Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Photo of a Probable Great-Great Grandmother

Last year, my uncle sent me a family album and many wonderful loose photographs of the Shaw side of the family. These were mostly of my grandmother and her brothers, and their parents, Harrison Clifford Shaw and Nina Gertrude Blake.

One photo in particular, however, stood out to me. I thought maybe, just maybe it was one of my great-great grandmothers, either Emma (Murphy) (Regan) Shaw or Ada (Gay) Blake.

But then I dismissed that idea, because I was told it was probably "auntie" Madeline Wiley, a woman who served the family for several years. So I put the album away without really thinking about it.

The photo came back to mind recently, though, so I decided to look at it again. First I looked at the album and appreciated the fact that my uncle chose to send it to me. It had photos from my great-grandma Nina (Blake) Shaw's album, such as:

Shaw Family Photos - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
Lawrence and Barbara Shaw (my grandmother and her twin brother, who died in 1927 at the age of 3 1/2)

Shaw Family Photos - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
Nina Gertrude (Blake) Shaw (my great-grandmother)

Shaw Family Photos - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
Nina and Harrison Shaw, with their first child, Herbert (my great-grandparents and great-uncle)
Beautiful, aren't they? And sad.

Nina had 7 children, only 4 of whom lived to adulthood. Two of the babies she lost were daughters, Inez and Alice. And then there was the untimely loss of my grandmother's own twin brother when he was only 3-years-old.

There was also a photo of "auntie" Madeline Wiley:

Shaw Family Photos - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
"Auntie" Madeline Wiley

At first, I compared her to the photo I think is Emma or Ada and wondered if I was wrong. After all, both women have the same tan complexion and fairly similar facial features.

Shaw Family Photos - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
Madeline Wiley side-by-side with ???

But then I remembered Madeline was quite a bit younger than both Ada and Emma. How much younger? I had never really researched Madeline, but I knew she was born in the 1800s in Massachusetts.

So I had to answer the question of whether or not the two women above are the same. A simple age comparison tells me they definitely are not.

Madeline was born in 1896 in Massachusetts. Both Ada and Emma were born in 1861 (give or take for Emma). Looking at the photo below, I also see my grandmother Barbara in the background, probably somewhere between ages 4 and 6. It makes sense that the woman in the foreground is her grandmother.

Which grandmother, though? Both of Barbara's grandmothers - Ada and Emma - were alive when she was born. They were both born in 1861. Ada lived until 1940 and Emma lived until 1945.

Of course, I truly hoped it would be Emma. All we know about Emma from family descriptions is she was very tall and skinny. This woman is certainly tall, but I wouldn't call her skinny.

If my grandmother Barbara was approximately 4 to 6-years-old in the photograph below, that means it was roughly 1927 to 1929. The woman in this photo is wearing black and I wonder if she's in mourning. It makes sense that someone born in 1861 would still observe older traditions of mourning.

If that is the case, it makes far more sense that the photo below is Ada (Gay) Blake, because her husband, Edward Blake, died in 1927 in Middleborough.

Shaw Family Photos - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
The woman I believe is Ada (Gay) Blake (my great-great grandmother)
The only other photo I have of Ada (Gay) Blake is the one of the July 4th picnic approximately 100+ years ago. That photo is, unfortunately, very blurry:

Blake Family July 4th Picnic - New England Genealogy | Wendy L. Callahan
From left to right: Pa Vaughan, Ma Vaughan, Ada Blake, Edward Blake; sitting in grass: Nina Blake, Sylvanus Vaughan; probably circa 1896 (Nina was born 1891, so she would be 5 here) because Sylvanus Vaughan, Sr. died in June of 1897. Oddly enough, Sylvanus, Jr. and Nina married half-siblings (both Shaws) and thus became sister-and-brother-in-law.

As you can see, Ada's face is washed out in the lighting, but it seems very reasonable to conclude that the photo of the older woman is her circa 1928. Also, because these photos all came from Nina Blake's photo album, it is more likely she would have a photo of her mother (who lived next door in 1930) than of her mother-in-law, Emma.

Of course, I really want this photo to be the mysterious Emma, but I appreciate it nonetheless. How many people are fortunate enough to have photographs of their family 100 years ago?

Copyright (c) 2017 Wendy L. Callahan

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