Thursday, October 13, 2011

Searching For Anna

One of the identified photographs in one of the photo albums I mentioned in my last post, "Threads Of History," was this cute little girl with the picture annotated at the bottom, "Anna H. Morse."
   Moreover, whoever was generous enough to identify the photo as Anna made another note on the reverse side listing Anna's date of birth and age when the photo was taken. "Born Feb. 15, 1874, Aged 2 yrs."  Pretty helpful information for someone like me trying to research family history. And the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of photos in the albums I inherited from my mother are unidentified. So most, if not all will remain in unidentified status with no annotations made on album pages nor on either sides of the photos. But most do contain the name of the photographer or studio where the photos were produced. I'm assuming that people in the late 19th Century went to the photographers' studios to have their pictures taken. And that's why the photos appear so staged and formal. No smiling candid shots for the folks of that period!  And as a form of advertising their business the photographers made sure their brand, including location, were posted on the photos, often with the reminder that "Duplicates of this picture furnished at any time." Must have been a big business in those days! And I'm certainly glad for it. So when I'm given the gift of a photo bearing the name of the subject pictured I can't resist following up to see what information I can find about them. Such was the case with Anna.

But a problem arose when I searched my family history files to see where the Morse family and, thus Anna, might fit into my family tree. I had no record of anyone with the surname, Morse. So who was this Anna H. Morse, photographed at 2 years of age, and what was she doing in a photo album that had originated from the Currier family? My mother had been born a Currier and the albums had come my way from her files after she passed away in 1997. Could Anna have been from a Morse family that were neighbors or friends with the Curriers in New Hampshire?  I didn't see any evidence in Census records in 1880 for Langdon, NH where my Currier ancestors lived. Had the Morse family been neighbors, Anna and her family should have been listed.  And adding to the mystery was the fact that the photography studio named on the photo advertised an address in Woodstock, Illinois.! Not exactly down the street and around the block from Langdon to Woodstock!   
One of the nice features of's website is one where you can search for "strangers" by plugging in their name and any additional info you know about them to try and find a record. I plugged Anna's full name and date of birth as noted on the photo. I also narrowed down the search by indicating she had resided in Illinois which seemed a safe guess per the photographer's address. And....BINGO!! Found her on two Federal Census reports from Dorr Township, Illinois, one in 1880 and another in 1900.
Anna Morse listed on line 17 of 1880 Census, Dorr Illinois
On both Census reports Anna's age reconciled with the 1874 birth date noted on the photo. The 1900 report (not shown here) strengthened the reconciliation because in that year the record called for month & year of birth; for Anna, February, 1874. She was listed with her father, a Sherman Morse, her mother Nettie S. Morse, and a younger brother, Floyd S. Morse. And the kicker that got me excited I might be on the right track was that mother Nettie S. was born in New Hampshire!  Aha!! The missing link!!  Sherman was born in New York so I didn't see any association there with my tree. All I had to do was figure out who Nettie S. born in New Hampshire in February 1836 (again, per 1900 report) was and I figured this investigation would soon come to a conclusion. But things didn't move along as quickly as I hoped. My first hunch was that the "S" in Nettie's name might be for Smith. My great grandfather, Austin Currier had married a woman named Ellen Smith so all I had to do was go back into my files on the Smith family and track down someone named Nettie, right?  Not so quick Kimosabe! Nothing comes easy anymore. I looked through all the Smith family connections I could think of and got nowhere. And adding to the challenge was the question, what kind of name is Nettie?  A nickname? Short for Annette? Was there some naming system going on with Nettie like the traditional history of women named Mary in the 19th Century being called Polly? I didn't know but what I did know was that I was getting no closer to identifying Nettie of New Hampshire nor linking her to the Currier family.

It took me a while to figure it out if you allow me to define a while as a week or so of afternoons. But it's not like I made some miraculous investigation to find a lost gold mine or something. And whoever reads this (if they have the patience to wade through this swampy forest) shouldn't have to wait that long either. So with the help of more album pages, more Federal Census Records, and more records on Anna provided by I'm happy to reveal that Anna H. Morse is (or was) the niece of the husband of my great grand aunt. I can't wrap my brain around that without pictures. So here's a little genealogy slide show:

Anna's middle name was Holden

Anna Holden Morse's 1924 passport application

Julia (Smith) Holden - sister of Ellen Smith

Edmund Willard Holden - Julia's husband
Orthonette "Nettie" S. Holden - Willard's sister and Anna's mother.

Anna H Morse & Floyd S Morse

 The photos of Nettie and the two children are both unidentified in the album. There is a third photo of a bearded gentleman not pictured here but all were photographed by the same photographer in Woodstock, Illinois. Woodstock, by the way, is just a few miles from Dorr Township and are the only photos from that studio out of all of the albums from the Currier family. I have no doubt, albeit from circumstantial evidence, that the people pictured are the Sherman Morse family.

