Bingaman-Rice Family Photo: A Contemporary Misidentification?

Comparing the caption on a treasured family photo with information from the census to resolve an incorrect identification

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A photograph of a family member who lived and died before anyone now living remembers is akin to finding the Holy Grail for genealogists. An old photograph captures what mere words cannot. This message is reinforced by watching popular television series like “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Finding Your Roots”. Oftentimes the professional genealogists on the respective shows manage to track down a photograph of the celebrity subject’s family who are clearly moved when the image of their long-dead ancestor is revealed to them for the first time.

I can certainly relate to this feeling. It was looking at early family photographs with older family members and listening to their stories that were the “hook” for me and my life-long interest in genealogy and family history.

Provenance
I have had a photograph in my personal collection for at least fifteen years, gifted to me by my father for safe-keeping due to the damage. It is torn, stained, scuffed and tinged with mold but is precious nonetheless. It is the only photo we have of Josephus Bingaman (1844-1931) and his wife, Mary Rice (1849-1917), and their children. Today the original photograph is stored in a Hollinger metal edge archival box in my home office. A framed copy of the photo sits on my mantle.

When I first laid eyes on this particular photo as a young teenager, it was stuffed in an overflowing metal file box, along with other photos, letters, bills and the like. What I don’t know is when or where my father acquired the photo. When questioned about the provenance of the photograph last October, Dad admitted he did not remember where or from whom he had gotten it. He offered three or four possibilities, but nothing definite. Because the photo is of my father’s grandfather and great-grandparents, it seems most likely that he received the photo from his great-aunt, Wanda (Bingaman) Jensen. Growing up estranged from his father, first by war, followed by a divorce, it was she that filled in some of the gaps for Dad about his paternal ancestors from Kansas. She provided other photos to Dad of his Bingaman ancestors over the years, and he seems to have inherited others upon her death. Our family even moved to the same small community where she lived in the mid-1970s.

This original photograph, mounted on a heavy card backing, is undated and has no visible photographer’s imprint to tell us the name of the studio. An apparently contemporary caption was recorded by an unknown hand. The inked notation reads: “Aunt Mary & Uncle Joe Bingman & family and Tressie Rice.

Besides this caption, someone took the time to number the children depicted in the photograph, and record their names, as follows:

  1. Henry
  2. Fred
  3. Frank
  4. Rice
  5. Oliver
  6. Elizabeth, Lizzie
  7. Bert
  8. George

Upon closer inspection, three persons in the picture have no numeral or notation. Two of them are clearly the parents, Mary Rice and Josephus Bingaman, the oldest members of the family group. The third unnumbered individual, then, is supposed to be Tressie Rice, the young woman shown on the far left of the group. On the surface, there is no reason to doubt this identification; whoever recorded the information using a fountain pen did so long ago, much closer to the event than I am today. Whether the information was captured about the time of the taking of the photograph is unknown. Fountain pens were commonly used for at least the first half of the twentieth century.

Two things jump out at me immediately: 1) the caption was probably recorded by a niece or nephew due to the use of the words “aunt” and “uncle” to describe the parents and 2) the surname of BINGAMAN has been misspelled “BINGMAN”. If the writer shared the last name of Bingaman then, chances are, they would have spelled the name correctly. The caption was likely penned by someone on the Rice side of the family. This is pure speculation on my part, though.

Comparisons
Fortunately, we have another photograph of my great-grandfather, Edward Frederick Bingaman (called “Fred”) to use for comparative purposes. The individual photo of Fred seen in the slideshow above was taken in Garnett, Kansas in 1898. I do not see a great deal of difference between the two images, so my initial impression is that the group photograph was taken within a few years at most of the dated photograph, say 1900-1901. One thing is certain: the photograph was made before 1917, as Mary (Rice) Bingaman died in February of that year.

For additional clues as to when the photo may have been captured, I turned to the 1900 Federal census. Taken in the United States every ten years, it is the census closest to the estimated date of the photograph. This should reveal the ages of family members in the photo at a fixed point in time and allow me to determine whether my initial estimate is correct by visual comparison.

It was in looking at the 1900 census that I first noticed a problem with the identifications of Lizzie Bingaman and Tressie Rice in the family photo. That year, Lizzie was recorded as eighteen years of age, and Tressie was only six years old.

1900 census household of Josephus Bingaman1900 census households of Josephus Bingaman, and his son, Edward F. Bingaman, with entries for Lizzie and Tressie highlighted. Click the photo to enlarge.

