Tuesday, May 31, 2016

More "old photograph" Stories

Ancestors on the Wall
The series of blogs regarding old photographs that I have posted in recent weeks has been extremely popular, and people who follow my blog have left comments (don't forget to read the comments at the bottom of the blogs), have posted comments on face book, have sent e-mails, and have spoken directly with me.  I love the comment that encouraged me not to stop "nagging" about the importance of labeling photographs!  We had out-of-town visitors this weekend that even brought a few old photographs to share, but I could offer no help in identifying them.

I want to share two delightful e-mails that I received, because I am sure you will enjoy them.

C.W. wrote:  "I have thoroughly enjoyed these last few blogs.  We too have a box of photos not labeled...  I am trying to go through ours and label as best I can.  We did receive some pieces of furniture when Mom passed away.  I want to put a picture and the name of who it belonged to on the back so our children will know that it is a family treasure.  ...Fortunately we have a granddaughter with a lot of interest [in family history].  She did a really wonderful school project...  I think she will carry on [the family history] for us.  Take care and keep blogging."

Her idea of a photo attached to family antiques is a great one!  Although my blogs have related to photographs, this is a wonderful suggestion for labeling furniture and other family objects.  My mother-in-law was good to tape little stories on objects or put the story inside vases or boxes.

M.H. wrote:  "Lyn, this was a very interesting and informative blog regarding old photographs...  About 10 years ago, I was given a box of old photographs that were mostly not labeled.  They had belonged to my Great grandmother's 2nd husband, and were all of his family.  We had no idea of who his descendants might be.  My grandmother saved them for years and then my aunt inherited them...  She didn't want to keep them, but it was completely against our nature to discard any old photographs.
          I finally suggested that since the Martins were from Larned that we donate them to the Santa Fe Trail Center if they would want them.  They took them and advised me that they would be labeled as Martin family photos, but that they might also be used in exhibits and presentations about other aspects of the photos, such as fashion, hair styles, furniture and other props, etc.  I thought that was a great idea.  We were very glad to have found a good home for the photos.  The moral of the story, as is one of the morals of your story, is:  never throw away old photos."

His thoughtful decision to donate the old photographs to a museum in the community where the family lived is a wonderful suggestion, increasing the possibility that a descendant might happen upon the family images.  Even if that does not happen, the family photographs will help preserve the history of that community.

Thanks to all of you who have shared your stories.  I have certainly learned how many of you have old photographs you are trying to preserve and identify, and several of you have used family gatherings as opportunities to work together in that effort! The kind and encouraging words you send let me know what blogs you enjoy and keep me motivated to eventually get back to revisions of the manuscript telling Isaac's story and the story of the Populist movement in the late 1800s.

Because I have posted these interim blogs during the week, I will not be posting on Thursday this week as I usually do.  The following week I will get back to my usual weekly Thursday posting, but it has been fun to hear from so many of you and to share your own stories about old photographs on this blog!

("Ancestors on the Wall" posted at the start of this blog is the display of framed photographs of those couples who have made my ancestral home their full-time residence.  We now display those images on the wall of the renovated family home (as well as another display of other descendants who have lived at the farm).  My great grandparents may not have occupied the house as a couple, but my great grandmother was certainly the first generation to live in the house.  The grandparents and parents are shown in wedding photographs, including my husband and myself at the bottom of the display.  We are the fourth generation to call it home, but descendants of these couples have been raised in the house and their descendants have visited and/or lived in the house as well.  If a wedding photograph of my great grandparents exists, I am not aware of it.)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Coincidence

Unidentified photographs at the Lucille Hall Museum
This week's post on clues for identifying unlabeled old photographs is proving to be quite popular.  By coincidence, we visited the Lucille Hall Museum in St. John, KS yesterday and saw a perfect example of why labeling old photographs is so important.
Apparently, at the time of her death several years ago, Lucille Hall had a box of old photographs labeled 'unknown photographs,' and the museum was hoping someone in the community might be able to identify the subjects of the photographs.  I did my best, but failed to be of any help.
Just some of the unknown subjects
I thought I would enter this mid-week post to share this example of why we need to attend to the task of labeling photographs while those with memories of the subjects are still able to provide the information!  Have a special Memorial Weekend remembering veterans and ancestors, and enjoying family and friends!
Consider bringing out that box of your own old photographs (or new ones) and making labeling them part of your holiday together!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Identifying Old Photographs