How about that given name for Nettie, huh?  ORTHONETTE !! Not a name you see every day.  Anna never married. She lived most of her life in Illinois and worked as a teacher. The 1930 Federal Census shows her residing in Charleston City, Illinois with occupation, "teacher at state teacher's college."  In 1945  she was listed on the Florida State Census living in Winter Haven.  She passed away at the age of 74 in 1948 in Orange County per the Florida Death Index. I don't know if she is buried in Winter Haven area or not and have been unable to determine any information beyond year of death. I will keep looking and since Winter Haven is not too far from where I live, perhaps I can take a look over there as my family history search goes on.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Threads Of History

I found the above inside a photo album I inherited from my mother.  Most of the contents of the photo album are just  But this item, a playing card sized advertisement, copied here front and back, was inside the album as well. It is what's called a "Victorian Trade Card" that was a popular means of advertising in the late 1800's.  If you went shopping at your local general store in 1892 the odds were pretty good you would return with your purchases and a few Victorian trade cards as well, produced and distributed by various product manufacturers to keep their products on your mind. Advertising in the Victorian age no less!  According to Google, many people put the attractive lithograph cards into scrapbooks and eventually, after they faded from use in the early 1900's, the collection of Victorian trade cards became a popular hobby. I've only seen this one so I'd have a long way to go if I wanted to get serious about building a scrapbook.

And besides, I already have a hobby...surfing through old photo albums and trying to identify my ancestors. Nevertheless, it seemed appropriate that this particular card would be amongst three photo albums from my late mother's files. Willimantic Thread probably didn't anticipate their card having a link to my research of family history.  But if nothing else, the card reminds me of the fact that a lot of history is tied together with various sources of information...and some of those sources are connected by very thin threads of documentation. Inside the three albums the strongest threads of evidence are those photos that my ancestors (exactly who is unknown) graciously identified by noting the names of those pictured. Some of them, at least. Many but not all of the photographs noted with identification are from the Currier family. Which makes sense because my mother's maiden name was Currier. I should say extended Currier family to be accurate. Unfortunately, for my research purposes there are many more unidentified photos with no notations at all as well as some that are noted that I haven't been able to link to anyone in my family tree.

Of the four photos above, only one, the bottom left, was identified. The writing just below Eva Smith's photo was made by me. The original notation was on the back of the photograph but the album pages are brittle with age. So I wanted to avoid having to remove and replace the photos more than necessary to identify who is pictured in order to preserve the album pages. Eva May Smith (1882 - 1964) was my 1st cousin 2 x removed. I had to cheat to figure that has an app on it's website that enables me to see what "relationship to you" is. All I know is that Eva was the daughter of the brother of my great grandfather's wife. Got that?  She was born in Walpole, NH and died at the age of 82 in Bellows Falls, VT.  I'm guessing she was between 3 and 5 years old when this photo was taken, probably around 1888. All of the photos appear to me to have been taken around 1890 give or take a few years.

This photograph was identified by pencil notations written directly on the album page. The "annotator" even indicated where the photo was made, in this case, Topeka, Kansas. Most of the photographs in the albums bear the photography studios' names and locations. So whoever noted this one is repeating information I could have obtained easily enough but I just think it makes the threads of documentation a little bit stronger. And with that, I'll get off the threads of history theme before I wear it any more threadbare than it already is. The subject of this full page album photo is Mary E Morrison. Mary was the second wife of my great great grandfather, John Currier.  She had been previously married to a man named, Wallace. Hence the notation showing her maiden name, Morrison, and her first married name, Wallace, and her final married name, Currier. Mary Currier's history is interesting to me because I have her diary from 1883 which includes her entries ranging from her 59th birthday in January through the accidental death of her husband John in August and continuing on into the Fall when she relocated to Topeka, KS. I'm planning to publish a more complete history of Mary in a separate post.     

The photographs below each appeared on separate pages within the albums.  Their grouping here is my creation.  I wanted to show most of the portrait photos that were identified. The unfortunate thing is that there are many more photos not identified. And some of them are from studios not only in Vermont and New Hampshire but Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Illinois.  I was hoping there would be more from Topeka because I've got a few more besides Mary I'd like to connect with photos but so far, no such luck. On this page my grandfather, Marshall Currier, is the distinguished young gentleman pictured in the top right corner. I've had a mustache for forty years now and never got mine to look that good.  Marshall's father is the photo immediately below him. He's Austin Currier, my great grandfather, center right.  My beard can't compete with his either, but I'm not certain I really want it to. Austin's sister, Francis E Currier is pictured center left.  She was my great grand aunt.  Bottom left is Mary (Morrison) Currier again while bottom right is John Morrison Currier. John was Mary's son with John Currier and was a half brother of Austin. Confused? Welcome to my world. But I still love this stuff!                                             

John Morrison Currier also relocated to Topeka, KS with his mother Mary in 1883. There were still family connections in Topeka in the 1920's and 1930 that afforded my mother and her sister the opportunity to attend school in Topeka at Washburn College. I'll try to put together the details when I publish the post on Mary. In the meantime I'm still searching through the albums as my search goes on.