An Identification True or False

By Maureen A. Taylor

Since I’m packing for the FGS conference in San Antonio, I thought I’d select a image from Texas for this week’s old photo mystery.

Suzanne Wood owns two mystery photos. An elderly uncle identified this pictures as Elenor South (1839-1924), but Suzanne isn’t sure if she trusts his memory. Could he have gotten it wrong and it’s really Elenor’s mother depicted? Elenor’s mother was Maradyann Bascom South (1810-1859).

This tintype has had a hard life. There are rust spots and abrasions on the surface. You also can see the outline of an oval: A mat once covered this image. It suggests that this particular photo was once in a case.

The fullness of the skirt suggests that this woman is wearing a lot of petticoats. It’s an early 1860s portrait.

The big question is how old is the woman in this picture? In 1862, Elenor would be 23, and her mother, 52. When her mother was in her 20s, photography wasn’t available.

Further evidence for the identification is a second photograph of Elenor and her first husband.

A side by side comparison of the two faces is helpful.

The woman on the right appears to match—same nose, small mouth, deep set eyes and full face. Both of these images could depict Elenor (or a sister).

Here’s a photo of a sister Harriet South Reynolds, with her two children taken circa 1875:

wood1874 Harriet Ann South Reymolds-2 (2).jpg

Hope to see you at FGS!

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

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album