Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Who’s That Girl?

Tintype Beverhoudt (Medium)
Tintype Phot - Unidentified Girl
So, I’ve got this big ‘ol box of pictures that I’m trying to sort and identify.  At the bottom are some truly old ones.  Most have no indication who they are of or when they were taken. Some of the pictures are very old, but one is rather unique.  It is a tintype photo.  It is in pretty good shape, considering its age, but I was fairly sure I would never know anything about the girl since there are no markings on it at all.  I thought perhaps it might be my 2nd great grandmother, Adelaide Robson (not for any particular reason, except that I thought it would be great to have a picture of her).

Amey van Beverhoudt-Small
Amy van Beverhoudt 1840-1873

Since I figured I’d never know if this woman was even a member of the family, I scanned it, put the original away, and moved on to continually bugging my mother about writing down all the names of all the people she remembered in the more recent photos. (My mom insists she doesn’t recognize any of the people in any of the photos from the 1800’s, she’s not that old, and that I should quit asking).

I am constantly amazed by the power that social networking brings to my understanding family history. I have already posted about the picture of my grandfather that was identified by an off-hand comment from a cousin in Denmark in A Little Genealogical Serendipity. Well, I got a very good lead on this picture from perusing an page of one of my new cousins, Penny, a descendent of my great-great grandfather Claudius’ sister, Amy van Beverhoudt.  Penny had this picture of Amy posted in her family tree. The resemblance is striking.  Here are close-ups of the two faces:
Amey van Beverhoudt - Copy
Closeup of Amy
Tintype Beverhoudt (Medium) - Copy
Closeup of Tintype
The picture of Amy is clearly an older woman, but could the other be a younger Amy? Hard to tell, but they have the same chin, the same nose, even similar hair.  So, let’s see what detective work we can do.

First, we’ll try to get our dates straight. Since I don’t have the original picture of Amy, I’ll focus on the tintype. For those less familiar with 19th century photography, a tintype photo is actually printed on a sheet of iron (not tin). Before they developed the modern methods of printing photos on paper, they used iron (tintypes) and glass (Ambrotypes). Sometimes they are hard to tell apart, but tintypes are magnetic, Ambrotypes are not.  The picture is small, about 1.5” x 2”. This would be a 1/16 plate size according to It also appears to have a chocolate brown finish.  Assuming this is the original finish, and not due to aging, it would suggest that the picture dates from 1870-1885. The girl appears to be in her mid to late teens. 

I think we can conclude that the picture is not Amy. Amy lived from 1836-1873.  Clearly she would be too old to be the girl. What about  another family member? Around 1866 Amy married a man named William Pentheny. The Penthenys were a prominent seafaring family on St Croix in the mid 1800’s.  Amey and William had two daughters, Ann (b. 1867) and Eva (b. 1870). Ann only lived for a day but Eva grew up and married Arthur Colbeth of Maine, USA. I have several other pictures of Eva, and I don’t see a strong resemblance. She is also likely too young. Strike two.  Let’s consider Amy’s sisters.

Amy came from a large family.  She was the daughter of Johannes van Beverhoudt and Mary Aletta Quickly.  Johannes and Mary had a total of 16 children, many of whom died young.  Amy had several younger sisters, including two that could have been about the right age.  Anna Ingeborg van Beverhoudt was born in 1847, making her at least 23 by the time this picture was taken.  Possibly, but maybe a little old. This leaves Amy’s youngest sister, Grace van Beverhoudt.  Grace was born in about 1854 or 1855, so she would have been about 15 when chocolate tintypes were gaining popularity.  This seems to fit rather well!

So, by a lucky find on Ancestry, and a little detective work, I conclude that this picture is most likely Grace van Beverhoudt.  Grace was enumerated in the 1930 US Census, a spinster, with no children, living on St Croix. In April, when the 1940 Census is released, I’ll find out if she survived the 1930’s.  This may be the only picture of her in existence (I’d love to be proven wrong).

So, it’s not Adelaide, and it’s not a direct ancestor, but she is my great-great-grand aunt, and I think that’s both “great” and “grand”.  So, to mom, I’ll work the 1800’s if you finish up the 1900’s.

1 comment:

  1. You should send the tintype photo to Maureen Taylor ( She is the preeminent photo identifier. Just by studying the photo, she'd be able to tell you numerous things about the subject that you would never have dreamed of. It's worth a shot to know more about the world this lady lived in, her status in society, the symbolic meaning behind her dress and hairstyle, etc. In addition, sometimes it's a good idea to get a neutral third-party's professional opinion.