Friday, January 26, 2018

The Barnes Family in Kansas

I always consider it surprising that the photographs I find abandoned in antique shops which lack much identification still lead me to eager recipients among their descendants. In contrast, I'm concerned that this week's photograph, complete with the full names of its three subjects, may offer up more of a challenge. Who would have expected that when we began this search?

As I guessed, finding the right Barnes family wasn't too difficult, considering that a note on the back of the photo postcard included three sisters' names. Despite having no indication of ages, dates, or location, all I had to do was look for a family which included the three sisters' names: Mollie, Nellie and Altaand hope there was only one such candidate.

If the search engine at can be trusted, there was only one answer: the daughters of Forrest and Clara Barnes of Cowley County, Kansas. Forrest, a carpenter from Missouri, had married a wife from Kansas, and, except for a brief foray into Oklahoma with his family around 1910, had settled back in Cowley County where he remained for the rest of his life.

All told, Forrest and Clara had at least seven children, though only five of them survived into adulthood. One, a daughter by the name of Hattie Pauline, died as a teenager, ominouslyat least for her sister Alta and her "stomach ache" complaintssuccumbing (if we can believe the newspaper report) to "inflammation of the bowels."

If this was indeed the only Barnes family in America which included three sisters named Mollie, Nellie and Alta, the two older sisters were separated in age by only two years, while their younger sister Alta trailed behind the oldest by eight years. While I am not a good guesser when it comes to ages, I'd say that age spread looks about right, judging from the picturewhich you'll see, come next Monday morning.

Above: The Forrest Barnes household of Cowley County, Kansas, in the 1920 census; excerpt of the digitized enumeration courtesy


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Colleen, but the real challenge is going to be determining how the photograph made its way to California, and then figuring out which descendant would be a likely recipient to whom to return the photograph.

  2. ..."inflammation of the bowels." sounds like a horrible way to die.


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