There are photos that just drive you CRAZY. Ronald E. Wade is a very dedicated genealogist, but this image has him confused. His relative Mary Beulah Petty gave him all her pictures and that’s great. Ronald has a fantastic picture history of his family thanks to her, but there’s one problem—this picture:
It’s a lovely picture of a couple in their later years posed with canes in hand. He’s rumpled but she’s neat and tidy. It’s just a gorgeous photo. The question is, who is it??
Let’s start with the provenance, ie., the history of ownership of the pictures. This is actually where it gets confusing:
- Mary Beulah Petty inherited her photographs from her mother, Texie Ann Busby (1861-1918).
- Texie received the photos from her mother, Matilda Stinson Busby (1831-1903).
- Matilda got them from her mother, Mary Polly Robertson Stinson (1789-1833), or so the story goes.
Do you see the problem?
First, photography isn’t available until 1839, years after Mary Polly dies, and paper photographs aren’t widely available until at least 1859.
Here’s the other issue: This photograph dates from circa 1900. This estimate is based on the style of the picture, the photographer’s imprint and the clothing. Yet, family members dated this picture to the 1850s.
If these folks were in their 70s in this photo, then they were born about 1830. Seems like a neat solution—it’s Matilda Stinson Busby and her second husband, John Busby (1822-1907), right? Possibly wrong. Ronald Wade has pictures of Matilda and John, and these folks don’t resemble them.
While Mary Beulah called these folks Grandma and Grandpa Stinson, she claimed that they were Mary Polly Stinson and her husband, Alexander, the couple who died years before photographs were available. Mary claimed her mother, Texie, also thought this image depicted Mary Polly and Alexander. Ronald can’t imagine Texie’s mom misidentifying her own parents.
On the back, someone wrote Matilda Stinson—why not Busby? It’s a real tangled mess of family history, family folklore and photographic facts.
Ronald knows that only a few of the Stinsons moved to Arkansas, which should narrow the field of possibilities. He’s been collecting family pictures for decades and even wrote a genealogy. I told him I’d present his case here and see what turns up. Now’s he’s considering that maybe this photo comes from the Robertson side of the family.
The facts are clear:
- The picture was taken about 1900
- It’s not Mary Polly and Alexander
- The couple is at least 70, which suggest birth dates in the 1830s period.
I love their expressions. It’s a family history treasure!