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A photograph is worth a thousand words. At least, that’s how the saying goes. I don’t know about a thousand words, but I do know there are stories in the pictures of our ancestors. Photographs often fill in the details of a person’s life that is not found in the records.
Take the photograph below as an example.
On the surface, I know this is a photograph of Esther Richardson Talbott (left) and her friend Nannie Lee Farson (right). Esther’s mother Hattie Elliott Richardson is in the center. The two young women are enjoying time together writing letters while Hattie looks on.
Now look closer. Notice anything specific about Esther?
Esther was left handed! Who knew? The family is fortunate to have many of Esther’s letters to her young beau (and eventually her husband) Boss Henry Talbott. Having read Esther’s handwriting in the past, I had not picked up that it was written by a lefty. Usually a left handed writer has a distinctive quality about their penmanship, but Esther’s does not.
Now look closer at Nannie Lee’s hand (on the right). She is right handed and she wears a wedding band on her left ring finger. This photograph can now be placed within a time frame. Nannie Lee Farson was married in March 1919. Esther passed away from influenza in January of 1923. This is a photograph of the women taken between March of 1919 and December 1922. The trees in the background are bear and Esther is wearing a coat indicating the time of year was late fall or early winter.
While learning an ancestor is left handed is not a major genealogical find, it does give us an interesting detail about her. Learning to examine – really examine – our ancestors’ photographs helps us learn the details of their lives.
Pull out your ancestors’ photo, get a good light and magnifying glass (like this one), and see what you can discover in the details of your photographs.