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‘To Margaret from Johnny’: Aldergrove man finds mystery photo in his attic

Local mystery adds to uptick in unsolved documents, says museum president
The man in the photo is believed to be a “Johnny” based on the written note: “to Margaret, from Johnny.” (Justyn Atherley/Special to The Star)

Justyn Atherley was installing a heat pump in his attic when he discovered a potentially sentimental photo from years ago – and is hoping to return it to its rightful owner.

The Aldergrove resident does not know where the mysterious photo came from, but hopes to learn more about its history if someone can identify who the man in the photo is, he said.

The only clue is a hand-written note attached to the photo, reading: “to Margaret, from Johnny.”

“No luck finding Johnny – I don’t know if he’s alive, if it’s a good memory for him or if it’s a bad memory for him. I don’t know. Poor Johnny.”

Atherley hopes the photo will make its way along the grapevine until Johnny’s family is identified, he said.

“If it is sentimental to someone, it would be kind of cool to return it and get the history,” he said.

People finding photos of unknown origins is a growing trend in the world of the Alder Grove Heritage Society, according to president Tami Quiring.

“People are realizing family history is important and some people would like to have photos of their ancestors,” she said.

Atherley shared his photo of the old portrait on Facebook, and Quiring shared it with the society’s group. Nobody identified the photo in a comment or post.

Quiring’s team has been working to digitize records that could help someone fit a photo or document in with the larger paper trail. Some detailed records such as the Aldergrove Elks Lodge archives are subject to privacy laws if the person being researched is still alive. These records will be released when fully digitized and edited for privacy, Quiring said.

Sometimes the pieces of the puzzle come together and Quiring can locate the descendant of a deceased person she has records for — they can trade photos or documents that can build a bigger picture.

RELATED: From the attic to online: how the Alder Grove Heritage Society is digitizing history

In other cases, she can introduce relatives. She provides the contact information of the person who is researching their family to the person they would like to contact. If the person who did not initiate the contact reaches out, the family members can get to know one another.

“Just last week, I connected one cousin who lives here and another who lives in England,” she said.

Biographical data is important for fitting together old records, because misspellings were relatively common throughout most of Canadian history, Quiring said.

She recently found a newspaper article about her grandparents’ return from their honeymoon, but their names were spelled incorrectly. However, Quiring could link the article with her grandparents because she had all the other information.

Anyone with information about Johnny’s full identity is asked to contact the Alder Grove Heritage Society at 604-857-0555, or via email at

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About the Author: Morgana Adby, Local Journalism Initiative

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