Recently I became inspired to post a favorite picture that I have come across during my genealogy research. Jen, with Auntie Jen’s Family Trees, blogged about her favorite picture here. When I saw her post my mind immediately went to one historical family photo in particular that is a personal favorite of mine. I was researching my fathers line many years ago and came across this absolutely lovely scene. I cannot help but wish I was part of this party. The happiness of the subjects on the perfect tree limb, the ease of the river, the floating boats, the clothes, and the added instruments absolutely stopped me mid breath. Did this picture do the same to you?
There are some things I know about this picture which delighted me to no end. The second couple from left, with a boat directly above their heads, are Walter and Mary Housman (nee Gamache). They are the parents of Walter Housman Jr who I posted about here. Mary is my 2nd Great Aunt. The gentleman all the way to the right is Ameda Gamache and he is my Great Grandfather and Mary’s brother. Unfortunately, the picture is not dated, there are no names listed, and no photography studio stamp is found anywhere on the image. Boo.
I began to research my favorite picture by studying the style of dress to establish a rough time stamp. The women’s hairstyles are Edwardian, Pompadourian and Gibson Girl. These styles range in years from 1900-1915. The gentleman’s hats range from derby, striped boater and the crusher with date ranges from 1901-1910 with the narrow tie gaining popularity in 1912 through the 1918. The women’s Edwardian dress and jewelry were popular around the same times as ties. Mary and Walter had a son together in 1913 with a marriage before then. With all of this knowledge I am pretty certain that I can date this picture to be from around 1910-1915. Also, the people that I know in the picture were living in St. Louis, Missouri leading me think that there is a high possibility this was taken there.
As I was feeling confident and happy with my research I noticed something little, but a BIG deal, in the picture. My Great Grandfather Ameda, the gentleman to the far right, is wearing a wedding ring. I hadn’t noticed that before. If this picture is in fact from 1910-1915, I am one hundred percent confident that his wife at the time was not my Great Grandma Lillian Gau. Ameda and Lillian were married in 1920.
My research brain is now back working overtime by asking some questions. Was he actually married before he married Lillian? If so, did they divorce? Was he a widow? Did they have any kids? Why have I not heard about this before? My first step when I uncover something is to contact my sister Amanda. In our early days of research we had so much information coming in and we were not the best at sourcing all our information. I was hoping maybe she previously discovered this and had some knowledge to share. Unfortunately she did not but immediately asked the same questions I was!
Sisters, am I right?
After doing some easy digging, she discovered that in the 1910 census Ameda was 24 years old and listed as single. In the 1920 census Ameda was listed as divorced! This was news to us. Who was Ameda married too and how long was he married? Any children come from this union? I don’t know the answers to this yet but because of this picture I have more work to do! Also, we apparently skipped some simple information in the beginning of our research. All of this came from a deep look at a favorite picture!
Hot tip! sometimes it pays to go back and relook at some simple records. You could have missed something kind of big!
Sometimes studying a picture perfect portrait can lead to more mysteries! I will have to keep you all updated on what I find. Have you studied an historical photograph in your genealogy research and discover anything surprising? Do you have a favorite picture too?
Want to read how I made a family heirloom? Check out that post here!
Auntie Jen says
Ok first I have to say, I LOVE this picture! Absolutely! I would enlarge this and hang it behind my couch in the living room if I had a picture like this. Beautiful! And it’s amazing what you can learn by just examining a picture closely! I never would have thought to look at someone’s ring finger for a clue. I’ve looked in depth at photos before to try to figure out more details, but that’s a new one for me! Great detective work!
Also, I have Gamache in my family as a distant connection! Ah!!!
Pioneer Flunkies says
It is truly beautiful. I have so many gorgeous pictures that it’s hard to choose what goes up and what stays in albums. I do like the idea of this one enlarged. That ring finger is a sneaky level of research. I see you GG Ameda!! 👻