Saturday, January 3, 2015

Anna Stebbins and Ellen Parker, part 2

And so we begin part 2 on Anna Stebbins and Ellen Parker!

Ellen Parker, from the start, presented the greater challenge.  There were no dates provided, no husband given, only the clues presented in the type of photo, her dress, her name, and the fact that she was at Camp Dix at some point.

As I learned through my research, Camp Dix (now Fort Dix) is near Trenton, New Jersey, and was built in 1917-1918.  Trenton was certainly quite a ways from Chautauqua, New York.  389 miles according to google maps, or 6 hours and 18 minutes driving today.  In the 1920s though this would have certainly taken much longer.

Based on the photo, my best guess was that this was taken while on vacation.  Since I knew none of Anna and Harvey's children were named Ellen, my first step was to check the 1930 census to see if there was an Ellen Parker in Chautauqua Co, NY.  Perhaps she was a daughter-in-law.  And if I came up empty-handed, maybe she was a cousin who had moved away.

As luck would have it there was an Ellen Parker in the 1930 census in Chautauqua!  Aged 41, she was married to a Bert Parker, also 41.  Living with them was their son, William, aged 8.

Age-wise she seemed to fit.  I had guessed the photo had been taken in the 1920s of a woman aged in her 40s or 50s.  She would have turned 40 in 1929, which meant if this was a picture of her, it was probably taken in the 1930s sometime.  But if it was her, how was she related to Anna?

I searched much longer than I care to admit to find out who this "Bert" was.  At first I thought he was from Cattaraugus county initially, until I realized that Bert was Bert B. Parker, and this was Bert E. Parker.  It wasn't until I took a second look at the historical writeup for Harvey Parker that I realized Bert was indeed the son of Harvey and Anna.

The age was another item that had thrown me off.  In the 1900 census, their son Albert E. Parker was listed as aged 14.  This would have made him older than Ellen's husband Bert who, based on his later attributed age, should have only been 11.  Yet another lesson in not taking ages too exactly in census records.

In 1920 Bert and Ellen were living with her father, Frank Lundquist.  He was an immigrant from Sweden as was his late wife.  Like her husband Bert, Ellen had lost her mother by this time.  Her mother Matilda had died in 1917 when Ellen was about 29.  Matilda and Frank had immigrated to the US in 1880 and had 2 other children in addition to Ellen.  They were Theodore and Carl.

Ellen died in 1966 at the age of 78.  Her husband Bert died in 1980, at the age of 92!  Their only child William died in 2010.  There is a very nice writeup attached to his FindaGrave record if you are interested.

Before putting this set of photographs to rest, I wanted to see if I could decipher the meaning of the wording on the back.  In addition to "Camp Dix", there was also "Ephesians, 5-23", "Page 467", and "Can you beat it?".  The last seems to be a challenge to someone to take a better photo in a more distant place!  

As for the Ephesians reference, that passage is here,

 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

I am certainly no scholar of the bible so if anyone has any ideas as to why this particular passage was referenced, I would definitely be interested!

Anna Stubbins and Ellen Parker, part 1

Writer's note: this ended up being a much longer article than I had anticipated.  Please let me know whether it is too detailed, and I will adjust future posts accordingly.

This set of photos came to me in a slightly interesting manner.  Most photos I pick up at auctions or antique stores.  This one however was purchased for me by my parents after mentioning that I was interested in old picture frames.  The frame that held these two photos was smaller than I had wanted, but it certainly provided me with a new family to explore!

These photos were both tucked inside the same frame with names, and in the case of Anna Stebbins, her birth date, the name of her husband and marriage date, and her death date on the back.

Anna is in the photo in the top left, Ellen the top right.  Ellen's photo was behind Anna's and is obviously newer.
 First, before any actual research was done, I studied the two photos.  Anna Stebbins' photo appears to be a CDV, which was most popular between the 1850s and 1870s.  Based on her marriage date and apparent age, my best guess is that this photo was probably taken for her wedding or near it.

Ellen Parker's photo on the other hand is a snapshot from a personal camera.  You can even see the shadow of the person taking the picture.  It's hard to tell whether the photographer was male or female based on just the shadow though.

