Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Who Are We: The North Dakota Halls Family

This post is going to be rather long, so grab a beverage of your choice, sit back, and enjoy (hopefully) the explanation of how I link everyone together.

Over the past few months I received two sets of photos from separate researchers who were tracing aspects of the North Dakota branch of the Halls family.  One set of photos were from descendants of  John and Annie Halls adopted children, and was composed of casual snapshots of John, Annie, Alva, Jean, and their spouses and children.  The other set were from a direct descendant of Alva's sister, Aressa.  It was the wedding album of Alva and Aressa's parents, William Halls and Annie Myles/Miles.  Some of the photos from the wedding album were not identified, or were incompletely identified.  The two sets of photos together, along with some online detective work, allowed me to assign names to everyone with reasonable certainty.

First the photos.

Photo 1
Identity:  Unidentified Older Couple
Source:  William Halls Wedding Album
Location: Unknown
Type:  Photo on cardstock (CDV or Cabinet Card)
Date Taken:  Unknown, but there are multiple clues.  The woman is wearing an outfit with fairly tight sleeves.  Her hair is elaborately styles and appears to be braided on the sides and parted in the center. Oddly, there appears to be some sort of beading, like a crown or tiara, at the top of her head.  The skirt is pleated at the bottom.  The man is wearing what appears to be a topcoat, and a waistcoat.  His shirt collar has wings, and he appears to be wearing an Ascot tie.  The furniture is solid wood, and well carved.  It has some upholstery on it.  All these clues indicate to me that the picture was taken sometime in the 1880's.
Comments:  I know that these are not the parents of William's wife, Margaret Myles.  I have pictures of them where they are certainly identified, and from different sources.  Given where the pictures came from the most plausible identification is that they are William's parents, John Halls and Annie Kettlewell.  More as to why I think that towards the bottom.

Photo 1 Detail
John Halls Annie Kettlewell

Photo 2
Identity:  Lottie
Source:  William Halls Wedding Album
Location:  Vestine photographer, Rockford, Illinois.  All I have been able to find for certain is that he had retired/left the Rockford area in 1914.
Type:  Photo on cardstock (CDV or Cabinet Card)
Date Taken:  Unknown, but again with clues.  There was a Charlotte who was the sister of William.  She was born in 1872 and probably died around 1900.  The style of clothing screams  1890's, note the especially large shoulders.  My best guess for the date is 1895.
Comments:  William's wedding was in 1895, and this branch of the family appears to have had maternal (Kettlewell) relatives living in Rockford.  At least the censuses between 1870 and 1900 indicate Kettlewell's with some members born in Canada living there.  In addition she had relatives in Beloit, Wisconsin, which is about 20 miles north, and relative in Chicago to the southeast.  Certainly if it is Lottie Halls (as I think it is) then she had multiple reasons to be in the area in 1895.

Photo 3
Identity:  John Halls Jnr
Source:  from descendants of adopted children.
Location:  North Dakota
Type:  Snapshot
Date Taken:  Unknown.  It is a crop of his face from a picture with his adopted daughter Jean (born 1921).  The style of clothes, and their apparent ages indicate to me that the picture was taken in the early to mid 1940's

Photo 4
Identity:  Annie Halls, sibling to John in Photo 3
Source:  from descendants of adopted children.
Location:  North Dakota
Type: Snapshot
Date Taken:  About 1952.  Crop from a scan taken from a picture of John and Annie together.
Comments:  Not a good photo as they are apparently facing into bright sunlight.  Notice how she is squinting.

Photo 5
Identity:  Alva Halls
Source:  from descendants of adopted children.
Location:  North Dakota.
Type:  Photo on cardstock.
Date Taken: 1920's?
Comments:  a formal portrait obviously taken at a studio

Photo 6
Identity:  Margaret Myles and William Halls
Source:  William Halls Wedding Album
Location:  Willow City, North Dakota.  Taken by E.O. Holler
Type:  Photo on cardstock (CDV or Cabinet Card)
Date Taken:  1895
Comments:  I have no doubt this is Margaret Myles as I have another family shot in which she can be identified.  As for the picture itself, the album it is in is dated Feb of 1895 as part of an inscription.  Margaret's style of clothing, especially the sleeves/shoulders indicate a date from the period of the date in the inscription  Both individuals are wearing flowers and dressed in their "Sunday Best".  The flowers were traditional in photos of the time for wedding portraits.  The couple is also holding hands.  So unless Margaret married someone else who promptly died on her, and then the photo was put into an album inscribed, "To Mr and Mrs William Halls on the event of their marriage", it must be a picture of William Halls and Margaret Myles.

Photo 6 Detail
William Halls

I now have seven photos containing eight individuals.  First we'll compare the men to see what similarities there might be.

John Snr John Jnr Alva 1920
Samuel P Halls William Alva 1946

John Senior is the father.  John Junior and William are brothers.  Alva is William's son.  Personally I don't think William much resembles any of the others.  Samuel P is a cousin to both William and John Jnr., and I have thrown him in because to me he looks somewhat like John Snr, which helps establish his Halls identification.  The picture of SP Halls is a graduation photo from Victoria University (now part of the University of Toronto).