Clarissa Stone
I continue to wish for an old photograph of Isaac Werner.  I know he had his picture taken at least twice by  professional photographers-- in Pratt, KS on Nov. 1, 1890 at Logan's Gallery and once in St. John, probably at Miss Shira's studio.  In addition, his neighbor named Blake took many photographs at his farm; however, Blake did not develop his own glass plates, so those photographs would probably have the cardboard backings of the studios where they were developed, both in Pratt and St. John at Miss Shira's studio.  I mention this repeatedly because I know that families living near Isaac came to his farm to pose for photographs, often posing in the 'promenade' he created in his tree grove or near the 'big tree.'  I still hope that someone who follows this blog will recognize one of those photographs among their ancestor's pictures.

However, I promised to suggest clues for identifying old photographs in your own family collection in this week's blog, and I will use my own experience to offer some ideas.  The photographs are children of Horatio Gates Stone, the subject of "Clue to Stone Family Mystery," 5-5-2016 in the Blog Archives.

Reverse of image above
When my mother-in-law passed away we found a box of photographs from the late 1800s that she had found among her own mother's belongings.  Fortunately, most of the photographs were mounted on the photographer's studio card backings, so the first clue was the location of the studio.  We knew that the Stone family had settled in Iowa, and none of our other ancestral lines were connected with that state, so that was an important clue.

On the back of one of the images was written "Aunt Clarissa died Jan 1906," and we recognized the handwriting as belonging to my husband's maternal grandmother.  Her mother's maiden name was Stone, so one of her mother's siblings would have been her aunt.  We could be confident now that the woman pictured was probably a member of the Stone family in Iowa and was of the same generation as my husband's great grandmother.  (If you look closely under the handwritten notation, you can see that this studio card also indicated the year the photo was taken, 1874.)

Clarissa Stone at different ages
The two photo cards at right are both images of Clarissa when she was younger.  They provide a good example of paying attention to hair styles, clothing, and jewelry as a way to recognize the same individual at different ages or pictures taken at different times.  Notice particularly that while Clarissa has a different charm or locket on her necklace, the band or collar is the same.  The dress is very similar, and may have been the same dress, modified with new trim, a collar, and a different bow for the picture that appears to have been taken slightly later.  Dresses were expensive and were often modified to continue wearing without obviously appearing to be the same dress.

 Looking at a photo card from the same studio, we identified Clarissa as one of the four people in a group photograph.  On the back of the photo card was written "Aunt Clarissa, Aunt Effie, Uncle Fred, Uncle Perry," but no effort had been made to arrange the names in such a way as to identify the individuals.  However, with the clear identification of Clarissa, we could be confident that the other woman was Effie.

Stone siblings
Notice particularly Clarissa's clothing, jewelry, and hair style.  It was easy to identify which woman was Clarissa, even if her facial likeness had not been so obvious, because the clothing, jewelry and hair style were the same as in her individual picture.  This single portrait and the group picture were probably taken the same day, but often women wore the same jewelry or continued the same hair style which may help identify them in other photographs.

Perry Stone
You might assume that this group of four siblings would identify all the grown children in that family, but given that there were a total of eleven children, there were still other pictures that we could not relate to this group.  In searching among the other photographs we found a small image labeled Uncle Perry which allowed us to distinguish that Perry was the seated man in the group photo.  In addition, from those two likenesses we identified the seated man in a photograph of a young couple.  The photo card was from a different studio but was also a Davenport, IA location.

Perry parted his hair on the same side and combed it flat to his head, as well as continuing to style his moustache in the same way, which helped make him recognizable from one photograph to another. 

Perry & Kate Stone
I have used the plural pronoun "we" in reference to the search to identify the people in these photographs.  In fact, I was alone in the search, for my husband had decided that there was no longer anyone living who could identify the images and he was ready to burn the box of photographs.  Now, of course, he is delighted to know who these distant ancestors are, and we have traveled to Iowa to visit the graves of many of the people pictured in the photographs contained in that box.

