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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, October 19, 2009
Which Generation is it?
Posted by Maureen

There are photos that just drive you CRAZY. Ronald E. Wade is a very dedicated genealogist, but this image has him confused. His relative Mary Beulah Petty gave him all her pictures and that's great. Ronald has a fantastic picture history of his family thanks to her, but there's one problem—this picture:

StinsonsSmaller (2).JPG

It's a lovely picture of a couple in their later years posed with canes in hand. He's rumpled but she's neat and tidy. It's just a gorgeous photo. The question is, who is it??

Let's start with the provenance, ie., the history of ownership of the pictures. This is actually where it gets confusing:
  • Mary Beulah Petty inherited her photographs from her mother, Texie Ann Busby (1861-1918). 
  • Texie received the photos from her mother, Matilda Stinson Busby (1831-1903).
  • Matilda got them from her mother, Mary Polly Robertson Stinson (1789-1833), or so the story goes. 
Do you see the problem?

First, photography isn't available until 1839, years after Mary Polly dies, and paper photographs aren't widely available until at least 1859.

Here's the other issue: This photograph dates from circa 1900. This estimate is based on the style of the picture, the photographer's imprint and the clothing. Yet, family members dated this picture to the 1850s. 

If these folks were in their 70s in this photo, then they were born about 1830. Seems like a neat solution—it's Matilda Stinson Busby and her second husband, John Busby (1822-1907), right? Possibly wrong. Ronald Wade has pictures of Matilda and John, and these folks don't resemble them.

While Mary Beulah called these folks Grandma and Grandpa Stinson, she claimed that they were Mary Polly Stinson and her husband, Alexander, the couple who died years before photographs were available. Mary claimed her mother, Texie, also thought this image depicted Mary Polly and Alexander. Ronald can't imagine Texie's mom misidentifying her own parents. 

On the back, someone wrote Matilda Stinson—why not Busby?  It's a real tangled mess of family history, family folklore and photographic facts.

Ronald knows that only a few of the Stinsons moved to Arkansas, which should narrow the field of possibilities. He's been collecting family pictures for decades and even wrote a genealogy. I told him I'd present his case here and see what turns up. Now's he's considering that maybe this photo comes from the Robertson side of the family.

The facts are clear:
  • The picture was taken about 1900
  • It's not Mary Polly and Alexander
  • The couple is at least 70, which suggest birth dates in the 1830s period.
I love their expressions. It's a family history treasure!


1900-1910 photos | men | women
Monday, October 19, 2009 6:40:46 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
Monday, October 19, 2009 8:43:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Any chance Matilda Stinson Busby had a brother who also married a woman named Matilda?

When were the other photos that he has of Matilda and her husband taken? Can you post one so we can compare them, ourselves?
Katie
Thursday, October 22, 2009 11:17:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
my idea was close to katie's--could the picture be of matilda and a brother? i wondered, due to the difference in their attention to dress--if they were married, one would think that she would have 'spiffed him up' a bit (or at least told him to comb his hair) for the occasion of a photograph! ~k
Kelly
Monday, October 26, 2009 1:10:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Hi Katie and Kelly,

The other photo of Matilda and her husband were taken much earlier. I don't have them but the owner posted them on his Ancestry.com site. I'll see if I can post a link.
Thursday, October 29, 2009 10:25:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I had the same thought as Kelly. They look a lot like brother and sister. Charmaine
Charmaine Klemczewski
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 7:28:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Hello,
I, like probably many folks, have this same problem you do with the 'unknown photos'. I finally got to cataloging hundreds and of different types of this era. You are correct about paper and gelatinous coatings coming in later in the Civil war and after but their contrast doesn't get this good till the 1890's-1900's. However, other types of photos used prior to this were called Tintypes. I'm sure you're aware of them. They had great contrast and actually endure much better than paper. This is obviously paper but it could have been copied from an earlier Tintype. I've run into this and it makes dating the actual shot much harder. One thing is certain about this photo. It is backwards. Men's buttons are on the right and women's on the left and both clothings are backwards. All Tintypes were backwards because of the process used to make them. If it were copied to paper at a later date that reversal would carry through. Or, the printer just printed this backwards. Tintypes can go back to 1845 but I still think this shot was done in the late 1890's. It's a great photo. I wish you well in figuring out who they are.
George Tallmadge
George Tallmadge
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