Which Mother is It?

Which Mother is It?

This lovely image depicts either someone's mother or stepmother. The question is, which one? It's a north-of-the-border mystery.Chris Rye inherited this photo from his grandfather, who in turn inherited it from his mother. The back of this tintype reads "Enos Mother." Enos Storm is Rye's great-great-great grandfather.&amp...


This lovely image depicts either someone’s mother or stepmother. The question is, which one? It’s a north-of-the-border mystery.

Chris Rye inherited this photo from his grandfather, who in turn inherited it from his mother. The back of this tintype reads “Enos Mother.” Enos Storm is Rye’s great-great-great grandfather.

Enos’ mother was Susannah (born in 1836), who died in childbirth in 1866 when Enos was born. The family lived in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada.

Susannah also had three daughters, born in 1859, 1861 and 1862. This woman is posed with a toddler on her lap. Notice the size of the toddler, as compared to the mother’s diminutive size. She has large hands but a tiny body in contrast to her very hearty child.

Enos’ father remarried a woman named Mary (born about 1847) and she had a daughter in 1879.

The clothing clues in this picture point to the 1860s. The mother wears an everyday dress with cap sleeves and a small collar, and wears her hair pulled back. In the late 1870s, women’s clothing featured more trim than this, and even everyday dresses had fitted bodices.

The little girl’s dress also dates from the 1860s.

This is an entrancing portrait. Susannah looks directly into the camera with a slight smile on her face, while her child sits still for the image. It’s a family history treasure!

This is one of the three daughters, but which one? She could be any one of them depending on a specific year. The toddler is likely around 3 years of age, meaning the photo was taken in approximately, 1862, 1864 or 1865. Any photos of the girls taken later on would be useful for comparison.

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Related Products


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    1. Maureen, I have noticed that in many photos dating to this time period, that women’s hand are huge when in front of their bodies, such as on their laps. I suspect it has to do with the camera and depth of field, but I have never looked into my theory. Do khow if this is the case?

    2. No matter which of the three girls it is, the woman is undoubtedly Enos’ mother, Susannah, based on the dating of the clothing to the 1860s. Enos’ sisters would have all been over four when he was born, and his step-sister was born when Enos was 13. – Janet