Rare flea market find unlocks family history

Long-lost photo album bought for $8

By Jessie Degollado - Reporter, Bill Caldera - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - How a long-lost family album with photos dating back to the 1800s wound up at the bottom of a plastic bin at a South Side flea market remains a mystery.

Yet Mike Rodriguez, an X-ray technician who loves scavenging around at flea markets, said as soon as he saw the album, "I just knew when I first picked it up that it was something special and that it definitely needed to go back to its rightful owners."

Rodriguez said he bought the album for $8. Using the names and dates that have been carefully handwritten over each photo, he located the descendants in Illinois through a genealogy website in which JulieAnn Sommerfeldt Worthen had posted her family tree.

"I'm super excited! We all are, the whole family," Worthen said via Skype when speaking to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez had already reached out to Worthen and other family members.

Worthen said she was unaware of the album's existence. But cousins who Rodriguez had contacted said they remember another grandmother had meticulously kept a photo album, perhaps the one Rodriguez bought. The cousins said the album may have been sold in an estate sale after her death.

"Maybe we can tackle that mystery next — how it got to San Antonio," Rodriguez said.

He said he plans to send the photo album to Worthen, given that she's already done a lot of research into her family's history, so that she can show it to her 86-year-old father, Arnold, the last surviving son of Albert Sommerfeldt and Augusta Sommerfeldt. 

Worthen said she is very grateful Rodriguez and his wife go to the flea market every Sunday.

"Mike and his wife are real blessings," she said.

Photo Courtesy: JulieAnn Sommerfeldt Worthen

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