Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mysterious Monday - Are You My Great-Grandfather?

A few days ago, I posted a photo on Facebook, along with the following message:
Gen-friends, this photo is one of many that I got today on a loan from a cousin. I need to hear any and all observations that you might be able to make about this photograph – about the subjects, their possible/probable relationship, as well as the photograph, itself. Physically this is a 3.5 X 5 carded frame, which is layered. The oval-shaped photograph appears to be glued onto the card stock, but it seems to be professionally cut, so it probably came that way. Notice the scallop design around the edge of the frame, as well as around the rectangular box that the picture sits inside of. Also, take note of the black edges on each side of the photo.
Please share your thoughts/knowledge regarding approximate time frame based on clothing hairstyle, etc. Please offer any ideas or suggestions about the picture in general. I really need you to be as objective as possible, so I don't want to give any clues or hints about what I know and/or suspect about the picture. James Morgan III, I'd especially like to hear from you. I think you'll know why. 
Maureen Taylor, your expert opinion is also invited. 
The back of the frame is blank. It is not a post card, and there are no markings.
Unless you ask me a question, I will probably stay silent until I have come to some kind of conclusions. Thank you in advance for your help, and please feel free to tag anyone you know who might be "expert" in this type of work.
Thank you, in advance! I can wait to read your input!
Here's the picture. (One is close up, and the other a bit further away, so that everything I described can be seen.)

As I'd hoped, the photograph generated a lot of interest. Many who commented wanted me to tell what I knew about the photo, but if I had, it would have biased the perception of others, so I refrained. But, now the time has come for me to reveal what I (kind of) know, and to share my wonderings and newly-developed theories about the photograph.
So, for starters, the only thing I know for sure about the photo is that the female, who has an "x" marked under her likeness, is said to be "Blonnie Green", according to the penciled notation on the back of the photo. (Okay, I know I said there was nothing on the back, but I was trying to get viewers to understand that there was no information that would help us to know more about the when/where/how the photo was taken. I didn't want to give the name, because I didn't want folks to set off researching my grandaunt - my grandmother's oldest sister - which is who Blonnie Green was. My goal here was to try to determine who the man in the photo was, what the relationship was between him and Blonnie, and what the circumstances of the photo may have been. So, to those folks who asked, in one way or the other, if I knew anything about the photo, I apologize for not sharing that I did, indeed, have a name and that I knew exactly who the female was said to be. 
So, here's the big "reveal" of the back of the photo. Other than some stains, it only has my great-aunt's name - Blonnie Green.

As I've said, Blonnie Green was my grandmother's oldest sister. She was born in 1887, probably in Wake County (Rolesville), NC to my great-grandparents, John Wesley GREEN and Susan DUNSTON. I know that Blonnie existed because she's shown in the 1900 Census with the family, who then lived in Franklin County - Harris Township.
In 1900, John, Susan, and the children
I find the family, again, in 1910, and I'm very sure it's them, even though the enumeration details are way off. Blonnie is listed as a male, "Lonnie", and all of the children's ages are wrong. Still, in all my years of searching, I've never found another family that even comes close to matching theirs; all of the children's names are listed, and in the correct order. Also, John is reported to have been married for 20 years, but is now widowed, which is exactly in line with my research. (I'm thinking that someone else probably gave the info to the enumerator.) The family is now living in Rolesville, which is where, according to family tradition, all of the children were born.  The whole family is noted to be white, for which I have no explanation. I'm told that Great-grandpa John looked white, but Susan was dark. The children ranged from both ends of the spectrum, and every shade in between.
Here we see John (widowed) with all of the children - Blonnie ("Lonnie"), Mabel, Annie, William, and John. (Notice that Joseph is no longer there. I don't know what happened to him, but I'm assuming he died. This was before NC began mandated death certificates. I haven't been able to find any other mention of Joseph in almost 20 years of research, and there is no family knowledge of him.

There are a lot of reasons why this photo has raised my curiosity so, and why it's really important for me to attempt to positively identify the male in the photo. What I really want to know is this: Is the man in the photo my great-grandfather, John Wesley Green? (And if not, who could he be?)

To help determine if the male subject could be my ggf, I put out the query (above) to get opinions about the type, time period, and content of the photo. I wanted to see if the observations of others would support, or deflate my suspicion that this man might be John W. Green. Right away, those who chose to comment began to suggest an approximate timeline for the photo. Everyone was in agreement that it was most likely taken at the very end of the 19th century, or the first decade or so of the 20th. Most people also thought the female looked to be in her early to mid 20's. Since Blonnie was born in 1887, both of those observations are in line with her age, and helped to confirm that she was the female subject, as noted (by someone) on the back of the photo.

