What do you do when you find a name attached to an abandoned photograph? You grab it and assume it's the right one. But what if the handwriting makes you second-guess yourself—and the name you were so sure was a keeper? Ah, there's the problem.
I've managed to find enough clues to send home several abandoned family photographs from one hundred years ago, but it's never too soon to learn that things may not appear entirely as they are. That, at least, is turning out to be the case with our latest photograph adventure, the wedding portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Brockman of West Point, Nebraska.
At least, I think it's Adolph Brockman. Or is it Brochman? Or Brochmon?
Couple that with uncertainty about the date of the photograph, and it's no wonder I wasn't finding any leads in this identity puzzle.
I finally tossed all my presumptions to the wind and resorted to using the "*" wildcard symbol in my searches. And gave up on testing any dates at all. Better to find several hits for an Adolph born in, say, 1940 than to have zero results from a too-narrow date range.
It took some playing around with search terms, a generous helping of patience, and a mind open to possibilities that led me to a promising clue. It even took me somewhat afield of the county in which the photograph was taken—Cuming County, of which West Point serves as county seat.
Granted, I did find an Adolph Brockman in Cuming County, but he was in the 1900 census—as an eleven year old boy. At that rate, if this was his wedding picture, it wouldn't have been taken for another ten years, at the earliest.
But what if there were other Adolph Brockmans—or however his surname might have turn out to be spelled—in the state of Nebraska? I took a look and found a World War I draft registration card for someone named Adolph Brockman—or Brockmann, or maybe Brookmann, as the name was written over.
This Adolph was twenty seven years of age on the date in which he registered on June 5, 1917. He gave his birth date as August 25, 1889, and his current residence as a farm in Plainview, Nebraska, a town about seventy five miles northwest of West Point. An encouraging tidbit: this Adolph was married and had a child.
While it was good to see we now have a firm birth date with which to identify this Adolph, it was even better to find the detail on where he was born. Sure enough, it was back in the place we were hoping it was: West Point, Nebraska.
That was enough to make me want to go back and take a second look at that eleven year old boy Adolph Brockman—or however he spelled it—in the 1900 census, to learn more about that Adolph's family and life story. After all, we may not yet be certain about the man's true surname, but at least we have one candidate's exact date of birth.
Images above: "Adolph Brockmon and wife," as the label on the reverse of his wedding photograph was written is followed by the second image, courtesy FamilySearch.org, showing a section of the World War I draft registration card for a married Adolph in a nearby Nebraska town.