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.