Dating the photograph to 1900 seems about right if the identification of the young woman and the girl in the photo are swapped. Assuming the census ages are correct, Tressie should be the girl marked as number 6, and Lizzie thus has no number recorded. I then looked at census entries for all family members to verify that the ages recorded in the 1900 census were not a simple mistake made by the census enumerator. They were not. In fact, ages tracked surprisingly well across the years when compared with state censuses taken on either side of the Federal enumeration. In doing the census research, it becomes obvious that the list of children was annotated in birth order.

Table 1. 1895-1905 census enumerations for the Josephus and Mary Bingaman family members. Adult children in their own households are included but footnoted separately.

Table 1 Bingaman census comparisons 1895-1905

While the estimate of 1900-1901 is probably fairly accurate based on visual comparison of individuals correlated with census research, undoubtedly more can be done to evaluate the clothing styles worn by those in the photo and studio props. An expert in fashion or Kansas photographers would likely be able to discern if my estimate is correct. Likewise, physical characteristics of the photographic print itself can also yield clues to the type of camera used or available photographic processes in certain time periods. I am not an expert in these esoteric subjects, so invite comments from experts in these fields. Some further specifics about the original print have been included below should someone with this knowledge wish to comment.

Details of the photographic print
Details of the photographic print. Click to enlarge.

If you have a copy of this photograph or copies of photographs of any of the persons shown in the Bingaman-Rice family photo in your family’s collection that could be used for comparison, I would like to hear from you. Please click on the title of this post to bring up commenting options.

This post and the associated images first appeared on AncestorRoundup.com on 28 Dec 2014. All images of the original photograph were created and edited by Dawn Bingaman. © 2014. All rights reserved.


Table 1 footnotes

[a] 1895 Kansas state census, Franklin County, population schedule, Pomona Twp., p. 6, dwelling/family 38, Joseph “Bingamin” household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 51. The children are all incorrectly attributed to dwelling 38, family 39, that of D.M. “Bingamin”. D.M. Bingaman was David Marion Bingaman, a Civil War soldier and brother of Josephus Bingaman. He and his wife, Ada (McKibben) Bingaman had no children.

[b] 1895 Kansas state census, Franklin County, population schedule, Lincoln Twp., p. 9, dwelling/family 49, C. H. Bingaman household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel K-50.

[c] 1895 Kansas state census, Franklin County, population schedule Lincoln Twp., p. 9, dwelling/family 47, George Patterson household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel K-50.

[d] 1900 U.S. census, Anderson County, Kansas, population schedule, Jackson Twp., ED 18, sheet 4B, dwelling 76, family 81, Josephus Bingaman household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 Dec 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 470.

[e] 1900 U.S. census, Franklin County, Kansas, population schedule, Lincoln Twp., ED 82, sheet 5A, dwelling 53, family 54, Cornelius Bingaman household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Dec 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 480.

[f] 1900 U.S. census, Anderson County, Kansas, population schedule, Jackson Twp., ED 18, sheet 4B, dwelling 77, family 82, Edward F. Bingaman household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 Dec 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 470.

[g] 1900 U.S. census, Anderson County, Kansas, population schedule, Jackson Twp., ED 18, sheet 5A, dwelling 86, family 91, Frank L. Bingaman household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Dec 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 470.

[h] 1900 U.S. census, Osage County, Kansas, population schedule, Junction Twp., ED 119, sheet 3B, dwelling 56, family 57, Rice “Bingeman” in John Myres household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Dec 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 494.

[i] 1905 Kansas state census, Anderson County, Kansas, population schedule, p. 14, dwelling 1, family 4, Joe Bingaman household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 4.

[j] 1905 Kansas state census, Franklin County, Kansas, population schedule, Ottawa, p. 7, dwelling 116, C. H. Bingaman household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 55. The enumerator used a 1904 form and penned in column headings, omitting family numbers.

[k] 1905 Kansas state census, Franklin County, Kansas, population schedule, Ottawa, p. 1, dwelling/family 296, Fred Bingaman household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 54.

[l] 1905 Kansas state census, Franklin County, Kansas, population schedule, Ottawa, p. 1, dwelling/family 295, F. L. Bingaman household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 54.

[m] 1905 Kansas state census, Franklin County, Kansas, population schedule, Hayes Twp., p. 61, dwelling 104, family 109, R. W. Bingaman in the H. Wright Smith household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 55.

[n] 1905 Kansas state census, Rice County, Kansas, population schedule, Wilson Twp., p. 3, dwelling 19, family 21, O. M. Bingaman in the Susanna Wills household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 136.

[o] 1905 Kansas state census, Franklin County, Kansas, population schedule, Franklin Twp., p. 6, dwelling 55, family 56, E. E. Crane in the W. J. Crane household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 55.

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