The best part of the story is that when I posted the photographs on my ancestry.com pages for the Stone family, a descendant of Perry Stone saw them and contacted me.  A house fire had destroyed all of their Stone family photographs, and because I had not agreed to discard the box of photographs, generations of Perry Stone's descendants now have pictures of their ancestors.  

Remember:  You can enlarge the images by clicking on them.

 In summary, here are some clues for identifying photographs:  1.  Begin by looking at the back for names, and remember when you mark your own photographs to include both given and surnames, as well as nicknames that might be important; 2.  Look for clues to identify the location where the picture was taken, as I noted the bridge in the Macksville City Park in last week's blog; 3.  Pay particular attention to hairstyles, jewelry, and clothing that might help you identify a person you recognize from another marked photograph; 4.  If vehicles appear in the photograph, notice not only the make and model of the vehicle but also the license plate to identify the year and location; 5.  Sometimes a pet can help you identify a child; 6.  Look for school uniforms and mascots;   7.  Observe furniture, wallpaper, framed pictures on the wall, things that can be seen through the windows to identify the location and the era, which may help identify the person or family in the picture; 8.  In a group picture, notice the ages of people, especially a family group, in order to identify those you don't recognize by comparing their ages with others that you do recognize; 9.  While studios today do not mount photographs on cardboard backing with the information I used to identify these old photographs, they do often stamp the back of the photograph with their studio name; 10. Local libraries and museums often have old yearbooks that you might consult to identify a class picture.  11.  Occasionally you know that a relative visited a specific destination and a picture posed there can identify the person, as I can identify my great grandparents posed on donkeys in front of the Balanced Rock at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, and sometimes souvenir photographs state the date and location in the photographer's background setting.

To the woman who commented on an earlier blog, "More please," I hope this helps you and others who have old photographs they cannot identify.  Don't give up!  Perhaps it will also inspire some of you to sit down with those photographs you have been meaning to label and begin.  If you dig out that box of old photographs you inherited, you might even discover one of those photographs from Isaac Werner's neighborhood that I have been hoping to find!

(During Sept. and Oct. of 1890 neighbors came to Isaac's farm nearly every Sunday to pose for photographs. Specifically, on Sept. 28 Isaac and Blake went to Bonsels and photographed a group of "some twenty relatives" before returning to Isaac's farm to photograph Graff, Penrose, Carr's team and wagon, and Henns.  On October 5 they photographed the McHenry team and several "young people" including Miss Anna Carr and Miss Balser.)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Documenting What You Save

     Last week's blog urged saving old photographs, even if the identities of the people in the picture are unknown.  This week I will focus on documenting pictures that you save.  Just because you know the people in the photographs, do not assume that future generations will.  When I found the photograph at left of two children clowning with their fingers in their mouths (for unknown reasons), I only had to flip the picture to the reverse side to discover the names of my father and his younger sister.
     Without my grandmother having taken the time to write their names on the back of the photograph, I might not have been able to identify the children.  With Merle dressed in overalls with her cropped hair style, I might have been confused about whether she was a girl or a boy.
     When the subjects of the photograph are lined up in a tidy row, like the sisters in this picture, it is easy to write their names in the same order as the subjects are standing, as someone who identified these four young women did.
     In both of these cases, it would have been better to have included the last name as well.  As old family photographs are handed down from one generation to the next, first names may be inadequate to identify the subjects of the photographs.
     With a photograph of a group of people, it may be necessary to do more than simply put the names on the back of the photograph.  Since many people now have home copy machines, a simple way to document those in the picture is to lay the photograph on a blank sheet to make a copy, and then you can use arrows to link each person to the names.  In this example both the maiden names and the married names are given, since future generations may not know both.  It would have also been helpful to have provided the location of the photograph, which in this case was the Macksville, KS city park.  The copy with the names can be stored with the original photograph for future identifications.  Some people write names directly on the photograph, which is a clear identification, but it also spoils the photograph.
     Today, many photographs are saved on cell phones, computers, and zip drives.  If some effort is not taken to document those pictures, they will be lost to future generations.  You may think that a graduation photograph or wedding pictures will always be recognized by your descendants, but that is simply not true.  Try showing your own high school graduation picture to a grandchild and you may be surprised that they will not realize that it is you!
     That is even more true of candid shots.  I have inherited boxes and albums of photographs that I cannot identify--and I have done more family research than most anyone else in the family.  If it is important to you that family pictures you treasure be passed to your descendants to be treasured by them, take the time to identify them!
     I continue to hope for a photograph of Isaac B. Werner, as well as photographs of others taken at his farm.  If names and locations were not identified on these old images, it might be impossible to recognize who and where they are more than a century later.  However, there are clues that can help identify unlabeled photographs, and next week's blog will share some of those clues.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What to Save?

