Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Experiments in photo-dating, and some revealing thoughts on disclosure


I'm not sure who this gentleman is. According to Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs by Maureen A. Taylor, this is likely an ambrotype, because of the flaking, which puts it between 1854 and 1864. (It could be a tintype, but that was an American invention, and I don't think it would have reached England this early.) The frame is ornate, which puts it, once again, in the 1850s or slightly later, as does the velvet case. The gentleman's costume? Well, the coat and vest puts him in the 1850's, but the tie and collar looks late 1840's, likewise the hair and beard. Early 1950's? Now, if this fella is my husband's great-great-grandfather from Prussia, who was born in 1824... Hmmmn. Perhaps my husband's great-great-grandfather through his father's father's mother? He was born in Lincolnshire in 1814, which would put him in his mid-to-late forties at the time of this picture. Or, what if he's from my husband's paternal grandmother's side, the lady with the three maiden names that nobody seems to want to discuss? My brain hurts... Update: On September 20, 2009, I found out who it was.
This morning, I was striding contently down the sunny snowy hill from younger daughter's school. We were on time this morning; at least we got to class mere seconds before O Canada. A lovely young woman with a hoodie and a fetching nose stud (I'm not being sarcastic), greeted me warmly, in a light francophone accent. I assumed we'd met (see two posts ago) and we fell into step. Apparently she judges how late she is by how far down the hill I am when she overtakes me in the morning. I learned she was in the process of a miscarriage (closed cervix or something), had a four-year-old son, was a waitress and school crossing guard (she'd just been in to see the school secretary, because she can't work due to the miscarriage in process), and was largely estranged from her birth family. Oh yes, and her mother is a registered message therapist. Rather a lot of disclosure for a five-block walk, but it was very congenial. I told her all about Working by Studs Terkel and the resulting musical which features a very buoyant song about a waitress. Her name is Melanie, and I wonder if she'll speak to me again, or if the amount of disclosure will haunt her.

2 comments:

Jonas Dickinson said...

Dear Sharon,

You obviously do not understand the meaning of the word malleable. But that is okay!!! Your photographs are excruciatingly beautiful and so are your words and their power.

I enjoy the Working musical as it is my favourite one. I also enjoy Carousel.

Love,
JoDick

Persephone said...

Dearest JoDick,

If the word "malleable" is truly malleable, then I cannot possibly misunderstand it! Thank-you for your kind words, malleable or not. I like "Carousel" if I can get past the "slap that felt like a kiss" jazz.

Love,
the Un-Sharon