Trio Incognito: The Minor Family Album

Sometime between 1883-1888, F. P. Morgan ushered these three people into his Uniontown (Pennsylvania) studio on Morgantown Street, and shot this cabinet card photo.  Their identity is concealed by the passage of time; their relationship to the Minor family of Green County lost in a historical fog.

Their relationship to each other, however, is clearly described in the photographer’s clever posing.

The silver-haired gentleman sits relaxed in an upholstered chair, while the woman and boy stand to his right with their arms resting on his shoulder and arm.  Their hands line up, smack dab in the middle of the frame, a visual statement–We are family.  The tableau is vintage Victorian; the husband is seated in the only chair signifying his role as patriarch and the woman is beside him as helpmeet.  Together they shelter and nurture their six(ish) year old son.

Three faces, one family.  Incognito.

Unidentified Family, cabinet card, F. P. Morgan, photographer, Uniontown, Pennsylvania, 1883-1888.  The Minor Family Album, p. 18, Author's Collection, 2014.

Unidentified Family, cabinet card, F. P. Morgan, photographer, Uniontown, Pennsylvania, 1883-1888. The Minor Family Album, p. 18, Author’s Collection, 2014.

Unknown Woman In Day Cap: The Minor Family Album

This middle-aged woman sat for her portrait, held motionless by a photographer’s head rest for the minutes-long exposure. The discomfort of such stillness couldn’t keep an impish grin from her face.  Woman in a Day Cap’s identity and relationship to my family has been lost. Her photograph, however, can serve now as a mid-nineteenth century fashion plate, evidence of what a mature woman wore out and about on a cold day.

LOOK WITH ME

A white cap covers the woman’s gray-streaked hair, framing her face with its starched ruffles.  A white ribbon is tied under her chin, ensuring the cap’s place come wind or rain.  At her throat, the woman wears a white cotton collar, one to three inches wide, with scalloped tatted edges decoratively set off by the dark material underneath.  The woolen wrap is worn draped across the front, gathered and fastened on the upper left arm–not at the throat like other coats and cloaks of the 1840s and 1850s.  Her hands are tucked inside a white fur muff, likely made of ermine.

Even if I don’t know how this woman is related to my Minor family, I take great delight in the inclusion of her photograph.  As always, digging in the Minor Family Album reveals treasures.

Smiling Woman Wearing Day Cap. Cabinet card (1885-1895) of original daguerreotype (1845-1855). Minor Family Album, p. 17; author's collection. 2014.

Smiling Woman Wearing Day Cap. Cabinet card (1885-1895) of original daguerreotype (1845-1855). Minor Family Album, p. 17; author’s collection. 2014.

Robert Minor Showcased in the Minor Family Album

Sometime between 1888 and 1890, my great-grandfather, Robert Minor, strolled into the photographic studio of Thomas W. Rogers (Carmichaels, PA) and struck a pose.  He wore a well-ironed wool suit, the jacket buttoned so high that the full Windsor knot is all one sees of his dapper tie. His eyes belie the confident stance–Robert is on the cusp of adulthood, almost ready to marry, almost ready to manage the family farm.  Almost.

Little wonder that his mother, Mary Jane Minor, included this moment in time within the pages of the Minor Family Album.

Robert Minor, circa 1888-1890, in TW Rogers studio, Carmichaels (PA)

Robert Minor (1869-1943), portrait taken by Thomas W. Rogers in his photographic studio in Carmichaels (PA), circa 1888-1890.

Brother John P. Minor

 

 

John Pierson Minor, (1852-1922),

Photograph by Thomas W. Rogers, 1888-1890. From the Minor Family Album, archives of the author.

Page fifteen of the Minor Family Album holds this photograph of a middle-aged man.  Shot sometime between 1888 and 1890, this portrait is yet one more mystery.  An 1874 family photograph, however, has a person that is eerily similar to this guy, and on that bit of evidence I advance the likely identification of John Pierson Minor.

