By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
Sharon Tyson and her daughter, Ana Trevino, are on a mission to return pieces of the past to the families they belong to.
So far, they’ve returned old postcards and a Bible dating back to 1895.
“It’s fun. It’s exciting,” said Tyson, 40.
The Findlay woman, a health care provider, has been interested in history since she was young and her parents took her along to auctions and flea markets.
“The very first exciting time with treasure hunting was when my parents went to an auction and my dad bought me a box for a quarter,” she recalled. “… And it was all mine to go through and find whatever was in it.”
About 6 at the time, Tyson said the only thing she remembers being in the box was a metal tin full of old buttons.
“I can distinctly remember sitting on the living room floor with a little knife or something … I plucked the little diamonds, fake diamonds that were out of the buttons, and saved them thinking I was rich,” she said.
When she was 10, the family moved to a century-old house in Jerry City. Tyson’s mother wanted to modernize the home by replacing a spiral staircase. During renovations, they found a souvenir book from Chicago and postcards addressed to a man in Jerry City dating back to 1911.
“My mom kept the things hoping someday they would be worth something. I was more interested in the history of it,” she said.
Ten years ago, before her mother died, Tyson asked if she could have the things that had been found in the old house. Her mother agreed. Later, she decided to try and find out who the person the postcards were addressed to was. She asked her grandmother, a longtime resident of Jerry City.
“She said, ‘I think he was an old man who lived in the house a long time ago,'” Tyson said.
She did some checking and began calling people in Bowling Green with the same last name. Someone suggested she contact a woman in Bloomdale who turned out to be the man’s granddaughter.
“I ended up giving those postcards to the right person because she was the only one in that family lineage that had kept track of their genealogy going way back when and writing her own homemade book,” Tyson said.
In talking to her, Tyson learned that the woman, who was then in her 70s, was just 10 and was playing cards with a cousin in the house when her grandfather died. Later, she and her mother moved into the family home.
“They moved in when she was 10 years old. It’s really cool that many years later when I was 10 years old, we found those things. And then when I was 30, 20 years after that, I looked her up,” Tyson said. “Sometimes it’s eerie when I return things and find the similarities between me and that person.”
Tyson said since she started this hobby, the items seem to fall into the hands of the right person. A man in Iowa was glad to receive a family Bible she had found at a thrift store in Michigan four years ago.
“It was a little bit beat up, but not bad,” she said. “I dusted it off and asked the clerk how much it was. He said, ‘Nothing, it’s free.'”
Tyson was thrilled with the book. While flipping through the Bible’s pages, she discovered newspaper clippings from the 1930s and a typed family genealogy for a man who died in 1916.
The book also contained a homemade bookmark that was given to the Bible’s owner by her son in 1936.
“It’s so touching he gave that to her for her Bible,” said Tyson.
One day she sat down at the computer, logged on to a genealogy website and typed in a name from the genealogy. She found four others who were researching the same person and sent them messages saying she had found the old Bible; two responded.
“One man called and he’s the one who ended up getting the Bible,” she said. “He was so interested in getting it.”
Daughter Ana, who is 15, has become her mother’s partner in the hobby.
“I like the treasure hunting. That’s the fun part,” Ana said. “I just wanted to get her out of the house when she’s not at work (by going treasure hunting), and I ended up liking what she did. And then I found I’m sort of good at this, so I just started helping.”
One day they were combing through the booths at an antique store when Ana found an old pocket Bible with a gold-plated cover.
“I honestly don’t think I would have picked it up, but she did,” Tyson said. “She has a really keen eye for rare, odd-looking things. And she set it down beside me while I was looking at photographs.”
When she finally looked at the book, she discovered that Ana had indeed found a treasure. Dating back to World War II, the book was designed to be kept in a soldier’s left pocket over his heart, said Tyson.
“So if a bullet hit their pocket, it would ricochet off and save their life. And it did save many men’s lives,” she said.
She bought the Bible for $5.50 then went home and began researching the names on an inscription on the front cover. She learned that it had been given to a man in Fostoria by his wife.
“She gave this to her husband because she wanted him to come home to her, and he did. And they lived their lives out,” Tyson said.
Tyson found a surviving son who lives in Tiffin. He said he’d never seen the Bible before.
Tyson plans to mail the Bible to the family.
“I don’t just do this with Bibles and postcards. It’s just kind of like whatever stands out. But you have to have a name to go on. You don’t have to have a date, but it’s helpful. But to have a name is really key for anybody who wants to do it,” she said.
Tyson and her daughter have several other projects waiting, including finding the owner of a homemade poetry book written in a school composition book in the 1970s. The name Barbara is written in the back, and the book contains poems, drawings and paintings and a couple of photographs. Tyson has done a little research and believes the family is from Fostoria.
Recently, she found an old Cub Scout handbook that had been thrown away. Ana later discovered two photographs tucked inside.
“When people throw things away, you’re thinking, OK, they didn’t appreciate it,” she said. “But whoever got rid of that probably didn’t know the photos were in there. So that’s one of our next projects.”
She also has an old photo album she got at an auction about eight years ago. The photos, dating back to the late 1920s, are unusual, she said, because the adults and children are clowning around.
“Photographs back then, generally speaking, the people were stone-faced with no expression. I thought, there’s really something special about this photo album and this family. I still want to look that family up. I haven’t yet,” she said.
Another photo she hopes to return shows a couple from the 1880s. The names are written on the photo which was taken at a studio in Albion, Mich. She has found other photos of them on a genealogy website.
Tyson does not charge family members. She just wants to return these items to the right person as a way of bringing history to life. She eventually plans to compile a book about her experiences.
She’d also be willing to talk to grade school history classes about the things she’s learned since starting her hobby.
“I want to inspire people to love history,” she said, acknowledging that she didn’t like history when it was taught in school.
“I believe that if history teachers or teachers in general can make the assignment come alive, so it reaches out and grabs them right out of their seat, and they see the excitement in the eyes of the person that’s teaching them … it’s going to be more exciting for them,” she said.
“I believe if it had been exciting to them, it would have been more exciting to me, instead of waiting until I’m 100 years old,” she laughed.
Wolf: 419-427-8419 Send an E-mail to Jeannie Wolf
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