A Surprise Discovery Marks 1st Anniversary of ‘Mystery Dancer’

Ursula and her parents on San Leandro Bay (San Francisco)

Ursula and her parents on San Leandro Bay (San Francisco)

Guess what? MysteryDancer.net just marked its first anniversary. When I started this blog, I had no idea what, if anything, I would find out about Ursula and her family. It turns out quite a lot, and there is more to come!

I also had no idea I would enjoy this project so much. I love researching Ursula’s life and times, and sharing her story and photos with you, my readers. Thank you for coming along for the ride.

Two-year-old Ursula and mother Clara

Two-year-old Ursula and mother Clara

Now I have a tale of synchronicity and surprise for you. You may recall that I started this blog and my “search” for Ursula after buying an antique photo album at last year’s Leiper’s Fork yard sale from Yeoman’s in the Fork, a rare book and document gallery that had participated in the community event.

Just this past weekend, my husband, Michael, and I were visiting Leiper’s Fork again, after having gone to a nearby vintage and antique “pop-up” event. It was a brief stop to re-fuel ourselves and check out a gallery or two. We were pooped, so didn’t stay long before heading for home. As we pulled out of our parking spot, it crossed my mind to stop by Yoeman’s in the Fork just for fun, but I quickly dismissed the thought because we were tired and the store was in the opposite direction of home, a 45-minute drive.

Apparently, I was even too tired to check e-mail on my iPhone. If I had, we would have zipped over to the bookstore in a heartbeat. For when I got home and opened my e-mail on the computer, there was a message from Mike Cotter, Yeoman’s in the Fork’s director of operations.

“Ursula…” read the subject line. After a brief moment of curiosity (“Hmm,” I thought, “Is he writing to me about a recent Mystery Dancer post?”), I opened the e-mail. There, to my shock and amazement, were the words:

I just turned up an entirely new photograph album that belonged to Ursula!”

At Yeoman's in the Fork: Mike Cotter and me holding the newly discovered album and loose photos

At Yeoman’s in the Fork: Mike Cotter and me holding the newly discovered album and loose photos

Wow! I couldn’t believe it, and I couldn’t wait to see it. The very next day, Michael and I headed once again for Leiper’s Fork, this time expressly to stop at the bookstore.

When we got there, Mike Cotter retrieved the album from the back and set it gingerly on the countertop. About 10 inches wide by 6 ½ inches tall, it is bound by string in what looks like a homemade, soft leather cover with flowers, leaves and the word “Photos” outlined in pen. Inside are dozens of variously-shaped photos glued onto pages of black construction paper. They are images of Ursula and her family engaged in many different outdoor activities, as well as scenic shots taken around Grass Valley, California, where Ursula’s mother grew up, and San Francisco.

Needless to say, I bought the photo album, which, along with the first album, as I learned from Mike, was part of a 2-semi-trucks-worth collection of books and documents that Yoeman’s bought five years ago from an estate in Virginia. What a wonderful, and serendipitous, anniversary “gift” to celebrate the birth of Mystery Dancer!

I will share many of the photos with you in future blog posts, but for now, this post includes just a few of the highlights from the newly purchased album. And who knows? Yoeman’s is still processing the collection, so it’s possible yet another Ursula album will turn up!

Ursula and her dollies outside the Cheshires' Los Angeles home

Ursula and her dollies outside the Cheshires’ Los Angeles home

13 Replies to “A Surprise Discovery Marks 1st Anniversary of ‘Mystery Dancer’”

  1. Elizabeth, this is so exciting! Can’t wait to see all the photos from the new album. You are an amazing storyteller. Thanks for inviting me on this journey!

  2. Wow I can’t believe it’s been a year already! I am glad you found another album. How cool that the owner of the book store notified you. I am excited to see her family tree and if she has any living relatives. Hope to chat soon with you!

    • Thanks, Connie! Sorry for the late reply. The book store owner was able to find my e-mail address by searching for an old e-mail I had sent him probably a year ago. I’m lucky he didn’t delete that original e-mail! Yes, let’s chat soon!

  3. A year already? So very cool that Mr. Cotter is on board the journey. Ursula has such distinctive features. I keep hoping for Ursula’s great granddaughter to appear in these comments.

    • I know, I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. Ursula does have a unique look. That would be cool to have a relative comment. I haven’t had time to really search for any living relatives yet…

  4. Liz that's an amazing discovery!!! It's been a ton of fun sharing this experience through your incredible research and writing. xoxo Alain on said:

    That’s Amazing!!! It’s been wonderful sharing this experience through your incredible research and writing. Alain

  5. That is truly amazing Elizabeth! What good fortune for both you and Ursula! She is truly lucky to have her treasures end up in your hands. It amazes me that there can be so many pictures for one particular individual and so little for others.

    • Thanks, Michelle! I know, it’s just amazing to discover such a wealth of photographs and information, making it possible for me to tell Ursula’s story.

  6. Very exciting that you found these other photos, Liz! I am going to share your site now with my Mom – ’cause I’m trying to show her how you have beautifully displayed a family’s journey. She does want to get into digitizing our own family history. Much love! Jenny

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