You may have photographs like the one below. I found it at an antique store to use with for my students. What can you learn about the person? The clearest clue is the photographer’s studio location, Hutchinson, Kansas. From the hair style, lapel design, and the stiff collar, I put the date at early 1900s. When I turned over the back, there was no identification–until I held it at an angle. Then a pencil-written note could be read: “To dearest Margaret with dearest love, John S. Culladuy.”
I searched on Ancestry.com, listing probable birth date as 1885, and having lived in Hutchinson. Because he wrote his vowels as “u”, his name turned out to be “Colladay.” Census records place him as born in 1885 (good guess on my part). Despite his love for Margaret, he married a Sarah G. He worked in Culladay Hardware, perhaps his father’s. In 1920 they had two children, but lived with his parents. By 1930 they lived in their own home, with two more children and her mother. He and Sarah were stilled married and living in Hutchinson in 1963.
His WWI draft card provided more details. He had grey eyes, medium build, and was “tall.” His middle name was “Stewart” and his wife’s middle name was “Grimes,” likely her birth name. I found his grave in Hutchinson at the Fairlawn Burial Park, where he was laid in 1965. There I also discovered his parents and that of three sons were all buried there. Sarah died in 1979. And all this is just the beginning of what you can learn.
Lesson 1: Don’t assume you can ignore a source. The grave information identified his sister Jennie as a “half-sister” and his mother as a “Stewart.”
Lesson 2: Identify your photographs in pencil on the back for your descendants! What if there is no identification? That’s for a later post.