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The Picture

By Judy Solomon Elting
There's something about this picture. It differs somewhat from the kind of pictures one usually sees that were taken during this era. Most photos from four generations ago reflect people with no expression, soberly staring at the camera, preserving their image for posterity. While we treasure all the family photos we have, this one is different, special.

Charles Marion and Anna Anderson EltingSome of you may have completed the search for your ancestry. Others, like us, may be just beginning. Who we are and where we came from remains a question in the recesses of our minds. Early in 1997, we received a call from James Wallace Elting of Charlotte, NC. Jim spoke to us of genealogy, of New Paltz, of patentees, of migrations West and of his immediate ancestors, the Eltings of McDonough County, IL. He asked questions, he gave us bits and pieces of information and passed on to us his enthusiasm. We were hooked! Such excitement, but where do we start? Many visits to the library and courthouse produced connections to an illustrious and proud heritage. After months of phone calls, snail mail and e-mail, we met Jim and Edie face to face. They brought not only our Elting Heritage to us, but also several branches of the Elting family: James and Cora Beere Elting descendants from Iowa and Wilmont Raymond Elting's descendants from Illinois.

Iowa Elting Reunion. Three small words that hardly describe the weekend of July 17, 18, and 19, 1998. This reunion was our first opportunity to finally come face to face with the Elting Family of Iowa or any Elting family for that matter. Pat was seven months old when his father Russell died. Russell had been separated from his father William at an early age. Pat has no recall of any Elting relatives. His sister Donna Jean has vague recollections, but never any real association with anyone other than maternal family members. To suddenly come face to face with Elting cousins, no matter how many times removed was beyond belief. There had to be some of our own somewhere! We began the search for the person we later would call "our elusive William".

According to his birth certificate, Russell's father was William Lagerstedt Elting, the son of Charles Marion who was the son of Philip Henry Elting. We had William's age, and from Charles Marion's obituary, William's residence at the time of his father's death. Charles Marion died in Sedgewick County, Kansas. At that time, William was living in Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Starting with those locations, during the past two years we've written letters, surfed the net checking land records, cemetery indexes, social security records, census records, posted queries, and requested look-ups as well continuing research through various state archives and genealogical societies. Hours of research producing only brick walls and no information.

"We walked that day where William walked..."
Persistence produces great rewards. An index for a cemetery in a Missouri county half way between Prairie Grove and Wichita listed a William L. Elting who died December 6, 1964, aged 84 years, 8 months and 19 days. Our William was born March 17, 1880. Same name, same age, same William? Surely it must be. In August of 1999, accompanied by Jim and Edie, we embarked upon a journey to Ozark County Missouri that would forever change our Elting Heritage, as we knew it. In a quiet little cemetery at Isabella Missouri, we paid our respects to William, his wife Lola, and the other Eltings laid to rest there.

William Lagerstedt EltingIn an effort to locate other Eltings in the area, we questioned the local Postmaster. He knew nothing of the Eltings, but directed us to the former Postmistress who did. She shared with us colorful stories of William and his wife, their children, their lifestyle, and contacted the current owner of William's property. We walked that day where William walked. Though most of William's living descendants were no longer in the immediate area, we were directed to a grandson nearby. A phone call, a visit, bits and pieces of information from a grandson who was only five when William died. Information which provided an opening in the brick wall and a glimpse of Elting history. New memories to ponder, new people and places to investigate, new contacts to be made, more family!

"I see the love of a husband and wife, each for the other."
March of 2000 would bring another revelation, this time from Florida. William's great grandson, Frank Harris, of Sarasota, had been searching for us too. He provided names, dates, and pictures of William, Lola, their children, grandchildren and other family members as well as a wonderful picture, the first we'd ever seen, of Charles Marion and Anna. Pat studied it and smiled. I cried. I wondered what they were looking down upon with such reverent expression. The family Bible perhaps? I see many things when I look at this picture. I see the love of a husband and wife, each for the other. I see a mother and father, hearts overflowing with fond memories of proud moments involving their children and family. In those hands, I see strength, gentleness, and a lifetime of hard work. I see faith. I see grandparent's eyes with a hint of sadness perhaps caused by never having the opportunity to share in the life of a young man who may have been their first grandchild.

We may never know the entire story of why William could not be a part of Russell's life, but with each new discovery we're one step closer. Each new discovery adds another chapter to the continuing search for our roots. Maybe I'm partial, but I think this picture is different. This one is special.

Slowly the mystery of "our elusive William" is beginning to be solved. We still have much to learn about the years between Russell's birth and William's passing. We may never have all the answers. We look forward to the Elting Reunion 2000, bringing with it the opportunity to walk where our forefathers walked, to renew acquaintances of those we've met before, to meet face to face those we've only heard about, and take our small place in Elting History. In the mean time, we continue the search back to our roots.

Photos courtesy Frank Harris, and Merilee Walters

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