I have been keeping quite busy with a new batch of Lost Family Photos, I purchased from my favorite vintage shop during a trip to Portland a few weeks ago. The greatest part, one of the photos that I purchased actually gave me the missing piece of info to positively identify one of the first photos I ever purchased last summer for this project. Woohoo, the benefits of buying photos from the same shop each time. If only I had inexhaustable funds and time, I'd go buy the whole lot (the shop has hundres, possibly thousands) and spend my days sorting and cataloging everyone, mining the internet for information, and building family trees for them so relatives who go to look for them in the future have access to photographs that might otherwise have been lost.
I have also been spending a lot of my time wandering through Lake View Cemetery, camera in one hand and phone opened up to my Find-a-Grave app in the other. Since headstone requests have been sort of nil lately, I've taken it upon myself to walk the cemetery and take photos of anyone that is not already catalogued on the website (or is catalogued, but doesn't have a headstone photo). I came upon the most interesting piece of history while doing this a couple of months ago. I saw a beautiful headstone with the last name of "Susandt", a name I'd never heard of. There was nothing on Find-a-Grave for this family, so I snapped photos of all the headstones and headed home to see what I could find.
It turns out that "Susandt" is only a single-generation name, an alternative spelling of Susand. The family that had the name were former slaves. The last name appears to be completely original, the patriarch of the family (Peter) giving it to himself when he escaped slavery in Virginia and relocated to Canada, settling in Ontario. I actually found a book that Peter Susand is mentioned in, which is about a large group of escaped slaves who fled via the Underground Railroad, and settled in Queen's Bush, Ontario, forming their own (entirely black) community in Canada. Peter married a white woman from England, and they had ten children. Their son William is the one that moved to Seattle, changed the spelling of his last name to Susandt, then he and his wife owned a hair salon, where he worked as a barber and she as a hairdresser. Peter Susand also worked as a barber, and at least one more of his sons also became a barber. William's daughter Olive and wife Victoria were so light-skinned that when William passed, they both changed their race to white on the census, and Olive married a white man. It's especially interesting to me that this was happening in the 1800s in Seattle, because of the very complicated history of racial relations in the Pacific Northwest. I actually ordered a copy of the book that mentions the Susand family ( The Queen's Bush Settlement: Black Pioneers 1839-1865", by Linda Brown-Kubisch) so I could learn more about this piece of history. Unfortunately, Olive was the only child they had, and she and her husband do not appear to have had any children, so the name Susandt completely died with them.