Thursday, October 25, 2018

Mother or Child?

Some photographs come with labels which are helpful guides to those viewers who don't personally know the subjects of the pictures. Other photographswell...

Yesterday, we took a look at a mother and child portrait which we could easily determine was composed in 1887. How did we know that? From the label, which stated the mother's married name plus the name of her infant son. Though the photo contained no clue as to location of the studio where it was taken, we were fortunate that the mom's name was rather unusual, and that she chose a lesser-used spelling for her son's name.

In today's photograph, we are given the label, "Theresa Fuller, Burt Purkey's cousin." By already having researched the Purkey family for the several abandoned photographs I rescued from an antique shop in Sonora, California, I was able to pinpoint just who Theresa Fuller might have been: younger sister of the infant we saw in yesterday's photograph.

But the question nagged me: was Theresa Fuller the mother in the photograph, or the baby? One key was that Theresa's maiden name was Fuller; she was the daughter of Pleasant Purkey Fuller and sister of baby Tarance, the infant we saw yesterday. It would make sense for the family to follow up the mother and child photo of baby number one with an encore for their second arrival.

However, the style of paper used to frame Theresa's photographwhether she was the mother or the childwas a style I'm accustomed to seeing when I view baby pictures from around the 1920s. Unlike the cabinet card we viewed yesterday, this photograph (which I've cropped and adjusted, due to its faded condition and different size format) came in a three-fold heavy paper stock with a marbled brown background.

If the baby in this photo was Theresa Fulleror, as I've seen the name listed elsewhere, Tressathen the photograph would have been taken around 1889, only two years after the picture we viewed yesterday. The style and setting of photographs wouldn't have changed that dramatically over a two year period.

If, however, the mother in the portrait was Theresa, then we would be viewing Theresa Fuller Hanson, wife of Seymour William Fredrick Hanson of Washburn County, Wisconsin. According to what I could find in the 1930 and 1940 census records, that baby would have been their only son, Leslie S. Hanson, born about 1921a date much more in line with the cardstock photo cover I'm accustomed to seeing during that time period.

Researching the Hanson family was somewhat challenging, not only because no enumerator seemed able to correctly enter Theresa'sor Tressa'sname, but because Leslie's name was mangled as well. Thanks to the addition of a middle initial in the two census records I found, I was able to locate an enlistment record for Leslie for World War II, and a Wisconsin death record and corroborating SSDI entry showing he passed away in February, 1972. Yet, despite his military service, I was unable to locate any burial information or even an obituary for the man who was once the infant in that portrait.

I suspect there won't be any direct descendants to claim this one photo from the Purkey-Fuller family tree, if Leslie was the only child of Seymour and Theresa Fuller Hanson. There was, however, another hopeful sign: I found a family tree on for this same family, which included another photograph of Theresa, her brother Tarance, and a younger brother Harold. It's time to go visiting other researchers to see if any of them are close enough relatives to be interested in having some of these Fuller family photos.

Above: Photograph, circa 1921, of Theresa Fuller Hanson and her son Leslie S. Hanson; photograph found in an antique shop in Sonora, California, and currently in possession of the author until claimed by a direct descendant of this family.


  1. yes most certainly a 1920's photo:) I love the way Mothers held their children up for these photos!

    1. Yes, that mama sure has a firm grasp on her baby!


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