Monday, July 16, 2018
When devising a research plan, I'm accustomed to limited perspectives. "Research the Kelly line" or "get ready for that research trip to Fort Wayne" are typical, short-range plans I come up with.
In tackling my southern roots, especially in preparation for the SLIG class on southern research I'll be attending next January, I've got to expand my horizons. Why? In my case, it's not just a matter of researching one surname, or one line out of many. Thanks to my mother's family history, every line leads to a root in the south. Her paternal line involved a migration trek through colonial Virginia to settle in Tennessee, with a possible link to North Carolina, as well. Her maternal lines were in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and elsewhere, also stretching back to colonial times.
It's one thing to learn how to expertly research a state. But in this case, we're talking about learning how to research an entire region—from the northern border of Maryland to the islands at the southern end of Florida, and from the tip of Cape Hatteras all the way to the endless domain of Texas.
That's a lot of learning.
The funny thing is, I've got kin in almost all of those places. And some of those folks have been making it pretty hard for me to find them.
It takes a plan to outfox those recalcitrant ancestors. And a strategy to step up my game from its status quo level of progress. For the past few years, my plan (other than for specific research trips) has been to move through all the branches of my family tree and add about one hundred documented ancestors or their collateral lines per week. Granted, now that process will be revised to focus specifically on only my maternal southern lines until I complete next January's class. But I need to do more than just "focus." I need some specific details to guide me.
A typical approach I've taken has been to regularly review my DNA matches to ascertain which family line can claim these hundreds of matches. While I've been contacting about one to two matches per week—some with gracious answers returned, some with nothing but silence—this is certainly no way to scale a mountain the size of my match lists. I've used some tools at GEDmatch.com and DNAGedcom—hey, I've even dabbled with DNA Painter—but I need to bite the bullet and learn how to master Genome Mate Pro.
Also, for the next six months, I need to organize a spreadsheet with all DNA match information, including notes from contacts, and which matches can be corresponded to which family lines. I think it would be great to just pull up a report of all the DNA matches across testing companies, for, say, my McClellan line. There is so much time frittered away, simply going back to look up one detail from one company, then jumping to details from another company. Streamlining the process, across all testing repositories, will help conserve time.
Most of all, though, my strategy needs to include the basic tactic of pushing each southern family line back as far in time as I can go through online resources. For families whose roots reach back to the 1600s here, it does me no good to stop at an ancestor living in the 1800s. There are still many lines I've not attended to, since stopping for lack of progress on their research when I last reviewed them ten years ago. So much has changed in online access to records in just the past year or so that it pays to review all these abandoned research lines to probe for fresh access to documentation. That will need to have its own plan for systematic review.
So, who am I looking for? I've got the Davis and Laws lines in Tennessee, both of which have me stuck in the early 1800s. I've got the Tilson line in Tennessee, which I know came from Mayflower origins in Massachusetts via Virginia—but how? I've got the Boothe line, also in Tennessee, from Nansemond County in Virginia, where I'm also stuck in the early 1800s. Likewise the Rileys, another early Tennessee family, supposedly from North Carolina in the late 1700s.
My maternal grandmother's Florida roots don't make life any easier. I've got McClellan, Charles, Tison and Sheffield who supposedly arrived there from North Carolina and Georgia, but how? I have yet to find out.
Many of these families are rich in history yet difficult to find, thanks to their status as early interlopers on the American frontier. My hope is that, with the many additions to online resources in the past few years, a fresh look at each of these lines will yield promising results. And for those mysteries still remaining, well, isn't that why I'm taking that research class at SLIG? One way or another, at the end of this campaign, these research strategies should yield me some helpful material—and help me figure out just how all those mystery DNA matches connect.
Sunday, July 15, 2018
When I decided, at my bi-weekly tally two weeks ago, that my next project focus needs to be on my southern maternal lines, I realized that would mean setting aside research on the other lines I'm working on. Of course, whenever those rare DNA test matches pop up on other family lines, I'll do what it takes to note any newly-discovered lines on my father's tree or my in-laws' trees. But from here on out until the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy class I'm taking in January, I may as well devote myself to working on the family line which relates to the southern research class I'm taking there.
So let's see how well I stuck to my plan in the past two weeks. When I started in this new direction, back at the beginning of the month, I had 13,732 in my mother's tree. Now, I have 188 more names—and supporting documentation—added to that tree. That's almost twice the increase I had gained over the past two-week sequence.
However, I couldn't quite let go of researching my mother-in-law's line, particularly because that is where most of my husband's DNA matches turn out to be. So, with a little incidental sprucing-up over the past two weeks, I still managed to add 140 documented names to her tree, as well. That tree, by the way, now has a total of 15,667 ancestors and relatives.
The hardest part about taking this new research approach is that absolutely nothing is happening on either my father's tree or my father-in-law's tree. Each one gained a big fat zero over the past two weeks. I'm not comfortable seeing those two lines languish, but unless a targeted research issue pops up—say, a promising connection via DNA test matches—I'll just have to set those two trees aside for a season.
As far as those DNA matches go, they seem to be in the doldrums, themselves, making me wish for a sale to perk up those languishing match numbers. I may have 3,182 matches at FTDNA, 995 at 23andMe, and an unbelievable 4,899 at MyHeritage, but for the most part, those represent distant connections or already-documented relationships. I'm still yearning for that magical moment when a match shows up whose line provides the answer to one of those intractable research puzzles. Don't we all.
Saturday, July 14, 2018
Sometimes, when I pull a book down off a shelf at my home, it's a volume which has been gathering dust for a long, long time. Other times, like today, it's a recent addition to my book-hoarding collection.
I'm not sure exactly how I stumbled upon this book by the prolific Dr. Jonathan Oates, but I suspect I first saw it at the book seller's exhibit during break time at SLIG one year. Or perhaps a fellow blogger mentioned it online. In either case, I put it on my wish list at Amazon, and a certain thoughtful someone in my family decided to make it a Christmas gift.
Fast forward to July, when I began wondering just how—and when—I could write up the outrageous story of the international crime spree of my distant cousin, John Syme Hogue, the "yeggman." That's when I remembered the reason that certain book seemed like such a good idea to read.
The book, Tracing Villains and Their Victims, provides a guide to researching one's black sheep ancestors, which is exactly what I intend to pursue in more detail than when I first posted the story of my distant cousin. There is, however, a caveat to the usefulness of this book—something I hadn't, at first, noticed. Jonathan Oates, the Ealing Borough Archivist and Local History Librarian, happens to specialize in a region far removed from that of the black sheep in my family: London, England.
Despite that drawback, the book still provides many useful resources, not only for England, but in guiding the reader through any legal system related to the British heritage. Thus, my criminal cousin, caught for his deeds in Canada, faced a judicial system, a hundred years ago, much like that of its parent nation, the primary focus of Oates' book.
