Family History by
(323 Stories)

Prompted By Group Photos

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

Celebrating baby Rosa with the new family, including Anna’s. 12/30/21

I come from a long line of family photographers. I love my family history and the information that is embedded in these old photos. I am fortunate to have some dating back many generations. I like to keep the tradition alive. The photo below is the oldest photo in my collection. It is undated, but based on the age of the sitters (my great grandparents) and type of clothing, I date it to the late 1800s. These are my father’s maternal grandparents. His grandfather was the root of the depressive gene and did not live into old age, unlike his wife, who will be seen again, surrounded by her five children.

My paternal great grandparents, Hannah and Samuel Prenksy.

My maternal grandmother, Belle Potoksky (changed to Perlis) Stein, and her oldest children, Anna and Joseph. I believe this is before they emigrated to this country, so taken about 1905.

My paternal grandfather’s family. Sam Sarason is standing, on the left, with the mustache. He died in 1943. Brother Ben had no children. On the right, brother Jacob has a son (also named Ken, like my father, named for the same grandfather) and a daughter Rae, who was a favorite cousin of my father’s. Sisters were Yetta, Pauline and Eevia Rifka, whose family ran the kosher dairy in St. Louis. Pauline’s husband worked with Sam, running the general stores in the MO, MS and AK territories.

My paternal grandmother’s family with elderly Hannah in the middle. From left to right, Joe, my grandmother Lizzie, Sarah (who had no children), Fannie, Meyer, who changed the family name from Prensky to Prentis in 1925, as he ascended in the corporate ranks in General Motors. This photo is from the early 1920s.

My father’s family, 1926. His parents in the center (Lizzie seated, Sam behind her, my 12 year old father, standing to left of his mother).

Dan’s mother’s family, the Bravers. His grandmother, Bessie and grandfather, Harry are the last two people in the second row on the right. Their three daughters seated in front of them. Dan’s mother, Gladys on the right, at the end of the row, beside her two sisters and young cousins. She was born in 1927, so this photo dates probably to 1932.

The Sarason family (with in-laws, Aunt Fannie, her husband and Uncle Meyer Prentis), gathered for their father’s funeral, November, 1943. My father is in uniform, in the center of the photo.

Sept, 1969, last photo of all 8 brothers and sisters. My father in front row with both hands on his legs.

My mother’s family at her engagement party, 1946.

Our wedding, June 16, 1974 surrounded by our parents.

Gladys Pfau’s 65th birthday party, surrounded by her five children, me and her two oldest grandchildren, September 12, 1992.

Sarason family at David’s bar mitzvah, Oct. 10, 1998.

Pfau family at David’s bar mitzvah, Oct. 10, 1998.

Dan’s parents’ 50th anniversary party, December 25, 1999.

Rachel Pfau’s bat mitzvah, December, 2009.

Sarason/Pfau family gathered after our mother’s funeral, August 17, 2010 (Vicki was in CA at her last week of her summer internship).

Pfau family gathered for nephew’s wedding, Sept, 18, 2021.



Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    As I alluded to in my own story, I knew you were the master of taking and keeping family photos and, as such, this prompt was basically made just for you. And, not surprisingly, you did not disappoint! What a great collection through the years (and years and years and years) of your family, right down to baby Rosa in your arms last month. In fact, I’m betting the hardest part for you was paring down your collection for inclusion.

    Just glorious in all respects, and thank you for sharing these with your extended Retro family!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Yes, this prompt was made for me, John. I decided to only include family photos, not reunion photos, or camp cabin photos, all of which would have been appropriate for the prompt. But I had to stop somewhere! I also didn’t include first cousin photos taken at various family occasions. The list goes on. These photos are just of direct family members through the ages. I hope it’s not too boring for all to see.

  2. No surprise Betsy that you had all those precious family photos, and can identify most of the sitters and recall the approximate dates.
    We expect nothing less of you!

    It was good seeing photos of the older generations but I liked seeing your dad in uniform. I have a few photos of my dad in his, and best of all I actually have his Eisenhower jacket!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I have some wonderful formal photos of my dad in his uniform, Dana (but not group shots). I even have his leather flight jacket, which he used to wear to clean out the garage! I rescued it and wore it around the Brandeis campus (though of course it was too big for me; that didn’t bother me at all. I loved wearing it). I understand your love of those photos of your father completely.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    My uncle David Levine was married to Evelyn Prentis. Could this be another Detroit connection? I loved seeing all of the old pictures you have from past generations. But your featured image was best of all — on to the future!