My initial impressions of Ellen was that she was probably in her 40s or 50s, and the photo was likely taken in the 1920s.  Based on that, I felt it was possible she was Harvey W. Parker's second wife, sister, sister-in-law, or possibly daughter or daughter-in-law (though that seemed a bit less likely).

Now to the research!

First, I started with Anna since the photo had already provided me with all the essential data.  Parker is a common name but I thought, how many Anna Stebbins could there be!  As it turned out, more than I thought.  There was even one almost exactly the right age in the 1860 census in Michigan.  I entertained the idea for a while that she could have been from Michigan, but moved past it.  I knew my parents had not purchased the photo anywhere near  Michigan so I decided to do what I don't always like to do.  I checked the public tree database at Ancestry.

Now, for anyone who has looked for people there, there are two absolutes,
(1) Pretty much anyone you search for pre-1880 will be there in at least name
(2) Many trees are created by overusing the copy/paste function without proper verification

As for the second point, I will admit I was guilty of this myself early on in my search.  I remember spending many nights adding in "relatives" to my tree from other researchers trees, presuming they had done their due diligence.  What a mess that created!  In some ways I was lucky.  I have very few colonial lines and most of the errors I had added were along those lines.  Where I was not lucky though?  Several of the large trees I had added through "download".  I am not sure if Ancestry still allows this, but back in the day you could say "link to this person in my tree" and then it would ask if you wanted to download just ancestors/descendants/or both.  In many cases I chose both.  This has left me to the unpleasant task of weeding out these now unconnected descendants after deleting our "common" ancestors.

Now, I will generally trust any information post 1850.  Not enough to add to my tree, but enough to contact the owner and/or use as a reference for my own research.  Anything before that is highly suspect since this is where most of the errors lie.  That is my long two cents on the public trees!  Now back to Anna!

As it turned out from the public trees, I was correct.  The Anna Stebbins from Michigan was in fact not the Anna Stebbins I had pictured.  The real Anna Stebbins was the daughter of George W. Stebbins and his wife Jerusha.  I had been unable to locate them in the 1860 census originally because Anna's name was incorrectly recorded as "Adda".

In 1860 her parents were both 32 years old.  The family was living in Portland, Chautauqua Co, NY.  George was a farmer, and his wife was a housekeeper.  Anna was recorded as six months old and their only child.  In actuality though, she would have been seven months and nearly eight.  Born December 13th 1859, the census was recorded on the 10th of August 1860.  I cannot explain this discrepancy but can only say that inaccuracies in age are not uncommon, especially in census records.

Next up was the 1870 census.  Now here is one instance where public trees are not correct on post-1850 data.  Every tree I clicked on had both of Anna's parents dying in 1865.  So I was anticipating I would find an orphaned girl living with a relative of one of her parents.  Instead I found she was living with both parents who were still very much alive!

In 1870 the family was still living in Portland, her parents now 42, and her father George still a farmer.  Anna was listed a 10 years old and she now had a younger brother John aged 8.  All born in New York.

The 1880 census was when I knew for a fact I had the right Anna Stebbins.  In 1880, her parents George and Jerusha were now listed as living in Chautauqua, Chautauqua Co, NY.  Her brother John E. was 17 and still living at home.  It was here that I learned that although both George and Jerusha were born in New York, George's parents were from Massachusetts, and Jerusha's were from Vermont (or at least her father was, her mother's place of birth was blank).  

Anna Stebbins Parker and her husband Harvey were also recorded in Chautauqua, Chautauqua Co, NY in 1880.  Anna aged 20 and Harvey 25 were recorded 4 pages away from her parents, and were at the time living with Harvey's parents, William Parker aged 68 and his wife Sarah aged 63.  Both were born in England.  In addition, Harvey's older brother Edwin W. aged 31 and his wife Eva, aged 20, were living next door.  And coincidentally or not, Harvey's other brother Ellis was living two doors down from Anna's parents with his own family.

Skipping to the 1900 census, we can essentially seen Anna and Harvey's entire marriage.  They are still living in Chautauqua, and on the surface very little appears to have changed except that they now have seven children living with them.  Anna is recorded as having given birth to eight however, so we know one died young.  Their children are Frederick age 19, Grace 16, Albert 14, Grant 12, Edna 9, George 4, and Ruth 2.  All in all they appear to be living a very happy, stable life.  Based on the photo though we know that is about to change shortly.

