I was looking through the black and white photos we had inherited from my paternal grandparents, Leonard Floyd and Wilda Pearl Boyer Slicker, when I came upon the black and white photo below – four women sitting on a front porch somewhere.
Who are these women? They must be family members, right? After all their photo is in the family album. Or are they friends of the family? What about neighbors? Unfortunately, it wasn’t common to identify the people or places in photos of the past. But, let’s flip this photo over and see if someone has left us a clue.
Okay, now we see some identification scrawled across the back in two distinct blue inks. In the lighter blue ink we see: Aunt Jen (black dress white socks), and “John Slicker’s sister.” In darker blue we read: Sam Slicker’s father. Questions arise.
Has this photo been properly identified? Who inscribed the backside of the photo? When did they inscribed the backside? Was it inscribed soon after the taken of the photo? Or was it inscribed years later when someone was trying to remember? The two distinct blue inks suggest the third line was perhaps added later.
Who is Aunt Jen? The backside of the photo tells us she is the one wearing a black dress and white socks. It also tells us she is a sister of John Slicker. The third line tells us John was the father of Sam Slicker. Problem is no documentation exists supporting John Slicker had a sister named Jen. What we have here is the typical mystery that commonly appears in the old family photo album.
We have names. We have relationships. We have faces. The names, the clothing, and the photo color and format (white borders) suggest a time period. But the names and relationships offer us our best clues. The best place to start digging for answers is in the family history. The very history that has been slowly unraveling in the posts of this website.
The relationships stated on the back of the photo suggests that John Slicker, father of Sam Slicker, had a sister named Jen. But we know from the stories posted that John Slicker did not have a sister named Jen. But what about a sister-in-law? John Slicker’s wife was Malissa Mansfield. In the three-part series documenting Malissa Mansfield Slicker’s life, we learn that Malissa had a sister, Anne Mansfield, who died within the first few years of her life, and a sister, Matilda Mansfield, who married William H. Owens. Malissa also had two half-sisters, Sarah and Elizabeth Haney. Hmmmm. No Jen. The mystery, or better yet said, the confusion deepens. Who can this Aunt Jen be? Let’s not throw the towel in yet. As all family historians know, we must leave no stone unturned. So, we set the photo aside while we go digging into the archives of the past. And with luck, we find a lead…
….such as this one: a transcription of Nancy Mansfield Haney’s obituary. Nancy is the mother of Malissa and Matilda Mansfield, and of Sarah, Elizabeth, James W. and Samuel M. Haney.
Mrs. Nancy Haney Friday, January 26, 1917
Early yesterday morning occurred the death of Mrs. Nancy Haney aged 78 yrs., wife of Samuel Haney, at the home of her granddaughter, Mrs. John Hardwick, in Oklahoma, after a short illness of pneumonia. She is survived by the following children: Mrs. Owens of N. Washington; Mrs. Slicker of Oklahoma; Mrs. L.W. Taylor of Pittsburgh; and James W. and Samuel M. of Indiana Harbor, Ind…
This transcription of the original obituary appeared in a book titled Obituaries 1916-1920, vol. 3. I believe we found this genealogical gem back in the 90’s at the Apollo Public Library in Apollo, Armstrong county, Pennsylvania. The original obituary appeared in one of the local papers of the time.
Mrs. Owens was Matilda. Mrs. Slicker was Malissa. But who was this Mrs. L.W. Taylor? Was she Sarah or Elizabeth? And if Nancy had four daughters, and the obituary names only three which of the last two mentioned died and when? The answers to these questions may be hidden in Ancestry.com’s digital trove of historical documents. Off we go!
Using the search parameters: L.W. Taylor, Pittsburgh, born 1870, I found a 1910 census record among the results returned that shows an L. Wayne Taylor living on Wylie Avenue in Pittsburgh. L. Wayne and his brother, Merrill, worked as druggist. Today they would be called pharmacists. L. Wayne had a wife named Jennie. Jennie was 41 making her birth year 1869. L. Wayne and Jennie had a daughter, Cecil. This information – L.Wayne Taylor, Jennie, and of Pittsburgh – seems to match our known information. Is this our Aunt Jen ? If so, where did she come from? Did Nancy have a daughter we did not know about? Hmmm. To answer the first question – is this Aunt Jen – let’s head back to that digital trove of historical documents and enter the search parameters: Jennie Taylor, lived in Pittsburgh, PA, and the birth year 1869.
Wow! Would you look at what appeared in the results of our Ancestry.com search – a death certificate for Jennie Haney Taylor! And look at the names of her parents: Samuel Haney and Nancy Mansfield. So, Malissa Mansfield Slicker did have a sister, Jennie. And Jennie Haney Taylor was born March 17, 1869 in Webster, Pennsylvania. And the Haney family had lived in Webster, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania for about twenty years.
So which sister was Jennie? Sarah or Eliza? Or did Nancy have another daughter of which I’m unaware? The answer to these question lies in the 1880 U.S. Censuses for Webster, Westmoreland County, PA.
1880 U. S. Census: Samuel and Nancy Mansfield Haney with children.
Sarah was 13 in 1880. Her birth year was 1867. Eliza was eleven in 1880. Eliza was born in 1869; the same year as Jennie Haney Taylor. If we were to look at the Haney family in the 1870 U.S. census, we would see that Eliza was 1. There was no twin. It appears that Malissa’s half-sister, Eliza Haney, began using the name Jennie at some point in her life. So, now we know John Slicker had a sister-in-law named Jennie. And Sam Slicker was Aunt Jennie’s nephew. I also know this mystery photo landed in the hands of Aunt Jennie’s great-nephew, Leonard Floyd Slicker, my grandfather and son of Sam Slicker. What makes this story even more interesting is to know that Leonard Floyd shared his birthday – March 17th – with his great-Aunt Jennie.
What is disappointing about this story is without more evidence – such as more photos that clearly identify Aunt Jen – we cannot be one hundred percent certain that the woman wearing a black dress and white socks in the photo is Jennie Haney Taylor. And so as it is with the photo of four women sitting on a porch somewhere it is with so many old photos in the family album.
Do you have any photos of Aunt Jen to share and compare? Do you know the names of the other women in the photo? Do you know where this photo was taken? Do you have anything to add to Aunt Jen’s life story? If you have an answer to any of these questions, why not share in the comment section below or drop me an email?
© Robin Slicker, 2018. All Rights Reserve.