Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Photo Consultation Part II – Pierre Janvry dit Belair

Last week, I wrote about a photo consultation I had with Maureen Taylor by telephone and how she helped me better understand three family photos I had submitted to her by email.

I thought that article would be the only one I’d post on my blog about that conversation. I planned on transcribing the rest of the notes I made during our phone call and then file them for future reference. It occurred to me, however, that if I put those notes away, who would see them and get to know about the people and the extra details that Maureen found in the pictures except maybe only me?

That’s when I decided to share with my readers what Maureen had to say about the other two photographs. After all, that’s the point of my having a genealogy blog – to share my ancestors with others.

Therefore, I’m focusing on the second of the three photos this week, and the third photo and its information will appear next week.

Pierre Janvry dit Belair

This photo of my paternal great-grandfather Pierre Janvry dit Belair (1851-1941) was given to me many years ago by a cousin. All I knew about it was that it was a picture of Pierre. I speculated that he was perhaps photographed before he married in September 1879, because of his youthful appearance. I don't know when or where it was taken (possibly not too far from his hometown of Ste-Cécile-de-Masham, near Hull, Quebec) and I don't know what led him to want to be photographed.

These are Maureen’s thoughts about Pierre and the picture:

• The original photo is a tintype. (Maureen explained how she knew that, but I didn’t write it down, and I’ve already forgotten what she told me.)

• Pierre is wearing 1870s attire, judging by the wide lapels of his jacket and his shawl-collared vest. The piping or twisted braiding on his vest is also a feature of 1870s men clothing.

• He has two different eyes: his right eye seems to be normally lidded, but his left eye has a droopy upper lid. Maureen didn’t give any opinions as to the reason for Pierre’s droopy eyelid (like a medical condition). She wondered, though, if it could be due to the photographic process.

• Pierre has a strong jaw and an advancing hairline.

• He appears to be wearing a pinkie ring on this left hand, which rests on a thick book, perhaps the Bible.

If Pierre really has a droopy eyelid, I wonder if he could have had something called ptosis – drooping of the eyelid. [1] Ptosis can be caused by “a variety of conditions include aging, diabetes, stroke, Horner syndrome, myasthenia gravis, or a brain tumor or other cancer that affects nerve or muscle reactions”. Other causes could be a growth (like a stye), nerve damage, or normal variation. [2] Pierre was 89½ years old when he passed away, so I don’t think he had diabetes, tumor or cancer when he was younger (he was about 20 to 27 years old in the photograph). The only other photo I have of my great-grandfather is the one taken of him at his daughter Mathilde’s wedding in 1921, but that picture isn’t clear enough for me to tell in what condition his eyelids were.


1. MedlinePlus, database, National Institutes of Health (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/1111.htm: accessed 9 October 2014), “Ptosis, drooping of the eyelid”.

2. MedlinePlus, database, National Institutes of Health (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003035.htm : accessed 9 October 2014), “Eyelid drooping”.

Copyright © 2014, Yvonne Demoskoff.


  1. I'm so glad you're sharing what you learned by consulting "the" expert! Just knowing that your g-grandfather was wearing 1870s clothing is a big help in narrowing down the when. As to the why, did he graduate or have a professional degree or become a big shot in a civic organization? Looking forward to your next post.

    1. That's a good question, Marian - I didn't think of those possibilities (grad, degree, organization). I'll have to research Pierre's life during that time frame (the 1870s) to see if there are any clues as to why he was photographed.

  2. Are Zacharie Cloutier and Saincte Dupont in your ancestry? There's a condition called Oculopharyngeal Muscular Dystrophy which has been traced back to them. See Dick Eastman's blog at http://blog.eogn.com/2014/10/03/attention-french-canadian-descendants-did-you-inherit-oculopharyngeal-muscular-dystrophy/

    1. Zacharie and Sainte are my maternal ancestors, Jackie. Thanks for letting me know about DE's article. I've never heard of that condition, so I'll look into it.


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