Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Spouse? Or Sibling?

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 1886although 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 nameat this point, I'm trying only for that specific spelling, but will eventually branch out to other possible spelling variants in this searchwhose 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 Erinnow 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 agehardly 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.


  1. I love reading about your journey to locate these faces and give them a new home.

    1. I'm so glad to hear that, Miss Merry. It is fun to find a way to send these photos home to family.

  2. I will guess her age as 32. His at about 38. I am not sure this is a "typical" cabinet card what are the measurements? I would call that Studio an embossed design...popular in the 1890's. A Cabinet card usually measures 4 1/4 inch wide by 6 1/2 inch long

    1. You're right about that, Far Side: the size is unusual. It's not as tiny as a traditional carte de visite, though. It measures just under 3 1/4 inch by 5 1/2, not quite the usual measurement for a cabinet card. Not sure what to call that--"cabinet card lite"?

  3. Congratulations on your blogiversary, Jacqi! Your posts continue to be a delight to read. I hope we'll get another chance to have coffee together as we did in San Jose several years ago. Take care.

    1. Linda, I would so love to get together again. I certainly enjoyed meeting you that time in San Jose. Let's plan something!


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