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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, August 08, 2011
Godfrey Family Picture Puzzle
Posted by Maureen

Gwen Prichard and her cousin Libby Claypool have quite the family photo mystery. The image is a composite of what appears to be several generations worth of Godfreys.

GodfreyFamily2edit.jpg

Several years ago I saw something similar, but that woman didn't have a clue about the identity of the people in the collage. In Gwen's case, there are some identifications written on the back. 

Godfrey-Reverse.jpg

She has no idea who wrote the caption, but that detail could be the key to figuring out the identity of the folks depicted.

Godfreywomen.jpg

According to the caption, the first three women in the top row (left to right) are Fannie Godfrey, Sarah Ostick Dalton and "Aunt Godfrey." 

This photo generates a lot of questions. It's going to take some time to figure this out. 

Photographer
According to Gwen, photographer Peter Godfrey appears in the 1870 and 1880 census, but she's been unable to find him in the 1860 federal census. He was born in 1841. I found a Peter Godfrey living in Ohio in the 1860 census working as a farm laborer. His age is 23. Could this be the photographer?

Provenance
The history of ownership of an image can offer clues worth following. In this case, Libby Claypool is fairly certain the photo belonged to her great- grandmother, Fannie Williams Sloane, who was Peter Godfrey's niece.   Perhaps she wrote the identifications on the back. If so then Gwen might be able to figure out the first name of "Aunt Godfrey." This aunt is an elderly woman and likely the oldest person in this photo. Did Frannie Sloane have an aunt who lived into the 1860s?

Date of Photo
There are a lot of faces in this composite. A quick assessment suggests that most of the images in this collage were taken in the 1860s. This carte de visite card photograph with a double-gold-line border was common in the 1860s. The photographer's name and address is also of a design popular in the Civil War decade.

It seems quite possible that Peter Godfrey had a photo studio in the 1860s. Did he take all these photographs of family members or just make copy prints and lay them out to form this multi-generational group portrait?


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

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | unusual photos
    Monday, August 08, 2011 6:24:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    Comments are closed.