Not only that, but in other research projects—for instance, reading the petty court reports for my husband's ancestors in County Kerry, Ireland, or the sentence of "transportation" for another Irish relative—I find the guidance offered in the Oates book to be helpful. The impact of the British legal system reached across the globe. Those now in Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand as well as the United States can better understand our ancestors' plight at the hands of the British judicial system of the past centuries through the reading of this guide.
The key is understanding the history of the development of that judicial system. That helps us understand what our ancestors—both law abiding and law-evading—experienced. As with understanding any type of history, learning the specific details of one given time and place will paint a clearer picture of what our own ancestors expected as day-to-day risks and protections.
Of course, for those notorious ancestors that sometimes pop up in our research, a book such as Oates' can help illuminate the process by guiding us to the documents we seem to crave in our quest to fill in the blanks on these people's lives. In John Syme Hogue's case, once I'm ready to delve into the court proceedings in both Manitoba and Ontario, I'm sure I'll need a handy guide through this international—to me—system of law and order.
Friday, July 13, 2018
The end of a project always creates an unwieldy vacuum. What's next? There are so many directions in which to head, making the choice difficult. But a choice does need to be made.
While I'm waiting for the green light on our next photo-hunting trip to the hills, I have some family research projects to work on. The big item on this agenda is to take a good look at my deep south ancestors, where a number of research projects have been hiding. Granted, it's a challenge to do on-site research when your ancestors lived in South Carolina or Florida or Tennessee and when the researcher happens to currently live in California, but I will eventually cross that bridge to get some hands-on work done.
In the meantime, I do have a class coming up next January at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy which will focus on that very topic: researching southern roots. I need to go back and pull up the main stories I want to pursue, so I can arm myself with questions once the first day of class opens. I haven't really delved into that side of my family, so there certainly is work to be done before class starts.
Regardless of these good intentions, I will probably not jump right in to that line of research quite yet. Why? Because a tempting offer just came calling with its Siren Internet call: there's free access to all the records at the New England Historic Genealogical Society website from this very moment onwards to next Tuesday. I'd like to insert only until Tuesday, July 17, but I suppose I should be grateful.
I suppose I can also claim that, in taking up the American Ancestors offer, I will really be doing the very work that I need to do, leading up to that SLIG class next January: my Tennessee Tilson line is, after all, rooted in the early years of colonial New England. As in, Mayflower colonial. And taking up the NEHGS offer of free access gives me a chance to peek at the Mayflower Society Silver Books to see what they have written on Ruth Bartlett, my fifth generation Mayflower-descendant ancestor.
Of course, I can't really help it if I find myself wandering off into other records...
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Now that the last of the abandoned photographs has been sent back to family, it's time to look for more. The thought that my ancestors' pictures—or yours, for that matter—could still be out there, facing the fate of being tossed out or lost in an estate sale, is a compelling consideration. While what I'm doing here at A Family Tapestry may never give me the chance to find my own family's photographs, at least it will allow me to grant a fellow researcher a pleasant surprise. Consider this a "giving back" project.
So it's off to a few more antique shops to see what we can find. We—my indefatigable genealogy-rescuing travel partner Sheri Fenley and I—are hoping to schedule a trip up to California Gold Rush country again soon.
If you recall, last time we went, we headed northeast to the area around Sutter Creek and Jackson. This time, we plan to follow the Gold Country Highway—state highway 49, named on account of the "49ers" who arrived there in 1849, just after the start of the gold rush—to the south of our last visit. Our goal this time will be to visit the historic community of Sonora, and possibly also stop in Jamestown or Angels Camp.
The good news is that there is at least one antique shop in Sonora, our first stop, which has—at least, according to their response to my query—"hundreds" of photos. We'll see whether any of those pictures include the vital element: an inscription on the reverse which provides enough identification of the subjects to make it possible for me to return the item to family.
Though most of the photographs I've already found were taken long after gold fever died down in the foothills of northern California, I am still amazed at how many pictures—taken in the 1870s through the early 1900s—still made their way from family roots in other countries to those relatives who chose to settle where their "get rich quick" schemes faded, so long ago. It is always fun to explore those bins storing abandoned photographs from a century long gone, and apparently, we are in for more fun with our next trip to the foothills.
Meanwhile, before we ever get on the road again, I've got some other research to take care of. We'll take a look at the to-do list tomorrow.
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
One of the benefits of those old-fashioned genealogical societies is that they gave family history hobbyists an outlet to meet other like-minded enthusiasts. One detraction we find on the other side of the digital divide is that lack of face to face interaction. There are, however, virtual attempts at reconnecting long-lost relatives and facilitating collaboration among distant cousin researchers, and Ancestry.com, for one, has made sure to include such options in their offerings.
When I build a tentative tree for the subjects featured in these abandoned, hundred-year-old photographs I find, I keep an eye out for those Ancestry shaky-leaf hints which show other subscribers who are also researching the same line.
Granted, they can't find me—I'm always careful to mask my research "sandbox" by making the tree private and unsearchable so no one gloms on to my guesses and transforms them into gospel truth by adding them to another tree, unverified. But by paying attention to what other Ancestry subscribers are doing, I can find serious researchers who are carefully constructing their tree through sound reasoning and ample documentation.
While it might be nice to cross check what I am doing with these well-documented trees, what I am really looking for, in this process, is a close family member who might be interested in receiving the actual photograph. It is fairly easy, on a public tree posted at Ancestry, to tell who is a close relative of my photo's subject, and who is someone like me, researching fifth cousins and beyond for the sake of DNA testing or other personal goals. It's those close relatives I'm looking for—someone who not only is particular about the accuracy of their research, but who is also close enough to appreciate the opportunity to receive that relative's picture.
But now we come to the photo of Henry with John Reed's daughter. Henry who? And which daughter? Do I even have the right John Reed? These are questions that plague me as I try to determine whether enough work has been done to send this little treasure home to family.
For one thing, I had to make the choice between two men. Knowing how much less people cared about precise spelling of names in that era of time, it was quite possible that either of two men with similar names could be the right one: John Holmes Reed, a teacher and farmer from the outskirts of Guelph, or John Read, the machinist from the north ward of the city.
Then there was the consideration of which of John Reed's (or Read's) daughters would be the right one. John Read's older daughter seemed a bit too old, yet his younger one too young. John Reed, the farmer from Erin Township, had two older daughters, either of whom could have qualified as the woman in the photograph.
The added benefit was the demonstrated connection to California—location where I finally found the photo, over one hundred years later—where John Reed's brothers had several descendants take up residence.
While I'm still not sure which Henry was the right identity for the man in the photograph, we do know that the woman in the picture was one of John Reed's daughters. Since the most helpful Reed family tree I found on Ancestry belonged to a direct descendant of John Reed, himself, it seemed the most reasonable choice to send the photograph to this descendant, who, incidentally, is interested in receiving it.
So, despite the remaining doubts, off this photo goes to its new home across the border, where a descendant of the only one whose first and last name were provided in the photo's inscription will gratefully add it to the family's records of their heritage.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Just at the point at which I was going to call it quits and stop puzzling over that mystery photograph from Guelph, Ontario, the ongoing conversation with the Reed family researcher I found via Ancestry brought up one more question: what about James Henry Reed's daughter Victoria Ellen?
