Monday, May 21, 2012

Mystery Monday: Agnes or Lacuta?

Mystery Monday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers that asks us to share mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything in our family history research which is currently unsolved.  With any luck fellow genealogy bloggers will lend their eyes to what has been found so far and possibly help solve the mystery.

Just call me Jane Rizzoli (or Maura Isles, if you prefer).  Or if you're older, call me Jessica Fletcher. I think I’ve helped solve a mystery.

This week the latest edition of the Greene County Historical Society newsletter arrived.  On the back page are several photos with a request for information on the people featured.

One photo grabbed my attention immediately because I have the same one tucked away in a box of photos that have been passed down through the family.

The lovely girl in that beautiful lace blouse was identified as Agnes Stephens Utz.  Hmm.  Definitely a familiar face.  Definitely UNfamiliar name.

I checked the back of my photo where I had penciled in the name given to me by my distant cousin Vessie Jollette Steppe.  The name:  Lacuta Powell.

In fact, we have a number of photos of Lacuta Powell.  Lacuta as a baby:

Sarah Long Powell
Rosalie and Lacuta

Older Lacuta:

A host of Powells – Lacuta is there with her mother and 2 sisters and who knows who else.

But of course, that’s Lacuta Powell IF Cousin Vessie was correct.  To my knowledge, Lacuta is not family, so I’m not sure why our family has her pictures.  Then again, we have no Agnes Utz in the family either. I sent a quick email to the GCHS to let them know their mystery has developed another layer.

Curiosity sent me to the census records.  I guessed at Lacuta’s age based on Vessie’s birth date.  It turns out Lacuta’s family lived smack-dab in the middle of my Colemans, Sullivans, Clifts, and Davises.  It makes sense that Vessie would remember the face of a childhood playmate. 

Even though the census records confirmed Vessie’s claim there was a girl named Lacuta, census records don’t identify people in photographs.  Maybe Vessie was mistaken. 

For the time being I put ol’ Lacuta / Agnes out of my mind and returned to my other research.  I was flipping through my copy of Shenandoah: A History of Our Town and Its People when the name of one of my distant cousins caught my eye.  Guess whose name was right beneath it.  Yep, Lacuta Powell.

Scanned from Shenandoah: 
A History of Our Town And Its People
Lacuta is seated on the front row, third from the end.
One look at that dark hair and serious expression told me that the photo in question has to be that of Lacuta Powell, not Agnes Utz.  The resemblance is unmistakable.

Now I’m wondering how the person who donated the box of photos to the GCHS came to have this photo too.  Maybe she’s not related to Lacuta Powell either. 

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Good mystery! I'm sure it is Lacuta =)

  2. I love how there's always a mystery to solve in family history! This kind of stuff satisfies my Nancy Drew-wannabe self. LOL

    1. I love it when I can solve it. But when the mystery lingers, I start making ridiculous wishes.

  3. Now you can say, "Elementary, My Dear Watson"!!! Although, from your line of clues, it was quite a search with rewards from each one. Very good, WendyHolmes!!!! I have several unidentified photos that I keep hoping will turn up in some of my 'Kinfolks' collections...strangers collections would work, too!

  4. You must have been quite surprised when you saw the newsletter. Good detective work!