Wish you had a photograph of your great-grandfather arrayed in his Civil War uniform? One may exist, and it may be part of Judith Allison Walters' collection in Bothell, Wash.
Walters collects old photographs. She browses about antique stores and in secondhand shops looking for family treasures such as tintypes, daguerreotypes, diaries, albums, Bibles, old letters, memorial cards, autograph albums and school yearbooks.
In the unlikely place of Leavenworth--an alpine-type tourist village tucked into the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle--she discovered a series of 12 small photographs of Illinois Civil War veterans. They are decked out in their uniforms and medals and all identified by name.
Walters enlarged the photos to 8x10-inch size, and tracked down each man's Civil War records through the National Archives. Then she put together a 34-page booklet, "Brief Biographies of 12 Illinois Men Who Fought in the Civil War, Illustrated With Their Photographs."
She now has more than 10,000 photographs, which she has collected since 1967. Walters makes a negative of each photograph, then a contact that is affixed to a sheet of paper containing all pertinent data.
"No one else is doing what I do," Walters said. "These family treasures belong back in family circles, not in secondhand shops, so I am preserving them and make them available to their rightful families."
Walters advertises her collection in such magazines as the Genealogical Helper and attends many genealogical seminars.
When queries arrive about her collection, she sends lists containing hundreds of surnames. People scan the list and if they discover their family name, they can request additional material for a modest fee.
Walters computerized her data, and she can provide inexpensive duplicates of photographs.
Her collection dates from 1840 to 1920. Additionally, she compiled a booklet that has the names of 1,800 different photographers with the cities in which they had studios. The information comes from her photo collection. About 85% of the photographers are American and most of the others are British and German.
Even if your families never migrated to the West, you may discover their pictures were carried across America by relatives and friends, only to be discarded years later by uninterested descendants. Perhaps Walters has rescued some photographs of your ancestors.
In addition to the photographs, she collects miscellaneous documents and memorabilia that genealogists love. Thumbing through her current catalogue is like being turned loose in a genealogical secondhand store. You never know what treasures you'll discover.
There's the 1909 passport of Karl Gustaf Pettersson and wife, Hulda Katarina; some 1896-97 naturalization papers of Lars Erikson of Brown County, Minn., and a Civil War-era autograph album belonging to Emma Jane Fireng of Camden, N.J.
Walters retrieved a 1913 Seattle (Broadway High School), yearbook; a 1917-18 list of students and faculty of Western Reserve University in Cleveland; and a 1931 North Dakota State College (Fargo) homecoming booklet which contains photographs and information on current and former students.
She also has compiled two small books relating to Jewish genealogy. One pertains to some families in Poland; the other is the 1846 enumeration of the Jews of Fraustadt, Prussia. It consists of 159 households, with names, birth dates, places and the maiden names of the women.
Walters will provide inexpensive photocopies of documents and books she has collected. Prices are included in the catalogue. She also copies tintypes, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes.
To obtain her "Catalog of Genealogical Material," send 80 cents in stamps to Judith Allison Walters, P.O. Box 129, Bothell, Wash. 98041.