In 1901, George Wenham was a boarder in the home of William Juby in Picton, Ontario, Canada, and based on the photo’s mounting style, as well as the girl’s dress, it was about that time that he sat for this photo. The photographer was W.F. Johnson of Picton.
The writing on the reverse reads “Uncle George Elwood and Mary Penn,” and below that “George Winham Mary Penn.” What is difficult to make out, unless you are viewing it in person, is that someone scribbled over the surname Elwood. The significance of this will be revealed later.
Preliminary research laid out multiple possibilities for George. After all, I wasn’t sure if his last name was Elwood or Winham, so I focused on Mary. She wasn’t easy to locate either, as her surname was incorrectly recorded on census documents as Juby (1891) and Perry (1901). However, when I did locate her, I also found George.
George was a lodger, so he was not listed with the family in the ancestry census index, but upon looking at the actual census document, there he is. Also, his name was transcribed incorrectly as Wernham, which explains why this record was not appearing in my initial searches for George. These are just a couple reasons why I urge researchers not to rely on transcribed indexes.
George was a widower. His fifteen-year-old daughter, Alma, died of consumption on February 12, 1896. One week later, his wife, Mary (nee Pringle) suffered a stroke and followed their daughter to the grave.
Why would a young girl sit for a photo with a much older man who was lodging in her home? Was there a family connection? I haven’t found one, but it’s not impossible. Yes, George is listed as a lodger on the census, but this is his relationship to the head of the household, which is William Juby, Mary Penn’s step-father. Notice that there is a second lodger in the home, Lottie Brown, aged 10. I’m sure that Lottie is a relative to Mary’s mother, Fanny (nee Brown), and this relationship was lost on the census taker, as they were only interested in recording each person’s connection to William Juby. So, it is conceivable that George might be related to Fanny, as well.
Or did George and Mary share a “father/daughter” type of bond? After all, Mary was about the age of George’s deceased daughter, Alma, and Mary’s father, John Penn, died when she was a toddler. I have to say that I thought I might find that the two got married. It wasn’t uncommon for a girl to get married as a young teen, and to a much older man. But, I found no such marriage record.
Let’s discuss who I believe penned the writing on the back of the photo, and how the crossed out Elwood surname comes into play. George Wenham had two sisters, Mary Eliza and Ann. Mary Eliza married a gentleman named George Elwood. Tada! How do I know that this isn’t George Elwood in the photo? George Elwood died in 1887 when Mary Penn was just three years old. This rules him out as the sitter.
George Wenham’s sister, Ann, had a daughter, Nellie (nee Dafoe) Knight, who lived in Lansing, Michigan from about 1910 until her death in 1950. Nellie’s daughter, Jennie, also lived in Lansing until her death in 1995. I believe it was Nellie who wrote the identification on the reverse, initially confusing her two Uncles, George Wenham and George Elwood. It also makes sense in relation to where I found the photo, which was in an antique shop in Lansing, Michigan. Of course, this is all supposition on my part.
The fact that whoever made the notations knew this was Mary Penn in the photo with their Uncle George, again leads me to think that there might be a family connection. If not, there must have been a close relationship between George and Mary for George’s family to know who she was. Can you tell that I’m very curious about the story behind this photo?
Unfortunately, I lost track of George after the 1901 census. Did he venture to the US, to be with his son, Isaac Ezra, or his sisters? Mary Penn wed Redford Kimmerly in 1910, but I did not find any record of Mary after her husband’s death in 1945, when they were living in Kent, Ontario, Canada. So, just as the story behind this photo has left my curiosity peaked, so will the ultimate fates of the two sitters.
Ontario, Canada marriage records
Ontario, Canada deaths
3 thoughts on “The Lodger”
The portrait itself is very appealing, but the mystery makes it even more so!
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What a great photo, with so much intrigue surrounding it!
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Impeccable research, of course! 😄
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