Friday, January 20, 2012

Say Cheese! Remember the Town Photographer in Your Genealogical Hunt

Alberta Russell (1873-1952) is my first cousin, three times removed. That means that her mama (Ann Williamson) and my great-great grandfather (William Woodberry Williamson) were siblings. Ann married Alva Russell, as in Russellville, Arkansas, where my Williamsons have been since the 1830's. The city was named for Alva's father, Thomas Russell.

Alberta married John H. Ganner, town photographer. This got me thinking...

Have you researched your town's photographer? If not, you should.

Not only was John Ganner a local photographer for decades, over 3,000 images of his collection are housed at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

I see several names that I recognize in this collection. Not only Ganners, but Russells, too. The photo at the top of the collection page shows another cousin of mine. If you look closely, you can see Anna "May" Russell in the door of the photography studio. She is Alberta's sister, also my first cousin, thrice removed.

How I wish I could visit this library and get permission to view these images! I wonder if any of my Williamsons are any of the "unidentified" subjects in the photos?

If you have any studio photos of your ancestors, look for the name of the photographer somewhere on the photo. You can also use city directories to identify local photographers.

Research the photographers names and see if their work is being housed in special collections like that of John Ganner. You never know if your ancestors are in there.

Also, be sure to browse the special collection portions of the library web sites of colleges and universities in the regions where your ancestors lived. Look for images of the towns and their residents. Often, Google does not search this deep into library databases, so you have to do the browsing work yourself.

The genealogical information provided about Ganner and his family is a gold mine to my own tree. I am thankful his granddaughter donated the collection. Maybe I'll find the time someday to head to Fayetteville and seek permission to view it myself.

Until then let's remember to research the local photographers. Their pictures tell our ancestors' stories, too.

1 comment:

  1. Great idea! Just what I need, another photo project, but I do have some unidentified or partially identified professional photographs.