This endearing father-son photograph was found at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Conway, Arkansas on August 28, 2015. It was in an 8×10 lacy gold metal frame. On the back was written a good bit of genealogy about this family including birth dates and places and death dates and places. Obviously, the person who labored on neatly printing all this out thought it was important. The white ticket is the sales ticket from Salvation Army. The picture was marked $5.00 but when I told the cashier that I was purchasing it to return to the family, she discounted it to $2.00. She had been the one to put it on the shelf just recently and had marveled at the genealogy details on the back and that the beautiful photo had somehow landed in their store.
The photo description on the back reads – “Daddy at age of 34 — Buddy 6 yrs. Picture taken of Daddy about June 1921 when Newman Jr. was four months old.” It goes on to say, “Daddy was born about May of 1886 and mother born November 17, 1888 and died about 4/15/1975.”
An initial challenge was the reference to “Mother” and “Daddy” and not their actual names. However, the last line says that the picture was given to son, Newman Robinson by Esther Sims Thompson. I first went to FamilySearch.org and searched using the name Newman Robinson with his birth information that was recorded on the back of the photo. Immediately a 1930 census came up listing Newman Robinson as a stepson in a Hot Springs, Arkansas household. The Head of Household was G. Goodwin and his wife was “Ester” Goodwin. Although the census taker had misspelled Esther’s name, this was the right family because the ages for Esther and Newman were a match. Further proof was a stepdaughter of the head of household named Virginia Robinson, age 16. This was an important find because the census listed an older brother for Newman named John Robinson. The age of John Robinson matches the age of “Buddy” so the little boy in the photograph is actually John Robinson who had the nickname Buddy. Sadly, Buddy’s father died just four years later, so what a treasure this picture of Buddy with his father really is!
Next, I searched for Esther Sims using her birth year and place, since Esther Sims Thompson was the signature of the person who gifted the picture. The result of the search at FamilySearch.org was a marriage record for Esther Sims, born 1889 and Robert N. Robinson, born 1888, married on September 12, 1911 in Pulaski County, Arkansas. Yes, the marriage date is one day off from the photo caption which lists the marriage date as September 11, 1911, but Esther likely recorded this information fifty-five years later when she gifted the picture and since Robert had been deceased for so many years it is understandable that her memory was a day off. But speaking of Robert, that was the big find from the marriage record. Nowhere on the photo caption did it identify the father’s name. It simply called him “Daddy.” Now, I knew the father in the picture was Robert Robinson.
The search for Newman Robinson at FamilySearch.org placed him in the 1940 census, living in Little Rock, age 19, with his mother, Esther Robinson, age 49. Note Esther has reverted to using her first married name. She was proprietor of a rooming house and two lodgers are listed with them. It also notes they were living in Marianna, Lee County, Arkansas in April 1935. Findagrave.com has an entry for Newman Robinson, buried at Little Rock National Cemetery with death date of March 16, 1975, perfectly matching the information on back of the photo.
Esther Sims Thompson’s social security death index entry appears at FamilySearch.org. She was born 17 November 1888 in Jamestown, Independence County, Arkansas. This is an old township near Batesville. Her father was Robert C. Sims and mother was Sarah F. Egner.
Family Search.org shows Esther enumerated in the 1900 census at Jamestown, Independence, Batesville. By 1910, there is a possible census entry at FamilySearch.org for Esther, age 21, in a Fort Smith household where she is listed as a nurse in the household of Tom & Phoebe Castleberry. This is likely a match since the age is right and later Esther’s four children were born in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
But back to the little boy in the photograph, Buddy, or officially John Robinson. His first and last names are common, making it more difficult to track him. The notation on back of the photograph says he was born at Sparks Hospital in Fort Smith, Arkansas on February 26, 1915 and died November 8, 1977 in Little Rock, Arkansas. (His social security death index indicates his birth date was February 25, 1915.) So he lived to be 58 years old. The question remaining….did he marry and have children?
A search at Ancestry.com using complete birth date, place as well as death date and place yielded a Social Security Death Index record. The location he had last received benefits was Conway, Arkansas. Hmmm, this brought me back to the town where the photo landed in the Salvation Army thrift store. The photograph had been gifted to John’s brother, Newman. However, Newman predeceased John by about 2.5 years, perhaps the photo was then turned over to John?
Without clear clues on John, I moved on to his sister, Virginia. The back of the picture lists a social security number. I tried a Google Search with just the SSN and it brought up Virginia Robinson with a birth date match of October 7, 1913. It also noted a death date of 1994. Virginia, it seems, was the last child in the family to die. Since her SSN is listed on the back of the photo frame, it is likely she was in possession of the picture. It is also noteworthy that her death record has her listed under her maiden name, indicating she may not have married. A search at Ancestry.com with exact birth date, place, and year of death produced her Social Security Death Index. Virginia’s last residence was Little Rock, Arkansas. Her social security number had been issued in 1968 which is relevant because the gift of the picture by Esther Sims Thompson to Newman Robinson is dated August 25, 1966. So, one could deduce that Virginia took possession of the picture sometime after that date in 1968 and copied her social security number onto the back.
The search is still on to determine if John “Buddy” Robinson had descendants to whom this photograph can be returned.