Somebody's grandmother - seeks an identity in a new century

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspodnent

The old photograph was in good condition even though it bore marks of age. The beauty of its subject, a young girl, shone through. Positioned by the photographer in front of a background draped with curtains, and dressed in the elegant style of the time with her dark hair atop her head, she held a book in her hand. Based on subsequent research, the age of the picture is approximately 120 years. The story of the young girl and the story of her family extend far beyond.

Jane Phipps had found it in a family collection handed down from her mother, Alma Cornelia Noland. The name written across the back did not connect with anyone she knew but she simply could not throw the picture away. "I kept thinking," Phipps said, "This is someone's grandmother and they would like to have her photograph." The only clue was a name, Mamie Head Hamner, written across the back.

Jane, a long time resident of the Elm Grove community lives on the family home place out in the country. She grew up among family and developed strong family ties. "Some family records just wind up in big bonfires when parents and grandparents pass away," she said, "but my Mother put boxes of special things together for her children. I value my collection and believe that family history is very important tool to be learned from. Roots, she said, extend in all directions and going back over family happenings is a good way to learn about history. I am a believer in donating historic information to archives."

Through the years, Phipps has visited many archives, libraries, and cemeteries to pursue her interest in family genealogy. "My husband, now deceased, used to laugh and tell people that he had been in more cemeteries than anyone he knew." Phipps said. "We traveled all over, to archives and courthouses in Georgia, North Carolina, Atlanta. My cousin and I were in Atlanta once when a tornado came through and were locked in a basement for a while until the storm moved through. We've also spent a lot of time among the records in Caddo and Bossier courthouses."

"I always came up short identifying the lady in the photograph," she said, "and then her last name turned up in an obituary I found in the Shreveport Times. A phone call to a number found in information found not a grandchild but an interested party. Now we are all watching and waiting as the quest moves forward and the story unfolds."

Family genealogists were first resources and located the year of her birth and death. She was married to Dr. Oliver Orlando Hamner who had a medical practice in Bienville. And both are buried at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery located near an early settlement of Bienville Parish. It was a backward search in that Mamie's obituary was located among microfilm copies of the Bienville Democrat at the Arcadia Library. The obituary was a rich resource in that survivors and relevant dates became available. A few phone calls yielded pay dirt in that Lynn Hamner Jones, a family connection, and a rich source of information was found.

Yet, still, much information is still missing although the quest continues. What is Mamie's own family background? Is she descended from Judge Head formerly of Sparta? Two children were listed in her obituary- are they still living? Did she have grandchildren and would they value a photograph of their grandmother?

A digital camera failed to reproduce a good copy of the picture, as did efforts to find Mamie Head Hamner's long lost direct descendents. Quick Copy solved the photo copy problem but is there someone out there who is interested in having the original. If so, contact Jane Robinson Phipps at 318-987-3851.