Mystery solved

Summerside ge­neal­o­gist tracks down de­scen­dants of peo­ple in por­traits pur­chased at an­tique store

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY COLIN MACLEAN

Summerside ge­neal­o­gist tracks down de­scen­dants of peo­ple in por­traits pur­chased at an­tique store.

There was some­thing about the pho­to­graphs in her hand that called to Glenda Cough­lin, of Summerside.

They were small things, ob­vi­ously very old. In mod­ern terms, they’d be wal­let-sized por­traits.

All three fea­tured well­dressed peo­ple. Two were women, one ob­vi­ously younger than the other and one was a man with large mut­ton­chops and a mus­tache.

Cough­lin was stand­ing in Rose Cot­tage An­tiques in Summerside as she ex­am­ined the por­traits for the first time. There was a large stack of old pho­tos she’d sifted through, and th­ese three were the only ones with iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion.

Two of the three, the older woman and the man, were of sim­i­lar make and had an iden­ti­cal dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture in the sur­name “Small” writ­ten on their re­verse. The third por­trait fea­tured only the first name Bar­bara and the name of the por­trait stu­dio.

“Th­ese, I feel, have to go home to their fam­i­lies,” she told the pro­pri­etor as she paid $2.95 for each photo.

“It made me feel so bad to look at those beau­ti­ful pic­tures; they had lives and sto­ries to tell, and they had no iden­tity. Peo­ple would just sort of pass by. So when I saw those three with names on them I just couldn’t pass by. I wanted to know their story.”

It took a bit of ge­nealog­i­cal sleuthing, but Cough­lin made good on her ob­ser­va­tion.

She’s man­aged to track down the great-grand­chil­dren of the two Smalls in the pic­tures, one in North Roy­al­ton, Ohio, and an­other other in Ana­heim, Cal­i­for­nia.

It turns out the man and woman were sib­lings named David (1846-1920) and Janet (Jen­nie) Small (18491928). Their par­ents were John Darby Small (1800-1884) and Jane Glover, of Summerside.

Cough­lin used a com­bi­na­tion of cen­sus in­for­ma­tion and old pho­to­graphs avail­able on the web­site An­ces­try.ca to even­tu­ally con­nect to the de­scen­dants of the peo­ple in her pho­to­graphs, one of which was ea­ger to pur­chase the pho­to­graph from her. She de­clined pay­ment, but still plans to send along the pho­tos to their de­scen­dants.

“I told him, ‘all hearts go home for Christ­mas,’” she said.

San­dra MacDonald, a descen­dant of Janet Small who lives in B.C. and who has been work­ing with Cough­lin said she’s grate­ful for her ef­forts.

“It is so heart­warm­ing that Glenda would look at a small bit of in­for­ma­tion on a stranger’s pho­to­graph and take the time to find her fam­ily. It was a very kind and thought­ful ges­ture and an un­ex­pected gift from far away in both time and miles. And now, al­though I live on the other side of the con­ti­nent, I hope some day to come to Summerside to see where my an­ces­tors lived and worked.”

“It made me feel so bad to look at those beau­ti­ful pic­tures; they had lives and sto­ries to tell, and they had no iden­tity. Peo­ple would just sort of pass by. So when I saw those three with names on them I just couldn’t pass by. I wanted to know their story.”

Cough­lin is a life-long ge­nealog­i­cal re­searcher with a pen­chant for mys­ter­ies.

She’s un­der­taken th­ese kinds of projects be­fore, both for her own in­ter­est and oc­ca­sion­ally as a hired con­sul­tant.

She was adopted into the Cough­lin fam­ily, she said, so she’s al­ways had a strong in­ter­est in fam­ily ties, both bi­o­log­i­cal and adopted.

Her grand­fa­ther lived with them for many years as well so she grew up lis­ten­ing to his sto­ries, and both her par­ents had strong his­tor­i­cal in­ter­ests.

“(History) kind of stuck and it went from there. I couldn’t wait to get to Grade 5 so I could get a history book,” she said.

As for the third photo Cough­lin bought, the girl marked Bar­bara, she’s got a strong lead on some de­scen­dants.

She sus­pects her name was Bar­bara Ann McKen­zie and that she was born in Char­lot­te­town, even­tu­ally mov­ing to Bos­ton, Mass..

She’s reached out to a sus­pected grand­son who lives in Ana­heim and is hope­ful they’ll be able to con­firm her iden­tity.

How­ever, if they can’t con­firm Bar­bara’s ID, it’s back to square one for Cough­lin’s re­search. But that’s OK in her books. It only adds to the mystery.

If any­one else has an an­ces­tral mystery they think Cough­lin might be able to help solve, they can con­tact her at gcough­lin@pei.sym­pa­tico.ca or 902-436-5927.

ED­I­TOR’S NOTE : A pre­vi­ous version of this ar­ti­cle in­cor­rectly stated that San­dra MacDonald of B.C. is be­lieved to be a de­scen­dent of Bar­bara Ann McKen­zie. In fact, she is a de­scen­dent of Janet Small.

COLIN MACLEAN/TC ME­DIA

Glenda Cough­lin, of Summerside, has had a life-long love of history and ge­nealog­i­cal re­search. She re­cently put her skills to the test to find the de­scen­dants of some peo­ple in por­traits she found at a lo­cal an­tique store.

COLIN MACLEAN/TC ME­DIA

The three por­traits Glenda Cough­lin pur­chased. She’s man­aged to iden­tify with some cer­tainty the two peo­ple on the right as David and Janet Small, orig­i­nally of Summerside. She sus­pects the girl on the left might be Bar­bara Ann McKen­zie, who was born on P.E.I. but moved to Bos­ton later in life.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

A photo of the Small fam­ily of Summerside. Glenda Cough­lin used this photo, found on­line, to match David, front row sec­ond on right, and Janet Small, front, far right, with two por­traits she pur­chased at a lo­cal an­tique store.

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