Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mystery Photos

This posting is one of several concenring a stack of old photographs that I recently received.  Most are not labeled, so I am attempting to ascertain something about the subjects.

This photograph looks to be professional and from the 1920s, judging by the bob hairstyle and soft makeup.

This photograph is larger than the one above.  I am thinking that these pictures capture the same woman.  This photograph was mounted to a board with the photographer's credentials.

Jay Te Winburn of Montclair, New Jersey was the photographer of the second picture, and perhaps the first.  A little checking for him in the census finds him in Montclair, Essex County, New Jersey in 1920 and 1930, working as a photographer.

1920 census for 563 Bloomfield avenue, Montclair, Essex County, New Jersey
Once the photographer was located and dated, I googled him.  I uncovered several generations of Winburn photographers.  It seems that the Winburn who snapped the above photos specialized in prestigious weddings.

LIFE Magazine
15 July 1940
via Google Books
Finding information on the photographer's main subject, weddings and brides, can help us with the above photos.  The woman or women in the pictures had enough money to have pictures done by a prestigious photographer.  These could be engagement or wedding shots.  So I am looking for a woman in my family tree who was married around 1920 and had enough money to splurge on these photos.  She did not necessarily have to live in or near Montclair, as she could have travelled to Mr. Winburn's studio, or he could have travelled to her.  I have several candidates.  Having the groom in the pictures may have helped.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A few words instead of a picture

Family historians seek to associate a face with the stark facts of life they assemble about people of long ago in order to have more than a mere collection of names, places, and dates.  I love to find photographs of ancestors.  Today we can snap pictures easily on our phones.  Just a generation ago, this was impossible and for generations before them, well, photographs were not very common.  I have several unidentified older photographs of relatives (or dear friends, we may never know), and sites like ebay are filled with beautiful, old, and unmarked photographs of somebody's ancestors.

I am sorting through my finds in a family file from Morristown, New Jersey and was struck by a paragraph in a compiled genealogy submitted by the late Louis Cook in the 1970s and 1980s.  He tells the reader that there are few photos of ancestors before 1900.  This does not mean that I will stop looking and hoping for photographs.  It's as if he just knew that future researchers would want images for the names.  Not to disappoint, he provided us with physical descriptions to fuel the imagination.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Family Tree

Family tree of Ellis Cook by C. W. Holland, as submitted to the Morristown Library.
This beautiful drawing of a family tree resides at the Morristown/Morris Township Library.  (Physical address is One Miller Road, Morristown, Morris County, New Jersey.)  An extensive genealogical collection is in the lower level.  You can read about it online, but I recommend visiting if you have research to do in New Jersey.  The drawing of the Ellis Cook family tree was found in a file for the surname Cook.  Some libraries keep files on local families and fill them with documents and donated matter.  You won't know what is there until you sort through the contents.  The Cook family folder contains compiled genealogies by individuals, copies of indexes from books, and letters of inquiry from researchers to the library staff, some dated in the year 1906.  You can scan papers of interest and then either print them onto paper or save them on a flash drive.  Most libraries do not offer electronic copying.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Life, vanished

May 16th marks the 147th anniversary of the death of George W. Duryea.  He was a policeman in New York City.  At the corner of Second Avenue and 63rd Street, just blocks from his house on East 54th, he was shot in the head while attempting to bring in a prisoner after an uprising at Jones Woods.  He was 41 years old and left behind a wife, Rene Brewer, and six children, ages seven to fifteen.

Entry for death of George W. Duryea, 16 May 1864 in New York City.
"Shot while in discharge of his duty."
Individual death certificates were not issued in this time period.
Deaths were recorded in chronological order in a ledger book.

George was buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, Westchester County, New York in his wife’s family plot.  His gravestone lists his dates of birth and death, with no hint of the violence that brought him to his early grave.

George W. Duryea
Born Feb. 12, 1823
Died May 16, 1864

As was customary, a coroner’s inquest was conducted immediately and detailed in the newspapers.  We learn that George was shot at three times, with one bullet entering the right temple.  He died almost instantly.  John Cahill was arrested for the crime months later after being tracked down in Ohio.  At trial in February of 1866, Cahill was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to life at Sing Sing State Prison, where, ironically, several of Mrs. Duryea's family members worked as guards.

New York Herald-Tribune
24 February 1866

George's family may have received word of his death in an abrupt manner.  Trial testimony in the newspapers tells us that George’s body was taken from the scene of the shooting to the police station and then to his house, where a post-mortem exam was performed.  Can you imagine losing a loved one by violence and then having his body dissected in the front parlor?

New York Herald
20 February 1866

Coroner’s inquests are available on microfilm through a local family history center.  Any papers from George’s inquest have not been located, though.


Following the death of her husband, Rene received her own listing in the city directory.  She continued living at the residence she shared with George and his brother, Stephen.

Wilson's city directory for New York City

When we research our family history, sometimes we uncover tragedies, which lead us to a greater understanding of what our ancestors endured. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Just a few strokes of the pencil

I received a stack of old and mostly unmarked photos from a relative.  (Thank you M.L.)  I will probably never figure out the identity of most of the people in the pictures, and this is a shame.  A relative of the past kindly labeled one picture for me, allowing me to visualize my great great grandmother, Katherine Dunn, born in Monmouth County, New Jersey around 1865.  The date of processing, 1937, is even stamped on the back, making her about 67 years old in this picture.  The writer and I must carry the same gene for documentation.

So detailed is the description on the back of the photo that I instantly knew the subject.  She is identified by her birth name, Catherine Dunn, as well as her married name, Winterton.  Here is her 1886 marriage certificate to William Walling Winterton, when she was known as "Kate."

These families- Dunn, Walling, and Dunlop- are prevalent in Monmouth County and I have not untangled their vines yet.

Friday, May 13, 2011


No new discoveries in my DNA quests.  On a fun note, I found a second person who shares DNA with both of my parents.  This is a coincidence, as my parents share no DNA with each other.  This is what that comparison chart looks like at 23andme.com:

I think that this process would serve me better if my known distant cousins (HINT HINT) would submit their specimens.  I could compare my overlap with my documented cousins to my cousins in the DNA database and at least figure out where to look for a common ancestor.  So far, one such cousin has done this.  (Thank you RS.)  He is my father's third cousin.  That makes him my third cousin, once removed.  It will be very interesting to see how 23andme classifies our relation.  This should be ready within three weeks.

And for those monitoring the cost, today's pricing at 23andme is $99 plus $9 per month for one year.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gravestone Picture from the Past

1903-1904 Turner's city directory for White Plains
I found a picture of a gravestone.  The picture itself is over one hundred years old.  I found it in Turner's city directory for White Plains, Westchester County, New York on a visit to the White Plains Public Library.  The picture is part of an advertisement for a monument company.  The inscription is very readable:

Theo. G. Mahland
Born Jan'y 22, 1843.
Died Feb'y 8, 1891.

The caption under the picture lists Woodlawn Cemetery.  Naturally, I wanted a current picture of this grave for comparison.  No match at findagrave.com.  There are over twenty cemeteries named Woodlawn in New Jersey and New York, so I am not sure which one holds this stone.

There is actually not much on Theodore Mahland or the Mahland family in general.  I did find Theodore in the 1880 census living at 281 East Broadway in New York City.  He had a wife named Louisa, a daughter, Ella, and a brother, Otto.

1880 federal census for New York City.  281 East Broadway.
Theodore Mahland, age 34.