Cohens on the Beach: Another Case for Sherlock Cohn, The Photogenealogist

This photograph and the analysis of it will stick with me for a long time, probably forever. Why? Because it’s the last photograph that I asked my father about before he died in February, 2019.

A little background. A scan of that photograph and many others had been sent to me several years ago by a cousin-by-marriage named Lou; he and I were connected through my our mutual cousin, once removed, Marjorie Jane Cohen, the daughter of Bessie Craig, Lou’s great-aunt, and Stanley Cohen, my great-uncle.

In addition, in the summer of 2018 I connected with another Cohen cousin, Marcy, the granddaughter of Maurice Cohen, Sr., who was also my great-uncle, my grandfather John’s other brother. Marcy sent me several photographs including this one of Maurice, Sr., and his sons, Buddy and Junior, my father’s other first cousins.

Emanuel (Buddy), Maurice, Sr., and Maurice, Jr. (Junior) Cohen

Emanuel (Buddy), Maurice Sr., and Maurice Jr. Cohen

I already had the photographs below from Lou and used this one from Marcy to identify the people in these two. The bottom one was obviously Maurice Cohen, Sr., and looking at these two photographs with my father in the summer of 2018, we identified the woman as Maurice’s wife, Edna Mayer Cohen, the baby as their son Emanuel (Buddy) Cohen, born in 1922, and the little boy as their older son, Maurice Cohen, Jr., born in 1917.

Edna Mayer Cohen holding Buddy Cohen, 1922

Maurice Cohen Jr. and Maurice Cohen Sr., 1922

Based on these photographs, I could identify  the man kneeling in the right rear of the beach photograph as Maurice Sr. with his wife Edna sitting in front of him. Here are close-ups of the man and woman on the right side of the beach photograph; you can see they are the same people as the adults depicted in the three photos above:

It was also clear that the woman on the left side of the beach photo was Bessie Craig Cohen, Stanley Cohen’s wife, as you can see from these photos of Bessie that Lou had sent me from  Marjorie’s collection:

Stanley and Bessie (Craig) Cohen

Bessie Craig Cohen

Bessie Craig Cohen

Here is a closeup of the woman I believe is Bessie Craig Cohen in the beach photo:

But who who were the two children and the older woman in the center? And who was the man with the mustache in the rear left side of the photograph?

Although the back of the  beach photograph is dated 1923, I wondered if that was a mistake. I thought that perhaps the photo was really taken in 1933 because the girl in the middle resembled pictures I had of Marjorie when she was a girl:

 

Marjorie 1933

But Marjorie was born in 1925, meaning the photograph could not have been taken in 1923. I also speculated that the little boy could be my father, who was born in 1926. And perhaps the woman in the middle was Eva Seligman Cohen, my great-grandmother, Marjorie and my father’s paternal grandmother. I speculated that the photograph had been incorrectly dated 1923 when 1933 would have been more accurate.

So I showed the photograph to my father. He agreed with me about my identifications of Maurice, Sr., Edna, and Bessie. But he was adamant that the woman in the middle was not his grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen and that the little girl was not Marjorie. He pointed out that Marjorie did not have the high forehead of the little girl on the beach, as you can see above. He wasn’t as certain about the little boy since his face is partially hidden in the photograph. Nor could he identify the man with the mustache.

I knew this was another case for Ava “Sherlock” Cohn, who has done such outstanding work for me before. I recently received Ava’s report on the beach photograph, and once again she has done an incredibly thorough job of research and analysis and written a persuasive report on her conclusions. I wish my father was still alive because he would be so happy to read Ava’s report. She agreed with him that that is not Marjorie on the beach and that the woman is not my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen, and my father loved to be right.

So who are these people? Thanks to Ava’s expert analysis, I believe I now have some of the answers. In order to explain, I will share, with Ava’s permission, some of her report.

First, Ava concluded that the photograph was correctly labeled as having been taken in 1923, not 1933 as I had hoped:

In order to properly date this photograph, it is important to look at the clothing of the beach-goers.

In general, the beachwear is appropriate for the time period of the early 1920s. The woman on the left side of the photograph (who has been identified as Bessie Craig, wife of Stanley Cohen) is wearing the most recognizable twenties bathing suit and swim cap. Below, left, is an example from around 1920 of a swim cap very similar to Bessie’s cap that covers her forehead to the eyebrows.  On the right is an example of a suit and cap from a 1919 advertisement for Tom Wye of Winchendon, Massachusetts, a knitting plant. Notice the white sash that is similar to the one on Bessie’s suit.

