Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Secret in the Old Photo Case

Eliza Ann Davis, 1853
(click to enlarge)

I recently ordered some microfilm from Salt Lake City, so I've spent the last couple Wednesdays at the local LDS stake. I can't just go, you know. I have to take a whole arsenal of technology with me. The laptop, of course, and all the handy peripherals in my travellin' bag: USB fan, USB light, portable scanner the size of the computer itself (not that it's useful for microfilm, but it's stored in the bag), low-tech magnifying glass, etc. Really, I'm armed to the teeth when I sally forth to do battle with the old German Kirchenb├╝cher. But that alone wouldn't raise many eyebrows. It's the digital camera and full-size tripod that seem to mark me as a full-fledged high-tech research warrior. You just don't slip under the radar with gear like that.

Thus it happened that last week, a gentleman was brought into the dark little microfilm room to meet me and my technology. We talked for a bit. He's in the process of building a website pertaining to family history photos, and he thought I would be a good candidate to answer some market research questions for him, which I did. He'll let me know when the site is up and running, and after me, you'll be the next to know.

Meanwhile, the topic interested me so I did a little market research of my own to see what might already be out there. I didn't get too far though, because the first thing that caught my attention in the Google hit list was PhotoTree, a great site for information about dating old photographs.

I have several daguerreotypes and ambrotypes which I believe were all handed down through Rosmer Kerr's family. Some I've had for years, and they are packed in such a "safe" place that I've been driven to the edge of sanity looking for them this past week. I'm still teetering. But the three I got last summer were within easy reach. I'd been speculating about who they might be. I don't know why I hadn't thought to try taking the photos out of the little cases, but at PhotoTree, I learned (or relearned?) that there might be information written inside the back of the case.

I used a dental pick to lift the photos out of the cases. Of the three, only this daguerreotype had writing pencilled in the case. It said, "Taken by H.S. Harmon - June 16, 1853, Cascade, Wis."

Taken by H.S. Harmon. Having no Harmons in my family tree, that information wasn't useful to me. But Cascade, Wisconsin? Home of Ezekiel Taylor Efner. Five seconds with my Family Tree Maker and I can tell you exactly what this picture is all about.

This is Ezekiel Efner's second wife, Eliza Ann Davis. No, she didn't have a Napoleon complex. Her hand is in that odd position because it's resting on Uncle Billy Efner, who would be born five months later. She had probably begun to feel the baby kick around the time of this photograph. She must have been very excited about it to commemorate it this way.


Becky said...

Hi T.K. - you've been tagged with the "Thinking Blogger" award. You can visit to see what it's all about.

Juliane's granddaughter said...

A photo from 1853! What a remarkably keepsake and to think you were able to identify it with some terrific sleuthing. I never cease to be amazed at the items that you are able to incorporate into a blog post. Great post!

Anonymous said...

I actually am a Zahniser, though that is not my last name. There is actually a book about them that is still in print and strangely enough my grandparents and much of my family still live in Mercer County Pa.

T.K. said...

Hi, Anonymous, thanks for stopping by. If you're referring to "The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America," did you know it's available to read online? There's a link at the bottom of this page under Our Family in Books.

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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