Sunday, July 8, 2012

This Photo Should Be Easy . . .Why Isn’t It?

Remember when I said that I was going to do the easy ones first?  Well, this should have been the easiest of all because this is the only photo that is still fastened in the album, and it has a name written below the photo of a young woman.  It looks like it says Simon Curtain but since it is a girl rather than a boy, I (like everyone else I show it to) deciphered it as Susan.  The problem is that I can’t find a Susan Curtain listed for the family – either in the family notes I received from a now deceased family member OR in the census records from which confirmed the names in my family notes plus the addition of a William as the youngest
Family Notes from Mary Farley Clark - click to enlarge

But as I look more closely at the identification written below the photograph, I can tell that something has been erased  below the first name, and there is still a faint impression of it.  Can you tell what it is?  I have cropped and enlarged it . . . J. ? . h . ?? n . r or e . y.  Only the J and y are for sure.  The h could be a b.  Even looking at this I cannot find a name that might match.  However, with the name enlarged, it now looks more like Simon again, and they DO have a Simon in the family.  Could this be Simon’s wife . . .  Nope!  Simon's death certificate says that he was single when he died in Cincinnati on July 1, 1927.  He does have sisters, though: Catherine (Kate), Helen (Nell), and Abigail (Abbie).  None of those names seem to match either the visible name or the erased one below it. Shucks! . . . since I must use a socially acceptable term.

All morning I have been chasing records, from whence comes the term, Wild Goose Case, for a Susan Curtin who lived in Muscatine, Iowa and was about the same age as the lady I seek.  My family comes from the Clinton area, and so I searched for hours for a connection - unsuccessfully.

I have concluded that I need to narrow down the date of the photo.  The website, Demode Couture, shows us several examples of hairstyles from the 1870’s and 1880’s.  My young lady has wispy bangs, hair gathered at the neck with either a bow or ornament of some type in her hair. This site from the University of Vermont has several photos, many that are courtesy of Joan Severa, that I used to compare both the hairstyle and clothing.  Her dress neckline is similar to other photographs shown for the 1880's.  Using these two sites as a guide, I have concluded that this photo is from the early 1880's possibly very late 1870's.  Do you agree?  Have I overlooked or misjudged something? Is it later or earlier than that?  To my eye, this girl looks young . . . possibly 18-25, which would make her date of birth between the mid 1850’s to the  mid 1860’s.  I have given her hairstyle more consideration because a young lady, despite her circumstances, could always change her hairstyle at no cost to be fashionable while clothing might be a bit behind due to the cost.

So who are you?  My easiest photo has proven to be very elusive. . . .  


  1. Could it possibly be a school mate/girlfriend that gave her picture to Simon? Was that a common practice back then?

    1. That's an interesting thought, but it is the only one attached to the album pages and during that time period so I assumed she would be family. I am open to any suggestions - thanks!