photograph showcase, puzzling

Photograph Showcase: My Sister Alice

My mind has been rather intensely occupied by the whole muddled mess that is my Hyde line.  Surprisingly, after writing that last post about the updates I need to make, I discovered a whole new crazy plot twist involving bigamy.  Except this time, the crazy was in my direct line and for some reason that revelation was more upsetting than all of the previous discoveries – that should absolutely be more upsetting.  Of course, I haven’t shared those discoveries yet so you’ll just have to trust me that they should feel worse.  Sigh.  I’m adjusting.

But.  Because my mind has been so fixated on this part of my tree, this photo took on new meaning to me.  It is an image taken in Sheffield, England and labeled on the front, “my sister Alice”.

On the back it reads “Alice Hyde Duval”.  Now the note on the back was written by my own Grandmother.  If her note was correct, this photo would be of her grandmother, Alice Hyde who married Francis Cyprien Duval.

Her note is not correct.  This is definitely not Alice Hyde Duval.  Alice Hyde was born 29 July 1880 in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada.  She did travel to England with her father and younger sister Rosey after their Mother’s death in 1884.  But it appears they did not remain in England for very long, likely not long enough for her to be as old as the child in this photograph.  Rosey was left with her Hyde grandparents in Sheffield and Henry, Alice, and Henry’s new wife Alice left England bound for Alaska.

So who is “my sister Alice”?

I believe this photo is an image of Alice Whiteley.  Alice Whiteley is the sister of Ann Whiteley.  Ann Whiteley is the wife of Henry Hyde and the mother of Alice and Rosey Hyde.  Ann died 3 days after the birth of a daughter – who is believed to be Rosey – leaving Henry a widower with two young daughters.  He went back to England and married Ann’s younger sister Alice Whiteley.

We now have two females named Alice Hyde.  They are aunt and niece, and step-mother and step-daughter.

Alice Whiteley was 5 years old when her older sister Ann married Henry.

It appears that after Ann and Henry’s marriage, Henry left Ann in England for a time while he was living in Ontario.  She may have been there as late as 1879 – when Alice was 11 years old.  When Ann left England, Alice was her only living, unmarried sister.

So, as I said before, I believe this photo is of Alice Whiteley, the sister of Ann, who went on to marry Ann’s widower Henry.

But here is the really big deal…

If I am correct that this is a photo of Alice Whiteley, then I am likely looking at my 3rd great grandmother Ann Whiteley’s handwriting.

Ann Whiteley is a bit of a ghost in my tree.  She left almost no mark on this earth in the form of records.  There are no known photographs of her.  This might possibly be the only item she ever touched that still remains in our family’s possession.

That is cool.

And yet, did she write, “my sister Alice”?

On her marriage record in 1873, Ann signed her name with an x as her mark.  In the intervening years would she have learned to write so well?

I don’t know.

What I do know for certain, is that there are two family members in my tree named Alice whose lives intersect with Sheffield, England.  The only two candidates to be the subject of this photograph.  Alice Whiteley and Alice Hyde.  Aunt and niece, step-mother and step-daughter.  I have two photographs of them together.

Alice Hyde & Alice Whiteley Hyde
Alice Hyde and her step mother Alice Whiteley Hyde.

On the left is my 2nd great grandmother Alice Hyde, born in 1880 in Ontario, Canada.  On the right is Alice Whiteley, my 3rd great grandaunt, who was born in 1868 in Sheffield, England.

HYDE family, in Alaska

This photo was taken in Alaska.  Alice Hyde is in the back row and Alice Whiteley is in the front row on the right.

Based on their faces, I believe the child in the first photograph does look like the adult Alice Whiteley.


What do you think?


Is the child in the image Alice Whiteley born in 1868 in Sheffield?


If so, do you think Ann learned how to write well enough that she labeled this photo herself?



Every photo, letter, note, and artifact leave us clues.  I hope I am seeing all of the clues for what they are.



ps – Here’s one more factor… According to her 1940 prison record, Alice Hyde born in 1880 had grey eyes.  The eyes of the child in the photo appear to be very dark to me – brown or black.  And yes, you read that right.  My 2nd great grandmother went to prison when she was 60.  I told you this Hyde line is filled with a lot of heavy stuff.


22 thoughts on “Photograph Showcase: My Sister Alice”

  1. I also think the young Alice looks more like Alice Whiteley, but I don’t always trust my eyes. Did they curl hair back then? The women in the photos both have such curly hair whereas the little girl has such straight hair. And eye color is so hard to discern in a non-color photo. And why would your grandmother have labeled it incorrectly—wouldn’t she have been in a good position to know who was in the photo? All these things nag at me, so although I do see more resemblance to Alice Whiteley, I know that faces change, hair color changes, and our eyes fool us.

    1. Thank you for the questions Amy! I’ll start with the most glaring one that I should have addressed in my post.

      My Grandma was cut off from this entire side of her family when she was four years old. When her Grandma went to prison, so did her dad, an aunt, and two uncles – all for the same charges, sort of. My Grandma’s mother didn’t want any other problems like this and told her husband no more contact. He honored that until after her death in 1977. Alice Hyde died in 1950. All of my Grandma’s memories of her come from the first four years of her life. After reconnecting with this side of the family, my Grandma wrote to her elderly aunt (80+ years of age) who sent her all of her family photos. This was among them. My best guess is that my Grandma saw the name Alice, knew that was her Grandma’s name, and then added her note hoping to make things clearer for future generations. At this time, she didn’t know about Alice Whiteley.

      I know they did curl hair back then, but I don’t know how common it was. And you are right, there is a distinct difference in the curliness of the hair. I hadn’t even noticed that.