James Henry Reed was the one Reed brother I had mentioned yesterday in that litany reciting the universe of possible Henrys to be the subject in the hundred year old photo I found. James Henry Reed's son—eligible on account of his name being Henry—I had already dismissed out of hand because he was married by the time our mystery photograph may have been taken. My reasoning was that it would be unlikely for this Henry to sit for his photograph with another woman—even if she was a cousin—because he was already married.
While that was a valid point, it was only true up until 1898, when that Henry Reed's first wife died. Between that date and 1904, the date of his second marriage, he was a widower. If the photograph was taken at the later end of our possible date range, it could have been this Henry who was featured in the photograph with our unnamed daughter of John Holmes Reed.
What makes that an interesting possibility is that this Henry—just like another of his cousins we had been considering—had a sister who moved to California.
The only problem with that realization: those Ancestry subscribers who include this sister in their family tree have noted the wrong California county in their records.
Hoping that the full date of death provided in some Reed family trees on Ancestry was correct, I entered the woman's first name only—those records all had her listed as still unmarried—and searched in California with the exact date of death. Then, with the search result showing a possible married woman with the same first name, I turned to newspaper archives to locate any obituaries under that exact name which might help determine whether that married woman was the same as the person I knew only by her maiden name.
With that, I discovered some interesting clues about Victoria Ellen Reed, this Henry's sister and daughter of James Henry Reed of Ontario, Canada. Victoria had married an Englishman by name of Fred Herring. For a while, they lived in Minnesota—long enough to add four children to their family—and then they headed to California.
What is interesting about this couple is that they were considered "early settlers" of the area in which they made their home in California—the small town of Rio Linda which, today, is just across the state highway from the Sacramento airport. Furthermore, as an echo of Victoria's grandfather, her husband served as Rio Linda's postmaster.
Of their two surviving children, Fred and Victoria left a daughter, Bertha, and a son, William Reed Herring. Bertha, in her younger years, served as a teacher in Turlock, California, not far from where some cousins eventually settled. Her brother, known as Reed, moved to Truckee in the employment of one of the railroad companies, but eventually joined the National Guard and could be spotted in newspaper articles mentioning his location in various northern California cities.
Whether either of these two surviving children of Fred and Victoria Herring ever inherited a copy of the photograph of—maybe—their uncle Henry Reed, I can't be sure. All I know is that it makes more sense for the Canadian Henry in the mystery photograph to be associated with a family member who had connections in northern California. After all, that's where I found the photo, over one hundred years later.
Monday, July 9, 2018
They don't call it an exhaustive search for nothing.
As we try to figure out the puzzle of just which Henry Reed might have been seated next to John Reed's unnamed daughter in a photograph taken in Guelph, Ontario, in the late 1800s, we discover there are more options to consider than we'd like to see. We've already considered the son of John Reed himself, a man named John Henry Reed—and discarded this possibility because, in comparison to his older sisters, he was younger-looking than the relatively older appearance of the man in the photo.
We've considered the spouses of John Reed's daughters Lavinia and Mary, and even their baby sister Nellie—but none of these daughters married men named Henry.
We've begun on the jump up to the next generation, to see who might have been a cousin to John Reed's daughter. So far, we're not quite sure about Henry Easton, son of John Reed's sister Francis, despite the fact that two of this Henry's sisters later moved to California, where I eventually found the photograph in an antique store. Besides, Henry had homesteaded in Nebraska, and though he was a single man at the time, it is doubtful that he would have returned to Guelph during the time span in which the picture was taken.
Francis, however, was not the only possibility for parent of a child named Henry. John and Francis had an older brother named Henry, who, predictably, named his own son Henry. This Henry, born in 1851, would have been in his late thirties by the time of the picture with John Reed's daughter. However, by that point, that Henry would also have been married and father of at least five children of his own, hardly a likely candidate for a pose with a single woman, cousin or not.
Not to lose hope on this survey of eligible Henrys. There were other candidates. Take, for instance, the fact that John, Francis and Henry had another sibling whose middle name was Henry. That man—named James Henry Reed—also had a son whom he named Henry. Born about 1854, that Henry, also, was married by the time of our mystery photograph, making him another unlikely candidate among all these potential cousins named Henry.
Well, how about another sibling? There was an abundant supply, thanks to John Reed's parents. What about his sister Margaret? She, too, named a son Henry. Born in 1858 in the same Erin Township where John Reed's family lived, if only this son of Margaret and her husband Gideon Awrey had married a decade later, we might have been able to consider a possible match between him and his cousin implied by our mystery photo. But no, this Henry was married by 1883—at the closest, three years before the first possible date of the photograph—making it unlikely that he would sit for his picture with a different woman, even if she was his cousin.
There is, however, one more Henry. Reed brother Robert Alexander also had a son who might—if he preferred using his middle name to his first name—have qualified for our mystery Henry. This son of Robert was born later than all the other Henrys, in 1867. He was, by the possible date of the photograph, likely unmarried, as he didn't tie the knot with Lydia Martha Johnston until 1893. Despite that promising detail, there is one problem with this possibility: with his date of birth in 1867, he would have been only a few years older than either Lavinia Reed (born in 1872) or her sister Mary (born in 1875). Unless he aged prematurely, his appearance would likely have not given that same sense of age difference as we can see in the photo.
After all those considerations, despite all that information, it seems the most likely candidate—at least, solely by the numbers—would have been Henry Easton, son of John Reed's sister Francis and her husband George Easton. It would have been serendipitous if we could have found a diary, or another photograph, or even a newspaper report that Henry Easton had returned to Guelph for a family visit, or at least found record of a border crossing from his homestead in Nebraska to his childhood home in Ontario.
But we didn't. And that leaves us, lacking such intel, still wondering whether this was the Henry identified by the enigmatic note on the back of a hundred year old photograph which ended up in an antique store in the foothills of northern California.
Sunday, July 8, 2018
I don't suppose, if you were among the many, yesterday morning, shut out of online registration for next January's Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, that you would enjoy reading my post today. Procrastinator that I am, I took a cue from an experience gleaned from an entirely different stage of life, to insure that I was not one of those who were put on the wait list for classes in Salt Lake City.
Back when my husband and I decided to homeschool our daughter—yes, including her entire high school career—there were several instances where timely registration made all the difference in whether someone got to "play" at tournaments. Our daughter was on the local debate team, which meant frequently registering for debate tournaments. We learned early on that, once an event in any given tournament had reached capacity, no more students would be accepted into that track. And some of those events—for instance, the competition track for impromptu speaking—filled up in a matter of minutes.
With experiences like that—and a daughter keen to qualify for nationals—we learned how to handle registration so we'd be part of the action, come tournament time. We learned to be seated at the computer, logged into the appropriate site, with our hand hovering over the mouse, ready to click through, the minute the clock struck the right hour.
