Pat Cook’s family portrait wound up in a sale basket in Archbold, Ohio. While the cabinet card shows a lot of wear, and the mother and daughter on the left appear ghostly pale, the overall depth and detail of the sitter’s images held up well. The balloon-like sleeves of the daughter on the right helped me date this photo to the 1890s. And although the boy isn’t sporting the long hair and ringlets that accompanied the Lord Fauntleroy craze of the mid-1890s, his wide, white shirt collar fits the fashion.
As I was preparing to admit defeat that I would never identify this family, I got the answer I had been hoping for…from the grave.
I’m sure the person who scrawled the words “Pat Cook & family” all those years ago thought they were doing a fine job establishing the identity of the sitters. In fact, they not only wrote it on the front but on the back, as well. However, this was definitely one of my more difficult cases. Census records did not reveal a Pat or Patrick Cook in the Montpelier, Ohio area. And although I suspected Pat Cook referred to the gentleman in the photo, I also searched for women and children, and people with a middle initial of P, but found no leads.
I began to wonder if the family lived in Montpelier only a short time, in between census years, and if so, I realized I may never find them. I searched online newspapers for a Pat, Patrick or Patricia Cook in the area between 1880 and 1900. Although I have been successful with that method in the past, this time I came up empty-handed.
I disregarded the name Pat and took a look at every Cook family living in Williams County, Ohio in 1900. It seemed none were a match until I realized that one or both of the daughters could have moved out by 1900, so I took another look. Tada! I found Loftus Cook, 42, junk dealer, living with his wife, Nettie, 40; daughter, Bertha, 18, milliner; and son, Roy, 12. It lists Nettie as the mother of three children and all three are living.
Is the third child a daughter? The family trees on ancestry include just one daughter and a son; however, I found Roy’s 1951 obituary and it mentioned a surviving sister, Mrs. Catherine Ohring, of Long Beach, California.
Bertha, whose married name was Crowell, died in 1942. Catherine Ohring was the second daughter! Digging deeper, I discovered that Katherine Almeda “Carrie” Cook, 20, was living with her husband, Marian Purdy, in 1900. The family dynamic fit. And with a name like Loftus, I felt it was quite likely that he might have used a nickname.
In order to prove my theory, I needed to find a record of Loftus using the name Pat or Patrick. I researched the family, studying every census record, marriage record, and death record I could find. I sought out obituaries. I found none for Loftus, Nettie or Katherine. Roy and Bertha’s obits did not mention their parents.
Loftus had a criminal record. In February 1897, he was found guilty of burglary in Williams county and sentenced to two years in the penitentiary. The trial judge doubted his guilt, so he received a pardon in October 1898. He was not referred to by any other name in the newspaper or court records. Drat!
Loftus’ death certificate was the last document I hoped might prove my theory. The death record wasn’t online, so I contacted the History and Genealogy Center of the Williams County Public Library (WCPL). They had the death record, but Loftus Cook was the only name given.
I shared the cabinet card photo and a bit about my research with the librarian helping me and she said: “I can tell you when I looked at the Superior Twp, Wms Co, OH Cemetery book for Loftus and wife, that they are buried in a plot purchased by Pat Cook.”
And there it was! Nettie died first, so it stands to reason that her husband would have purchased the plot. I considered another family member, but I found no siblings or uncles named Patrick Cook. I feel confident that Loftus Cook and Pat Cook were one in the same! And that’s how I got my answer from the grave…well, from the graveyard records.
Find A Grave
Michigan marriage records
Williams County Library History and Genealogy Center
Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Ohio for the regular session of the Seventy-Fourth General Assembly, commencing Monday, January 1, 1900
Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) Museum blog