A case look: Photo of Essie Barnes, her parents, and her siblings?
There are very few things as exciting to find as a photograph of an ancestor. In the best of all worlds, we would have a complete provenance for the photo. Who took the photo, exactly when and where the photo was taken. We would also know who is in the photo and who identified the subjects of the photo. Sadly, this is the real world and we often don’t have all that information. Often genealogical photos are over a hundred years old so there is no one who can confirm who is in a photo; rather, they rely entirely on what they have been told is the subject of the photo.
I recently received a photo from a cousin and wondered what my due diligence should be as I catalog and source the photo.
“Essie, her parents and her siblings, we think.”
My first assumption is that the photo is a reasonable reproduction of the original, it hasn’t been Photoshopped or otherwise digitally manipulated. There isn’t any reason to think that is the case. If the photo was of a family member with a celebrity or at a famous place, I might consider the possibility, but, there isn’t any conceivable reason for this photo to be fake in some way.
The photo was passed to me as “Essie, her parents, and her siblings, we think.“ Due diligence would require that I confirm that this is likely to be Essie and would validate the individuals in the photo.
Getting a new car is an exciting life event. When I purchased my last new car, I had some photos taken with me in it. I did so with the new car before that too. I think the process is an American tradition and I believe this photo documents that life event.
I am not an old car expert, but my looking at the car make me think of 1915. I first thought of a Chevrolet, but looking at photos of the windshield hinge made me consider other vehicles. A 1915 Ford Model T Touring seems to have a similar running lamp on the side and a similar windshield hinge. Photos I saw online for a 1914 Touring T had a different running lamp. The 1923 Touring T seemed to have different wheels, so I believe the photo is from 1915-1922.
Back to who is in the photo. Typically, the youngest person in a photo is the easiest to determine the age of. In this photo, the youngest girl appears to me to be about nine or ten. Essie’s younger sister, Mabel, would have been nine years old in 1915. Essie would have been about 12-years-old. The girl in the back appears to me to be about 12 or so. The grown-ups are obvious in the picture, that leaves the young man behind the steering wheel. At first, I thought it could be Nelson, but then was reminded that Nelson died in 1902 and the boy looks older to me. So, the boy must be Ray, would have been 20 in 1915. The photo aligns with the individuals in the family.
The 1910 Census and the 1920 Census both indicate that the Barnes family lived in Turman Township, Sullivan County, Indiana, so the photo was likely taken there. Also, Joel Barnes owned his farm so it is likely that the family had enough money to be able to afford a car.
I always identify people in a photo or image from left to right. So, I would identify the photo as:
Essie, Mabel, Marada, Joel, and Ray Barnes with a new car, c. 1915, likely taken in Turman Township, Indiana. Photo by unknown. Digital image received January 2016, via Essie’s grandchild MR* who gave her source as KS* another of Essie’s grandchildren. See file: Barnes Family in car c.1915.jpg.
Have I done due diligence in my assessment of the photograph? Is it a different vehicle than my estimate? Please, let me know if I missed anything in my assessment that I should have considered.
* Note: Initials used in place of names for living individuals.