Fast forward—past our daughter's high school, college, and successful launch into adult life—to yesterday. The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy was about to open registration for its 2019 season at 9:00 a.m., mountain time. That meant, for me, being at the ready before 8:00 a.m. Pacific time, on a Saturday morning. No sleeping in. No luxuriating over coffee and conversation with friends. Just boot up the computer, log in to the website and watch the countdown clock flip over to 0:00.
It's a good thing I did. I wasn't sure how popular my course selection was going to be, but I have done that wait list routine before. I just didn't want to chance it again—not to mention, who wants to wait until November or even late December to get the green light for a week-long trip?
As it turned out, watching social media just after securing my own registration, it was less than an hour afterwards when I saw the first announcement come up on Twitter. Not long after that, the SLIG social media team posted a note on the SLIG Facebook group with further updates: courses #3, #6, #11, #14, and #15 were already sold out.
I breathed a sigh of relief, of course, as course number six was my class, and I was already registered—probably at 8:01 a.m., my time. But I couldn't help ponder just how many people were actually put on the wait list for each of those classes. Of course, the actual counts for annual attendance are privileged information which I'm not entitled to know. But it does boggle my mind to consider how many people are willing to plunk down the $575 tuition (plus travel expenses, lodging and meals for a week) just to learn more about genealogical research.
Some people believe that genealogy is a waning fad, but when I see a response such as yesterday morning's registration frenzy, I'm encouraged to think there are a lot of us out there willing to delve more deeply into our craft as researchers. While being waitlisted for a class may be annoying, it is encouraging to see how many people are committed to a disciplined pursuit such as genealogy. (But I'm still glad to slip in under the wire and secure my seat for a class I've been looking forward to for years.)
Saturday, July 7, 2018
We're finally into the middle of summer, yet what is uppermost in my mind today is an event buried under the snow of winter. By the time you read this, I will have, hopefully, successfully completed my registration for next January's Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy.
SLIG, as it's called by its more-handy moniker, is a week-long immersion in specific genealogical research topics, offered by the Utah Genealogical Association. This coming January, there will be fifteen courses offered by nationally-recognized instructors on a wide variety of topics—not to mention the additional offerings either extending the week's learning, or preceding it (with a twist), meeting learners virtually in the comfort of their own homes.
In the past, I've focused mainly on the courses offered in genetic genealogy, where I've been privileged to learn from luminaries such as Blaine Bettinger and CeCe Moore. Last year, I broke away from that realm to bolster my skills in a different arena: research in archives and through manuscript collections.
This year, once again, I hope to pick up skills in another area. I want to attend the course on Southern Research. This course, directed by J. Mark Lowe, hadn't been offered in the last couple years, but I know from past experience and word-of-mouth recommendation from friends who had attended the course previously that it is well worth taking.
Now that the opportunity has come up once again, I won't be waiting until the last minute to register. This calls for deploying a different strategy: sitting at my computer with my mouse pointed to click on the SLIG website link at the split second registration officially opens. If I can help it, I mean to get in well before the dreaded wait list icon pops up.
Friday, July 6, 2018
Had I mentioned that Nellie Reed, our original candidate for identity of the woman in our mystery photo, had a twin? (Made me take a look back at my own posts. The answer: yes.)
While we've since discarded the possibility that the woman in that photograph from Guelph, Ontario, might have been Nellie, we're about to see an echo of that history of twins in today's exploration of who our subject might have been. Not for the subject, this time, but for the person who might have been the "voice" behind the inscription we found on the reverse of the picture.
Yesterday, I wondered whether the photograph might have been passed along by a sibling of the subject's father. Remember, all we know about this young woman was that her father was named John Reed. We are presuming that he lived in the area around Guelph, since that was where the photograph was taken. Fortunately for us, there was a man named John Reed in that vicinity.
Yesterday, we explored whether the photo had been passed along in the hands of John's sister Frances, who not only had a son named Henry (one helpful criterion), but a daughter, Hattie, who eventually moved to northern California, where the photograph was found, over one hundred years later.
Unfortunately, some of the details led us to consider this a slim possibility for the identity of Henry. But before I leave that consideration, one more item popped up: Hattie had a twin. And her twin had moved to California, as well.
Hattie's twin was named Nettie. Both were born on September 29, 1878. Although they were born in Nebraska, far from our original location of Guelph, Ontario, they were of an age to be just a few years younger than either Lavinia or Mary Reed, the two possibilities we're now considering for the identity of the woman seated next to Henry in that photo I found in northern California.
Nettie's side of this twin story was that she married a man named David Frew. Originally from Illinois, David and his family moved to Nebraska by the time he was ten, leading him, a decade later, to the location where he met and married Nettie.
Sometime before the U.S. 1920 census, the Frew family moved to a warmer climate, settling in the Los Angeles area in southern California. Not until late in life did the couple move up to northern California—actually, to the county just south of me—possibly to follow one or more of their grown children.
Once again, that creates a possible line of inheritance located in the region where I eventually found the abandoned photograph. After all, that photo from the mid-1880s to mid-1890s had to find its way to northern California somehow.
The aspect of "voice"—detecting the point of view incorporated in the explanation written on the photo's reverse—also seems compelling. If, say, Nettie were writing that explanation to one of her children, she would, of course, refer to her brother simply as "Henry."
In attempting to identify the person sitting with her brother, so many years before—and especially if she were doing so in her own old age—she might have forgotten which of her cousins the woman might have been. Lavinia? Or Mary? After all, even if they were her contemporaries, she grew up in a place over one thousand miles removed from the old family home in Guelph.
On the other hand, it would have been easier for such a woman to remember the name John Reed. Though John resided in Guelph, himself, his son—also named Henry—eventually moved west, as well. That Henry, though, never crossed the border, settling first in Saskatchewan, and eventually in Medicine Hat, Alberta. In that latter location, Henry's father—the original John Reed—paid him a visit when the elder Reed took ill and died. Perhaps news of that family event, in 1943, would have been enough to keep his name fresh in the mind of whoever wrote the note on the back of the photograph I found in northern California.
Still, as we mentioned yesterday, the fact that Nettie's brother Henry lived and died in Nebraska interjects enough doubt into the twin version of this scenario that it outweighs the possibility of the picture having been passed down through either of this twin California branch of the family. We'll need to take a look at the other possibilities for Henry before we reach a final conclusion as to who the Henry in our mystery photograph was. And yes, such an exercise may prove exhaustive.
Thursday, July 5, 2018
We're still puzzling over just who that Henry was who sat for his portrait with an unnamed woman identified as "cousin" and "John Reed Daughter." Having some help from a descendant of that same John Reed doesn't hurt, of course, so let's look at the hints he provided for possibilities.
A prime candidate might be the son of John Reed's sister, Francis Ann. For this man, born in 1851 in Ontario, we can check off the prime requirement: his name was, indeed, Henry. Since we had figured the photograph, from the Burgess and Son photography studio in Guelph, Ontario, was taken sometime between the mid 1880s and mid 1890s, that would put our possible Henry at an age range of thirty five to forty five. That seems to fit nicely with appearances.