In 1903, Anna dies leaving Harvey a widower.  With their youngest child Ruth only 4, this must have been a terrible shock.  Harvey never remarried after her death.  He also outlived Anna by 47 years, dying in 1950.  Throughout his life it appears his daughter Edna stayed with him, taking care of him and never marrying herself.

I finally found an article on Harvey in the history of Chautauqua county, which I have posted below for anyone interested.  Please excuse the sizing issues, I cannot figure out how to set them correctly at the moment!

Since this is a long enough post already, Ellen Parker will have to wait for part 2!

Long Time No Post!

It has been a long time since my last post.  I'm hoping to change that though going forward.  I will be posting a new entry soon, and my hope is to post a few times a month.

I also wanted to say, if anyone has any photos they'd like me to research or they've researched themselves, please feel free to message me with details and I would be happy to research them and/or add your self-written post to my blog!

All for now,


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Emma L. Pidgeon

This is little Emma L. Pidgeon.  Researching her and her family has been one heartbreaking revelation after another.

First, some background.  Although the photo was taken in Philadelphia, “Pennsgrove” was written on the back along with her name.  After searching a bit on, I found Emma was the daughter of William Atkinson Pidgeon, a salesman, and Margaret (Maggie) S. Flanigan, a dressmaker.  She was born the 2nd of November 1892.  Born the third of three children, she had an older sister Grace, born in 1889, and an older brother Henry (Harry) Flanigan Pidgeon born in 1890.  The next step was to check the 1900 census and follow the lives of this family to see what happened to them.  Unfortunately, this census provided some startling results.  I sadly discovered that by 1900 both Grace and Emma were deceased, and only Harry was still living.  This was a terrible sign of the times where it wasn’t uncommon to lose one or more children early on.  As the CDC points out, in some cities in 1900, up to 30% of infants would die before their first birthday, an unfathomable thing in today’s world of healthcare.

I still do not know exactly what age Emma died, or what caused her death, but it’s likely she died prior to age 5 and from an illness.

Since I learned, conclusively and sadly, that Emma does not have any descendants, I decided to continue to research her parents and her brother Harry.  That's when I came upon my next startling revelation.  It turns out that William A. Pidgeon died in 1908, at the age of 41.  Without an online obituary, I was unable to determine what happened to him, but it is reasonable to deduce his death caused great hardship, both financial and emotional, for his wife and only remaining child, Harry.

In 1910 Margaret & Harry were still living in Pennsgrove, NJ.  Harry, at 19, was a clerk for the railroad office.  His mother Margaret was still a dressmaker working on her own account.

On June 5th, 1917, Harry registered for WWI duty.  He was married at the time, and was now a Railroad Master.  Some details from the registration form give a bit of a picture of him.  He was stout, of medium height, with light hair and blue eyes.  If Harry did see action in the war, he had returned home safely by 1920.  He and his wife Priscilla (3 years older than him) were living with an aunt and several others.

Harry's mother Margaret died in March 1930, at the age of 61.  At that time, Harry & his wife Priscilla were still childless, he at 39, her at 42.  Harry still worked for the railroad, and at the time they were still living in Camden, NJ.  I was unable to find Harry & Priscilla in the 1940 census, but given their ages in 1930, it seems doubtful they had children.  This left me with the sad realization that there wasn't any close family who would want Emma's photo.  Still, I decided to press on and try to find out what happened to Harry and Priscilla.  At the very least I felt I owed them that.  Unfortunately that wasn't as easy a proposition as I intially hoped.

Harry was found in the WWII registration files, and still living in New Jersey.  Given his age, however, it's highly unlikely he served as he would have been in his 50s at the time.

After this, I was left with very little to go on.  From social security records, I find Priscilla Pidgeon died on the 29th of September 1974 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Harry appears to have died in the intervening years prior to this.

And this led me to a dead end.  I wish I could give you a happy ending here.  Unfortunately, I have yet another family-less photo.  I do still hold out some remaining hope, though, that some distant relative of Emma's will see her and want to honor her memory.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Small Smattering of Unknown Photographs

Thanks to everyone checking out my blog!  I really appreciate all the nice comments!  I will be posting a new researched photo soon, but to tide you over, I thought I'd post a small selection of my favorite unknowns.  :)

First, I must admit, I don't tend to hold on to these photographs since it's almost impossible to identify the family from which it originated.  So, while I do still have some of these in my possession, others have been acquired by collectors.  This is an acceptable compromise for me as I feel they will take good care of these pictures.

