52 Ancestors – Week 2 – Granny & Uncle Jim

It’s Week 2 of the #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, and Amy Johnson Crow’s suggestion for this week is to write about a family photograph.

The photograph I’ve chosen is from Christmas Eve, 1984:

1984_ChristmasEvePhoto
Uncle Jim and Granny, Christmas Eve, 1984.1

For me, this photo is a link between my own experiences and those of previous generations of my family.

Edith (Sterling) “Granny” Hill (my great-grandmother) and James “Uncle Jim” Davis (husband of Granny’s sister, Frances) were both born in the 1890s, and both died not long after this photo was taken – Granny in February 19852 and Uncle Jim in 1989.3 I never really knew them. But the evening this photo was taken, I was also there, just shy of my third birthday. So little of their lives overlapped with mine, but we did overlap. Even though I don’t remember that particular Christmas Eve, I remember many others at that house (my grandparents’). I remember that room, that blanket.

I have some vague memories of Granny. I sang songs to her, she gave me candy (it was a good arrangement). I don’t remember anything about Uncle Jim – I’m not sure I saw him more than a few times.

Now, as I dig through records and family artifacts to better understand the lives of people like Granny and Uncle Jim, this photo is a reminder that I did (even if briefly) know them as real people, not just stories.

Despite hearing about Granny over the years, I know there’s a lot I don’t know; I’ve just recently learned that despite our belief that Granny only had one sister (Frances (Sterling) Davis), she may have had as many as five other siblings that died young, including:

  • Frank H Sterling (8 January 1891-15 April 1891)4
  • S. Edna Sterling (approx. December 1891 – 26 October 1893)5
  • George A. Sterling (14 December 1899-18 February 1900)6

It’s exciting to research and find out more and more about Granny, Uncle Jim, and everyone else who is somehow “family,” and it’s especially nice to have items like this photo to add a little extra connection between them and the reality I know.


  1. James Davis and Edith (Sterling) Hill photograph, 24 December 1984; digital image 2018, held by Erin Hill-Burns. The original photograph (also held by E. Hill-Burns) is stamped on the back with a date developed of February 1985.
  2. Social Security Administration, “United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 9 January 2018), entry for Edith Hill, 1985.
  3. Social Security Administration, “United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : accessed 9 January 2018), entry for James N. Davis, 1989.
  4. State of Delaware, birth certificate (1891) Frank H Sterling; accessed in “Delaware, Birth Records, 1800-1932,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 26 December 2017). State of Delaware, death register, 1891: 121, no. 13867, Frank H Sterling; accessed in “Delaware, Death Records, 1861-1933,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 26 December 2017).
  5. State of Delaware, death certificate (1893) S. Edna Sterling; accessed in “Delaware, Death Records, 1861-1933,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 27 December 2017).
  6. State of Delaware, birth certificate (1899) George A Sterling; accessed in “Delaware, Birth Records, 1800-1932,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 26 December 2017). State of Delaware, death certificate (1900) Geo A. Sterling; accessed in “Delaware, Death Records, 1861-1933,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : 27 December 2017).

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