Likewise, the same type of white sash/belt can be seen on the man on the right in the back. Bessie’s dark stockings are a little old-fashioned for 1923 as stockings were generally worn pre-1923 when bare legs were the preference of style setters. The swimwear/streetwear worn by the others in the photograph is less revealing of the date but within the same time period of the early 1920s.

… Given all of the clothing/bathing suit styles being worn in the photograph, the date of the photograph is clearly closer to 1923 than to 1933 as Amy had speculated.

Once the photograph was dated in the early 1920s, it was clear that Marjorie and my father could not be the children in the photograph as they weren’t yet born.

Ava then estimated the ages and birth years of the people in the photograph:

 I am estimating the following age and approximate birth year (based on a 1923 photo date) of those in the photograph as follows:

    1. Woman seated in front—early to late 60s; birth year (approx.1854-1863)
    2. Young boy seated in front on the right—5-6 years old; birth year (1917-1918)
    3. Woman behind young boy—early 30s; birth year (1890-1891)
    4. Man kneeling on the right—early 30s; birth year (1890-1891)
    5. Young girl in middle—5-7 years old; birth year (1916-1918)
    6. Man kneeling on left—28-30; birth year (1893-1895)
    7. Woman seated on left (identified as Bessie Craig)—29 years old; birth year 1894

Based on these ages and birthdates and other photographs that I had shared with Ava as well as her own research, she made several possible identifications of the people in the photograph.

First, she concluded that the young boy was Maurice Cohen, Jr., the son of Maurice Sr. and Edna, who are right behind him in the photograph. Ava wrote;

Maurice’s eldest son, Maurice, Jr., was born in 1917 and would be age 6 in 1923. Though he resembles Amy’s father, John, Jr., (particularly his haircut) he has been identified in the photograph of Eva Seligman Cohen and Emanuel Cohen also taken in Atlantic City in 1922 as Maurice, Jr. (known as “Junior”) and, therefore, I believe the boy on the beach is Maurice, Jr.

Here is that 1922 photograph:

Emanuel Cohen, Eva Seligman Cohen, and Maurice Cohen Jr. 1922

Here is a closeup of the boy on the beach taken a year later:

As for the young girl, Ava’s hypothesis is that she is a niece of Bessie Craig Cohen, one of the two daughters of Bessie’s brother Christopher, Margaret or Mary Rita.  Ava located some photographs online of Christopher Craig’s daughters that show a resemblance. Margaret was born in 1918 and thus would have been about five in 1923 when the photograph was taken.

 

When I received Ava’s report, I contacted Lou, who is the son of one of those daughters and the nephew of the other.  He sent some additional photographs of his mother and aunt that support Ava’s conclusion that the girl in the photograph is Christopher Craig’s daughter. The girl in this 1934 photograph is Lou’s mother Mary Rita Craig. Note the resemblance to the girl on the beach, who was probably her older sister Margaret:

Mary Rita Craig, 1934

That brings me to the older woman in the center of the photograph. Ava agreed with my father that this woman was not his grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen. Ava based her conclusion on comparisons to other photographs of my great-grandmother Eva and noted the differences in their facial structure and appearance.

Eva Seligman Cohen

Then she considered other women in the extended family who might have been in the photograph. She narrowed the possibilities to Sarah Jane Tadley Craig, Bessie Craig Cohen’s mother, or Edna Mayer Cohen’s mother, Ella Stern Mayer. Ella was born in about 1860 (sources conflict), making her about 63 in 1923; Sarah was born in 1869, so would have been 54 in 1923.

Although Ava thought the woman on the beach appeared to be closer to 63 than 54 in age and also found some resemblances between that woman and Edna Mayer Cohen, she was not willing to rule out the possibility that the woman on the beach was Sarah Jane Tadley Craig.

In fact, when I sent Ava additional photographs of Marjorie, Sarah’s granddaughter, Ava was struck by the resemblance between the shape of Marjorie’s face, her chin in particular, and that of the woman on the beach. We hope to receive a photograph of Sarah Jane Tadley Craig from Lou that may make a final identification easier.

