Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Myrtle Moved —
and Other Mentions of Middle Names

True to form, whoever labeled the photographs of the William Malphus Knapp family was intent on keeping that message of identity front and center. We've met the patriarch of the family in a portraitalbeit with a fuzzy focus—which I shared yesterday. Now, let's take a look at a picture of the family from an unidentified location and date.

The front of the photo included a handwritten message explaining just who was included in the picture.

There was William's wife, Clara Alice. Of course, William, himself, was at her side. And if the person who so kindly provided the label did so systematically, we can presume the middle row of children included a listing from left to right: eldest Knapp son Richard, with Ellen next to him and Hazel on the far right. And, front and center in a row all by herself, was Myrtle.

Myrtle, as we can tell, moved. Ever so slightly, but enough to make her face and hands slightly fuzzy. Perhaps that was because the photographer was naive enough to trust a child of that age to sit still, all on her own.

But how old was Myrtle? Come to think of it, just who was Myrtle, anyhow? From the 1900 census we found yesterday, there wasn't any Myrtle. The children listed in that 1900 enumeration were Richard S., Maud H., Clara M., Corintha E., and baby Charles R., born in May of that census year.

We could presume, from the presence of four children rather than the five listed in the 1900 census, that the photo might have been taken some time right before 1900, providing enough time for the youngster front and center in this picture to be old enough to sit stillat least long enough for the photographer to arrange the tableau and then turn his back. But where was there a Myrtle in the census listing?

Even jumping to the 1910 censusfollowing William's death, when Clara Alice and the kids lived with her dad in Oklahomawe get the benefit of three more children added to the Knapp roster, but none of them had the name Myrtle, either. William M., James M., and Florence A. didn't even come close to answering that question.

According to the 1900 census, Clara Alice was, at that time, mother to six children, of whom only five were still living. It might have been tempting to assume Myrtle was the missing childmaking the same response on the 1910 census doubly confusing for its report that Clara had had eight children, of whom all were still alive.

That, it turns out, was not the route to finding our answer. The key was in the middle initials, which led me on a merry chase through digitized documents online until I figured out just who Myrtle wasand Ellen, and Hazel.

Whoever they were, here's their picture. Including fidgety Myrtle's.

Above: Undated photograph of the William Malphus Knapp family. No location is given. Handwritten entry below the picture indicates identity of each person, left to right, beginning with the back row: "Clara Alice + William Malfus Knapp, Richard, Ellen, Hazel, Myrtle." Photograph in possession of author until claimed by a direct descendant of this family.


  1. This is truly a precious photo. What a treasure for future generations.

    1. I hope so, Miss Merry. I've found some potential descendants to contact, but I'm still waiting for an answer.

  2. Replies
    1. Yes, isn't it?! And it looks like each one of those little cherubs has mama's eyes.

  3. One would almost think Myrtle was a nanny or something.

    1. I did find some interesting details on Myrtle in some other family trees...


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