Photo Detective: Marital Mystery

Photo Detective: Marital Mystery

Rikki Martin has a confusing family photograph. She can identify the posed group as her great-great-grandfather Orton Yaddow, his children and one of his wives. But is the woman with the child on her lap Yaddow's first or second wife? Before immigrating to the United States from Quebec, Canada, in...

Rikki Martin has a confusing family photograph. She can identify the posed group as her great-great-grandfather Orton Yaddow, his children and one of his wives. But is the woman with the child on her lap Yaddow’s first or second wife?

Before immigrating to the United States from Quebec, Canada, in 1877, Yaddow bore the surname Guindon. Martin doesn’t know the reason for the name change, but she does know that Yaddow and his family had their picture taken in Bombay, a small village in Franklin County, N.Y. She also knows that Yaddow married two women, Delia Boyer and Rose Snyder (also called Rosa), but she doesn’t know when. A cousin posted genealogical information online, but there is some disagreement about the dates’ accuracy. A basic rule of online research: Never accept Internet data as fact until you’ve verified it with other sources.

Assigning a time period to this image may help the family determine who is in the picture. When dating a group portrait with costume clues, always look for the young women. They tend to follow the fashion trends and can help provide a time frame for the whole image. In this picture, it’s the young woman standing to the viewer’s right of Yaddow’s wife. Her dress, with its modified leg-of-mutton sleeves and square neckline with lace collar, appears to date from 1900 to 1910. Although, it could be a dress re-made to reflect the styles of that time, as the upper arm of the sleeve is a little fuller than was typical later in the decade. The rest of the family wear everyday clothes that look worn and handed down.

The ages of the children span from a toddler to a teenager. There is about a four-year gap between the teenager and the next-oldest child. This could indicate the death of a child, because the other children appear to be about two years apart. Or the older girl could be a relative staying with the family to help care for the children from Yaddow’s first marriage.

The 1900 US federal census for Bombay, Franklin County, N.Y., only adds to the confusion over this family portrait. Yaddow appears as the head of the family with his wife Rosa and children Daniel, 7, Lillian, 5, Florence, 3, and Francis, 1. At the time of the census, on June 8, 1900, Yaddow and Rose had been married seven years. Rose said that of the three children she’d born, only two were still living. So which of the children in this photograph were products of Yaddow and Rose’s union? Additional research is necessary to identify this family and assign a date to the photograph. Census records for 1880 and 1910 to 1930, as well as any existing vital records, might sort out the marriages and children.

This is a challenging photograph. While costume clues help to provide a time frame, dating images of families with limited means can be difficult because hand-me-downs were common. Until Martin determines Yaddow’s marriage dates and the birth order of his children, this photo will remain a mystery.

Find out how to submit your own picture for possible analysis by Maureen Taylor. E-mail her at mtaylor@taylorandstrong.com.

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