What commonalities are there in this group?
  • General Resemblance - John Jnr and Alva, especially Alva in 1946.  SP and John Snr, but it could just be the beard. 
  • Foreheads/Hair - John Snr and Alva have a Widow's Peak pattern at the hairline.  Both John Jnr and Alva also seem to have wavey/wirey hair.
  • Noses - Alva might have his fathers nose.  It certainly doesn't seem to resemble either of the John's, though John Jnr looks like he may have broken his nose at some earlier date.
  • Ears - SP and William seem to have very similar ears.  Alva in 1946 has ears that slightly resemble both his father and SP.
  • Chin/Jaw - Alva and John Jnr seem to have rather broad jaws.  Compare to Lottie and Annie Halls below.

Next we have the women.

Annie Kettlewell Annie Halls Lottie Halls

Annie Kettlewell is the mother of Annie and Lottie.  Annie and Lottie were sisters.

If we break it down as before
  • General Resemblance - Very hard to say due to the quality of the pictures and age differences between the subjects.  Overall not really, but they do have some features that they appear to share.
  • Forehead/Hair - no way to tell with any accuracy between hairstyles, hats, and shadows
  • Ears - as above
  • Noses - Difficult to tell, but all three seem to have some sort of resemblance.  Lottie especially seems to have an almost ski jump (shadows in the image?).  Her mother may be the same, but the head on view makes the comparison questionable.
  • Chin/Jaw - Annie and Lottie definitely have a resemblance in their chins.  Compare to Alva and John Jnr above as well.

Overall Annie Halls, Lottie, Alva, and John Jnr. all seem to have a similar chin.  Annie Kettlewell and her daughter Lottie Halls seem to share a nose, but it is hard to be certain.  Alva, and John Snr. share a widows peak.  William and his cousin Samuel have very similar ears, which helps to tie William into the larger Halls family.  Alva's ears also resemble those of his father, though not as closely as William and Samuel.

So what is the upshot of everything?  Well, in my opinion we are definitely looking at a family group.  I am reasonably confident, over 95%+, of my identifications of the unidentified individuals based on style of dress, facial resemblance to known individuals, people appearing in photos together, the items appearing in the photos with them, and provenance of the images.  While the women are not obviously visually similar, two of the three are identified.  The third can be identified by association.  Amongst the men there were fewer direct identifications, but more family resemblances to go by.  When taken as a group, I think there is very little doubt as to who they are.

I would very much like to thank everyone who has given me photos of the family.  Without your generosity my identifications would be much less certain than they are.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Everything Old is New Again

Everything can't be serious genealogy stuff, so...

Hats and Power Shoulders, 1890 vs 1980
  Coincidence?  I think not!

In case anyone is curious, the 1890's is related, but not the 1980's.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Who Are You? How do we Identify People in Old Photographs

One of the hardest things to do in genealogy is to identify people in old photographs.  I have been at this for a while and I have come up with a set of best practices, or at least best practices for me.  They are not in any particular order of importance.
  1. The more the better.  The larger your collection of old family photos the more likely you are to be able to identify who is in them.  
    • Look for the same faces across your collection.  Do the photos faces appear in have some identifying attribute?  A chin, a forehead, the set of the eyes?  Are there notes on some? If one of them says Bill and Jill, even without last names, it's a start.
  2. Who was your source for the photos?  A distant family member?  A distant family member who did genealogy?  A family who lives in the same area as your ancestors now?  Or an unrelated family who was close neighbours to your family in the past? 
  3. If there is a group of people, how are they standing/sitting in relation to each other?  My experience has been that
    • in multi-generation group portraits with in-laws the parents are obviously the oldest and almost always placed front and center.
    • if members of the opposite sex are touching, especially before WWI, it indicates a very close relationship, siblings, spouses, or parents and children.
  4. Date your photos.
    • Date by the style of dress of the individuals.  Women's clothing styles can date photos to within a decade, and often less.  Certainly they can provide an earliest date.  Men's suits are not so changeable
    • The type of the photo.  Tintype, ambrotype, daguerrotype, etc.  Each had it's range of dates of common use.
    • The style of the actual photo itself. Even within a type, certain ways of mounting went in and out of fashion.  This is especially true of Cabinet Cards. 
    • What are the furnishings?  I found out recently that wicker furniture was only popular from the 1890's to early 1900's
  5. Locate your pictures, in other words where were they taken?  Many older pictures have a photographers imprint either on the back or the mount, and very few of these imprints do not include the place.  This can also date photos by when the photographer was in business in that place.
  6. Are there other pictures on the Internet?
  7. Talk to your aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.  Even if they don't know exactly who is in a picture, they can often give you clues.
  8. Get a facial recognition/tagging program.  The are two that I use are Fotobounce and Picasa.  Often the suggestions they make can give you a clue as to who you are looking at even if you know the identification is wrong.
  9. Cross reference your information.  If you know one person in a group photo, it can give you a "not taken later than" date.  In conjunction with the style of the clothing and the style and type of the photo itself you may get a quite narrow range.  When combined with census records, BMD information, and travel records it can in turn can lead to more identifications.
  10. If you have a network of researchers ask them what they think.  Does your logic hold up?  Explaining your logic to someone else may reveal flaws you made to yourself, and makes it clearer to them why you think what you think, and if they should agree or not.
  11. Put your photos online and available for all to view.  You never know who will stumble across them.
I would recommend Maureen Taylor's blog at Family Tree magazine for the tips and tricks she uses as part of her posts.
So what got me onto reflecting about this?  Well, in the past month I received two separate bunches of photos from the North Dakota branch of the Halls family, from people who did not know they are both researching the same thing.  I will post pictures and explain my logic about my identifications in my next post.