      I absolutely agree about it being nearly impossible to discern eye color from a black and white photo. The reason I mentioned it was because when I was looking closely at the image of Alice and Alice together, I noticed how light Alice Hyde’s eyes are in that photo. That made me wonder if she had ice blue eyes like my Grandma (and her brother). I pulled up her prison record and checked and it said grey. Then I noticed how very dark Alice Whiteley’s eyes look in the same photo of just the two women and went back to the photo of the child. Her eyes also seem very dark. That is why I asked the question. But again, I agree with you that you can’t really tell much about eye color in black and white photos.

      Thank you for asking such great questions! 🙂

      1. Now I really want to know more about this side of your family…. Your poor grandmother. It must have been very hard. I hope you can find an answer to your questions, and what you said makes sense. I just know that I tend to see what I want to see when I compare photos.

        1. This side of my family is definitely fascinating! It was hard for her. It was also weird for my mom because they spent lots of time with her Grandma’s family but she just thought my Grandpa didn’t have a family. It wasn’t until she was an adult that she knew he had living siblings. You are right – we do tend to see what we want to see in photos, so I appreciate your good questions.

            1. Yes! For me, I love the extremes in my tree, the scoundrels compared to the very pious, and everything in between. I think it helps me to be more accepting and compassionate because I come from such a diverse group of ancestors.

  2. For sure it isn’t Alice Hyde Duval in the photo of the little girl. Do you have any of her hand writing you can compare to the writing on the photo? Maybe Aunt Alice had someone write that on the photo for her? The little girl’s haircut bothers me, I thought in the Victorian era they all had long hair. Why is her’s cut like a boys? And, please don’t make me wait so long for more of the story……..:)

    1. Hi Heather! I don’t think I have any of Alice Hyde or Alice Whiteley’s handwriting to compare to. Of course, I may have a sample and just not realize it is theirs… I’m going to have to start a photo file of just unknown handwriting on this side of the family and see if I can match any of the writing samples and find patterns.

      Good suggestion on her having someone else write it. I hadn’t thought of that. I will say that the handwriting isn’t very smooth so maybe Ann did learn how to write. ?

      I agree on the haircut. It seems very odd that a girl would have such a short haircut at this time. One factor that I think is helpful on the gender issue is that this child is wearing a bracelet. There is an item dangling from it that looks like it could be a heart. I need to rescan this image at a high resolution so I can zoom in and see it more clearly. But even if it’s not a heart, would a boy of this age wear a bracelet with something dangling from it? I’m not sure, but I am leaning towards no…?

      I’ll send you a quick email with a short recap of what I’ve found out. Because it’s going to take a while to sort it all out well enough to write it up. 😉

  3. I agree with Amy. I think the little girl in the photo looks very much like Alice Hyde Whitely. I do not know, however, how a woman taught herself to write unless she had someone willing and available to teach her. What were the charges that sent your 2nd Great Grandmother to prison?

    1. I am hung up a bit on that same factor – how did she learn to write? Someone else suggested that she may have had someone write it for her, I suppose that’s possible. There is one other interesting fact that I left out. Both Ann and Henry signed their marriage record with an x. But there is a military record that appears to be for Henry that predates the marriage, in which he signs his full name. Because he signed his name on that, I have struggled with accepting the record to be about him, even though I can find no other evidence of a second (or third…) man with that same name and birth information. Now that I have this photo to consider, I am wondering if the marriage record didn’t need to be signed with an x for either of them… Maybe they forgot to get their signatures or something…? I am hoping to come to some sort of resolution as I continue working through the records of their lives.

      Grandma Alice went to prison for grand larceny. They had a very interesting family dynamic that was significantly impacted by the death of Alice’s husband at a young age. The arrest occurred in 1941. The depression was especially hard for Alice and her children.

      1. Thanks for those details. Yes, the Great Depression was awful. We will be covering that this fall as we look at Josie’s early married years. While there are penalties for breaking the law, the will to survive and the fear of extinction are very deep within the human character. In such circumstances it will override all morality learned before that time. I respect you even more now for your forthrightness in sharing this info so frankly. Not everyone would.

        1. You are welcome! How kind of you to say that. My Grandma has always been quite straightforward. I have learned a lot from her about accepting the truths of the past and not hiding from them. The choices of our ancestors don’t define us, they only help us to understand the course our family took over the years. She also made choices that are very different from my own. Because she has always been part of my life, I’ve learned that choices in list form, as simple facts, never really get to heart of a person. She is my living example of why we need to be accepting and generous in our opinion of others. Even when we try, we really can’t put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

          1. Yes, that is true, but we must also consider the fruit the tree bears. The actions or others, and the effects they have on the family unit, will help us decide what our responses should be. I know from experience that there are some who will continue with a pattern of behavior that brings them satisfaction of some desire but at the same time is very hurtful to other relationships in the family. In this case the tree bore bitter fruits for others so decisions were made to move away from the source of the repeated troubles.

            It’s a sad but true fact of life that some relationships, family or friend, are worth the struggle because eventually you emerge stronger and the bonds deepen. But when there cannot be trust, respect and confidence the best thing is to let go. Egotism can keep up an ongoing battle of the wits but it’s a real waste of time and energy.

            1. So true EmilyAnn. There are plenty in my family who have suffered because of the choices of those who have gone before, particularly their parents. That trauma cannot be ignored, and I didn’t mean to unintentionally disregard that very real struggle. I feel very fortunate to be somewhere in the middle – a safe experience growing up, but close enough connections to deeper troubles to be more understanding of people in general. We are all impacted by those who come before. I love the variety in my own tree. I’ve learned so much from it. I am also very grateful for the hardworking, loving, and good family members who helped to shape me.

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