Welcome!

I reunite identified family photos that I find in antique shops and second hand stores with genealogists and family historians. If you see one of your ancestors here and would like to obtain the original, feel free to contact me at familyphotoreunion [ at ] yahoo [ dot ] com. I hope you enjoy your visit!
~The Archivist


Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Girl in the Ambrotype -- 1850s




This past weekend I attended a genealogy conference where I became involved in a conversation surrounding Daguerrotype and Ambrotype photography. The question came up: how do you tell the difference between the two?

The ambrotype you see above is probably the oldest photograph in my collection.  The ambrotype was first used in 1851 and was patented by James Ambrose Cutting in 1854. Eventually, it became the photograph of choice, overtaking the earlier Daguerrotype in popularity mostly because it was less expensive. The Ambrotype is actually a negative image on glass made positive with a black backing. Most often it is cased, as you see above. Ambrotype use died out around 1880, though never as popular as it was in the mid-1850s, due to the invention of tintypes and "cartes de visite."

You can differentiate an ambrotype from a daguerreotype by its reflectiveness. The ambrotype will not have a mirror-like image when you look at it from different angles. If you take it out of the case and hold it up to the light, you will be able to see through the ambrotype. I know this particular artifact is an ambrotype because the image is on glass, and not on polished silver as a daguerreotype would be. Ambrotypes were made from 1851-1880, but this one probably dates somewhere in the mid to late 1850s.

Assuming it is original, I am guessing that the case is probably an early one. In the back half of the 1850s the mat and brass preserver became highly ornate. As you can see, ours is quite plain. It probably dates to 1855 or earlier. The young girl's outfit could provide clues as well. The wide, shallow shoulders of her dress point to the 1850s. I'm not a costume expert but I do wish I could see what type of legging were worn, as that, too, could help with dating the image. This is probably the only likeness in existence of this particular sitting. Ambrotypes, for the most part, were one-offs. 

I found this ambro at an antique show and sale in Red Deer, Alberta about 25 years ago. The problem with ambrotypes is that they are so often unidentified. This one is no exception. It is highly unlikely that I will ever learn the background story of this young girl.


Friday, April 20, 2018

When Hard-To-Read Handwriting Is Actually a Good Thing - (Possibly) Charles Gipe, Kentucky, 1886

Handwriting is everything when there is very little to identify a photograph.  This cabinet card is one of those frustrating instances where everything should fall into place, but doesn't because you're unable to decipher, with certainty, the surname of the subject. When I first investigated this photograph a few years ago I gave up on it, thinking it might be a hopeless case. Upon revisiting this mystery it turns out that the difficult-to-read signature may be just the clue needed to figure out who this gentleman is. 


Initially, I thought the man's surname was "Gifoe."  But, after plunking "Gifoe" into Ancestry and coming up with only one (and highly suspect) hit on the surname Gifoe, I abandoned that idea, at least temporarily.  If not "Gifoe," what could it be?  Next I tried "Gifre" which provided a few hits, with one single Charles Gifre (d. Kentucky at age 87 in 1918) which I now suspect was a transcription error--but more on that later. Before I could begin to look further into this possibility, I needed to consider the photographer.

The reverse of the cabinet card does provide us with a photographer's name:  Jas. Whited, Cosmopolitan Studio. A location isn't given. A search of various photographer's indexes didn't yield any photographers by the name of James Whited, but I did find a conversation on a genealogy board that suggested Jas. Whited operated a studio in Bowling Green, Kentucky. However, I couldn't find anything online that indicated this was accurate.

Perhaps a reader has crossed paths with the Jas. Whited Cosmopolitan Studio in their research. If so, I'd be so happy to hear from you. It's usually at this point in a fruitless search that I put the photo aside for another day but after staring at the signature for a long time I decided that the surname might be "Gipe." While I am not able to say definitively if this is Charles Gipe, I will say that I found a signature on a marriage bond for the marriage of Chas. A. Gipe and Louisa Hilbert in Nelson, Kentucky that looks very much like the signature on the cabinet card above1.



Charles A. Gipe was a shoemaker, born in Bavaria around 18312. After immigrating to America, he settled in Nelson County, Kentucky3 and later moved to Louisville4 where he died in 19185. In the Ancestry transcription of this record, Charles' surname is recorded as "Gifre," which is an understandable mistake--understandable because I made the same call myself early on in this investigation. If the information on the cabinet card is correct, the image of Charles Gipe would have been taken in 1886.

What do you think? Could this be Charles A. Gipe?



1 "Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FW12-M4M : accessed 19 April 2018), Charles A. Gipe and Louisa Hilbert, 30 Jul 1894; citing Bardstown, Nelson, Kentucky, United States, Madison County Courthouse, Richmond; FHL microfilm 1,929,401.
2 "United States Census, 1860", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZB8-S8R : 14 December 2017), Charles Gipe, 1860.
3 "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MCZK-QQ9 : 14 August 2017), Chas Gipe, New Haven, Nelson, Kentucky, United States; citing enumeration district ED 210, sheet 292A, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0436; FHL microfilm 1,254,436.
4 "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M2DR-2XJ : accessed 20 April 2018), Charles A Gipe, Louisville Ward 11, Jefferson, Kentucky, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 180, sheet 6A, family 124, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 486; FHL microfilm 1,374,499.
5 "Kentucky Deaths and Burials, 1843-1970," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FWPS-8PL : 10 February 2018), Charles A. Gipe, 30 May 1918; citing reference ; FHL microfilm 2,024,938.

