Sunday, March 1, 2020

Sepia Saturday: Is She or Isn't She?

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompted me to consider cabinet cards and group photos. One photo that I have NOT written about before is neither.
Possibly George Harvey Eppard and Segourney Shiflett
Possibly my 2X great-grandparents
courtesy of Jan Hensley
When I was given this picture (actually a picture of a picture), I was told the couple might POSSIBLY be my great-great-grandparents George Harvey Eppard and Segourney Shiflett.

My grandmother did not talk much about her grandmother, but I clearly remember when she said her grandmother’s name was Segourney. I laughed. I thought she made it up. Since then I have found plenty of women with that name. But I digress. Back to the story.

George Harvey Eppard was born 15 September 1839 in Page County, Virginia, son of William and Helena Foland Eppard. Segourney was born 8 December 1850 in Albemarle County, daughter of Isaac and Susan Jordan Shiflett. George and Segourney married 28 May 1870.

I am not totally convinced this photo is from the 1870s. The woman’s dress still sports signs of Civil War-era fashion, most notably the dropped shoulder seams. But they did not live in France. They were not wealthy people with a closet full of ball gowns in the latest style. Maybe she wore what she had, regardless of trend.

Segourney was identified in another photo of a photo. 
seated: Jenetta Dovel Shiflett and Susan Jordan Shiflett
photo courtesy Mary Garrett
The two older women were Segourney’s mother Susan Jordan Shiflett and Susan’s daughter-in-law Jenetta Dovel Shiflett, wife of Segourney’s older brother Philip Pendleton Shiflett. The tall girl in the middle SUPPOSEDLY is Segourney, according to the distant DISTANT cousin who sent it.

However, I have my doubts. Does she look like the girl in the first photo? Eh ~ I can see a possible resemblance but not enough to say for sure.

Some important dates will help determine the date of the photo:
  • I do not have a death date for Susan Jordan Shiflett but based on the census records, she died between 1870 and 1880.
  • Segourney was born in 1850. Jenetta was born in 1840. Jenetta looks much more than 10 years older than the girl identified as Segourney.

But if it is Segourney, then who are the other girls? The pose with all those little girl hands on the women’s shoulders is a strong suggestion that they are mother and daughters and granddaughters. Therefore, it does not seem likely that Segourney would be included in the photo.

If the picture were taken closer to 1880, then there should have been 6 young daughters. The oldest, Alpharetta, would have been 20, but the oldest “daughter” does not look that old. So probably the photo was taken earlier than that.

If the picture were taken in 1870, we are getting closer, but Jenetta had only 4 daughters then, not 5.  When the census taker came around that year, the youngest girl was only 2. Jenetta might have been pregnant with her next child.

So looking at Jenetta’s first 5 daughters, I had to wonder if the assumed ages would make sense for a time period between 1870 and 1875. I think it does. In 1873, the girls would line up like this:
  1. Alpharetta – 12
  2. Emaline/Mitta Lee – 9
  3. Jenetta – 7
  4. Ella – 5
  5. Alice – 2
These ages seem to fit the girls in the picture, although, quite honestly, I cannot tell which one is Ella and which is little Jenetta.

Therefore, yes, I do believe the tall girl has been misidentified. It is more likely she was Alpharetta, not Segourney who would have been a married girl by 1873 anyway.

I can still hold out hope that these two handsome people staring back at me are my 2X great-grandparents George and Segourney Eppard.

Joint the group at Sepia Saturday.

© 2020, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. Puzzles and riddles, the favorite games of family genealogists. The cdv of George and Segourney has a very modern quality with their gaze directly into the camera lens and especially with his arm around her shoulder. The card style looks like 1863-68 because of the simple border and square corners. Around 1869 the cards came with round corners to fit better in the pages of the photo albums. The faded halo vignette effect was popular in the 1860s so that fits too. By the 1870s the prints were usually better quality b&w and less sepia and grainy. If there is a photographer's logo on the back, it will be a simple name and city for 1863-68 and more elaborate designs for later.

    The group photo looks too large for a cdv size print. The clarity is also too good for 1860s or even early 1870s. I think it dates closer to 1880. The tall girl also seems younger than Segourney in the earlier cdv so I think it is not the same person.

    When I first looked at George and Segourney, I didn't see a married couple but instead a brother and sister. It's the affection in the hand position that seems unconventional for a young couple in this era. But it is a fine portrait.

  2. What I love most about this post is reading the names. Segourney, Alphretta, Etta Lee, Emmaline, and Jeanetta...So interesting!

  3. Another mystery for you to work on and hope you can solve. It is interesting with the names; Segourney indeed is one you don't hear too often or spelled that way!


  4. They are a beautiful group of women no matter who they are. Hope you are able to figure it out.

  5. I hope these are in fact your ancestors, because it's a striking photo of a young couple embarking on life together. Examining the group photo and the photo of the couple, the hair on the younger girl identified as Segourney and the Segourney in the couple photo is strikingly similar, so it may well be her. Either way, excellent sleuthing on your part to identify clues. Hope you are able to learn more along the way.