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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, September 19, 2011
Oral History and Family Photos
Posted by Maureen

Behind every family photo is a story. It might be a simple tale of how your ancestor visited a photo studio or a complex story interwoven with local, national and family history.

Bonnie Farver, Farver family historian for Pennsylvania, sent me this great portrait.

sohanna1.jpg

The Farvers have an oral tradition associated with this woman that claims she's Sohanna or Christina Springer Brice, a Lakota Sioux related to Sitting Bull.

Have you noticed her blue eyes?

sohanna1eyes.jpg

According to Farver, most of this woman's descendants have blue eyes and blonde hair.

Farver's been researching Sitting Bull hoping to find a connection to this woman. She learned that Sitting Bull had twin children. It's an interesting fact: There are 24 sets of twins in the Farver family beginning in 1880 to the present. 

This image is a copy of a one-inch-square tintype. It appeared on a reunion notice.

Family folklore states that in this picture, she wears a neckpiece of white ermine fur and that the metal pin is actually a Henry rifle shell. Sorting out the truth from the legend is key in every family story. For instance, this neck ruffle doesn't appear to be made from ermine. Perhaps the ermine hangs from the ribbon wrapped around her neck. 

sohannaclose-up.jpg

However, her pin is an unusual shape and might be a refashioned shotgun shell. The Henry rifle was first made in the 1850s.

Farver wanted to know if the dress was recycled from a Civil War uniform.  While it's difficult to see the fabric in this photo, the style of the collar, the bodice and the big buttons date from the late 1870s. 

So who is this woman? That's the big question in the family. Could she be the wife of John Conrad Farver (possibly a German immigrant), born in 1755 and died 1823-24?  If she's around 80 years of age and this photo was taken circa 1879, then this woman was born circa 1799.  She could have been the young bride of a much older man—that was not an unusual occurrence.  Proof of her identity is still lacking, but having a time frame for the picture may help narrow the possibilities.

If you recognize her, comment below and I'll let Bonnie Farver know. She'd love to have a definite name to go with this face.


Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1870s photos | unusual photos
    Monday, September 19, 2011 8:54:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]