The Photo Album That Succeeded Where Pancho Villa Failed

The Revolutionary May Have Tried to Find My Grandfather by Raiding a New Mexico Village—But a Friend’s Camera Truly Captured Our Family Patriarch

For a long time—at first sporadically but lately in hot pursuit—I’ve been looking for Sam. Sam is Sam Ravel, my paternal grandfather.  I scour the indexes of history books for his name, search archives across the country for references to him, and probe the recesses of my memory for details of his life from family lore.  But the artifact that has opened an entirely new and exciting aperture into my grandfather’s life was one I’d first seen decades ago.

Sam is my family’s patriarch, the immigrant who made our branch of …