Thursday, December 18, 2014

Analyzing Photos and Images for Clues

Which Brothers Do You See? 

An Analysis of Photo Identities Using Additional Resources

The thrill of finding an ancestor's photo, painting, or image is something all genealogists appreciate. The ability to finally put a face to the names and dates and more importantly to the life story is one where you truly see your ancestor in a different way.

Yet, we all have the the inevitable issue that not all our ancestor's were thoughtful enough to place names and dates on the backs of photos. Recently, cousin Lara Beth shared 4 photos discovered in great-great grandmother Mary (nee Aldrich) Barrett's home after she passed away.

Mary was born Sophia Aldrich approximately May 1859 in Dayton, Cattaraugus, New York1 to Luther Tisdale Aldrich and Christiann Howell. She had four brothers, Loren, Lumen (or Lurman), Byron and Martin and the photos were only numbered 1-4 and originally attributed to her brothers, using an estimate of the apparent ages of each man in the photo.

The Four Photos thought to be the Aldrich Brothers.



Sophia (Mary) Aldrich changed her name to Mary when she married Thomas Francis Barrett about 1879 in Bradford, McKean, Pennsylvania2. After spending time in the Bradford, McKean, PA followed by time in Bolivar, Allegany, NY the family then settled in the Scranton area.   The rest of Thomas Francis' family had settled in the Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Pittston area of Pennsylvania after immigrating from Ireland.

Thomas Francis Barrett was born to John J. Barrett and Anne Cormac Mannion in County Mayo, Ireland about June 18523,4,5. John J. and Anne had 5 sons, Michael, John Erigena, Thomas Francis, Charles J., and Edward M. (the M is thought to stand for Mannion).  All but Michael immigrated to the United States while it is believed Michael immigrated to England6,7.

Recently, during some re-organization of family research and information, something we are all familiar with doing, I came across some newspaper images of Thomas Francis' brothers, John E. and Edward M. Barrett. John E. Barrett was the editor of The Scranton Truth and a prominent citizen in Scranton, while Edward M. Barrett became an Alderman for the city of Pittston. The newspaper images created one of those moments where you begin to think the mind is playing tricks and you say, "I know I have seen that face before."

I took the newspaper images and began to review the four photos originally attributed to the Aldrich brothers.  The two newspaper images for Edward M. Barrett were compared to the middle image (one of the four photos) leading to a first guess that the original photos might not be the Aldrich brothers, but actually, four of the five Barrett brothers.

Image of Alderman
Edward M. Barrett from
The Scranton Republican
June 30, 1919, Page 5
Comparison of One Photo to Two Newspaper Images of Edward M. Barrett

Image of Edward M. Barrett
 from Piston Gazette, March 17, 1913 compared to original photo

A separate newspaper image of John E. Barrett was then examined relative to another of the four original photos:

Comparison of John E. Barrett Newspaper Image to One of Original Four Photos
                             Image of John E. Barrett from
                    The Scranton Republican
                 April 28, 1934, Page 16

One of the original
four photos

I shared my thoughts with both cousin Lara Beth and cousin Marilyn.  As cousin Marilyn indicated, they are "wearing the same style of clothing".  I then received what I thought was a much more critical analysis from my son in regards to the John E. Barrett comparison, "They’re both chubby, they have a mustache and the hair goes the same way." No need for fancy software or facial recognition from his point of view.  However as Marilyn and my son pointed out, using style of clothes, hair and unique features is the start of identifying particulars of photos.  In this instance, the comparison is quite accurate which lead us to believe we are looking at John E. Barrett and the other is of Edward M. Barrett.  The potential conclusion is that the images are likely the Barrett brothers from County Mayo, Ireland.

We were now left with two unidentified images from the original four. Unfortunately, no image of Thomas Francis Barrett in a newspaper or other journal has been found. A sketch of Dr. Charles J. Barrett was located in a newspaper and the three images are compared below:

Comparison of Dr. Charles J. Barrett to Two Unidentified Original Photos
Image from The Scranton Truth
January 18, 1905, Page 8

It is thought that Thomas Francis was older than Charles J. Barrett from multiple census records, but only Charles was found to have a baptismal record from Ireland in 18588.

Therefore it is inconclusive at the moment to which photo might represent Charles and which is Thomas. A clue might be the groomed mustache of the man in the photo on the right similar to the mustache in the sketch of Charles J. Barrett, but it is difficult to conclude much more.

One additional clue that gives further evidence to the identification that these are the Barrett brothers comes from information on the back of each image, in which it identifies Henry Frey as the photographer with an address in Scranton, PA.  Henry Frey was located in City Directories9 to have a photographic studio in Scranton where John E. Barrett and Thomas F. Barrett resided, the other brothers were in nearby Pittston.   The Aldrich brothers lived in the Cattaraugus County area of New York state and no evidence has been found indicating they visited or lived in Scranton. 
There is an image number on the back of at least one photo, thus if any original material survives from the Henry Frey studio, perhaps associated identification information could be found.

The continued improvement in software perhaps to utilize facial recognition from the newspapers to the photos would provide greater impartiality to the photo identification process. In addition as newspapers continued to be digitized, perhaps additional images of Thomas F. and Charles J. will become available to aid in identifying the remaining images.

Thus, the current evidence allows my first glance at two photos, one of which is likely my great-great grandfather, Thomas Francis Barrett, an immigrant from County Mayo, Ireland and the feeling of that connection is something all genealogists remember.

Note: Kind thanks to Lara Beth Woelkers for sharing the photographs and humoring a cousin's constant questions about the photos., New York, State Census, 1875 (Provo, Utah, USA, Operations, Inc., 2013), 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations Inc., 2006), Year: 1910; Census Place: Scranton Ward 20, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1360; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 0132; FHL microfilm: 1375373, 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations Inc., 2006), Year: 1910; Census Place: Scranton Ward 20, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1360; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 0132; FHL microfilm: 1375373, 1900 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations Inc., 2004), Year: 1900; Census Place: Scranton Ward 20, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Roll: T623_31077_4115108; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 0113; FHL microfilm: 1241422, 1880 United Statess Federal Censys (Provo, UT, USA, Operations Inc., 2010), Year: 1880; Census Place: Bradford, McKean, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1154; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 0132; FHL microfilm: 1255154; Page 177C; Enumeration District: 082; Image: 0063.
6The Pittston Gazette (Pittston, Pennsylvania) Friday, April 28, 1899, Page 3.
7The Scranton Republican at, The Scranton Republican (Scranton, Pennsylvania) Thursday, April 27, 1899, Page 10., Ireland, Select Catholic Birth and Baptism Registers, 1763-1912 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2014).
9Scranton, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1901, U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

© 2014 William C. Barrett

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