I love this picture. The kids are adorable, they are obviously siblings (look at those little faces: identical, even if one is a little grumpy), and can you see those sweet little toes? I feel a bit sad that I will most likely never know who they are. But I do have children in my tree (obviously); I wonder if I can narrow these two down at all. I think she can't be more than three and he no more than five or maybe six. Again, I am not an expert, but I'm going to walk through what I do know, and see if it gets me anywhere. Please take it with a grain of salt and feel free to point out flaws in my reasoning or interpretation!
Ok. This photograph was tucked inside Ruth Elizabeth Bentley's album, so it could be connected with the Bentley family, the Tupper family (which she married in to), or the deaf community of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was pasted in a scrapbook at one time, however (see all that black paper, below), and I wonder if Lizzie used a scrapbook before she was given the album in 1872.
As for the type of picture: this is unquestionably a carte de visite. What jumps out first to me is that this card has two gold borders around the edge, one thicker and one thin, and PhotoTree says that that border was popular between 1864 and 1869. That is just lovely from my point of view; it narrows everything down considerably. However, I'd feel better with a bit more confirmation than that; isn't it possible some of those gold-bordered cards were lying around a little bit longer?
Other features that seem to support a date within the 1860s:
Luckily there's photographer information on the back, although it's partially obscured. Luckily, I recognize the street name as being from downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. Even better: I have another photo that reveals all his details.
James Ross, Photographer. (See front of the photo.)
To the city directories! Library and Archives Canada has a selection of directories from all over the country available (and searchable) online at Canadian Directories: Who Was Where. It's certainly not complete, but the Halifax coverage is pretty good: I was able to find James Ross, photographer, at 197 Hollis Street continuously for twenty years from 1868 until 1888.* Excellent.
Now the clothing. It has been more difficult for me to date the children's clothing; there aren't as many examples out there and the styles seem to change more slowly. There is, however, one picture in Dressed for the Photographer by Joan L. Severa that shows a little girl in a ca 1862 dress trimmed with dark soutache braid that looks very similar to the trim on my girl's dress (pg 217). Popular throughout the 1860s, Severa says, "little girls' dresses were not ruffled or excessively fluffy at this time, and most had the soutache braid trim" (pg 210). She goes on to say, however, that this style continued to be popular into the first three years of the 1870s, when dresses had a "trimming of soutache braid patterns and usually a back bow or belt set rather low" (pg 315). Lovely.
The little boy, on the other hand, is wearing a Zouave-style jacket tied at the neck with a little white stand-up collar. A tiny bit of waistcoat peeks out underneath. He wears long trousers tucked in to knee-high boots. In the 1860s, "littler boys were also often dressed in suits consisting of a full white shirt with trousers and a short jacket, the latter usually fastened at the top only and curving away at the front edges; the Zouave and the bolero style of jacket were both featured" (pg 211). There is a photo of a young boy at PhotoTree dated 1871 with a similar style jacket, long pants, and tall boots (third row down, third from left).
Knowing the earliest date for the photo is 1868, thanks to James Ross and his photography studio, I'm going to plant a guess that this picture was taken between 1868 and 1873. That gives me a tentative range of birth dates for these children of about 1862-1868 for the boy and 1865-1870 for the little girl. Unfortunately, that eliminates my nothing-but-a-hunch that these two were Frank and Maria Tait, Lizzie Bentley's niece and nephew, who lived in Halifax. But they were born ca 1860 and 1862, respectively. Even if we take the earliest date of 1868, that little boy would have to be about eight, and the girl six--just a smidge too old to be these two, I think. So...who else has a boy first, then a girl....
*More about James Ross: James Ross, photographer, was born 12 Feb 1836 in Scotland, the son of Donald and Janet Ross. I first find him in Halifax listed in the 1866/7 directory as a photographer, but with only a home address listed (Garrish Street). I wonder if he was employed at the time. But on 14 May 1867 he married Hannah Richardson of Halifax; they then found a family home at 9 Moran Street and promptly began having children. The next year he set up shop for the first time at 197 Hollis Street.
