During a trip to a local antique mall, I was excited to see quite a few newly offered antique photo albums, tintypes, ambrotypes and daguerrotypes. That excitement grew by leaps and bounds when I flipped through the albums and discovered that they came from the same family. It was a dream find!
Upon sharing the tintype featured above, of James and Sarah (nee Nichols) Gillispie, on Find A Grave, I was contacted by a great great granddaughter, Nancy, inquiring about the photo. When I told her about my find, she asked if she could purchase the collection. Of course, I said yes!
Nancy traveled from two states away and was reunited with the photos. It was wonderful hearing her family stories, and also being able to share the research I’d completed during the short time I was in possession of the albums.
Nancy agreed that I would keep two cased images. The first, an ambrotype of Nelson and Elizabeth (nee Baldwin) Nichols. Nelson was Sarah’s brother. When the rest of the Nichols family moved from Conneaut, Pennsylvania to Michigan, Nelson stayed behind. This image had no written identification, but I was able to identify the sitters by a photo on ancestry of them as an elderly couple. I would not have recognized Nelson, but Elizabeth was impossible to mistake.
Recently, Nelson and Elizabeth Nichol’s great-great-great granddaughter contacted me, and I will be reuniting the ambrotype with her. It turns out that it was her photo of an aged Nelson and Elizabeth that allowed me to put names with the faces! If she hadn’t shared her image, the ambrotype would have gone unidentified!
The second cased image I held on to is an unidentified tintype of a couple. Very noticeable is the man’s unrepaired cleft palate. Based on the couple’s clothing, and the fact that tintypes were introduced in the United States about 1856, I am dating this image as being taken in the late 1850s.
I believe the woman in the tintype is also the sitter in a carte de visite found in one of the albums. Notice the one droopy eyelid. The sitter is older on the left, and it stands to reason that the eye would have become droopier as she aged. Also notice the shape, size, and placement of the eyebrows, the size of her forehead, the deep lines beside her nose, and her very thin, down-turned lips. I’m quite sure these women are the same person.
Although the tintype does not provide a photographer’s location, the cdv was taken in Jackson, Michigan. When I met with Nancy, she thought the woman might be a Rosenbrook. Upon more research, John and Eliza (nee Rice) Rosenbrook’s daughter, Adelaide, married John Whittaker, the son of James and Mary (nee Clifford) Whittaker. The cdv was found in an album filled with Clifford and Whittaker family members. And later in life, John and Eliza lived in Jackson, Michigan. I hope that someday I will be able to prove, or disprove, this theory.
I’d like to end with a few of my favorite photos from the albums. I hope you enjoy them!
Almeda Gillispie, daughter of James and Sarah (nee Nichols) Gillispie, was born in 1851 and married Sylvester Wade. They had one child, Iva, who died, aged 2 months, in 1881. Almeda succumbed to tuberculosis in 1911.
Nettie, the second child of James and Sarah, died in 1873, aged 15. The boy in the photo is suspected to be her maternal cousin, Charles Phelps.
And last, but not least, James and Sarah’s youngest children, Charles and Nelson. Charles, on the left, married Katherine Whittaker. Nelson married Arvilla Woodliff. The brothers owned and operated a grocery store in Concord, Michigan in the early 1900s. Both died of tuberculosis when they were in their fifties.