John was born seventeen years before my great-grandfather, Robert, in 1852, to Marion and Mary Jane Guynn Minor, just outside the village of Garards Fort (Pennsylvania).  Folks in the surrounding hills admired and respected the stock driving, enterprising man for whom he was named–grandpa John Pierson Minor.  And by the time this photograph was taken, young John had established his own reputation as a cattle dealer and farmer.  What is most fascinating about this artifact is what is NOT there…his wife and baby.

John P. had married Elizabeth “Lizzie” Garard (1852-1922) in 1876 and the couple remained in the Minor corridor of Ceylon Road.  Nine years passed before a son, Ary L., was born.  Perhaps this photograph is just one of a series, and the portraits of Lizzie and Ary were not included in this collection.  Or maybe those faces await me in the final pages of the Minor Album…

Swiped, Stolen, Borrowed…What To Do When Your Work Is “Shared”: Tuesday’s Tip

Portrait of Unknown Man, Minor Family Album, p.1Light colored eyes, weak from age and illness, stared out from between a headful of thick, wavy hair and a chinful of white whiskers.  The photograph was among a list of search returns for John P. Minor on a major genealogical website. The problem?  This is NOT John P. Minor.  The PROBLEM? Two different ancestry.com users had conducted a google search, found their way to an old Shoots, Roots, And Leaves blog post in which yours truly had misidentified the whiskered gent as my patriarch, John P. Minor.  Without contacting me, they lifted the photo and uploaded it to Ancestry, perpetuating inaccurate family history.

Two things have gone awry here.

1.) My original attempt to identify an old, unlabeled photograph found in an album that belonged to my mother.  I had ascertained a probable chain of provenance, and reached the conclusion that the photographs were collected by Mary Jane Minor in the late 1800s.  With limited technical knowledge of dating photographs and limited contact with other relatives, I made a stab at identifying the guy primarily based on his age and the placement of the photograph in the first page.  I certainly did not have enough sources or experience to make a solid claim–as I did–that the whiskered man was John P. Minor. I have since acquired more skills, and conferred with relatives, to know with certainty that this is NOT J. P. Minor, and I have written two subsequent blog posts about this research here and here.

2) Readers did not collaborate before sharing.  I give my contact information for a reason–to collaborate.  I also have the “comments section” activated for a reason–to collaborate.  Had these tree climbers been willing to use either method I could have shared the newly discovered photographs, and collaborated on a possible identification of Mr. Chin Whiskers.  Instead, the readers perpetuated my error.

What’s a Geneablogger to do?

Well, I sure as heck will not stop blogging and sharing.  The collaborations and contacts have proven to be insightful, stimulating, and fun.  But I have established a few guidelines for error catching and correcting!!

1.)  If the error is perpetuated on Ancestry.com:  Leave a note in the photograph’s or document’s comment section attributing the original source, your blog, and stating the error that is perpetuated.  THEN contact the user directly with the Ancestry.com in-house mail, with the same message.

2.) Review the past post.  Delete the inaccurate information.  If the remaining text is nonsensical, delete the whole darn post.  If a wonderful story still deserves to be told, note that the post has been updated to reflect new information.  Don’t forget to update your tags and photo captions!!

3.) Up your game. If a post’s story is a mere “perhaps”, generate reader engagement.   Ask questions instead of making statements.  Write a piece of fiction, based on a piece of intriguing data, and ask readers if they think that interpretation to be likely given the source.  In short…if you are not confident that the family story is probably or certainly true, then flag the post as a work in progress.

I am a writer, a blogger, a family historian, a researcher, and collaborator.  I know by putting my work out here that it will sometimes be taken, reused with and without attribution to me.  That is the risk I take, gladly, willingly, for ultimately every reader is a potential friend and collaborator.

I am curious to know how other geneabloggers have handled this situation.  I look forward to reading your comments!!