The Old Man

By Maureen A. Taylor

Two years ago, Ben Naylor discovered this photograph of a older gent. Ben is stumped about the man’s identity.

naylor2The Old Man (2).jpg

Every photo tells a story and this one is no different. Ben’s great-great-grandfather, Irish immigrant George Gleasure (1858-1921), had five children and raised them in Natick, Mass.

Frank was the oldest child (born in 1882). In 1896, George’s wife suffered a fall and died. George immediately moved his whole family back to Kerry County, Ireland. Frank stayed in Ireland for five years until he was 18, and moved back to Natick in about 1900.

For the next 60 years, Frank exchanged letters and photographs with his family in Listowel, Kerry County, Ireland. Ben’s family didn’t know about the letters and images until they were discovered in a trunk when his mother’s uncle passed away. You can read these letters on Ben’s blog The Gleasure Letters.

Now back to the photo mystery: There were other images in the trunk including this one captioned “My brother George.”

naylorMy Brother George (2).jpg

The appearance of the two photos leads me to believe that one of young George’s siblings owned a camera. Both are candid images on roughly cut photo paper glued to heavy paper. Fingerprints are visible on the prints. Perhaps this sibling had a darkroom.

naylorMy Brother George fingerprint (2).jpg

The younger George was Frank’s younger brother (born 1894). If he was approximately 10 to 12 years old in the above candid photo, it would’ve been taken between 1904 and 1906. There’s also a photo of Annie Gleasure, Frank and George’s sister (born 1884), taken at about the same time.

So who’s the older man? If the photographer was one of Frank’s siblings, the man could be their father, the Irish immigrant George Gleasure. In 1906, he would have been 58. Or it could be Ben’s third-great-grandfather Francis Gleasure (1825-1911). In 1906, he was 81.

I don’t think the man in the first photograph is old enough to be 81, suggesting the image is George Gleasure born 1858.

Love his muttonchops! This type of facial hair was very common in the 1880s. Men tended to retain the facial hair of their younger years.

Ben’s family has left him quite a legacy of letters and images to reveal the lives of the people on his family tree.

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