Friday, September 5, 2014

Poor John Tanner

This picture has been kicking around Ancestry for several years and someone just added it to John Tanner's entry on FamilySearch Family Tree. 

I have never seen any explanation as to why anyone thinks it is John Tanner, or any explanation as to where it came from.

As explained in the following article it is unlikely that there are any pictures of John Tanner:

The Tanner Family Daguerreotype (see included links as well)

In order for a picture to be attached to John Tanner's Family Tree entry it should have a clear chain of ownership with the identification of the picture made at the time it was taken and not rely on a guess several generations later, which could very well be the case with this picture, since no one has indicated anything to the contrary.

The picture may have been originally labeled "John Tanner," but there were two other John Tanners in Utah in the 19th century. One was a Swiss immigrant. One was John Tanner's son John Joshua Tanner, often called "John Tanner" in vital records. From time to time I've seen Tanner descendants confuse John Joshua with his father.

Now that I'm looking at a picture of John Joshua, this does look a very little like him. 

It also looks a very little like Nathan. 

So this could be one of John and Lydia's sons. But it is unlikely to be John Tanner, the father, and should not be attached to his entry unless someone has definite and convincing proof that it is him.

As stated before, proof would include information about who owns the original, when it was taken, and when and by whom the identification was made.

Update, September 7, 2014I put my kids on this case, and they immediately concluded that the man in the first picture was not related to John Joshua and Nathan. For reasons they suggested shape of ears, shape of eyes, shape of nose, shape of creases from nose to mouth, shape of beard at mouth. These conclusions are being made from a low-resolution picture, but these are all the type of markers that help identify pictures.

As noted in my analysis of the possible photograph of John Tanner's relative-by-marriage Samuel Shepherd, a picture needs to meet several tests:
  • What is the provenance of the picture? (Who owns it and why? What is the chain of ownership?)
  • Is there an identification included with the picture? Who made it?
  • Is the technology appropriate to the time it was supposed to have been taken?
  • Were there daguerreotypists or photographers operating in the area at the time?
  • Any family resemblances? 
  • Do the ages of the people in the photograph seem to be accurate?
  • What can the clothing tell us about when the picture was taken?
  • What other details in the picture help locate the picture and identify the subjects?
I would be happy to find that some member of the family had a picture of John Tanner, but because of the history of the Family Associations and genealogy projects through the years and all the factors mentioned in the Tanner Family Daguerreotype analysis, I would be very surprised if there was one.

PS The man in the first picture seems to have some African-American or Indian heritage. That was not uncommon in colonial America, but I don't think DNA tests have shown that to be the case in the Tanner family. (But the DNA tests I saw were done many years ago. Perhaps if people in the family have had tests done more recently, they could share the results associated with the Tanner line.)

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