In the 1881 census, James Ross's son (named James A. Ross) was working as a photographer as well. I imagine they were working together, the father teaching the son the photography business, as only one James Ross is listed in the directories at that time. By the 1891 census, James Ross Sr. is working in Photo Stock, while his son has become the photographer. At any rate, the 1889-90 directory shows that James Ross of 9 Moran Street has moved his photography business to 161 Barrington Street, a location right in the middle of downtown and considerably closer to his home. James Sr. died in Halifax 26 August 1906.
Meet Alexander Macdonald. He was the fourth child of my GG grandparents, Alexander R. Macdonald and Elizabeth Jane MacLeod of Westville (Pictou), Nova Scotia. According to his brother's obituary of 1950, Alexander served in the military and achieved rank of Major. Of course it doesn't say that his career had a rather interesting start.
According to his birth registration, Alexander was born on 16 Mar 1900 in Westville, Nova Scotia. Alexander's birth registration was delayed. Quite delayed, actually, since he didn't get to it until Feb 1954. By then, both parents and his doctor were dead, so an older cousin by the name Laura (MacLeod) McKay swore to his birthdate. As a backup, Alexander provided a certificate of baptism that confimed the 16 Mar 1900 date and also showed he was baptized on 20 Jul 1900.
We next see Alexander on the 1901 Canadian Census. He's living in Westville with his parents, his brothers Daniel L. and James W., and his sister Marion. This time his birthdate is given as 23 Mar 1899 and he's listed as being fourteen months old. Oops; that doesn't quite work since the census was taken on 26 or 27 Apr 1901. I wonder if the census-taker did the math himself? Anyway, in 1911 Alex has a March 1900 birthdate again.
Why all this fuss about Alexander's birthdate? Well, behold Alexander's next record:
Alexander's enlistment papers, signed on 30 Mar 1916. But wait, that makes Alexander....sixteen years old, doesn't it? Not quite old enough to be doing this. But lookie there: his birthdate here is 16 Mar 1898. Eighteen years old. And whoever filled out the back of the form (doctor? enlistement officer?) attested that Alexander appeared to be eighteen. Heh. Way to go, Alexander.
I've looked at many of these enlistment papers, looking for people on all over my tree, and I've never before seen two sets attached to one person (see here). Looks like Alexander got found out! (I wonder if his mother told them. I would have told them.)
13 Apr 2011 UPDATE: My Nana--Alexander's neice--read this post and answered my question. Her father, Alexander's brother, turned him in! My aunt typed up and emailed me Nana's update: "Nana’s father (Jim) was the one who reported Alec as being too young to have enlisted. Jim was injured and transferred to England to recover before being sent home. His injuries included the lost in the sight of both eyes (probably mustard gas). He had a 'batman' assigned to him as an escort. The two were in a pub and Jim heard his brother’s voice and reported him straight away. Nana feels that there was no resentment felt by Alec toward his brother for having the truth be told. According to Jim he felt that Alec had responsibilities at home and was wrong to have enlisted for that reason...seeing his brother blind was likely the overriding factor in Alec’s compliance with his brother’s wishes....Fortunately Jim’s sight returned in one of his eyes. His damaged eye required daily care which [his wife] provided for many years until he was provided the opportunity to have his eye removed. He went to Ottawa for the procedure. An artist was assigned to sketch his good eye (which was beautifully deep brown in color).The result was very successful. The new eye was attached to the muscles so it moved properly you couldn’t tell it was a false.
Now, back to the original post. (I love this stuff!)
Here is Alexander's second enlistment paper, dated 27 Oct 1917. Looks like he was discharged in March of 1917--a year later--for being underage, after serving with the 193rd batallion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. I wonder if he saw any action? Anyway, he's still not eighteen, and he's still lying about his age: his birthdate is now 16 Mar 1899. Oh, Alexander. But I guess it worked this time, because there is not a third set of documents!
Alexander was found out eventually. Look at the top right corner; someone wrote in the summer of 1918 (when Alexander really was eighteen), "Correct Date of Birth 16th March 1900."
