I am very pleased to announce that I received a "Lucky Thirteen Grant" from Megan Smolenyak to reunite this album with a family member. If you think you might be connected to the family in the album, please contact me.
UPDATE July 29, 2013: It's a reunion! This album is now on its way back to the great grand-daughter of Angus and Mary Ellen McLeod. I hope the new owners have as much fun with it as I have.
I like a good challenge, and this item is certainly that. When I purchased this cabinet card album from an antique dealer in Nanaimo, BC, I knew that it would be a minor miracle if the person who owned this collection of photographs, dating from the 1890s to about 1920, could be identified. Only two photos of the 29 in the album are identified with a first and last name. Three more have been addressed with a first name. One, "to Luella", another "to Eleanor" and the other "to Ray". Another photograph, of a man, is inscribed on the back "Martha Gibbs." The majority are unidentified. Yet, being the optimist that I am, I thought I'd have a go at it. There are a number of clues to follow that just might help us figure this one out.
Let's start with the inscription. The inscriber hasn't given us their name, only initials. It's not quite a name, but still quite helpful:
"M. E. McL" Just a few more letters on that surname abbreviation would have made all the difference.
Most of the images in this album were taken in Hallock, Kittson County, Minnesota. Of those 20+ images, all were taken at the A.H. Anderson Studio. Andrew H. Anderson (1867-1960) was a farmer-photographer who operated a photographic studio in Hallock between 1893 and 1902, and again briefly in 19361. There are also pictures taken in Selkirk & Emerson, Manitoba as well as Chicago & Minneapolis.
The first fully identified photo gives us a bit of info. It's a portrait of a man and woman, taken in Hallock and labelled, "Mr. & Mrs. John Thompson."
I began by looking at the 1880 Federal Census, where I found a John J. Thompson, born abt. 1864, living with his parents William and Maria L. Thompson in Kittson County, Minnesota. His Thompson siblings are: Mary E., Elizabeth A., Laura M., George W., Richard C., and Thomas J. and Lewis J2.
Of course, it's a bit early on in the research to come to any conclusions, but as I was delving deeper into other censuses for John J. Thompson, I stumbled upon an entry in the 1895 Minnesota Census that intrigued me. It was for the family of Angus and Mary E. McLeod, who lived in Hallock at that time. Mary was 29, born in Ontario, Canada and Angus, 24 in Wisconsin. They had four children: Ernest, 9; Raymond, 7; Wm. H.,6; and Louella, 4. A man named John Gibbs, age 25 from Ontario also resides with the family3.
I immediately felt I had some sort of connection. Mary E. McLeod could be M. E. McL. She had children named Ray and Luella. And, there is someone with the surname Gibbs in the household. Most of the clues the photograph album provided have shown up in this one entry. How lucky would that be?
Then I went back to look at John J. Thompson's family again. Do you notice that one of his sisters is Mary E? Could Mary E. Thompson have married Angus McLeod? We know Mary E. McLeod was born in Canada around 1866, and so was Mary E. Thompson. It's a lead to follow, for sure.
Another clue the album yielded was a newspaper clipping about the early settlement of Selkirk, Manitoba. As I mentioned previously, there were couple of photos taken in Manitoba as well, one in East Selkirk.
I discovered that the Angus McLeod family moved to Selkirk, Manitoba in 18964. In the 1906 Canada Census for Selkirk, I find that Angus George and Mary now have a Canadian-born, one-year-old child named Eleanor L. McLeod5. Yet another match with the one of the clues in the album. Angus opened a bakery in Selkirk, which he operated for a number of years.
I had another good look at the images just now, under a strong light, and made an interesting discovery. On the back of one of the photographs that I assumed was not inscribed, I discovered there is actually a very faint pencil inscription on the charcoal-coloured back that reads "A.G. McLeod." It was taken in Hallock, Minn. Be still, my heart. I think I'm on the right track here.
And this is the front of the cabinet card labelled, "A. G. McLeod":
It would be nice to locate other existing photographs from Hallock to see if we can identify the many other individuals in this album.
1 Minnesota Historical Society, Directory of Minnesota Photographers (http://www.mnhs.org); accessed 15 Sept 2012.↩
2 "United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MZ9D-M5Z : accessed 16 Sep 2012), J. John Thompson in household of William Thompson, Kittson, Minnesota, United States; citing sheet 121C, family 2, NARA microfilm publication T9-0624.↩
3 "Minnesota, State Census, 1895," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MQ63-T3H : accessed 30 Sep 2012), Mary E Mcleod in household of Angus Mcleod, Hallock village, Kittson, Minnesota.↩
4 1916 census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, Selkirk, Manitoba, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 10, subdistrict #4, p.24 (penned), dwelling 250, family 262, Angus McLeod family, digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed Sept 15, 2012), citing microfilm LAC microfilm T-21929.↩
5 "Canada Census, 1906," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/KHJG-D3X : accessed 16 Sep 2012), Mary E McLeod in entry for Augus G McLeod, 1906.↩