One other hint that that woman may be Sarah Craig came from an additional photograph Lou sent after receiving Ava’s report—a photograph that was obviously taken at the same time as the photograph we are analyzing:

Note that in this photograph Stanley has replaced the man with the mustache and only Stanley, Bessie, the young girl, and the older woman are in the photograph (with Edna in the background). After thinking about this, it occurred to me that this photograph was intended only to show the members of the Craig family: Bessie, her niece, and her mother, plus her husband, Stanley. Look how the older woman has her hand affectionaltely placed on Bessie’s leg, something a mother would do, but probably not the mother of a sister-in-law. That seems to corroborate the theory that the older woman was Sarah Craig, not Ella Mayer.

But who was the man with the mustache? How does he connect to the rest of this group? That is the subject of post to come at a later time. Ava and I were going back and forth, both of us somewhat uncertain about that one, so she suggested we get some distance from it and revisit “in a while.” So I am heeding her advice and will postpone that discussion after a break from staring at that man with the mustache over and over and over.

Photo Analysis: Why You Should Ask an Expert

Sometimes you need to hire an expert to help with hard questions.  With the help of the genealogy village—my fellow bloggers and the members of the various Facebook groups and JewishGen—I have been able to find and learn more than I ever imagined.  But when it came to some of those mystery photos that bewildered and frustrated me, I decided it was time to find an expert, and the expert who came highly recommended—for good reason—is Ava Cohn, a/k/a Sherlock Cohn, the Photo Genealogist.

I had originally sent Ava this photo of my grandfather Isadore Goldschlager because I was curious about identifying the other people in the photograph.

Isadore Goldschlager and unknown others

Isadore Goldschlager and unknown others

But Ava and I discussed it, and she concluded that without more information and more photographs, it would be impossible to make much progress identifying total strangers who lived over a hundred years ago. I really appreciated Ava’s honesty, and when she asked if I had any other photographs that might be more amenable to her analysis, I looked back to consider some other options.

I sent her this photograph from Fred Michel’s album, which I had discussed here and here and here, but about which I remained somewhat mystified.

Uncle Adolf and Grandmother Gau Algesheim

I had concluded tentatively from my own analysis and comparison to other photographs and the inscriptions on the photograph that the older woman was probably my three-times great-grandmother Babetta Schoenfeld Seligmann, and the two men labeled Onkel Adolf and Onkel Jakob were probably Babetta’s sons, Adolf and James, brothers of my great-great grandfather Bernard Seligman.  Adolf, like my great-great-grandfather Bernard, had left Germany and settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and James had moved to Great Britain.  I had learned that James was not a common name for boys in Germany in the 19th century so it was likely that he was born Jakob and adopted the name James after emigrating.  Also, my cousin Lotte, who had met James Seligman when she was a young girl, thought that “Onkel Jakob” resembled the man she remembered as James Seligman.

But I was not at all sure who the two younger women were, especially the woman to the left in the photograph.  I’d asked on the blog if anyone could read the inscription near her picture, but no one was certain what it said.  The woman in the center appeared to be labeled Anna Oppenheimer, but I couldn’t understand why she would be in the photo.  Anna Oppenheimer was the daughter of Pauline Seligmann and Maier Oppenheimer and the granddaughter of Babetta.  But why of all the grandchildren would only she be in this photograph, especially since her mother was not included, just two of her uncles?

Ava studied the photograph as well as my blog posts, my family tree for the Seligmann family, and other photographs of the Seligmann family, and then sent me a detailed and thorough analysis of her own conclusions, which I found well-founded, fascinating, and persuasive.  With her permission, I am sharing some of her report.

I thought Ava’s analysis of the overall relationships among those in the photograph based on traditional posing in studio photographs of families was quite interesting:

In the mystery photograph, the family is posed in a typical family grouping of five individuals seated and standing around a large library table upon which is a dog, perhaps the family pet. The photo has been taken in a photographer’s studio with an appropriate backdrop for the time period. The two individuals on the left hand side appear to be a married couple while the elderly woman seated on the right could be mother or grandmother to one or more of the individuals in the photo. The man on the right, probably a son and the young woman in the center holding the dog could be related but are not married to each other.

Ava concluded that the photograph was taken in 1896-1897.  Here is part of the reasoning for her conclusion:

To establish a year for the photograph, I looked at the clothing worn. Since what we know of the family’s comfortable economic status, it is logical that they are wearing up-to-date fashions, for the most part. The elderly woman, as is customary for many older women, is not as fashionable as the two younger women. Her dress, with multiple small buttons down the bodice, is a typical style of the 1880s as is her bonnet. The other two women are wearing clothing from the latter half of the1890s, post 1895. By this point in time the enormous leg-o-mutton sleeves of the 1893-1895 time period have become less full with the vestige of fullness above the elbow.  The man on the left is wearing a high Imperial collar, common in the 1890s.

