By Steven Powell / Marysville Globe
MARYSVILLE — It took a history investigator in Minnesota to help Elaine Swann of Marysville find a home for a photographic glass plate she had held onto for nearly 50 years.
Tammy Jorgensen of Arlington has a Facebook site called Family Treasures Found that also played a major role. And the benefactor in all of this is the Hibulb Cultural Center in Tulalip.
Swann is a self-proclaimed “history nut.” “I’ve collected history stuff my whole life,” she said Monday as she turned the 1914 glass plate over to senior curator Tessa Campbell at Hibulb.
The plate’s image is of Indian Commemorative Day 1914, which is celebrated every Jan. 22. It shows the Yakama Nation with Tulalip tribal leaders in the Tulalip Longhouse, which was built in 1914.
But Swann didn’t know that. All she knew was that she bought it at a garage sale 48 years ago in Everett.
“It was in a box of junk on the porch,” she recalled. “I got it for five dollars.”
Swann said now that she is getting older, she wants to give the artifacts she’s collected back to the original owners.
“Preservation is very important,” she said. “My whole house is full of artifacts. They need to go back where they should be.”
This is where Jorgensen enters the story. She was the recipient a few years ago of an oil painting from 1862 that was found in a barn in Iowa. It was painted by a relative of hers.
“I got back something that I didn’t even know existed,” she said, adding she wondered, “How many other artifacts are out there?”
So she started the Family Treasures Found Facebook site.
“The response has been overwhelming,” she said. “People cry when they get things back.”
Jorgensen said people lose track of things for a variety of reasons: divorce, fire, moving, misplacement, or selling items they later wish they hadn’t.
“It means the world to them” to get the items returned, Jorgensen said. Swann found Jorgensen’s site and watched it for a while.
“She’s the most caring person,” Swann said. Jorgensen got her top-notch investigator on it — Sherry Hancock in Minnesota. Hancock said her only training as an investigator was having four daughters.
“They didn’t get away with much,” she said. “I have always had an interest in research and trying to put the pieces of a puzzle together. I guess watching Perry Mason, CSI and Columbo was good training. I grew up reading True Detective.”
She discovered Family Treasures Found because of an interest in old photos. She joined about 11 months ago.
“I just started looking at the vintage photos and documents and decided to use a few different websites to see if I could start connecting a few dots,” she said.
She uses familysearch.org, whitepages.com and Facebook to find clues to descendants.
One of her favorites is findagrave.com.
“It’s kind of like starting at the end and going backwards,” she said. Jorgensen said in the two years of the Facebook site, about 3,000 items have been returned — all free of charge. She said the site includes about 800 photo albums, and people keep donating more photos all the time, trying to get them back to their owners.
This story originally appeared in the Arlington Globe, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.