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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Could this happen to your family history treasures?
Posted by Maureen

Before diving into this week’s identification, I have a question for you: Have you specified in your will who’ll receive your heritage photos after you’re no longer here? If not, your relatives could find themselves in a battle.

Carolanne, the owner of this week’s photo, has spent 17 years trying to gain ownership of her great-aunt’s pictures and family history materials. When Addie Mattilda Weed died in 1990 at age 106, the tenants in her house gave her manuscripts to a university and kept her photos.

Carolanne, Addie’s closest living relative, finally got the photos, but she’s still battling the university—which currently expects her to pay even to copy the papers. So, make sure you’ve planned for the future of your genealogy collection.

On to Carolanne’s question: Who are these people?
She hopes they’re Addie’s mother, Laura Gilman (1844-1926), and father, James Wyatt Weed (1839-1888). 

    
I think Carolanne’s right. Addie lived her whole life in one house—birth to death. Since these photos were in that house among her belongings, they’re likely her close relatives. Also, this couple is the right age to be her parents.

That’s easy, but as usual, there are other questions: When were these images created, and what format are they?  

Both are photographs enhanced with charcoal. Photographers generally took pictures first, then enlarged and enhanced them—turning an ordinary cabinet-style picture into a piece of art. I happen own a similar-style image in a large gilt frame. The frames for these images are missing, and if there were smaller photos, those are unfortunately lost as well.
    
From about 1869 to 1875 women wore high, ruffled collars, long curls and ties at the neckline just as in this portrait. Notice her neck ribbon. Since Gilman and Weed married in 1873, it’s possible this is an engagement or wedding portrait.  

It’s much more difficult to date the picture of her husband, due to the sparse costume details in his picture. If his picture was done at the same time as Addie’s, he’d be 34 years old. His beard resembles the untrimmed facial hair men wore in the mid-1870s. Unlike his wife’s unwrinkled face, he has lines around his eyes, suggesting hard work that required he squint into the sun. According to the 1880 US census, James Weed worked in a mill, but I imagine he also spent time outdoors in his native Maine.

Caroleann sent a third family photo. I’ll tackle that next week, with a few more things to say about the three images. ‘Til then…

1860s photos | 1870s photos | enhanced images | men | women
Wednesday, October 10, 2007 7:50:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
Thursday, October 11, 2007 9:08:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think the University should be ashamed of themselves and should by law have to give the manuscripts back to the family unless it had been specified by the deceased that the University should receive them. Clearly the tenants had no right to dispose of anything if there were living relatives and should have never done anything until they found out about relatives. I agree, make sure everyone knows 'who' should receive your belongings and family history.
Jo
Friday, October 12, 2007 7:34:58 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I disagree with the sentiments of the blog post. Giving the collection to a university meant that 1) it is safe and well taken care of 2) all relatives have access. If she had willed them to a random relative 1) the material could be destroyed by decision or incompetent handling 2) access could be denied based on whims or fancies.
Kaisa Kyläkoski
Monday, November 05, 2007 3:12:46 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I never meant to create a controversy about families donating material to historical societies and archives. I strongly believe that having an inheritance plan for family history materials is a good idea. Either identify a person in your family to care for these items or approach a historical society about their policies regarding gifts.
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