Ava agreed that it was reasonable to conclude that the elderly woman labeled “Grossmutter Gau Algesheim” was Babetta Schoenfeld Seligmann and that the man on the right, labeled Onkel Adolf, was her son Adolf Seligman, brother of Bernard and a resident of Santa Fe in the 1890s.  At that time Adolf was in his fifties (born in 1843) and unmarried.  Ava thought that the man labeled Onkel Adolf in the photo appeared to be in his mid-fifties. Ava did not think the woman in the center was Adolf’s wife, Lucy, since Lucy would have been only about fourteen in the mid-1890s and did not marry Adolf until 1902.

 

Onkle Adolf

Rather, Ava opined that the woman in the center was in fact Anna Oppenheimer as labeled.  She would have been nineteen or twenty in 1896-1897:

It appears that she is wearing a wedding or engagement ring in the photograph. The writer of the inscription has used Anna’s maiden name, Oppenheimer, as opposed to her married name, Anna Kaufman, so, along with the absence of Max Kaufman in the photograph, I believe that this photo was taken before her marriage to Max. Again, having a marriage certificate for Anna and Max could confirm why the writer used Anna’s maiden name here instead of her married name.

Unfortunately, I do not have a marriage record for Anna, and there is no record of any children born to her and her husband Max Kaufman so it is impossible to determine when exactly they married.

Anna Oppenheimer maybe

That left the two remaining people in the photograph: Onkel Jakob and the woman sitting on the left side of the picture whose name I could not decipher in the inscription.  Ava agreed that “Onkel Jakob” was James Seligman. So who was the other woman?

Ava believes that she was James/Jakob Seligman’s wife, Henrietta Walker Templeton, who was born in England in 1866 and married James Seligman in London in October 1887.  Ava read the inscription next to the woman to be “Tante Heni:”

Tante Glori

 

Heni is a nickname for Henrietta and clearly shows the relationship with the writer of the inscription because of the informal use of a nickname. Tante (Aunt) could be one by marriage not necessarily by blood. In the mystery photo Heni appears to be about age 30-31.

In addition, Ava interpreted the posing as indicative of a marital relationship between Jakob and the woman seated in front of him, saying, “The manner in which he is posed with his arm around the back of Heni’s chair suggests their relationship.”

This made perfect sense to me.  Ava speculated that perhaps James and Henrietta had come to Gau-Algesheim to celebrate their tenth anniversary with the Seligmann family, which would have been in 1897.  I also recalled that Lotte had mentioned in an email dated July 6, 2015, that James and his English wife (whom Lotte referred to as Hedy) had visited “the continent” once.  Lotte was born in 1921, so would not remember a visit in the 1890s, but the fact that James and his wife visited during Lotte’s lifetime in Germany makes it even more likely that they had in fact visited on earlier occasions.  Lotte also said that James returned after Henrietta’s death in 1928.

Ava even analyzed the dog in the photo.

Given that the same dog appears in both the mystery photograph and the one of Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann (born 1875), I thought I’d include that here. It is clearly the same dog. I had considered that the dog may have belonged to the photographer but given how calm he/she appears in the photographs, I believe he was a family pet. The photo of Bettina was taken roughly 3 years after this one, circa 1900. The photo of Bettina may have been an engagement picture as she and Adolf Arnfeld married in 1900.

Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann

Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann

Anna Oppenheimer maybe

Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld was the daughter of Hyronimus Seligmann, Babetta’s son and brother of Bernard, Adolf, and James, among others.  She was Anna Oppenheimer’s first cousin.  So whose dog was it? Certainly not James or Adolf since neither lived in Germany.  Perhaps the dog belonged to Babetta? She is the only common link between the two young women pictured with the dog.  Babetta died 1899; if Ava is correct and the photograph of Bettina was taken in 1900, perhaps Bettina inherited the dog from her grandmother?

I was quite satisfied and persuaded by Ava’s analysis of the family photograph.  But she didn’t stop there.  I had also supplied her with additional photographs to help with her analysis of the family photograph.  For example, I sent her this one, which I believed was a photograph of Babetta as a young woman.

