An old photo from long ago sparks memories


From left to right: my mother, Charlene O’Rourke; my father, Bernard O’Rourke; my uncle, Father Dennis O’Rourke. Behind Dennis is Linda Lamb (Wickersham). Next to Dennis is Pat Paynton and behind her is my uncle Jack O’Rourke. Next to Pat is Eileen O’Rourke Paynton. The children in front are Bobby Wickersham and my first cousin, Erin O’Rourke. The woman touching Erin is Mary O’Rourke Rothermel. The man with the glasses in between Eileen and Mary is my uncle Wilfred (Bill) O’Rourke and next to him is Dick Paynton. The woman in the gray suit next to Mary is Tess O’Rourke, and behind her is Helen Marie Parent (Paynton). On the far right is Peggy Wickersham and John Aloysius O’Rourke (my great uncle).


It’s amazing what one simple action can lead to.

I know it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged and I haven’t been back to Ireland (I shall return) but I’ve continued to work on my genealogy. I’ve also promised myself I’d blog more because I enjoy writing as a creative outlet.

I’ve not only looked into the O’Rourke genealogy of my father’s side, but I’ve also made some interesting discoveries on my mother’s side. I’ve found records dating back to the 1500s in England just by tracing my maternal grandmother’s line.

I can trace my lineage to Anne Hutchinson, an early American colonist, who dared question the teachings of the Puritan church and was excommunicated from the established church and ultimately banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She and husband William Hutchinson went on to found a settlement in Rhode Island, later known as Portsmouth. She was killed by Indians after moving to New York when her husband died.

I’ve also found out that most of my mother’s side ancestors were Loyalists meaning they either fought for the British or made their way to Canada after the Revolutionary War broke out. That explains why many of my maternal ancestors were Canadians – both on my maternal grandfather and grandmother’s side.

The old photo sparked interest

Yesterday I was looking through some old photos and came across one that one of my paternal first cousin emailed me some time ago. It’s a picture of a group of people that includes my father. I cherish every photo I have of my father because I don’t have many. He passed away in a car accident in 1965 when I was just five years old. After that happened, I was estranged from the O’Rourke family for more than 40 years.

The event in one old photo was my Uncle Denny’s (Father Dennis O’Rourke) ordination in 1960. My cousin Katie O’Rourke sent it to me because her father (Dennis who had left the priesthood in the 80s) and my father who are brothers have a distinctive resemblance. I recognized my father, mother, uncle and my first cousin Erin (who was a little girl) but I didn’t know who anyone else was and there are a lot of people.

In the last year I have become Facebook friends with Pat Paynton. Pat, who is 77, and was married to my Dick Paynton, my father’s cousin, before they divorced some years ago. Dick’s mother was Eileen, my grandfather’s sister. Dick and Pat have four children together. I have never met Pat in person, but we’ve had a few conversations through Facebook. I sent a private message to Pat, asking if she knew anyone in the photo because I heard there may be some Payntons in it. Well, I hit the jackpot. Not only did Pat know many of the people in the photo she was in the photo herself! The double jackpot was that Pat was attending a Paynton family reunion and would ask her ex-husband about the people she didn’t know.

To make a long story short, I now have a new friend on Facebook – Chris Wickersham Tryon, a distant relative who is interested in the O’Rourke genealogy which I will share with her. And, I have all the people identified. I can say I’m related to every single person in the photo, either by blood or marriage and I was a baby when it was taken. The photo has led to new conversations with many of my relatives – some who weren’t even born when the photo was taken. Many in the photo, in fact, a majority, have passed on, including Uncle Denny who was ordained into the priesthood that day in 1960. Of course I miss my father– my heart has never stopped aching for his loss. I also miss Dennis whom I reconnected with in 2006 after years of separation.

What I hope I did for my other relatives was bring back some happy memories today, though it wasn’t my original intention.

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4 thoughts on “An old photo from long ago sparks memories

  1. Hi Lois!

    Thanks for the identifications!

    Helen Marie (Paynton) Parent is/was the daughter of Eileen C. O’Rourke; the niece of Mary O’Rourke (Rothermel); and the sister-in-law of Pat Paynton.

    Sent from my iPhone


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