This Henry, son of Francis Ann and George Easton, had another qualification: he was single. That little detail might tempt us to think someone was up to some matchmaking, in singling out an unmarried daughter of John Reed, to pair up with for this photograph. And don't let that cousin status alarm you; it was not unusual for cousins to marry, back in that era.
Another interesting thing about this particular Easton family is that Henry Easton's youngest sibling—nearly thirty years younger than he—happened to marry and eventually move to northern California. And that sibling—her name was Hattie—had several children, one of whom ended up with a Find A Grave burial record showing his final resting place to be in Contra Costa County, California.
That location may not mean much, for those who haven't been following these photo-rescuing escapades at A Family Tapestry. But you may recall that several of the photos I've found in northern California antique shops seem to link back to a family member in Contra Costa County. It's likely that a wholesale provider of antique photos is the one located in that county, rather than simply that these family members lived there, but that's the suspected route I think many of the photographs I've found have taken. And here, with Henry's photo, we have another possibility of a nexus with the Contra Costa County supplier.
There's only one problem with this scenario: Henry Easton didn't live in Guelph at the time this photograph was taken. In fact, he didn't live anywhere in Ontario. Forget a Canadian address any time after the U.S. 1880 census, where we can find him, a single man, living in Dawson County, Nebraska. In fact, a Find A Grave volunteer posted a transcription of his obituary from 1904, indicating that he and other Easton family members had homesteaded in Nebraska in the 1870s.
Never mind that the pathway in California made sense, considering our other rescue experiences. Unless Henry Easton made a trip back to Guelph to visit family sometime after settling, pioneer style, out in Nebraska, it is doubtful this would be the right Henry, single or not.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
It's hard enough to read some sense into a cryptic label slapped on the back of an old photograph, but doubly frustrating when enigmatic phrases get interpreted the wrong way. In the case of our current mystery photograph from Guelph, Ontario, we've been trying to locate the daughter of someone named John "Reed" and then see if she had any connection with someone named Henry.
The verdict on this approach? I'll give you the Reader's Digest version: it isn't working.
The photograph whose subjects we're trying to identify came with a two-line explanation. The first line said simply, "Henry + cousin." A second line followed up, just as unhelpfully: "John Reed Daughter."
We've already tried our hand at locating a possible John Reed in or near Guelph during the approximate time of the photograph (the 1890s). We've discovered two such men in Wellington County: one named John Reed (alternately spelled Reid) and another named John Read. Each had daughters of an age to approximate the youthful appearance, in the 1890s, of our unnamed subject. Yet none of these candidates had a connection to an older brother or husband whose name was Henry.
That observation was enough to provide the nudge to take the label on the back of the picture more literally. It's not enough to look for a candidate for daughter of John Reed. The relationship needs to be fixed with Henry, not John Reed's daughter. And the woman sitting next to our mystery Henry needs to have been either his cousin or daughter of his cousin John.
Normally, I would have taken the time to examine both Johns' family trees, pushing back another generation to find any cousin candidates for the enigmatic Henry. However, this time, I discovered a shortcut: there was a well-researched family tree on Ancestry.com for the more likely of the two John Reeds.
Of course, sending a letter out of the blue always runs the risk of being ignored—but then, again, sending that note to someone on Ancestry means, at least, that I'm talking to a fellow family history fan. It's more likely I'd receive a response there than, say, through Facebook Messenger.
So I reached out to a relative of John Holmes Reed, the former teacher and (sometimes) farmer from Erin Township, that twenty mile drive from the city of Guelph. I asked, among other things, whether this descendant might either have photos of John Reed's children, or at least have connections with other extended family members who might have those coveted photos.
While my newfound Reed contact did not know of any specific photos of the daughters, he did treat me to a rundown of the possibilities for cousin connections to John's two older daughters, Mary and Lavinia. Here's his thinking:
John Holmes Reed had eight siblings. One of these siblings was named Henry, who named one of his sons Henry Reed (born 1851)....a sister Francis Ann, who named one of her sons Henry G. Easton (also born 1851), and another sister Margaret who also named one of her sons Henry Awrey (born in 1858), and a brother Robert Alexander who had a son he named James Henry Reed (1867). So "cousin" Henry or brother Henry could have been any of these Henrys.
As for the woman in the photograph, this Reed descendant weighed in: "I suspect that it may be Lavinia or Mary Reed."
There, with one simple email, a family member provided me a lightning-quick tour of the Reed family tree, saving me the time of looking down each of eight branches of the tree to which John Holmes Reed was connected.
Of course, I couldn't just leave it at that. You know I always wonder how a photograph made it from its origin, so far away from California, to the point at which I located it in an antique shop in Gold Rush country. Taking this Reed family member's suggestions, I started examining the descendants of each of the Henrys, and something popped up that caught my eye: another connection to the Contra Costa area where so many others of the pictures I've found originated.
Above: Closeup of a man identified only as Henry, from a photograph taken, circa 1890, in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Photograph found in antique store in Jackson, California; currently in possession of author until claimed by a descendant of this family.
Tuesday, July 3, 2018
When the records aren't quite clear enough to provide an adequate snapshot of a given family's constellation, in genealogy, we opt to step backwards in time, to see the view from a different perspective. In the case of the mystery photograph we're currently studying, we used that very technique in considering the possibility that the unnamed woman was daughter of John Read of Guelph, Ontario. When his entry in the 1881 census didn't provide the names of all his children, we took a step back in time to see what we could learn from the 1871 census.
Of course, I tried the same approach in studying the other candidate for the John Reed mentioned on the back of the photograph. Though he was easily found in the 1891 census, I couldn't find his family in the 1881 census. I even tried looking for alternate spellings, including Reid, but nothing turned up for me.
Thankfully, last Thursday, reader Jackie Corrigan, a blogger herself at As Canadian as can be, helpfully commented,
You have probably found this by now. The family is in the 1881 census with the surname spelt Reid. There are two daughters, Levina and Mary, who would be the right age.
Well, no. Actually I hadn't already found that tidbit. But I wasted no time in looking it up.
I did so with one proviso: since already searching for John Reid did me no good, this time I tried my search using the more unusual of the two daughters' names. Levina became my touchstone. Heading to the 1881 census, I found her, exactly as Jackie had spelled it. There she was, along with her father John and mother "Margret." Perhaps this was proof enough that someone had a different approach to spelling.
Lavinia, as her name turned out to be spelled in her birth record, was born to John Holmes Reid and Margaret Jane Grasley on 15 May 1872. By the time she was eighteen, she was married—but not to anyone named Henry, as the inscription on our mystery photo led us to hope. Her husband's name, according to that 1890 record, was actually Alexander Lindsay.
Still, there was her sister Mary. Perhaps she would be our photogenic subject. Born Mary Matilda Reid in 1875, by the time she was seventeen, she was a married woman. She, also, did not marry anyone by the name of Henry, proving yet another disappointment on this desperate search for identity. Mary became the bride of William Theaker on February 25, 1891, in Mimosa.
