Facebook & Old Photographs: The Mysterious Harry and Edna

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Apparently Facebook is good for more than just lunchtime Instagram photos or letting thieves know when you will be out of town. This interesting and heartwarming little internet tale reminds us all that social media can connect the present and the past.

Photographer Jeff Phillips purchased a collection of old photographs from a St. Louis thrift store. In them, two people were featured prominently in the more than 1100 photos taken between 1940-1961. Phillips discovered that the old couple’s names might be Harry and Edna — they also might have been married.

Amongst vacation photos, travel photos and images with family and friends a sort of mystery began to unravel. Who were these people? Why were these photos in a thrift shop in St. Louis instead of with family members? And so Phillips took to Facebook to pose a singular question: Is This Your Mother?

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Sharing the link with three friends, Phillips was able to build a web of curious contempos, all chiming in with their own thoughts, recollections and opinions on who the two might be and where their story lead them.

The Facebook page became a collective of pleasant conversations — the past linking with the present. And eventually the photos themselves revealed the answers. They were a Missouri couple who were active in the Shriners and made trips to Hawaii. They didn’t appear to have children, but nieces and nephews of the couple (who both died in the 1980s) were suddenly able to reconnect with their family tree via this collection of old forgotten photographs made relevant and new. Think about that the next time you complain that history doesn’t matter.

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