Friday, April 13, 2018

'Little Nugget,' A.A. Paull, Photographer, Nanaimo, BC, Circa 1901




I found this unidentified photo in a dresser drawer in a shabby-chic design store in Campbell River, BC. It appealed to me because it was photographed right here on Vancouver Island around the turn of the century, and so I bought it.

Most of Vancouver Island was still pretty wild in 1900. The province's capital, Victoria, was a growing, modern city and Nanaimo, with its mining and logging industry, was a centre for employment mid-island. The New Westminster Columbian reported in their December 1903 issue that "A.A. Paull, photographer, though a native of Jersey, left the Old Country when two years old, and until 1892 lived in London, Ont., where he learned the trade of cabinet maker. His next move was to British Columbia, and he has resided there since then, doing a good business as a photographer."1

Alfred Albert Paull, son of Alfred (a baker) and Mary Paull, immigrated to Canada from St. Helier, Jersey with his parents and sister, Jane, in 18722. The Paulls settled in Ailsa Craig, Middlesex North, Ontario3. By 1891 Alfred was living on his own and working as a cabinetmaker4, but the rest of the family, including Alfred's 10 siblings, had moved across the county to live in New Westminster, B.C5. A year or two later, Alfred Albert moved to British Columbia as well.  In 1893, the reunited family lived at 912 Seymour Street in Vancouver6.

I found an entry for A. A. Paull, the photographer, in the City of Nanaimo Archives' Information File. Using various city directories, the staff at the archives traced his movements at the end of the 19th century, into the early 1900s. Paull worked for the CPR as a freight checker and deliveryman in Vancouver from 1894 to 1901. In 1901 he is listed as a photographer for the first time, having opened a studio on Fitzwilliam Street in Nanaimo, in the area now known as "The Old Quarter." I believe my photograph dates to this time period. In 1902, Paull shows up once again in the Vancouver Directory, this time as a photographer at 45 Cordova Street, and the following year at 61 Cordova6. But Paull is in business in Nanaimo until at least 1903, as several advertisements appear in the Nanaimo Daily News that year promoting his studio "opposite the Presbyterian Church."

He has a roving photographic business up and running in 1903.

Cumberland News, March 10, 1903
It seems to have been a "pop-up" type of operation. Perhaps the Paull Studio made the rounds to small towns, opening a studio for a period of a month or so before moving on. I believe Paull may not have always made these trips himself. The Cumberland News states on October 8, 1902 that "Mr. Schinck of Paull's Studio has terminated a successful visit here and returned to Nanaimo on Friday morning." It's quite possible that other photographers, hired by Paull, helped run these studios. Schinck appears in the 1904 BC Directory as a photographer based in Nanaimo.

Cumberland News, September 24, 1903
The A.A. Paull Studio also shows up in other BC towns, including Moyie, a small town located on the mainland in the East Kootenays.

Moyie Leader, March 27, 1909
In a November 1909 issue of the Moyie Leader, the paper announced that A.A. Paull was moving his studio to Michel.

Cranbrook appears to be another location for his photographic business. On June 5, 1911, the Cranbrook Herald wrote:  A. A. Paull of the Albert Studio, is away to Rossland on a business trip and will be absent from the city for a week or so.

In the 1920s A. A. Paull is still taking photographs. Many commercial images relating to the BC lumber and mining industries are available on the Vancouver Public Library's Special Collections website for viewing7. Alfred Albert Paull died on the 18th of June 1958 in New Westminster, BC8.

The name of the woman in the photograph is still a mystery.



1 New Westminster Columbian, December 1903, p. 1
2 Manifest, S.S. Prussian, 17 May 1872, List, A. A. Paul (age 9 months), digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.amazon.ca :accessed 12 Apr 2018).
3 "Canada Census, 1881," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MVDK-6HT : 11 March 2018), Ailsa Craig, Middlesex North, Ontario, Canada; citing p. 13; Library and Archives Canada film number C-13270, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm 1,375,906.
4 "Canada Census, 1891," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWLJ-X6Y : 3 August 2016), Alfred Paull, Ailsa Craig, Middlesex North, Ontario, Canada; Public Archives, Ottawa, Ontario; Library and Archives Canada film number 30953_148154.
5 "Canada Census, 1891," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWK3-3S1 : 3 August 2016), A H Paul, Vancouver City, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada; Public Archives, Ottawa, Ontario; Library and Archives Canada film number 30953_148093.
6 Henderson's BC Directory, various years, digital images, Vancouver Public Library Digital Library (http://www.vpl.ca/digital-library/british-columbia-city-directories :accessed 13 Apr 2018)
7 http://www3.vpl.ca/spe/histphotos/photos-search.htm
8 "British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986; 1992-1993", database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FLRM-85H : 8 November 2017), Alfred Albert Paull, 1958.