Once again, that persistent researcher's stubborn trait leads me to hope for another break. Maybe that inscription on the back of the photograph was really telling it like it was, when it noted, "Henry + cousin." Tomorrow, let's see if John Reed's daughters had any cousins who were named Henry.
Monday, July 2, 2018
While Canada Day is officially the designation for July 1, the holiday having fallen on a Sunday means the country celebrates today. While I'm happy for our neighbors to the north during this festive celebration, I'm anxiously awaiting the return to business as usual at the museums and libraries across the border.
Why? I'm still searching for clues as to just who the John Reed might have been whose unidentified daughter had her likeness taken at a photography studio in Guelph, Ontario, nearly 120 years ago. While it seems we need to rule out the two candidates for the identity of our man John Reed, I thought there might be some other avenues we could explore in this adventure.
For one thing, Guelph has a few repositories tasked with preserving the city's memories, and I'm hoping to find a helpful staff member who might guide me further in this identification process—after the holiday, of course.
There is the Guelph Historical Society, which provides a search page to locate specific items in their collection. Remember my second candidate for the true identity of the "John Reed" mentioned in the photograph? The man named John Read in the 1881 census happened to have a son named Clement. Just searching for that spelling—John Read—brought up this set of photographs with a possible shot of Clement, himself.
The other John Reed was mentioned in a different collection, found through the Wellington County Museum and Archives. My hopes were certainly raised when I found their online access included a collection of postcards, but alas, neither John Read nor John Reed were included in that set. Still, it was fun to look through.
But John Reed was found elsewhere in the midst of all that collection's details, included in a set of land records for Erin Township. Sure enough, that was the same John Reed we found in the 1891 census record. We just don't know—yet—whether that was the John Reed mentioned on the back of our photograph.
If all else fails, once the holiday is over, I can always contact the Guelph Public Library. In this age of budget cutbacks, genealogical researchers sometimes forget to just ask. We presume the answer, in the face of no money for frills, will always be "no," but that is not always the case. It is always free to ask. It's only the answer that sometimes costs money.
While, behind the scenes, I'll continue to build family trees for our two candidates—John Reed and John Read—I'll also be awaiting any responses from these archives and collections which might provide some hints from already-stored and identified photographs. That might help.
Even if that fails, though, there was one other suggestion from last week which turns out to offer a promising lead—but that will take some explaining...tomorrow.
Sunday, July 1, 2018
Every now and then, when I realize just how many new record sets have been digitized and added to online collections, I like to take the time to review what needs to be updated in my own family trees. For some of those lines, I haven't been down that way for a long time, and there is a lot of work to do to attach these recent document additions. For others, I find dead ends where I simply couldn't find any documentation at all to bust through those brick walls. Until now...
My latest focus has been on my mother's southern American lines—families living in places like Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, the kind of locales too far away for planning research trips. Now, with so many DNA matches piling up for southern connections I can't yet fathom, it's a good time to work out these snags. That is exactly what I've been doing in the past few weeks, and I suspect it will be a project that takes up a good deal of my time throughout the rest of the summer.
The work, of course, will have repercussions on my biweekly tally, as I see myself shifting from at least the intention of dividing my time equally between my mother's and my mother-in-law's trees. In the past two weeks, I've bumped up the tally on my mom's tree to 13,732, an increase of 97 individuals added on my maternal side. On my mother-in-law's tree, the pace was almost the same, adding 86 names to total 15,527 individuals. However, as I focus more on my southern lines, I expect to see that maternal tree catching up with my mother-in-law's lead count.
Of course, in the midst of all this new focus, the trees for both my father and my father-in-law have suffered. I haven't added one single new name to either of those trees. Unless a breakthrough happens on the paternal lines—unexpectedly—these two trees will be set aside for the remainder of the summer, while I devote most of my energy to my southern roots.
Meanwhile, the DNA matches which are driving me in this focused research direction keep advancing, slowly but steadily. I have 3,166 matches at Family Tree DNA, over one thousand at Ancestry (where they don't provide a count over that number), 994 at 23andMe (which includes an actual increase of ten, an unusual shift from my ever-decreasing match count there), and 4,826 at MyHeritage. For the most part, I have no clue who most of those people are, no matter how diligently I've been working on this issue.
DNA matches for my husband—for whose test I serve as administrator—are not quite as high a count as mine. But they're getting there. He has 2,005 matches at FTDNA. He's catching up at Ancestry with 607 matches which are fourth cousin or closer. At 23andMe, it was he whose count went backwards this time (albeit by only one measly match) to total 965 matches. And at MyHeritage, he has 3,404.
All those matches are enough to keep a full time employee busy for weeks unending. I'm experimenting with various database management programs and techniques, but still at a loss as to how some of these people connect to our family trees. Very few of those matches are close cousins. Most wander out towards those outer circles of relationship in that nebulous second to fourth cousin orbit.
And yet, I can't help but wonder if, having pursued these neglected southern lines in my mother's family, I might suddenly realize how a good number of these mystery people connect. This is just a part of my family I know very little about. It's about time to open the door to the possibility of that discovery.
Saturday, June 30, 2018
I'm on the cusp of a decision. The fact that the deadline is tomorrow evening at five o'clock, Indiana time, for arriving at an answer—at least at the inexpensive, "early bird" price—doesn't help with creative problem solving.
Next August 22 through 25 is the annual conference of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. And I just happen to now be president of a local genealogical society—a society which, incidentally, belongs to FGS. One would think it would be prudent of me, in my new role, to step up and show my face where such folk gather.
Besides, this year the FGS conference is being held in Fort Wayne. Remember that second largest genealogical library in the United States? Yep, the one in Allen County, Indiana, is, by default, in Fort Wayne. Like, across the street from the convention center. Talk about a magnet to pull in researchers. I certainly enjoy taking my genealogical problems to the Allen County Public Library's Genealogy Center—in person even better than online.
Something, however, is painting this entire opportunity a vague color of gray. Yes, the conference schedule is studded with superlative speakers—I know, because I've already heard so many of them—and great networking chances to connect with like-minded society board members. Could it be that I'm just getting weary of traveling so far to enjoy that scintillating learning environment?
The costs of attending a conference can spiral. It's not so bad when I just hop in the car and drive for a full day's work behind the wheel. But flying is another matter—an exhausting, expensive one. And face it: air fare is just one line item on the expenditure report. There are meals, hotel costs, even rental car expenses to contend with, as well. I might want to network on behalf of my newfound presidential role, but not that much.
On the other hand, I had the best time at the last conference I attended—the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree. I'm ripe for partaking of another event like that. Face it: a genealogical fanatic can thrive in such a milieu. And I'm always up for that. It's just the getting there that drags me down.
By the end of the day on Sunday, July 1—well, to be precise, at three in the afternoon, my time—I'll need to make a decision. If only I could teleport to Fort Wayne next August, I'd have my mind made up yesterday.
