Monday, July 9, 2012

A Plant Provides a Hint

There they are, in all the pictures I’ve posted over the past few weeks: the mystery family. The extended mystery family, complete with baby, children and even pets. Uncles, cousins, and even grandmother figure prominently.

True, I don’t even know their names, though I can guess.

Though many remain nameless, I spot similarities and try to group some of them together.

All I know is that they are on holiday at the waterfront. I presume, from the handwritten note on the reverse of some snapshots, that the location is Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. This location is confirmed from the “Abananza Studio” label on the postcards. The date, given on one of the pictures, is 1911. The one thing I know for sure is that these pictures all came from the papers of my husband’s grandmother, Agnes Tully Stevens.

And yet, I find myself so starved for confirmation on the identity of these folks that I grasp at little details. The dog pictures, for instance. And this strange, tropical-looking plant that I found in one under-exposed, wallet-sized photograph.

The picture is of a man holding a baby. Despite the setting of the photograph being outdoors in nice weather—and at the waterfront, too—the man appears to be wearing business attire. Other than missing the suit jacket, he looks very much like the couple at the far right in the group photograph I posted yesterday.

And there, peaking out from behind the couple in yesterday’s shot, is a renegade jumbo-leaf, much the same as those in today’s photo of father and child.

Can a mere leaf—no matter how large—reveal enough information to posit a guess as to location and identity? While I’m no farther ahead in the name game, at least I can feel better than tentative that this dad is at the same place, at the same time, as the group portrait shown yesterday. And if this is still a photo from 1911, the only baby eligible to fill the bill—at least as Tully family relations go—would be Mary Monica Tully McGonagle’s daughter Lillian Angela McGonagle. And yet, if this is so, where are all the other children of Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Austin McGonagle?

The only way to confirm, of course, will launch me on a quest to connect with some distant cousins. This, you realize, may call for another trip back to the old Tully home town: Chicago. Thankfully, that is the kind of thing one might attempt during a summer holiday.


  1. Same guy and maybe even the same shirt and tie. :)

    That plant is an "Elephant Ear" - it grows on the southeast seaboard from about mid-North Carolina south (which includes Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach).

    I think this definitely the same guy. I would suspect the woman next to him is the wife. Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Austin McGonagle with Lillian would be my best guess? Their other children would have been pretty young - perhaps they stayed home in Ohio with an aunt or uncle? Perhaps step-son Ralph Bennett is one of the boys and Mary Esther is the smiling bather (although the bather seems older than 13-14)?

    Possum the Dog might belong to them too -

    1. Thanks, Iggy! I thought "Elephant Ears" was a rather descriptive name! You have me convinced!

      I wondered if Ralph Bennett was the young boy in the group photos. There are other children in the beach pictures...just not present in the group photos.


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