You are down-sizing, moving from your family home of decades into a small apartment.  You can't take everything with you, and you come upon a box of old photographs of high school classmates who are also down-sizing and don't need anymore things to store.
Of, you have lost a parent and you are going through old magazines, postcards, photographs, and other things you cannot even associate with your parent.  What do you do with these things that your parents saved but that mean nothing to you?
Don't discard them!
Older friends in our home town mentioned to my husband that they had some old funeral cards, and among them was the card of my grandfather.  Would I like to see what they had? they asked him.  Of course the answer was yes, and I went through the small stack of cards and scanned them onto my computer.  The card pictured above was from the funeral of the father of a dear friend of mine.  He died in service when she was very young, and the framed picture of her handsome father hung in my friend's bedroom.  I remember seeing it there and asking her who it was.  She too has passed, but she has children who are descendants of Gaylord Thompson.  How sad it would be if this funeral card were to be destroyed when my older friends are no longer able to preserve it.
Those of you who follow my blog may remember seeing the photograph to the left.  When I mentioned the Tousley family in the blog, a family member shared this image with me, a treasured part of my research about Isaac Werner.  I was delighted with the photograph, and she was pleased with the research I had done about her family, and it was this old photograph that brought us together.
When my mother-in-law passed away, there was a box of photographs that she had inherited at the time of her own mother's death, who in turn had inherited them from among her mother's things.  We recognized none of them, and my husband was ready to give up and discard them.  I insisted that they be saved, and painstakingly I began using my genealogy research to unravel the mystery of their identities.  Eventually I identified all but three of the people pictured in this box of photographs.  In a future blog I will offer suggestions for identifying unmarked photographs.
I have the post cards pictured at right because a thoughtful family going through their elderly aunt's things donated them to a museum.  Sadly, it was not a museum primarily utilized by researchers.  The museum used the antique post cards as party favors at a fund raiser--a clever table decoration at the Victorian tea which was a favorite annual event for many years because of the lovely table decorations, clever and tasty refreshments, and special entertainment.  However, gifting the post cards to a museum that serves researchers could have provided a wealth of information about the family and the historic period through the correspondence on the reverse side of the post cards.  When you donate things to a museum, consider the ways in which that museum will be able to preserve and utilize what you donate.
A museum that does save photographs and documents is the perfect place to donate correspondence, old photographs and albums.  My mother-in-law had a full box of obituaries she had clipped from newspapers over the years, and when I offered them to Michael Hathaway at the Stafford County Historical and Genealogical Museum he was delighted.  Pause before you discard things that researchers might appreciate.
I was doing research for Isaac at the Pratt County Historical Museum when Marcia Brown was the director, and I mentioned some of Isaac's neighbors when I was going through old photographs in the museum's collection in hopes of finding a photograph of Isaac.  Marcia has a memory like a Pratt County walking archive, and months later someone brought in a box of old photographs to donate to the museum.  In going through the box she spotted a picture of Dr. Dix, and she remembered my having mentioned him.  I was thrilled!  She e-mailed the image to me, and now I have a picture of one of Isaac Werner's best friends--thanks to the person who brought the box of unidentified photographs to the museum rather than discarding them, and thanks to Marcia Brown's amazing memory and her thoughtfulness in contacting me.  I also have one of Issac's own books because Marcia spotted it at the library deacquisition sale and bought it for me.
I am still hopeful that someone will discover a picture of a group of men standing in a potato patch and remember my story about the photograph of the cooperative potato growing experiment in Stafford County.  Or some one whose ancestors were early Stafford County settlers shown in a photograph in which the background is a house or a well or a big tree or a promenade in a tree grove that they can't recognize from other family pictures, and they may remember my blog about neighbors who came to Isaac's farm to pose for pictures in a more prosperous setting at a time when their own homesteads were rather primitive.
A wealth of irreplaceable information is destroyed each time a box of old letters or old photographs goes into the trash, and when the people whose memories are preserved in those documents are gone, that information cannot be replicated.  Consider before you discard such things whether they should be preserved and where you might deliver them to insure their preservation.  History is more than just  books about famous people and events!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Clues to the Stone Family Mystery