That's all I know about Alexander's military career, save for that one little detail in his brother James' obituary of 1950. Alexander is referred to as "Major Alex Macdonald." I suppose that means his stint didn't go too badly in the end. And he also served long enough to have a handsome portrait taken!
This picture is of my great-grandfather, James William Macdonald. It's a lovely portrait, isn't it? I know he was a kind man, and that shows through the picture, don't you think? Well, I was browsing through the family pictures today and noticed some details that I missed (or forgot I missed - that happens to me a lot). One is the photographer information, embossed into the bottom of the image: Geo. R Waldren, New Glasgow, N.S.
A close inspection shows I have another photograph taken by Waldren's studio.
It's hard to see the imprint with the mottled background, but it's there. Elizabeth is James' mother. I have to put some effort into dating this image; Elizabeth was born in 1865 and I think she looks quite young in this photo...in her fifties, maybe? If she is fifty, the year is 1915 and I'm just not sure about the fashions she's wearing (all my books are pre-1900!). Library!
Anyway, George R. Waldren operated out of New Glasgow for about forty-years; from the turn of the century until his death in 1940. Many of his photographs can be seen online; Dalhouse University now owns his 45,000 glass plates and negatives that Waldren left behind and they are cataloging and digitizing them. Since Waldren had set up shop by purchasing an exsisting photography studio, some of the images date back to the 1870s. It makes for an interesting browse. Most are portraits and many are dated. Certainly these people would have been my ancestor's neighbors and I can't help but wonder if one of the Macdonald boys are in one of group shots of sports teams. I paid close attention the hockey players (because of this image I have), but no luck.
I found an old image of the boat my great-grandmother (Ida Frances Pike) took from Channel/Port aux Basques, Newfoundland to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, on August 25, 1910. Here's The Bruce.
Clearly, it was a steamship. The Bruce arrived in Sydney from Newfoundland for the first time on 19 Oct 1891. It carried the mail, general cargo, and passengers back and forth internationally from Canada to Newfoundland, which was part of England at the time. But Ida was one of its last passengers; just six months after her crossing, The Bruce drove onto rocks near Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, in March of 1911. It sank, but thankfully only one life was lost.
Jim and Elsie are my great-grandparents. Jim was a soldier in the first world war, but was injured and sent back to the main port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Elsie was working as an accountant for the local newspaper. They were married in Halifax on 19 Dec 1919, and I believe this picture was taken around the time of their engagement. Certainly it is not taken at the time of their wedding; safe to say that there would have been snow and leaves would not have been on the trees. I wish I had a formal wedding photo, but I don't, so this one will have to do. I must say, I really like her coat.
I have two wedding announcements for Jim and Elsie: one from the Halifax paper where Elsie worked; the other from Jim's hometown paper in Westville, Nova Scotia. Let's start with the big-city formal announcement, shall we?
Halifax, December 22--Rev. John Y. MacKinnon, minister of St. John's Presbyterian church, officiated at the marriage, therein last evening, of Elsie Maud, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dewar, of Charlottetown, and James MacDonald, C. E., of Westville, a large group of friends and well wishers being present to witness the ceremony. Miss Dewar has held with signal efficiency the responsible position of bookkeeper in the employ of The Herald and The Mail, and is a charming and popular girl. Mr. MacDonald also has a wide circle of friends in the city.
The bride wore a smart tailored suit of dark brown, with hat and furs to correspond, and carried a shower bouquet of carnations and roses.
Mrs. Esdalle [??] presided at the organ, giving a fine rendition of the wedding marches.
Immediately after the ceremony Mr. and Mrs. MacDonald left for Charlottetown, proposing to spend the honeymoon at the home of the bride. Thither they are followed by the best wishes of a host of friends.
The collection of wedding gifts was a large one, and included a cabinet of silver from the editorial, business and mechanical staffs of The Herald and The Mail.
The bride has during the past three or four weeks received numerous gratifying proofs of the regard of friends, including several "showers."
Pretty sweet, isn't it? Do you think that Mrs. E, the organ player, reveled in the reviews of her wedding marches? I also wonder if any of the silver my grandparents have is from the wedding gift?
