Orphan Photo Lost and Found: The Little Prince Has a Family

It’s the kind of story that leaves us all hoping that a missing piece of our family history will pop up and be reunited with us. Photo orphans sit in antique shops all over the world.  That’s what happened with this little fellow. Earl Russell Prince, age 3.  A colleague gave me this image years ago.  If you’re part of the orphan photo movement then you know how I felt.  The photo had a name on the back.  As a genealogist I knew that it might be possible to find his family.   Eight years ago I wrote about this image for the Photo Detective blog on Family Tree Magazine.com.  The challenge was out there.  If you’re a relative, then contact me and I’ll return the image to you.

I waited. And waited….no sign of his family.

Earl Prince
Earl Prince

Finding the Details

Here’s what I did to find out more about Earl.

The few clues in the image provided a research strategy. My colleague bought the picture in Maine, but it lacked a photographer’s name.  It was possible he lived in Maine.

The bodice of the boy’s dress (remember that young girls and boys wore dresses in the past), featuring a simple collar and full sleeves, is typical of children’s clothing in the early 20th century. My first step was to learn more about Earl, who possibly lived in Maine and was born in the early 1900s.

My first step in 2008 was to search his name on Google. Today my first step would be to search Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. These mega databases have come a long way. Millions of family trees make finding a connection a lot easier.

I searched for Earl in Maine Death Records, 1960-1997 on Rootsweb.com.  An Earl R. Prince died in Brunswick, Maine, May 17, 1983, at the age of 76. This person seems to be a good match for the picture. His death date supplies a birth year of 1907, which fit the meager details in the image.  I thought it was possible that Earl still had living relatives in the Brunswick area.

I wrote to the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick for a copy of his obituary. They maintain the Times Record newspaper on microfilm.  The Times Record is not on GenealogyBank.com.  It’s a good reminder that not everything is online, even today.

Earl appeared in Brunswick City Directories on Ancestry.com, but that information didn’t help me find living relatives.

Eight Years Later

Imagine my surprise when this appeared in my inbox:

My mother is really anxious to receive the photo of her uncle, Earl Russell Prince. We have a huge family in the Brunswick Maine area and are very involved in the family history. We believe the photo probably showed up in an antique store when Uncle Earl’s ex-wife, Louise Barnhum divorced him. It’s ironic that you would name the article “Little Prince” because we had relatives with the last name of Little also!

I’d forgotten all about Earl. The demise of this photo isn’t surprising. Death, divorce and disinterest add up to a lot of abandoned images just like this tot.

Now Earl would have a home with genealogists who will care for his image.   It’s holiday story, almost a decade in the making.

Do you have an Orphan Photo Reunion story to share?  I’d love to hear it.