Mothers in Old Photos

By Maureen A. Taylor

Who doesn’t own an image of an ancestral mother with her children? It seems like everyone has at least one.

This week’s photo doesn’t show a mother. Instead, she’s referenced in a note on the back.

Maureen Petrilli’s grandmother Mary Ellen Gillespie arrived at Ellis Island with her cousin Alice Broderick in June 1906. They were headed for Alice’s sister Margaret’s home in Scranton, Pa. Both women were from Eskeragh, Ireland.

On the reverse of the postcard is a message: “Give this to Mrs. Broderick Eskeraugh Dooley So from her daughter”

It seems pretty clear that a copy of this image was meant to go to either Alice’s or Mary Ellen’s mother. Both bore the surname of Broderick at this point.

One of the key ways to date a postcard is to look at the back.

broderick stamp box.jpg

Stamp boxes are very important. This one shows the postcard was manufactured by the Kruxo Co. A quick check of Playle’s stamp box website provides information on when this style of stamp box was common. Playle’s suggests that this design was used about 1907, providing another piece of evidence that Alice and Mary Ellen posed for this picture around the time they immigrated.

The term postcard first appeared on privately produced cards in 1901; until that point, they were called private mailing cards. Initially only postcards produced by the US Postal Service could use the term.

In the early years, real photo postcard printers were prohibited from using divided back cards with separate areas for address and message. That changed March 1, 1907. You can read more about postcard history on Wikipedia.

This particular card doesn’t have a divided back.

Many of us have postcards in our family photograph collections that were never sent. Maureen isn’t sure if this card was ever sent to Ireland or, if it was, how it ended up back in the United States.

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