Uncertain see ava report

I had based that conclusion on the fact that another photograph that I paired with the one of the woman was labeled Grossvatter and thus presumably was my three-times great-grandfather Moritz Seligmann.

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

But Ava disagreed about the identity of the young woman:

I did a comparison of the older photograph of a young woman that you supplied. This photograph is roughly dated circa 1859-1861 based on clothing and hairstyle as well as the type of image, most probably a daguerreotype popular in the 1850s and very early 1860s. The young woman appears to be in her teens and no more than 20 years of age. This eliminates the possibility that this earlier likeness is Babetta who would have been 49-51 years old. But there is a possibility given the provenance of the photograph and the resemblance to Babetta that this is one of her daughters, Pauline or Mathilde. It is unlikely to be her niece/stepdaughter, Caroline. Given that the photo was obtained from the Michel descendants, Pauline is the most likely candidate. Further research, documentation and comparison photographs would be needed to make a positive identification. 

Although I was quite disappointed to think that this was not Babetta, the more I considered Ava’s analysis and the more I looked at the photograph of the young woman and the one of Moritz, the more I realized my error.  The frames on the two photographs are quite different as is the style and the posing.  I had just jumped to the conclusion that because Suzanne had sent these two photographs in the same email that they were of a couple.  That’s why sometimes you need to hire an expert!

Finally, Ava also did an analysis of the wonderful photograph that my cousin Davita had sent of a man she said was her grandfather, Adolf Seligman, and his favorite sister, Minnie, riding camels in Egypt:

gramdfather Adolph and great aunt Minnie_rev

I was quite surprised but also persuaded by what Ava had to say about the identity of the people in this photograph; she is quite certain that the woman is in fact Henrietta Walker Templeton, and the more I studied the photograph, the more I agreed.

The Egypt photo is roughly dated based on her suit and hat as being taken in 1910. That would make Heni 44 years old. Her face has aged from the earlier photo and she’s put on a bit of weight, not uncommon approaching middle age.  She is very stylish in the 1897 photo and likewise in the 1910 one. In both, she has chosen an up-to-date suit rather than a dress. Her dark hair is the same style. Notice the “dip” in her bangs on the right side of her forehead. It’s the same as the earlier photo.  Her eyebrows, nose and mouth are the same as is the overall attitude captured by the photographer.

Tante Heni

Tante Heni

 

Minnie Seligmann

After I read Ava’s comment, I checked the emails that Lotte had sent me and saw that she had described James’ wife as “big and pompous.”  The woman Ava concluded was Henrietta certainly does have a certain air of superiority in both of the photographs.

Also, I have absolutely no record of any kind supporting the existence of a Seligmann sister named Minnie, so already had had questions about Davita’s description. Thus, I was open to the idea that it was not Minnie, but someone else.  I hadn’t considered Henrietta since I believed that the man was Adolf, as Davita said.  Why would Henrietta from England be riding a camel in Egypt with her brother-in-law Adolf, who lived in Santa Fe?

But Ava raised a question as to whether this was in fact Adolf. If the photograph was taken in 1910, why would Adolf, who had married in 1902 and had three children by 1910, be traveling to Egypt? The more I looked at the earlier photographs of Adolf and Jakob/James, the more I became convinced that the man on the camel is in fact James, not Adolf.  Ava also agreed that it seems quite likely that it is James, not Adolf, in the photograph, but that without more information, we can’t be entirely sure, especially since Davita, the source of the Egypt photograph, believed that it was her grandfather Adolf. (Adolf died before Davita was born, so she had never met him in person and only had this one photograph that she had been told was of her grandfather.)

Adolph Seligman in Egypt

James or Adolf?

Onkel Jakob

James Seligman

Onkle Adolf

Adolf Seligman

Thus, although without more photographs and/or records we cannot be 100% certain, I am persuaded that Ava’s conclusions are correct about the likely identities of the people in the group photograph, the portrait of the young woman, and the Egypt photograph.

It was well worth the fee I paid to have the benefit of Ava’s expertise.  I highly recommend her to anyone who has questions about an old photograph.  If you are interested, you can email Ava at Sherlock.cohn@comcast.net or check out her website at http://sherlockcohn.com/  You will probably have to wait quite a while because her services are very much in demand and she devotes a great deal of time to each project, but it will be worth the wait.

[I was not paid or required by my contract with Ava to advertise her services; I am writing this blog post as a service to others who might be interested.]

 

 

 

.