dee_burris: (Default)
2013-07-12 08:18 pm

Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge: F is for Family Feuds


In addition to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of scans of old family photos I have, I also have framed portraits and framed prints of some of the scans. After I scanned the tintypes of my Meek ancestors, I had them framed to preserve them. Tintypes are not original photos I throw away after they have been digitized.

My dead relatives' gallery is spread throughout my home. From time to time, I wander through looking at them, peering intently to see if I can find physical similarities between the ancestors and descendants.

And occasionally, I pause in front of one or two. The Jefferson John Meek family is a good place to stop for contemplation.
In this entry, I talked about my black sheep great-great grandfather, James Alexander Meek, who left his family in 1868, and was apparently vilified by his son ever after, even down through two more generations.

It was the letter by James' great grandson, Joe Thomas Meek, that made me realize I have no photos of James Alexander Meek dated later than 1868.

 photo JamesAlexanderMeek-1.jpg

James' daughter, Maxie Leah Meek - my great grandmother - never knew her dad. She was born on 10 Feb 1869, after James was gone. Her mother, Mary Emily Conner, remarried before Maxie was two years old, and the new blended family moved to Russellville, AR.

 photo MaxieLeahMeek.jpg

Maxie had quite a few photos of her dad in the photo album given to her and the man she married - Jo Desha Williams - the Christmas before their marriage.

That's where the tintypes were - in that album.

I think it's unlikely that Maxie's mother permitted her as a child to travel back to Mississippi to visit the father who abandoned her. Perhaps Maxie had a relationship with her paternal grandparents before their deaths in 1889 and 1891, when she was a young wife and mother.

She got the photos from someone. Maybe she inherited them when her father died in 1917. Her brother would not likely have wanted them, given his animus toward their father.

The photos of James Alexander Meek, as well as those tintype photos which were taken long before Maxie was born, make me feel the wistfulness of a daughter who wished she'd had a dad.

I am taking the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge, albeit starting a few months late.
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-09-11 12:18 pm
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I think I may have identified some of these tintypes...

I've spent all morning with the Flip-Pal scanner, and my copy of Dressed for the Photographer, as well as the notes and research on my Meek family.

I have written before about my exasperation with my great grandmother, Maxie Leah (Meek) Williams, who was a consumate collector of photographs, but who hardly ever labeled them.

And it only took a little while after I inherited the photo album, begun in 1885, to realize that Maxie had squirreled away older photos between its leather covered wooden covers.

Which were also not labeled.

This morning I focused on the tintypes, because there were quite a few that had been taken in one photo session, and in the same location.
All these tintypes, which are of the heavier weight, bear marks of having been at one time encased in a paper folder, as was common to make it easy to mail them.

Tintypes came into common use beginning in 1856, so these photos could not have been taken before then. For several reasons, I am dating them between 1857 and the end of 1861, i.e., style of dress and hairstyle, composition of the family members for whom I have made definite and tentative identification, and the wholehearted participation of the Jefferson John Meek family in the Confederate States of America, beginning on 27 Mar 1862, when the Reverend Captain J J Meek started his very own CSA unit in Panola Co., MS.

I'm leaning toward sometime in 1861 as the actual date of the photos.
Since I knew these tintypes pre-dated the official "beginning" of the photo album at Christmas 1885, I had to figure out who these folks were who were obviously important to Maxie Leah Meek.

They could have been members of her mother's or father's family.

I looked first at the family of Mary Emily Conner, who was born in 1837 in DeSoto County, MS.

Mary had fair hair, as did her younger brother, James Alfred Conner. Most of these folks had dark hair, like Maxie's. There were not enough boys in Mary's family for these folks to be Conners.

So I looked at Maxie's father, James Alexander Meek. The apparent ages of the people in the tintypes fit fairly well with the Meeks.

I think the people in the photo above are Jefferson John Meek, his wife Henrietta "Hettie" (Donahoo) Meek, and their youngest child, Virginia Tennessee Meek, who was born 15 Jan 1859.

I think this is a photo of my great great grandfather, James Alexander Meek, and was probably taken because he and his father had decided to fully invest themselves in fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War. I think that reason may have been the impetus for all of these photos, because who knew who would be around at the end of the thing?

I think this is Robert D Meek, younger brother of James Alexander. There was a brother between them - William McEwen Meek - but he died at the age of 5 in 1843, and was buried in the family cemetery in Laws Hill, MS. If this is Robert, he didn't live long after this photo was taken, as he died in a Confederate POW camp in Alton, IL of smallpox on 16 Jun 1863.

I think this is Permelia Frances "Fanny" Meek. She had an older sister, Martha Bolton Meek, who died at the age of 17 in 1857, and I think these photos were taken after Martha's death.

I think this is either John G Meek (born in 1849), or Thomas Jefferson Meek (born 3 Jan 1850).

I think this may be Malsey K Meek, born in 1845.

I think this may be Lucy A Meek, born in 1847.

I feel less certain about the last two photos, because if they were taken in 1861, those girls don't look old enough to me to be Malsey and Lucy. I am almost certain I have accounted for all of the children of Jefferson John Meek and Henrietta Donahoo - so there aren't other possibilities.
I'd love for some other Meek researcher with photos to get in touch with me...

And I believe I'm going to shell out some cash to get a custom mat for these tintypes and frame them all together.
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-04-16 01:16 pm

Sepia Saturday: Dating some photos from the Williams family album...

Being unwilling to continue to tear my hair out to at least date these unlabeled photos, I was very intrigued by this post in Katherine's blog, Atlantic Roots.

So I ordered my very own copy of Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900, by Joan Severa.

It arrived yesterday.

So you know how I spent my Friday night.

I think I have much closer dates for two photos, after studying the photos in the book, as well as the excellent narrative Severa gives about other fashion clues, such as hairstyles.


This is my great-grandmother, Maxie Leah (Meek) Williams. I'm going to date this photo about 1886 (she married on 11 Feb 1886) due to the rounded bodice of the dress, as well as the collar, and the hint of the bustle on the back of the dress.

Many bodices of this period had tight sleeves cut short on the forearm and featuring cuffs or half-cuffs. (Source: Dressed for the Photographer, at page 378.)

Severa goes on to say, In eighties photographs all bodices appear corset-fitted, many with very high standing collars. Similarly, sleeves are set very high, with the armscye cut somewhat in from the point of the shoulder in back, and are extremely tight... (Id., at page 379.)

There are also dating clues in the way she wore her hair. ...In the matter of coifure, the hair will be worn a good deal lower on the neck than it has been for some two seasons past...The style of dressing the front hair remains unchanged [in curled bangs]. (Id., at page 385.)

The puff sleeves on the dress and much shorter and tightly curled bangs make me think this photo was taken in the very late 1890's, and that theory is supported by the listing of the photographer, Jno H Ganner of Russellville, in the 1900 Arkansas Business Directory.

I believe this is still Maxie Leah, but do not have a clue as to the identity of her younger companion.


This book is making a formerly dreaded chore much more fun.

This is a Sepia Saturday post.