Friday, June 29, 2018
The note on the back of the abandoned photograph started out, "Henry + cousin" but then stopped. A second line continued, "John Reed" and then added the additional term, "Daughter." That was all I could find on that picture taken in Guelph, Ontario at a photography studio called Burgess and Son.
By style of photograph and by style of hair and clothing, all indicators pointed to a portrait taken in the 1890s. Especially considering the woman's hair with its frizzy bangs, it was likely a style from the 1890s, noted for short hair framing the face and treated to the heat of steel tongs "heated over an alcohol lamp or a gas jet" to "make the waves more lasting."
But a photo taken in the mid 1890s of a woman with such a hairstyle would not do for a target subject known to be born just a few years before in 1885. The daughter of the only John Reed I could find in the region surrounding Guelph would have been a mere child during that decade. And, just based on the fluffy hairstyles of the next decade with its Gibson Girl ideal, it is doubtful that the picture I found would have been taken in the early 1900s.
So, goodbye to the notion that the subject of the photograph I found in a northern California antique shop would have been Nellie Reed, wife of Kenneth Quarrie of Wellington County, Ontario. She was simply too young to be a likely candidate.
So who else was there in the region surrounding the city of Guelph who could have been a daughter of John "Reed"? This is where we need to get creative with our spelling. One obvious choice would be to search for the alternate—and common—spelling, Reid. However, no candidates from that time period offered themselves for consideration.
There was, however, a man by the name John Read. This resident of Guelph was listed in the 1881 census. Most promising was the fact that he did have a daughter, who at that point was twenty years of age. Since our mystery photograph was taken at the Burgess and Son studio some time between the mid 1880s and the 1890s, this daughter would have been just the right age to qualify as our subject.
That, unfortunately, was where the case begins to unravel itself. While this daughter—her name was given as Kate G. in the 1881 census—did happen to have a brother, his name was not Henry, as was mentioned in the inscription accompanying our photograph. Kate's brother's name was Clement.
Of course, the man in the picture with this daughter of "John Reed" could have been a husband, rather than a brother. But taking a look forward in time to reveal Kate's life story, we discover she remained single until the point of her death in 1935. No Henry awaiting us in any such possibility.
Stepping in the opposite direction, though, shows us another possibility. If we find the household of John Read in 1881 to include only two children—Kate and her brother Clement—what could we find if we took a step backwards in time?
It turns out that John Read and his wife Ann had two older children who had, by 1881, left their parents' household. And one of those older children was indeed another daughter. Her name was Emma, and while she was born in 1856, a youngish-looking thirty-something woman could still be a possibility for our photo subject.
Looking for the other telltale signs of a match, though, also brings disappointment. Emma's other brother was also not a Henry; John and Ann's oldest son was named Walter. And though it was encouraging to see that this daughter had gotten married, we discover it was not to someone named Henry. The man Emma married in 1876 was named Denis Cross.
Whoever Henry was in the photograph I found, I am not sure I will be able to identify—at least, not if I assume that the woman seated by his side was John Reed's daughter and either a sister or a wife. Perhaps the next step will be to take the label literally and assume that Henry was sitting next to his cousin, John Reed's daughter. That, of course, will require building these trees out yet another generation.
Above: The John Read family in Guelph, Ontario, in the 1871 Canadian census; image courtesy Ancestry.com.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Now that we have isolated a possible identity for our mystery woman in the photograph from a northern California antique shop, let's see what can be found about her story.
The hint on the back of the photograph had only identified her as John Reed's daughter. Since the picture was taken at a photography studio in Guelph, Ontario, our first step was to locate any possible resident in the area claiming that name—and then see if he had a daughter.
This we have already done for one John H. Reed who lived about a twenty mile drive from Guelph in a tiny hamlet in the township of Erin called Mimosa. Finding him in the 1891 Canadian census, we learned that he had a daughter named Nellie—and not only that, but a son called Henry, just like the name of the man in the photograph.
The only drawback to this scenario was that Nellie, at the time of the 1891 census, was only six years of age. For her to have been the young woman in the photograph, it would likely mean the picture was taken well into the early 1900s—possible, but not plausible.
Still, by the time I had researched this Nellie, I had become attached to her story, and couldn't dream of moving on to other possibilities without at least telling you something about who she was.
Nellie Reed was actually named Ellen at birth, back on April 6, 1885. On that date, she arrived complete with her very own playmate: a sister named Maggie May. The twins were listed as born to John Holmes Reed, a teacher, and Margaret Jane Grasley.
Nellie's next appearance on the paper trail was at the occurrence of her marriage to Kenneth Christopher Quarrie of Garafraxa. At the time, she was eighteen and he was ten years her senior.
By the time of the 1921 census, she was listed as Ellen, wife of Kenneth Quarrie, a farmer in West Garafraxa Township in Wellington County. She was now mother of four: three sons and one ten year old daughter, the youngest of the family.
The next record I found of Nellie was not for many years after that point in her timeline. After her passing in 1965—nearly twenty years after her husband—a headstone was erected at the Johnson-Eramosa Union Cemetery in Wellington County, Ontario. Duly recorded at Find a Grave, a clearer photograph of the monument's inscription can be found at the Canada GenWeb Cemetery Project.
Though I looked for such a serendipity, no photograph of Nellie, herself, accompanied the entry at Find a Grave. In fact, the search prompted me to scour family trees posted at Ancestry.com in hopes that someone had included a photograph of Ellen Reed Quarrie. But no. Not one sign of what she might have looked like.
Still, the fact that this daughter of John Reed would have been so young at the time our mystery photograph would have been taken makes me doubt that Nellie was the right identity for the woman in the picture. Despite marrying a man ten years her senior—similar to the appearance of the couple in the photograph—we already know the photograph's other subject was supposed to be named Henry, not Kenneth. And yes, I even went back to look at the handwriting, in case the H was really a sloppy K.
Since this John Reed was the only one by that name I could find from that time period in the Guelph area, we probably need to go back and look for any possible suspects whose names would be phonetically the same. After all, spelling was not the forte of many people. The name could have been spelled any number of different ways—by census enumerators, by directory publishers, or even by the person writing that note on the back of the photograph. We'll need to revisit this puzzle to see if there were any men named John whose surname was spelled Reid or Read. Maybe that will be the key to unlock this mystery.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
I was quite excited, if you recall, to discover that the John Reed I had found in the Wellington County, Ontario, directory came with a middle initial H. Why? Because H, in my hopes, would equate to the given name Henry. And the hundred year old photograph I had found in an antique shop in northern California had a note indicating that the man in the photo was named Henry. I fervently hoped this man in that city directory preferred to go by his middle name.
However, when I found my possible John Reed in directories for the area indicated by the photography studio's location—the city of Guelph in Ontario, Canada—it turned out there were other details I needed to discover.
For one thing, in American city directories, it was common, during that era, to list the husband's name followed by the wife's given name in parentheses. An example would be this 1934 city directory for Tampa, Florida, where my great grandfather, a dentist, had his office:
Notice Rupert C. McClellan's wife's name (Sarah A.) in parentheses.
