Alice Clark, blog author and president of the South Bend Area Genealogical Society, has shared this blog as part of our ongoing “How I Solved It Series”. 

This blog tells the story of the local Goodwill that received personal items which included photographs in a recent donation. These items were given to the local genealogy society in hopes that they could be returned to the original family.

In a box of personal pictures and mementos donated to our area Goodwill, I found two pictures of what appear to be members of the Drake family.

Thomas Drake frontnewspaper

Thomas E. Drake is a well-dressed man of middle years sitting in a nicely appointed office. The furniture and clothing seem to indicate early 1900’s. There was a tantalizing hint in the newspaper laying on the floor by his feet, but even with a magnifying glass, not enough detail could be seen for location or date. No lighting fixtures, no telephone or telegraph, nothing to help confirm the date estimate. The reverse of the picture gives his name, but no other information.

The second picture was of Alice Hutchins Drake, taken at “Bonair” Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia in September 1903. Alice appears to be a bit younger than Thomas, but his picture could have been taken 10 or more years later.

Alice HutchinsAlice Hutchins back photo

A search for Alice Hutchins with spouse Thomas Drake living in West Virginia in 1903 gave no results. OK, so if the Bonair is a resort, I should not have assumed the Drakes lived in West Virginia. Removing the location and repeating the search gave no better results. So, next, I searched for first name Alice, last name Hutchins Drake. Still nothing that connects to a Thomas Drake. Fine! In a fit of frustration, I entered first name Alice Hutchins, last name Drake, and finally we find Alice!

Alice Hutchins Drake was a contemporary author listed in Who’s Who of American Women, born 1889 and died in 1975. Google gives us the following tidbit of information, including her birthplace of Chicago and adult home of Washington, D.C.

Church of the epiphanyLittle prayerspoet

Next step is to let go of the assumption that Thomas was Alice’s spouse and look at the possibility of Thomas Drake being a brother or father. Adding in the birth and death place and the locations of Chicago and Washington, D.C., the search is a bit more productive. In 1910, the Washington D.C. census gives us the record of Thomas Drake, his wife Mary, daughters Helen and Alice and father-in-law Francis Hutchins. So that’s where the Hutchins comes from! Not Alice’s maiden name, but her mother’s!

small census.png

Thomas is listed as working in insurance as a department supervisor. His office in that position could easily match our photograph. Father-in-law Francis Hutchins was a lawyer, and Assistant Attorney.

Ten years earlier, in 1900, Mary Drake and daughter Helen and Alice were living in a boarding house in Washington with Francis E. and Elizabeth Hutchins. Thomas was not listed.

large census

The Social Security Death Index confirms Alice Drake’s birthdate of 11 Oct 1888 and death, unmarried, in February 1975, last residence Washington, D.C. To find a home for these photographs, I looked for possible children of Helen Drake, born January 1878. In the 1920 census, we find Thomas Drake living in Deerfield, Warren County, Ohio with wife Mary and grandson Glen Roland, age 7, born in Ohio. Is Glen the son of Helen? Maybe, but with no documentation, that’s an assumption I’m not going to make!

So far I have found no descendants of Thomas, Helen or Alice to accept the photographs, but I’m still looking!

If you have a story idea or a blog that you’d like to share as part of this series, please let us know about it in the comments.

Alice Clark
Alice is a self-taught genealogist, beginning to collect family history stories in the 1970’s. She was fortunate enough to receive family trees prepared by both grandmothers. Her maternal grandmother, in particular, loved to tell family stories. The women were all strong and heroic, the men maybe not so much. The stories were filled with rich details about when and where and why, and some of those details were actually true. From Grandma, she learned both a love of family stories and the need to check, double check and document all facts. She has found that all her stories are based on truth, but finding and proving that detail have honed her skills in both research and documentation. Grandma Myth Busters is one of her favorite games! Today, Alice is the President of the South Bend Genealogical Society where members of the Society prepare, preserve and make available databases of local history, vital records and genealogy in St Joseph County, Indiana. Visit South Bend Genealogical Society's Website