  4. Dave Ventre says:

    So sweet and lucky that you have so many family photos from long ago and less so!

    The featured image is very cleverly composed; I like it a lot!

    The first in-line photo, of your father’s maternal grandparents, moved me deeply. I see the sadness in his eyes. It reminds me of…me. In old family photos, even when I was a kid, I am seldom smiling, just sort of looking out as if I might need to run away at any moment. I suspect that my father suffered from it as well, although he’d never admit to it as long as he lived.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Glad you enjoyed the selfie. Anna’s sister Charlotte (up front) took. She announced that she has the longest arms and it really worked out! I like it a lot too!

      I am sorry to hear that you relate to my depressed great grandfather, Dave. Of course, that was long before there was any medication for depression. His life might have been different now, with the wonders of modern medicine.

  5. Marian says:

    What a great set of photos you’ve included here, Betsy. As others have said, I’d expect everything you selected to be great, and for you to have lots of other types of group photos. My aunt’s name was Rae (for Rachel) and my mom’s actual name is Chana Yetta (changed to Henrietta in kindergarten) so that resonated with me in looking at your family pics. And what a cute photo of all of you with baby Rosa!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      You cite old Yiddish names, Mare. I am named Elizabeth for my grandmother “Lizzie”, but her name was really Freya Leah. She was just called Lizzie in this country. When my oldest was called to the torah for his bar mitzvah, I had to tell the rabbi my Hebrew name and I gave him the above name. He said Freya was Yiddish, not Hebrew, but that’s all I knew and there was no one left alive who could tell us anything different (she died in 1947). We have a niece named Rachel who goes by Rae, but there are still times when I call her Rachel (which is what she was called for the first 18 years of her life). I don’t actually know if my dad’s cousin was Rae or Rachel, and now there is no one who can tell me. At the age of 69, I am the youngest of my generation.

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    Those old photographs are beautiful–seems like photography got a lot more informal once we all started taking snapshots. You have an archival treasure. The lead-off photo at an angle was also wonderful, and made me smile.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Yes, treasures! I agree, when people went to a studio and sat for a formal photograph, that was a big deal! Now everyone is a photographer and we carry our phones in our pockets. I, too, love that opening selfie. Charlotte (the lovely blonde) had the longest arms and is the youngest, so knows all the tricks. She took a great one as we gathered to celebrate Christmas (Rosa was 6 days old, so we celebrated Christmas a bit late, since they were still in the hospital on 12/25).

  7. Suzy says:

    Great story and great collection of photos, Betsy. Like me, you do still engage in the group photo thing, but in addition to the more modern photos you also give us some family history from before your time. I have a few photos like that, but not too many. Thanks for sharing all these pics with us, and like other commenters, I love the selfie with the baby. The angle of the photo causes everyone to be tilted except Rosa, who is straight up and down!

  8. You’ve nearly created a flippy* geneology, Betsy! Each photo speaks so clearly, I barely missed the possible explanations. You are a profound photo archivist, Betsy. I’d love to see you write a pictorial memoir!

    *Flippy being an arrangement of still shots that, when rapidly ‘flipped’ through, creates the sense of motion.

  9. There’s a fluidity to this array that suggests the flow of a family saga. It’s always fun to write to photos! Madeline, one of the main characters (and one of my favorites!) in my first resistance novel, Gates of Eden, stepped out of a photo of a hootnanny that used to take place every Sunday in Washington Square Park.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      You’ve discovered my secret! I think of myself as the family historian (indeed, a cousin on my distribution list commented to that effect). One of the Sarason brothers (of my grandfather’s generation) was a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt. Just think, a Jewish Rough Rider! Lots of stories.

  10. Betsy,
    I feel like a member of your extended family, through many generations and iterations, via the lovely curated family album that you shared in your post. If your late relatives, many of whom look very much like you, knew how much you lovingly preserve their lives they would, I am sure, collectively kvell.

  11. Susan Bennet says:

    Splendid, Betsy, splendid. My family could fit in a phone booth — your family’s photos radiate an irresistible joy that a is gift to us all! Many thanks, just what we need now.

Leave a Reply