Although just as friendly, the announcement from the other paper is much less formal and more...small townish. Like an informative letter, almost.
Announcements have been received in town conveying the good news of the marriage of our townsman James W. MacDonald, son of Mr. and Mrs. Alex R. MacDonald, Union Street, to Miss Elsie M. Dewar, of Charlottetown, P. E. I. The marriage took place in St. John's Presbyterian Church, at Halifax, on Monday evening last. They are spending a short wedding trip in Charlottetown. Jim is one of Westville's most popular boys, a member of the original 85th Battalion, and his hosts of friends will join in wishing the young couple a happy and prosperous married life.
I'd love to add a photo of the church to my collection, but unfortunately Jim and Elsie's wedding fell into a little blip in church history. The St. John's congregation had begun building a new church in the North End of Halifax in 1917 (two years before the wedding), but just two months into the project, the Halifax Explosion flattened that area of the city (Jim and Elsie weren't in Halifax at that time, thankfully, although the story goes that the explosion rattled the windows in Charlottetown). After that, building the church wasn't quite the priority it had been. The new church was finished, however, by the time Jim and Elsie were married in 1919, and the space must have been new and beautiful when they held their ceremony. But apparently the space was also too small.
In 1920 a cornerstone was laid for a new sanctuary and bell tower, just 40 yards from the (new) old church. I'm not sure if they built a whole new church or just did a massive renovation, but by 1921 Jim and Elsie's wedding spot was obsolete. I'm afraid that 1918 to 1921 is a small window for finding pictures (not that I won't continue to try!).
This is really kind of a part two to a part one: Deaf and Dumb Institution, Halifax.
Lizzie Bentley, my GG grandmother, was not born deaf. Family lore says she lost her hearing due to an accident at the age of three, which is not unheard of. It is, however, more likely that she had an illness; at the time, Scarlet fever was the leading cause of deafness other than heredity. Of course, there was still a lot of speculation in the latter part of the 19th century, most of it rather unflattering to the families: poverty, negligence, inbreeding, and damp and ill-ventilated buildings were all suggested causes. Scaring a pregnant woman, at least, was no longer thought to be an issue.
At any rate, Lizzie could hear and speak at birth, and then, suddenly, she could not hear. Luckily, the Deaf and Dumb Institution in Halifax--about sixty miles away--opened when she was seven. She began attending the school when she was eleven and would stay for six years, graduating in 1867. (Her future husband, Robert Tupper, attended from 1857 until 1863, so they probably met at the school in 1861, when Lizzie arrived. She was eleven and he was twenty-four. Thank goodness they didn't marry for another twelve years.)
The Deaf and Dumb Institution in Halifax was, by necessity, a boarding school. It took in students from all over the Maritime provinces and even a few from the US. By the time Lizzie attended, they averaged forty students a year. There were three teachers--including the principal--and, therefore, three classes. This put a broad range of students in each class and made teaching difficult.
The principal of the school at the time was J. Scott Hutton. Fortunately, he wrote a lot of papers, textbooks, and articles and generally communicated what he was up to to whomever would listen. We therefore know that, when Lizzie attened his school, Hutton was not a fan of lip-reading. Just after Lizzie graduated, Hutton wrote:
"With the antique and obsolescent method of articulation and lip-reading, which some earnest but mistaken friends of the deaf and dumb, are now laboring so energetically to revive and extend, we confess to have little sympathy."*
Hutton goes on to explain that he doesn't believe audible speech and lip-reading are attainable for most students. Well, attainable or not, it seems unlikely that Lizzie and Robert would have learned it at Hutton's school. Instead, they would have been taught to to read and write--"the principal source of knowledge and the grand instrument of communication"*--and to use sign language. They learned Natural Signs (basically, if I understand it correctly, acting out things as well as you can so that anyone could understand them) as and the one-handed and two-handed alphabet.
Once communication was established, a general education of history, geography, and whatnot could begin. The curriculumn was designed and honed over the years, and in the 1870s Hutton published a series of textbooks, several of which are available online at Kobo. I particularly like the language lesson book, which is peppered with little notes to the student that vary from the friendly, "Good morning! How do you do?" to the stern, "Be quiet. Sit in your seat." and the rather questionable, "Don't be inquisitive." Humph.
