24 July 2013

Picture Provenance: Yeah, I Know All Those People Who Died Before I Was Born

An earlier blog post included a scan that I made of a photograph that was taken of a photo of my great-grandparents and their children in approximately 1915.

How did I obtain that image of the photograph?  How do I KNOW that the people in the photograph are who I say they are? Does it even matter how I know? Does anyone care?

How I obtained the image is important. How I "know" who they people in the picture is important and, yes, it  does matter.

What I Know Based Upon My Personal Experience

What I actually know based upon my own supposed knowledge is little. The husband and wife look like an older version of a couple who appear in a picture that my grandmother, Ida Trautvetter Neill, identified as her parents, George and Ida (Sargent) Trautvetter. The oldest daughter in the picture does bear something of a resemblance to my Aunt Luella (Trautvetter) Barnett, but I only knew her when she was over seventy and the oldest daughter in this picture is a slightly younger than that. The youngest child in the picture bears a striking resemblance to my younger daughter when my younger daughter was the same age as the younger daughter in the picture, but that's not any sort of proof the two are related.

What I Was Told

The picture was given to me by the daughter-in-law of one of the Trautvetter children shown in the picture--the wife of a son of the youngest boy. The youngest boy stayed on the family farm after his parents' deaths and his wife is the one who actually shared the photo with the daughter-in-law. Is the knowledge second hand? Of course, but that doesn't mean the information is incorrect. It seems very reasonable that the wife of the youngest child had been told by her husband that the people in the picture was her husband's family when he was a child.

What I Record

My citation for my image of the picture should indicate it was made from a photograph of the picture that was taken of the original photograph that for some time was in the possession of the youngest son and that at the time the photograph of the portrait was taken the youngest son was deceased, but his widow would have likely have known that the picture was of her husband's family when he was a child.Wow, that's a paragraph. But I can't leave out "how I got it." A shorter version might be:

"Original photograph in possession of wife of youngest son in photograph. Digital image made from a photograph of original taken by daughter-in-law of youngest son and given to me."

In this blog post, I've stripped all the actual names, but in my actual citation those names should be included (full names, no "Aunt Mildred" or "Cousin Pat" references). I should also include the approximate date I believe the photograph was taken and where the family was believed to have lived at the time. The date of the photograph should also be included as it shows the last time the original was known to have been in existence.

Otherwise all we have is my sayso that the picture is of people, four of whom died before I was born, one who died when I was a small child, and others who I only knew in their "golden years." Sayso doesn't always amount to much.

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