Monday, February 14, 2011

Putting Names to Faces of Long Ago

Meet Timothy and Margaret Ford of County Cork with two of their daughters, Eliza and Margaret, and two of their sons, whose names are still to be discovered. Timothy and Margaret are my great-great-great-grandparents. I have known their names for only two days.

Based on a consultation last year with Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective, I believe that the above picture of Timothy and Margaret with four of their children is a photograph, possibly taken in the 1880s, of a daguerreotype dating back to the early 1850s.

On Saturday I went to a class on New York City research offered by the California Genealogical Society (CGS) and taught by CGS’s President, Steve Harris. Steve told us about an indexed collection of probate records, New York, Kings County Estate Files, 1866-1923, now available for viewing at

I perused several of the probate files, and oh joy! I found a probate file for one of Timothy and Margaret’s daughters, Catharine Ford. The file revealed Catharine’s date of death and the names of her heirs. On the right is a photograph of Catharine taken about 1886 on Staten Island. Pictured with Catharine are the children of George Whitehouse, a stockbroker who worked in New York City.

Armed with Catharine’s date of death, I looked at eleven photographs I had taken three years ago on a trip with CGS to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Each photograph was a copy of a death certificate for a Catherine Ford who was single, born in Ireland around the 1830s, and who had died in one of the five boroughs of New York City. I found the one with a date of death which matched the date of death in Catharine’s probate file. On the death certificate, I found the name of Catharine’s father, Timothy Ford, and the name of her mother, Margaret Ford.

Hanging in our hall are reproductions of photographs of our direct line ancestors collected over the last dozen years. Timothy and Margaret, along with four of their children, have been staring at me for the past few years from a frame on the upper right hand corner of the far wall. Their names had eluded me for a decade. This weekend, another brick wall toppled.

Thank you California Genealogical Society.

© 2011, Cathy H Paris

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