Left:  Horatio Stone, sculptor; Right:  Horatio Gates Stone

Last week's blog, "The Wandering Paths of History," posted 4-28-2016, introduced American sculptor Horatio Stone and raised the question of whether this famous sculptor was related to my husband's ancestor, Horatio Gates Stone.  I posted their pictures side-by-side on face book and asked people to comment on whether they perceived any family resemblance.  Thank you to everyone who joined in the fun of studying their images and offering your opinions.

Here are some of the replies:  JJM:  "Sure look like the same person to me."  AML:  "They both have the similar pose, posture and piercing eyes."  DGS:  "Nose, brow, and hairline are certainly similar."  VB:  "The eyes, mouth and nose."  VA and LDF simply replied:  "Yes."  CSW spotted the same things I noticed:  "Oh my goodness, yes!  Don't you think so?  Their nose and eyes look very similar as does the shape of their faces."

In past blogs I have written about the responsibility of a writer to establish limits to separate history, narrative history, and historical fiction.  It has been my challenge to determine whether I want to tell Isaac Werner's story to satisfy scholars or general readers, and my attempt to do both was not a complete success.  Using this family mystery just for fun, join me in deciding which standard my research about these two look-alikes sharing the same name would meet, if I were to write a story about them.

Jackson, Washington, NY
I started with the information I had.  Dr. Horatio Stone, the sculptor, was born in 1808 in Jackson, Washington County, NY and Horatio Gates Stone, my husband's ancestor, was born in 1812 in Moriah, Essex County, NY, so I was curious to learn how close their birth locations were.  As it turned out, they were born in adjacent counties.  Their ages and the close proximity of their births make it seem more likely that they shared a family relationship.  Both counties are on the eastern border of New York State, with both adjacent to Vermont. (See images.)

Moriah, Essex, NY
I assumed that because of his well-known reputation as a sculptor  information about Dr. Horatio Stone would be easy to find, but that was not the case.  I did learn that in a Memorial to Dr. Stone written soon after his death that "his first large work in sculpture was a monument to his mother."  The images on the monument were specifically described as being "four figures--the angel and the three women at the sepulchre."  I found a picture of the stone of Nancy Fairchild, wife of Reuben Stone which has been identified as the sculpture by Dr. Stone.  From Nancy Fairchild's monument and research on Ancestry.com I identified Dr. Stone's parents as Nancy Fairchild and Reuben Stone.  My own family genealogy records confirm that Horatio Gates Stone was the son of Abraham (or Abram) Stone and Eunice Haskins, so I hoped to use the two fathers to find a common ancestor.  
Reuben was born in about 1771 in Massachusetts, but Abraham was born that same year in Elmira, Cheming County, NY.  Their fathers were certainly of the same generation, but with a common birth year and birth places in different states, it seemed unlikely that they were brothers.    If you know your geography, Massachusetts also abuts the eastern boundary of NY State, just below Vermont, so the possibility of a family relationship of some kind remained reasonable.

I tried to go back another generation, but I could not establish with certainty who Reuben's father was.  However, I did notice that Abraham's father Peleg Stone died in 1779 in Arlington, Bennington, Vermont, and two of Abraham's siblings died in that place on the same day in 1799.  The key in this observation was that Nancy Fairchild was born there in 1788, as was Nancy's brother in 1785 and her sister in 1790.  Although I had not placed Dr. Stone's family in the same community as my husband's ancestors, I had discovered a common location of Dr. Stone's mother and my husband's ancestors.

In short, I have certainly discovered several interesting clues but not enough information to validate a definite family connection.  If I lived close enough to wander through the old cemeteries in Moriah, Jackson, and Arlington, I suspect I might find more clues to solve this riddle.  All that I can say is that I found nothing to discourage the possibility of a family connection!
Searching family records has been a significant part of my research about Isaac B. Werner and his neighbors.  Because I live in the same community, it has been possible for me to examine gravestone inscriptions, search courthouse records, and even interview descendants of Isaac's acquaintances.