Last year, my cousin’s wife and I embarked on a combined research effort to track down the descendants of Christian Jens Jacobsen Walsted (1833-1899) of Aalborg, Denmark. Christian, a shoemaker,1 married twice, first to Mariane Jensen,2 and later to Johanne Marie Larsen.3 In all, seven of his children survived to adulthood, and all eventually immigrated to America. In 1900, less than a year after Christian’s death, Johanne joined several of their children in western Iowa.4
This unidentified photograph was shared with my cousin’s wife by one of the many helpful descendants with whom we made contact.5 In all of our hours of research, we had never thought that we might come up with a photograph of our central subjects! Given that this photograph was taken in Aalborg, we immediately felt that it could be Christian and his second wife, Johanne. A librarian at the Museum of Danish America thoughtfully suggested that it might have been taken to commemorate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. This would date it to 1892.6At the time of their anniversary, Christian would have been fifty-eight years old,7 and Johanne would have been fifty-five.8 These seem to be plausible ages for the couple in the photograph, particularly given the gray in the man’s beard. The woman wears a flattering black dress and a headpiece over her hair. Her sleeves are puffed, but not in an exaggerated fashion.9 The man wears a three-piece suit and what appears to be a watch chain. He sits in a finely carved chair at a studio, which, according to the photograph, was located at Slotsgade 15 in Aalborg. A photographer allegedly operated at this location from 1891-1910.10
Later, I would hear from another descendant who possessed an identified copy of this same photograph,11 verifying our suspicion that it was, indeed, a photograph of Christian and Johanne (Larsen) Walsted. Success!
If you have a mystery photograph, be sure to find out if any of your relatives also have a copy. If you are able to locate a copy that is identified, and if the identification matches the clues in the photograph, you’re in luck. However, even if you come across a copy that is not identified, you may be able to narrow down who is in the photograph based on the branch of the family that held it, or who initially passed it down.
1 Abbey of Our Lady Parish (Aalborg, Denmark), Christian Jens Jacobsen Valsted (1899).
2 Dronninglund Parish (Dronninglund, Denmark), Christian Jens Jacobsen Valsted and Mariane Jensen (1863).
3 Dronninglund Parish (Dronninglund, Denmark), Christian Jens Jacobsen Valsted and Johanne Larsen (1867).
4 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 December 2013), manifest, S.S. Norge, Copenhagen to New York, arriving 1 May 1900, Johanne Walsted; citing National Archives microfilm T715, roll 119.
5 J.W. [personal information withheld], to Melanie Frick, e-mail, 27 May 2012, “Photo,” Personal Correspondence, Walsted Family, Frick Research Files; privately held by Frick.
6 M.M. [personal information withheld], The Danish Immigrant Museum [now Museum of Danish America], to Melanie Frick, e-mail, 30 May 2012, “Danish Wedding Photograph,” Personal Correspondence, Walsted Family, Frick Research Files; privately held by Frick.
7 Dronninglund Parish (Dronninglund, Denmark), Christian Jens Jacobsen Valsted and Johanne Larsen (1867).
8 Dronninglund Parish (Dronninglund, Denmark), Christian Jens Jacobsen Valsted and Johanne Larsen (1867).
9 Joan Severa, Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900 (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1995), 458.
10 “Fotografer,” Aalborg Leksikon (http://aalborgleksikon.dk/Fotografer.htm : accessed 6 December 2013).
11 D.A. [personal information withheld], to Melanie Frick, e-mail, 1 June 2012, “Walsted Photo,” Personal Correspondence, Walsted Family, Frick Research Files; privately held by Frick.