Discovery of 1930s reel helps ease big sister loss

4 months ago 33
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CHICAGO (CBS) — A local mystery – solved.

The Morning Insiders recently told you about film footage found of little girl in the 1930s. 

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Lauren Victory shares how we tracked down her family.

But is it a happy ending? That’s for you to decide.

Bradley Hill was able to figure out an old setup with a projector and film but new technology (the Internet) couldn’t help him with a clue: where is the little girl now whose name and birthdate were on a reel he bought an Indiana antique shop?

Now we know why his Google search came back empty.

“She only made it to five and a half,” said Elaine Rath, identified as the younger sister of the girl in the film. Turns out her older sibling Carol died from leukemia as a child.

“She wasn’t sick for maybe four months I think and she passed away and my parents were devastated, of course. So I really never got to know her and I always wish I had a sister,” said Rath who grew up in Cicero and moved to Naples, Fla., in recent years.

“I’m going to start to cry here I think,” she said, reminiscing on life spent mostly as an only child. Rath was less than two years old when her sister passed away.

She’d never seen the footage found on the reel hung in Hill’s house. CBS 2 showed her even more clips of her big sis, including cameos from her grandmother and grandfather.

“I didn’t even know those [the clips] existed,” Rath said, adding her grandpa died when she was about 5 years old.

The reel also showed holidays with Carol before Rath was born.

“My dad was a big Christmas nut,” she said.

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Vacations at the lake were also a big family tradition.

“That of course is my mother with Carol,” said Rath, narrating the footage we shared with her over Zoom.

They’re special decades-old memories unearthed–and for a while, the question was — for who? After our first story aired, viewers doubling as amateur genealogists flooded our inbox.

Marilyn Miller said she used findagrave.com, newspapers.com and ancestry.com to track down Elaine Rath’s name (Rath’s maiden name was Shultz, like Carol’s).

“I hope that this helps solve the mystery, and perhaps Elaine or her children would like to see the film,” Miller wrote CBS 2.

She was right.

“I kind of think it was divine intervention. I think my father wanted me to have this film,” said Rath who is grateful to the amateur genealogists for helping her close a chapter.

Rath was able to meet Hill over Zoom as well and thanked him multiple times.

“It’s the greater side of the Internet,” said Hill of the viewers who helped piece together the puzzle.

He said he was hopeful but unsure our first CBS 2 story would be able to solve the mystery of the little girl on his film reel. “It’s definitely a nice ending to this.”

Rath explained to Hill that the equipment used by her dad broke years ago and that the reel on Hill’s wall made its way there after a garage sale for an out-of-the-state move.

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Hill already digitized the 45 minutes of Carol clips and promises to mail Rath a DVD of the reel.

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