Monday, July 9, 2012


© Kathy Duncan, 2012

Family pictures, with identifications, are the icing on the cake. Too many, however, come to us with missing identifications, or just as bad, they are misidentified. The lesson I've learned the hard way is to examine old family photographs with a family chart at hand. Such is the case of this photograph of my great-grandparents and their children:

Seated are my great-grandparents, Richard Elick Duncan and Susan Gertrude (Nevill) Duncan. The youngest boy to the right of Susan is my grandfather, Fred Duncan. I remember being told that the littlest girl in front was Dollie Duncan. That was easy to remember because she is adorable, a living doll.

Recently, I examined the picture with a family chart for reference, and was forced to adjust my identifications of the children.

Children of Richard E. and Susan Duncan:

1. Mary Belle Duncan born 3 November 1894
2. Rebecca Dexter Duncan born 19 April 1896
3. Earl Duncan born 19 December 1898
4. Dona Duncan born 14 March 1900
5. Ray Duncan born 11 December 1902
6. Dollie Duncan born 21 March 1905
7. Fred Duncan born 14 March 1907
8. Ruby Duncan born 27 July 1911

As an great-grandparents started running out of names right away. Mary and Rebecca are the only family names that they recycled. Dona and Dexter and all the other children's names are "modern" and not from either side of the family. All of the children from Earl to Ruby only have one name. My great-grandparents seem to have lost the ability to come up with two name combinations almost immediately.

Using my grandfather, Fred Duncan, as an anchor child in the photograph, it becomes obvious that the wee lass standing between her parents cannot be Dollie. Dollie is two years older than Fred. Ruby, however, is four years younger and is, therefore, the littlest girl. That means Dollie Duncan is the girl on the left of her father. The older girl behind her is Dona Duncan. The oldest boy standing next to Dona is Earl Duncan. The boy standing between Earl and Fred is Ray Duncan. I've been told that this picture was taken at the family home.

Where are the old girls, Belle and Dexter? Both were married and no longer living at home. Mary Belle Duncan married Joe H. Holder on 25 August 1912 and Dexter married Ira Honeycutt on 16 Aug 1913.

This photograph can then be dated to after 16 Aug 1913. Ruby looks to be between two and three years old. I would guess that she is closer to two. The weather seems to be warm since Susan and the girls do not look cold. Ruby seems especially comfortable. I would guess the photograph was made in September or October of 1913. Ruby's dress is period for 1913 although it is not as loose fitting as the dresses I have seen from that time. Perhaps my great-grandmother skimped on the fabric? Dollie's dress is also period for 1913. It is also possible that the picture was taken in the spring of 1914.

In any event, my grandfather Fred Duncan would have been about six in this picture and that seems to be about right. Richard E. Duncan would have been 40 and Susan Gertrude (Nevill) Duncan would have been 42. What appears to be a moustache on Richard's upper lip is a fake one, penciled in by one of the children. Kids. They never change.

Richard Elick Duncan was the son of Isaac Duncan and wife Susan P. Reese.

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