The first photo I love is a nice tintype of two girls, a dog, and a tiny puppy.  It's rather rare to see animals in photographs of this age (to this day I think this is the only one I've come across) which is a big part of the reason I find it so great.

Presumably the two girls are sisters, but who knows for sure!  It's photos like this though that make me realize that in a lot of ways, things really aren't so different now than they were back then.

Here's what I like to call a "personality" photo.  Let's face it, most photographs of the time are rather plain portraits of a person, with little to no smile, partly because they had to sit forever to get their photo taken.

This photo however (also a tintype), is of an obviously flirty woman.  Perhaps this photo was sent to a husband/boyfriend/fiance?  Or perhaps she just wanted this photo for herself!  I wish I knew the background behind this image, as I'm certain she has an extremely interesting story to tell.

And this last photo just looks like fun! :)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Unknown photos

Although some of the photos I've found have been lucky enough to have names attched, many do not.  I'd be willing to estimate less than 5% of photos have their subjects identified.  Because of that rather startling statistic, I have decided to dedicate several pages to these unknown photos.  There will be links on the side to view these.  Hopefully someone will recognize one of them.  They will be arranged by state, wherever possible, and possibly by city.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Loftin Family of Atlanta, Georgia

These are without a doubt some of my favorite photos I've ever come across.  Colorized carte-de-visites (or CDVs) and some with names attached.  I just knew I HAD to find out who "Our Little Carrie Belle" was.

First, a bit more about the photos.  For those who aren't photo-geeks, CDVs are roughly 2 1/2 inches by 4 inches in size, and were the popular photo format from about the mid 1850s to the 1870s, when the larger cabinet cards became the more popular option.  Although not foolproof, I've found this is a good way to get a rough idea of when a photo was taken.  Now back to the photos at hand.

To start with, I had two captions to work with.  The first, "Our Little Carrie Belle", and the second, "Mrs. F. M. Loftin".  And although the rest of the photos did not have names attached, I knew they were all likely part of the same family because they were all taken at the G. J. Gables Gallery in Augusta, Georgia.  Some were older than others to be sure, but they all appeared to be from the same family.  To Ancestry I went!

Luckily for me, the 1870 census recorded a 3 year-old "Carrie Bell Lofton" in Atlanta, Georgia, living with her father, F. M. Lofton age 27, her mother Carrie Bell (Oakman) Lofton age 20, and her younger brother Frank Lofton age 1.  Her father "F. M." as it turns out, was also named Francis.  So as it turns out, both children were named after their parents.

I had to wonder what the elder Carrie Belle Loftin & Francis M. Loftin's lives were like.  Their daughter Carrie Belle was born in 1867, just two years after the end of the Civil War, and 3 years after the burning of Atlanta.  I could not find anything to show if Francis had served in the war, but even if he didn't, it assuredly was a daily thought.

Sadly, I found that Francis Loftin died young in 1873, leaving his wife and 3 children.  I then searched the 1880 census wondering what happened to Carrie and her children?  I was in for a shocker!  As it turned out, Carrie Belle Oakman Loftin would marry the photographer G. J. Gables in about 1875.  The same man who had taken the photo of her daughter as a baby.  They would eventually have two children together.

Her marriage to Mr. Gables would not be her last, however, as she would outlive him as well.  Carrie would marry her final husband, William Lomas in 1903, whom she would also outlive.

The younger Carrie Belle Loftin, as it turned out, married a man named David Patman Daniell and had many children.  Her mother, Carrie Belle Oakman Loftin Gables Lomas (talk about a lot of names!), died in 1921 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Now I know how these photos likely started their journey to me some 80 years later!)

Although I can't identify most of these people exactly, I believe the man is probably Francis Loftin himself as the green chair he's leaning on appears to be the same one his wife is standing next to in one of the photos above.  It's possible they were taken at the same time, perhaps for their wedding.

If George J. Gables was the photo colorist, he was an excellent one.  Whoever did the careful work paid extreme care and attention to even the smallest details, and they really do bring the subjects to life.