When it comes to reading directories north of the border, however, that rule doesn't stand. Take a look how John H. Reed's entry was printed.
My first assumption, from years of experience, would have been to understand Mr. Reed's wife's name to be Mimosa. An unusual name, to be sure, but not an entirely impossible choice for her doting parents' precious baby daughter.
As it turned out, a good look around at the page in the directory which included John Reed's name revealed that quite a few men of that era seemed to have chosen, as their life's companion, a woman with the same name: Mimosa.
Perhaps, if you found that discovery as unusual as I had, you would then be prompted to flip to the front of the book and see what could be found to orient you to the details of the abbreviated entries to follow. And there, as I had, you would learn not only what claimed its rightful place within those parentheses, but also to what details the "con 1, lot 27" entry referred.
Explanations to Directory:
Directory is arranged as follows;--1. Name of individual or firm. 2. Post
Office address in parenthesis. 3. Concession and lot on which the
party resides. 4. Occupation.
Figures placed after the occupation of farmers, indicate the number of
acres of land owned or leased by the parties.
John H. Reed, a resident listed in the section of the 1884 Wellington County directory for a place called the Township of Erin, actually lived in a tiny place called Mimosa. This hamlet, as it was called at the time, turned out to have an interesting history, one which was intertwined with the Reed family history as well.
Though originally settled by the British and, in particular, the Irish in the 1820s, Mimosa didn't appear as a separate geographic entity until residents of the area lobbied for their own post office in the late 1850s. When the request was granted by the postal authorities in 1860, the first postmaster named to the new Mimosa post office was a man by the name of Henry Reed. This Henry and his wife, Ann Holmes Reed, were the parents of twelve children, youngest of whom was named John Holmes Reed.
That John Holmes Reed—the very same John H. Reed we've spotted in the Erin Township directory from 1884—turned out, as the directory indicated, to have land labeled as concession 1 and lot number 27, located within that tiny hamlet known at the time as Mimosa.
Yes, the H turned out to represent the name Holmes, not Henry as we had hoped. His wife's name, rather than Mimosa, was actually a more pedestrian Margaret.
Above: Clipping from the Wellington County, Ontario, marriage records for John Holmes Reed and Margaret Jane Grassley dated 20 September 1871; image courtesy Ancestry.com.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Sometimes, hints given turn out to be much more enigmatic than hoped. When I found a cabinet card of a couple with an inscription on the reverse, at first I thought it provided enough information to allow me to return the photograph to descendants of the people featured in the portrait. The more I puzzled over the clue—"Henry + cousin John Reed Daughter"—the less I found to like about its helpfulness.
Fortunately, this photo I found in northern California did include an embossed studio name for the photographer: Burgess and Son. Their location was listed as Guelph, a city in Ontario, Canada. As we saw yesterday, the first time that studio used the name Burgess and Son was in 1886—although technically, the city directory identified the establishment as William Burgess and Son. By 1889, the first name had been dropped and the studio started going by the name Burgess and Son. This continued at least through 1900, the last city directory for Guelph I could locate online.
Meanwhile, the popularity of the cabinet card format for photography was waning. That design still continued to be produced in the 1890s, but after the early 1900s, was soon forsaken for other formats.
Equipped with that knowledge, I set out to find an entry for someone named John Reed in the Guelph city directory. I located one man by that name—at this point, I'm trying only for that specific spelling, but will eventually branch out to other possible spelling variants in this search—whose name happened to include a middle initial: John H. Reed.
Hmmm...that middle initial looked quite promising, but I reserved judgment on possibilities until I could locate this John Reed in a census record. After all, it wasn't John Reed who was in that photograph, but John Reed's daughter. The census record would reveal whether this John Reed could still be in the running as candidate for our subject's father.
Since the city directory in which I found this John H. Reed was for the year 1884, I looked for the next census enumeration to locate our possible John Reed's household. Sure enough, there was a John Reed in the 1891 Canadian census. A promising start: just as had the John Reed in the 1884 city directory, this John Reed lived in the township of Erin—now an entity swallowed up within the town of Erin. The best part? He did have a daughter.
The problem begins when I realize the daughter's age. In 1891, she was listed as being six years of age—hardly the age of the woman in our antique photograph.
But could she have been sixteen years of age in our photograph? Perhaps this could have been a picture taken ten years later. She did look young in the photograph. I'm just not sure it was that young.
Another tidbit from the 1891 census: this daughter of John Reed had an older brother. He happened to be five years older than this John Reed's daughter, whose name was Nellie. And you'll love this discovery: her brother's name happened to be Henry.
Could this be the Henry listed in the photograph? Is this Henry seated next to his sister? And here I had been thinking the Henry in the picture was seated next to his wife.
Still, it seems to be somewhat of a push to make these details fit the scenario behind that label on the back of the photograph. I really need to look for alternative candidates.
Monday, June 25, 2018
It's time to tinker with the local city directories to see just how long the photography studio known as Burgess and Son was in business in the city of Guelph, Ontario. Our goal: determine a date range for the picture found in a northern California antique shop with the enigmatic label "Henry + cousin John Reed Daughter."
My thinking is that, once we determine that date range, we can estimate the date of birth of the woman in the photograph and, assuming she is John Reed's daughter, look for that family constellation in the Canadian census for the nearest decade.
Simple, right? Don't be too sure.
Let's look, today, at what can be found about the business establishment known as Burgess and Son. Thanks to a modest inclusion of Wellington County directories in the collection at Ancestry.com, I was able to find a listing for that specific photography enterprise as early as the year 1886. The entry reveals that the studio was located "over 21 Wyndham" in the city of Guelph. It also alerts us to the fact that the senior Burgess was named William.
Before that point, William Burgess was listed in the city directory at that same business location, but only under his own name. At least, that's how I found the listing for 1884 and 1883.
Of course, that could just be how that particular publisher printed out their directories. I couldn't find any different section with a classified directory, so that hampers our quest for isolating the dates the business was in operation specifically under that name, Burgess and Son.
On the other end of the spectrum, I was able to locate their listing in 1889, in 1891, in 1895, in 1896, and even in 1900. After that, despite that particular Ancestry collection stating it went up to 1906, I couldn't locate any directories specific to Guelph. For all I know, Burgess and Son could have been in operation for decades after that.
That open-ended scenario, at least for our purposes, may not hamper our search by much, as the type of photographic design—the cabinet card style—was not continued for long after that point. We may be safe in assuming the couple sat for their likeness any time between the establishment of the business name after 1884 and any time up through the turn of that century. Still, that's a span of over fifteen years.
Next on our research plan will be to find a family of someone in Guelph named John Reed—or, gasp, any one of several spelling permutations—which includes a daughter who would be at least approaching her twenties sometime between 1885 and 1900. Or beyond.
And then? Hope fervently that that daughter became the bride of a man named Henry.
With variables like that, what are my chances?
Above: Entry for Burgess & Son photography studio in the Guelph city directory in 1891; image courtesy Ancestry.com.