I reunite identified family photos that I find in antique shops and second hand stores with genealogists and family historians. If you see one of your ancestors here and would like to obtain the original, feel free to contact me at familyphotoreunion [ at ] yahoo [ dot ] com. I also accept donations of pre-1927 images to be reunited. I hope you enjoy your visit!
~The Archivist

Friday, April 20, 2018

When Hard-To-Read Handwriting Is Actually a Good Thing - (Possibly) Charles Gipe, Kentucky, 1886

Handwriting is everything when there is very little to identify a photograph.  This cabinet card is one of those frustrating instances where everything should fall into place, but doesn't because you're unable to decipher, with certainty, the surname of the subject. When I first investigated this photograph a few years ago I gave up on it, thinking it might be a hopeless case. Upon revisiting this mystery it turns out that the difficult-to-read signature may be just the clue needed to figure out who this gentleman is. 

Initially, I thought the man's surname was "Gifoe."  But, after plunking "Gifoe" into Ancestry and coming up with only one (and highly suspect) hit on the surname Gifoe, I abandoned that idea, at least temporarily.  If not "Gifoe," what could it be?  Next I tried "Gifre" which provided a few hits, with one single Charles Gifre (d. Kentucky at age 87 in 1918) which I now suspect was a transcription error--but more on that later. Before I could begin to look further into this possibility, I needed to consider the photographer.

The reverse of the cabinet card does provide us with a photographer's name:  Jas. Whited, Cosmopolitan Studio. A location isn't given. A search of various photographer's indexes didn't yield any photographers by the name of James Whited, but I did find a conversation on a genealogy board that suggested Jas. Whited operated a studio in Bowling Green, Kentucky. However, I couldn't find anything online that indicated this was accurate.

Perhaps a reader has crossed paths with the Jas. Whited Cosmopolitan Studio in their research. If so, I'd be so happy to hear from you. It's usually at this point in a fruitless search that I put the photo aside for another day but after staring at the signature for a long time I decided that the surname might be "Gipe." While I am not able to say definitively if this is Charles Gipe, I will say that I found a signature on a marriage bond for the marriage of Chas. A. Gipe and Louisa Hilbert in Nelson, Kentucky that looks very much like the signature on the cabinet card above1.

Charles A. Gipe was a shoemaker, born in Bavaria around 18312. After immigrating to America, he settled in Nelson County, Kentucky3 and later moved to Louisville4 where he died in 19185. In the Ancestry transcription of this record, Charles' surname is recorded as "Gifre," which is an understandable mistake--understandable because I made the same call myself early on in this investigation. If the information on the cabinet card is correct, the image of Charles Gipe would have been taken in 1886.

What do you think? Could this be Charles A. Gipe?

1 "Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FW12-M4M : accessed 19 April 2018), Charles A. Gipe and Louisa Hilbert, 30 Jul 1894; citing Bardstown, Nelson, Kentucky, United States, Madison County Courthouse, Richmond; FHL microfilm 1,929,401.
2 "United States Census, 1860", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MZB8-S8R : 14 December 2017), Charles Gipe, 1860.
3 "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MCZK-QQ9 : 14 August 2017), Chas Gipe, New Haven, Nelson, Kentucky, United States; citing enumeration district ED 210, sheet 292A, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0436; FHL microfilm 1,254,436.
4 "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M2DR-2XJ : accessed 20 April 2018), Charles A Gipe, Louisville Ward 11, Jefferson, Kentucky, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 180, sheet 6A, family 124, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 486; FHL microfilm 1,374,499.
5 "Kentucky Deaths and Burials, 1843-1970," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FWPS-8PL : 10 February 2018), Charles A. Gipe, 30 May 1918; citing reference ; FHL microfilm 2,024,938.


  1. I found a possible Whited in the 1900 United States Federal Census

    Name: J B Whited
    Age: 52
    Birth Date: Aug 1847
    Birthplace: England
    Home in 1900: Clay, Webster, Kentucky

    Shown as a photographer.

  2. Thanks, IG! I found more Jas. Whited images on Western Kentucky University's "KenCat Online Collections." It looks like James' Cosmopolitan Studio did operate out of Bowling Green, KY. It's unfortunate the images aren't dated but I think the one Meredith/McGinnis image attributed to Whited was taken in the early 1890s, judging by Mrs. Clara McGinnis' sleeve puffs.

  3. I think that is Charles Gipe! The signatures are nearly identical.

  4. I was thrilled to find that marriage bond signature. To me, they look the same. Glad you think so, too, Amanda.

  5. I agree that the two signatures look as though they were written by the same hand.

  6. I have a “cabinet card” of a Great Aunt that I found in my Mom’s things. The photographer is listed as Jas. Whited out of Bardstown, KY. Could have been taken in the mid to late 1800’s.
    Hope this helps someone.

  7. I have a “cabinet card” of a Great Aunt that I found in my Mom’s things. The photographer is listed as Jas. Whited out of Bardstown, KY. Could have been taken in the mid to late 1800’s.
    Hope this helps someone.