Thursday, March 3, 2011

Genealogy and Lewis Hine

A 1908 Lewis Hine photograph of a child
working at a loom in Newbury, South Carolina
My issue of Yankee magazine arrived yesterday. It’s one of my favorite reads. I opened right to the middle of the magazine (a very bad habit of mine) and I was struck by some beautiful antique photos by Lewis Hine (16 September 1874 - 3 November 1940). These photos are very popular in my part of New England, the Merrimack Valley, because of our long history of mills and mill workers. You’ve probably seen Hine’s photographs, too, of haunting images of child laborers at the turn of the twentieth century. His photographs helped raise awareness of the working conditions of child laborers, and mill workers everywhere.

This article is a wonderful genealogical gem, too. “The Memory Keeper” by Justin Shatwell is the story of Joe Manning, who was inspired by one image of a fourteen year old girl working at a loom in Winchendon, Massachusetts. He was able to trace her indentity, as Adeline Card, who began to work in mills at age eight. Manning was unable to stop his research until he had traced the identities and descendants of all the child laborers photographed by Hines in Winchendon. He is working on identifying other Hines laborers from all over the United States.

The article describes Manning’s dogged determination, and the results of his search for names behind the little faces in the photographs. Included is a large two page photo collage of images of Mamie Laberge, one of the child laborers, and her family and descendants. It is the sort of photo layout seen in the on line genealogy/photo magazine “Shades” or on many personal genealogy blogs. But this one is accompanied by an eight page story that is a real page turner.

Memory Keeper” by Justin Shatwell, in Yankee Magazine, published by Yankee Publishing Incorporated, Dublin, New Hampshire, March/April issue, 2011, pages 94 – 101.

Or click here for the “Memory Keeper” article

A similar article about Joe Manning in the Smithsonian Magazine, 2006, can be read here

Joe Manning’s Lewis Hine project can be seen at

The Winchendon, Massachusetts portion of the project can be seen at

photograph courtesy of the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID nclc.01451


Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Absolutely fascinating story. And the pictures are so haunting. Thank you for sharing this and providing the links.

  2. What a wonderful blog! So glad I found you on Facebook. I'll be back :-)

  3. Great to see this! I'll be mentioning the Hine photos as a "source" next month in my Friday afternoon NERGC talk "Sixty Hours a Week, Ten Cents an Hour: Records of New England’s Industrial Heritage."

    There are more than 5,000 Hine photos available. Many of the people in Hine's photos were identified by Hine himself (who was a scholar before he was a photographer).

    For genealogists, they're a unique and interesting source, esp. for kids who worked in New England's mills, as fish packers, etc.

  4. I heard Joe Manning speak last fall at the National Park in Lowell and he was terrific!