The Unknown Woman

unknown on glass

I haven’t cleaned up this image at all. I love the detail – her bonnet, dress, the flowers, her hands and her face!

So often in the old records women are not named, or if named, only a first name.  Maiden names can be so difficult to find sometimes.  And unlabeled photographs are a plague to all of us, but for me, this very old photo really stings.  I have no idea who she is.  I will claim her as part of my family, but I have no basis other than possession of the photo.

I believe this is an ambrotype which was popular from about 1850 to the mid-1860s.  The image is on the back of the glass and is covered on the back with a black sealant.  The woman looks fairly old – but life was tougher then, so maybe she’s not all that old.  I’m thinking maybe she’s 60-ish.  What do you think?  If you see any more clues, please let me know.  I’m going to look at the birthdates for women that might fit into this range.  The other thing is several of my branches probably couldn’t afford a photograph, so that might help limit it too.  But I will never know for sure.

I’m going to keep the image nearby.  She will become a symbol of those nameless women in our family trees.  I want to know her story.

3 thoughts on “The Unknown Woman

  1. The problem with trying to date this by the clothing is that, as an older woman, she might not have had the newest fashions to begin with and a “good” dress might only be taken out on special occasions. So the dress style may be years older than the date of the photograph. The dress is looking more from the 1840s/1850s to me.
    I have several unnamed ambrotypes in my collection, and I sadly wish I knew who they were.


  2. She is not wearing a wedding band. Could be she wasn’t wearing one because she wasn’t married, or she didn’t wear rings because she used her hands a lot.
    I too have photos that no one currently living can account for. I enjoy the detective work required to find answers.



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