*"Deaf-Mute Education..." pg 75.
J. Scott Hutton, "Deaf-Mute Education in the British Maritime Provinces," American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 14 (Raleigh, N. C.: Press of the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind), pg 65-82.
George Hutton, "Practicability and Advantages of Writing and Printing Natural Signs," American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 14 (Raleigh, N. C.: Press of the Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind), pg 157.
J. Scott Hutton, Language Lessons for the Deaf and Dumb (Halifax, N. S.: The Pupils at the Institution Press, 1878).
Students learning sign language, 1893. Photographed by Gauvin & Gentzel. School for the Hearing Handicapped NSARM accession no. 1990-205
I've known that we had deafness the family since I was little. My father still remembered some of the sign language he learned to speak to his great-grandmother, who died just a few days short of her 100th birthday in 1950. He said she used an older version of sign language, different from ASL. But when I first starting delving in to the details of Ruth Elizabeth Bentley and her husband Robert Tupper, I had no idea how fascinating it would all be.
Robert's parents, Samuel and Martha (Howard) Tupper, had ten children and three of them were born deaf, all male. John Creelman Tupper came first in 1835. Then Robert G. Tupper (my GGG grandfather) on 10 Sep 1837, and later on Franklin Tupper, born on 18 Sep 1851. At the time, in Nova Scotia, there were few options for educating a deaf child. The nearest school was in Quebec, which had opened just a few years before John was born. It was almost 600 miles away and most likely French. Another option would be to find a private educator, but how practical (or expensive) that would be, I'm not sure. I'm also not sure what sort of formal eduction these Tupper boys would have received, but what I do know is that John (then 21) and Robert (19) were first in line for an education when the Deaf and Dumb Institution first opened its doors. Franklin attended the school as well.
The school was the brain child of two deaf men from Scotland, who had both attended the same school for the deaf in Edinburgh and then ended up immigrating to Nova Scotia and running into each other again. George Tait was a carpenter; William Gray a tailor. Apparently there was some dispute later over who actually founded the school, but generally the story goes that Gray was underemployed and Tait was tutoring a young deaf girl (although in some versions Gray was doing the tutoring) when Tait began to urge Gray to become a teacher of the deaf. Gray agreed, the men set about raising funds and, in Tait's case, building the desks for the classrooms. They opened shop on Argyle Street in 1857 with just four children. Two of them were probably John and Robert, who started in 1857 at some point.
The Deaf and Dumb Institution, ca 1876. Here's a photo.
Shortly thereafter, the school took off. Clearly there had been a need! Students came from all over the Maritimes. Thankfully, government grants and private donations allowed the hiring of a trained teacher, J. Scott Hutton, also from Edinburgh. Soon after his arrival, however, Scott was begging his own father, still in Scotland, to join his over-worked teaching staff. Mr. George Hutton had been teaching the deaf for over forty years already, and he did come to Halifax where he worked for the next ten years (without pay!) until he died in 1870.
I imagine that the new school brought the deaf community together for the first time. The Tupper boys certainly made friends and both John and Robert found wives at the school. J. Scott Hutton translated the ceremony at Robert's wedding (in 1873 to Ruth Elizabeth Bentley) and John and Robert's hearing sister, Cynthia Amelia, married George Tait, the man who helped found the school!
For further reading:
Edward Allan Fay, editor, Histories of American Schools for the Deaf, 1817-1893 Volume III (Washington, D.C.: The Volta Bureau, 1893). It's available through Google books.
The Silent Worker is a newsletter about the deaf community published from 1888 to 1929. The complete collection is available online. In fact, the Gallaudet University Archives is a treasure-trove. And speaking of Gallaudet:
Joseph C. Gordon, editor, Education of Deaf Children: Evidence of Edward Minor Gallaudet and Alexander Graham Bell (Washington, D.C.: The Volta Bureau, 1892). Also available through Google books (love Google Books!).