Great-Grandma Young Wasn’t Always Old (52 Ancestors 13 and 14)

The mind’s eye can be like a funhouse mirror. You know that there’s a “normal” person standing there, but the reflection is twisted and turned into something not quite real. So it was in my mind’s eye with my great-grandmother Clara (Mason) Young.

Great-grandma Clara (Mason) Young and me. Photo taken in my grandparents' (Stanley and Adah Young Johnson) back yard.

Great-grandma Clara (Mason) Young and me. Photo taken in my grandparents’ (Stanley and Adah Young Johnson) back yard.

My family doesn’t have many ancestral photos. We’re pretty thin in that department until the 1960s when my dad started taking slides and Polaroids. Though I met Grandma Young, I don’t remember her; she died when I was 3. Growing up, there were lots of photos of her. In all of them, she was an old woman with thinning white hair who wore simple dresses. She was usually sitting and often surrounded by her great-grandchildren.

My young brain tried to fill in the gaps and used the information at hand. Great-grandmother + white hair + frail = OLD. When thinking of Grandma Young, my mind’s eye would fill her in as an old woman.

But there’s another photo of Grandma Young, one that sits on a shelf behind my desk. It’s from around 1903, when she married my great-grandfather Robert Young. In this photo, she is anything but old.

Clara (Mason) and Robert Andrew Young. We believe this photo was taken around the time of their wedding in 1903.

Clara (Mason) and Robert Andrew Young. We believe this photo was taken around the time of their wedding in 1903.

Instead of a simple house dress, she’s wearing something stylish. She has a bow in her hair and a brooch on her blouse, Her eyes are big; her hair is thick. She looks determined, yet gentle.

She hadn’t yet experienced the birth of any of her 10 children… nor the loss of a 2-year-old son. She hadn’t yet seen her home swept away in the great flood of 1913. She hadn’t yet moved from town to town as her husband looked for work.

The mind’s eye can play tricks on us. It’s good to get a different view to get a clearer picture.

12 thoughts on “Great-Grandma Young Wasn’t Always Old (52 Ancestors 13 and 14)

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      Even if I remembered her, this would probably still be one of my favorite photos :)

  1. larrytom2

    You’re right, these photos at two different ages are really special. I have a few of my maternal grandparents and others and every time I look at them I wonder what the individuals experienced in the time between the photos. Some of it I know and some I don’t but all of helped shape the person in the photo. Information about intervening events is what rounds out the story and turns genealogy into family history.

  2. Elaine A Davis

    This reminds me of my sons’ comments the year I turned 60. My nursing school yearbook was sitting on the counter in preparation for a reunion. They both commented that “you look young, mom”. I replied that I was younger than both of them are now. It scrambled their thoughts for a minute, and gave me a chuckle. Age is such a matter of perspective

  3. pen4hire

    So true, how our perspective changes. My paternal grandmother, whom I never knew, looks much older than her years in one family photo. And those REALLY old people in pictures don’t seem so old anymore about your are 70, anyhow.

  4. shelley@minkyadoo

    The young couple is quite attractive. There was a time that being old wasn’t a dirty word. In fact being the eldest in the room cane with pride and respect. Being the eldest relative of a family lineage is almost regal. As Cher says ‘getting old sucks” but let us think of the alternative. Getting back to the picture post theme, great idea


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