A photo album may be an ordinary object for a family to possess, but this particular book holds the answers to some of the mysteries of my ancestors. My great great grandmother, Johanna Willi, immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s from Altstätten, Switzerland. While my family is missing some pieces to the story, we believe that this photo album was one of the first things she purchased upon her arrival to the States. Flipping through the pages, we see her beautiful handwriting, along with many photos of her family and events of youth. Although most of the writing is in German, the few bits of English tell us that she began using this album in 1909, and that she adored and missed her three sisters, who are depicted with Johanna in the photograph, and her views of the mountains at home in Switzerland. I am thankful I have a way to take an intimate glimpse into my ancestor’s life, and to learn more about one of the places and the people that the roots of my family tree can be traced to.
– Samantha Strzepek