Thursday, June 28, 2018
Could This be Nellie?
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.