Once I established that I believed the female was Blonnie, it was time to figure out who the man was. Readers of the post seemed just as baffled as I about some of the observations. Was this a wedding photo? What was going on with the man's tie? Did these two sit for the photo together, or were two photos put together somehow. And then came the ringer that I came up with on the second day of the post -- Was this a postmortem photo, taken after Blonnie died???? In trying to answer some of these questions (with the help of my readers), I hoped to come to a conclusion about whether or not I was looking at my great-grandfather.

Obviously, I've never seen a photo of my ggf before, but I have been told by two family members that he was said to have "looked white", and that he had white hair and blue eyes. Having carried that description in my mind for at least 20 years, it was hard for me to immediately accept this younger, dark-haired man (with undetermined eye color) as John Green. So, what clues might there be? I asked my Facebook community to suggest ages for the pair, and most respondents indicated that they thought he was in his 40s. Well, John was born in 1864, so he would have been in his forties in the period 1904-1914. Since there is no death certificate for Blonnie, but she was enumerated in the 1910 census, I've ascertained that she died sometime between 1910-1913, probably between ages 23to 26, since the latter is the year NC began mandated use of death certificates. During that time, John would have been "in his forties", and certainly, if my suspicion of this being a postmortem (for Blonnie) photo turns out to be correct, the timing seems right. (More on that, in a future post. This one is already going to be long!)

So, we know that the man is about the right age to be John Green, and the woman is his daughter, Blonnie. What other clues could help to determine if this is my ggf?  Well, the gentleman is wearing a pin of some type, and all of us seem to agree that it's probably a Masonic pin (although someone did suggest a church pin). This was actually the first thing that stood out and made me wonder if I was finally looking into the eyes of my great-grandfather, because I'd uncovered his Masonic membership years ago. John (along with my other paternal great-grandfather and a great uncle) was a member of "The Pride of Louisburg", a fraternal lodge that was part of the F.A.A.M.
I found this document many years ago in the record of the Proceedings of the fifty--fifth communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, F.A.A.M., showing several of my ancestors as members.
In addition to knowing that John Green was a Mason, I remembered that in the one picture I have of my paternal grandfather, Calvin Yarborough, he is wearing a similar pin, which I'd always assumed to be a Masonic emblem. This helped to further support the idea that John's pin is a masonic one.
This is my grandfather (my father's father), Calvin R. Yarborough (C.R. Yarboro in the document above). I've always believed that my ggf John's relationship as a lodge brother to the younger Calvin, was how he ended up marrying my grandmother (John's daughter). But, that's another story for another post. :)

Okay. So, now we have ages (check), time period (check), Masonic connection (check). What else could help me to confirm, 100 years later, the probability that this man is most likely Blonnie's father, my great-grandfather, John Wesley Green?

Well, there was one little detail that no one (except me) seemed to notice on the photo. If you look verrrrry closely at the top of the man's necktie, you will see a letter. For two days, I thought the letter was a "C", and because of that, I was leaning away from thinking this could be John Wesley, since he had no C in his name. But, late last night (Monday), while looking at the photo again, and discussing it with my cousin, Betsy, it hit me. What if it's not a C???? I blew up the photo, and looked closely at the letter. And, then I had it. (And, I hollered it in her ear.) "IT'S A G!!!!!!! G is for GREEN!!!! 

With that final observation, I made a decision. 
This man has to be my great-grandfather, John Wesley Green, son of Nathaniel Hawkins and Anna Green! Perhaps someday I'll find a later photo, showing him with white hair and blue eyes, but for now, I'm glad to "meet" this dark-haired offspring of my 2x great-grandparents, and to gaze into his (likely grieving) eyes, saying, "Hello, 'Papa John'!" :)

To learn more about John Wesley Green, please visit this post I wrote about him, back in December 2015.

 I hope I'm right. For now, I'm going with it, but unless/until I find a confirming photo I know I'll always have that little wisp of doubt. This photo invites so many more questions, many of which were brought out in the Facebook comments, but I'll have to save that subject matter for future posts.

Three of the children of John Wesley Green and Susie Dunston
(L-R: Anna (my grandmother), William, and Mabel)

Before I close, I want to sincerely thank my cousin, Gail Fain Tyler, who is also John Green's great-granddaughter, Blonnie's great-niece, and granddaughter of Mabel Green (pictured above), for sharing this photo with me, and for now allowing me to keep it. I believe this is our ancestor, and I am eternally grateful to you for entrusting me with this photo, and the many others that you allowed me to bring home to digitize and research. 

The photos in the post are the property of Renate Yarborough Sanders, and are not to be used, apart from the sharing of this post, without express permission of the owner.

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