pappy and Mammy sold their larger farm and bought the home that’s now been in the family for almost a century.

That large-sized portrait was likely taken just a few years after that.


See the entire article on the Family Tree staff’s photographs at the URL,

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