Thursday, July 7, 2011

Finding Father - Thankful Thursday

I have spent many years researching my Meredith in-laws and have come to care deeply about many of them. I have an especially dear place in my heart for Father William Meredith, the younger half-brother of my husband's great great-grandmother.

From the first references to him as a young child in 1830s family letters to newspaper articles about him when he was serving as a priest in St. Louis in the 1870s every mention has been full of warmth and caring. When I realized he had been in St. Louis, where I live and served as the first pastor at a church, where I have worshiped, I began searching for a portrait of him. The Redemptorist order he was a member of is no longer headquartered in St. Louis; the church where he presided burned recently and most of it's records have been stored. I've not been able to find a photograph or painting.

So I was beyond thrilled when going through the papers of his niece and my husband's great-grandmother to find several documents. There was a lengthy obituary, a transcription of his tombstone, and there was this.


I'll admit to a loud gasp and a tear or two. Dancing ensued. There isn't any logical reason why he, and now this photograph, mean so much to me, but I will be forever grateful that I had the chance to pour through those papers, open up an envelope and see this face. 

I believe the writing on front says "your gruncle Wm. V. Meredith, C.S.S.R." The photograph was taken by A. J. Fox (205 North Fifth Street, St. Louis), perhaps in 1878 when Fr. Meredith celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest. He's a little heavier than I expected, definitely posed and formal. But his eyes seem kind and his face gentle. He looks well, and strong, though he died in 1884 in New Orleans, only a few years after this portrait was taken. 

Having found Uncle Father Willie Meredith, I intend to keep him near, to guide and encourage me, even to share a celebratory jig upon occasion! By all accounts he's a very good man to have around.

12 comments:

  1. Ahh, happy dance! Really nice photo! Isn't it curious how we all seem drawn to certain people in our family ancestry and that of our spouse? I have (dead) people that I feel a particularly strong affection for and no real explanation for it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. YAY! Great find. I find photographs particularly emotional too.

    ReplyDelete
  3. HUGE HAPPY DANCIN!! Great photo, so happy you found it!

    ReplyDelete
  4. He looks like a very kind man!

    There's something about a photograph that makes these people so 'complete' for me. I can hear about them, read about them, and know so much about them but once I SEE them, I feel complete.

    I'm so happy you were able to finally find a photo. I hope someday I'll find photos of my elusive ancestors.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Susan, you kept after it and then he provided the miracle. Seems you've got a real connection to him, and that's comforting.
    I guess when you get back to SL, visiting the cemetery will be a priority. Yeah.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I had 't thought of that, Barb. It's a great idea. Only possible problem is that he's buried in New Orleans. I don't want to think about what may have happened to the cemetery during Katrina, but investigating there would be delightful - and delicious!

    ReplyDelete
  7. How exciting! Pictures are always my favorite thing to find.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I can see the pic now -- for some reason it wouldn't come up earlier. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Excellent! And I had to laugh a little bit when I saw the accidental word "gruncle" - I think that should be a genea-neologism!

    ReplyDelete
  10. What a wonderful find ~ made me do a little happy dance in my chair just reading about it!! I love pictures...seeing them just brings the person that much closer. I also think it's interesting which ancestors we develop these connection to - can't explain it but I know what you mean.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Congratulations! Such a great photo, I love it! Happy Dance, Happy Dance!

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a precious treasure!

    I think they know when we are determined to find them, and often help us out.

    ReplyDelete

Comments related to the information shared here are most appreciated. All comments are moderated, and since I am not actively researching right now it many take a day or two for your comment to post. Please know that it will post, and that I much appreciate the feedback.