Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Photo Consultation Part III – Vanasse Family

This blog post is the third and final article of a three-part series in which I write about the help I received from photo detective Maureen Taylor during a recent photo consultation. For the two previous installments, see Photo Consultation with Maureen Taylor and Photo Consultation Part II – Pierre Janvry dit Belair.

This picture of my Vanasse great-aunts and uncles (my father’s maternal relatives) was sent to me as a digital image by my cousin Nancy in the spring of 2013.


Seated at the front (left to right) are George, his sister Corinne (Cora) and his brother William (Willie). At the back (left to right) are his sister Agnes (Aggie), his wife Louise, his brother David (Dave), his sister Cecilia (Celia), and his brother Joseph (Joe). Missing from the group are parents Olivier and Elisabeth, and sisters Mary and Julie (my grandmother).

Here are Maureen’s thoughts about this picture:

  • A studio portrait (painted background, heavy furniture, carpet).
  • It could be part of a series of photos taken at the same time.
  • Presumably a wedding photo, since Louise is less likely to be included with the family while unmarried to George.
  • The men all wear different collars and ties. Joe (back, far right) appears to be “a bit of a dandy”, judging by the style of his collar.
  • Joe has a protective hand on Willie’s shoulder.
  • Cora (centre, front) and Celia (back, right) are fashionably dressed. Maureen added that she’s never seen Cora’s style of necklace.
  • Aggie (back, far left), who’s about 14 years old, is “dressing younger than her age”. Her hair (in banana curls) and dress reflect a “very youthful style”. She could be dressed by an older person instead of having the chance to make her own fashion choices.
  • Louise’s “dress is way too big”. She seems to have borrowed it from someone “taller and much larger in the chest”.

My impressions:

I believe this photo was taken in June 1920, when George (born in 1891) married Louise Potvin in Bourget, Russell County, Ontario. Louise’s dress with its shiny, heavy fabric, so different from what her sisters-in-law are wearing, suggests the picture was taken on a special occasion. Until Maureen pointed out how big Louise’s dress is, I hadn’t noticed how much fabric appears on her left sleeve.

If I’m correct about the year, the Vanasse brothers and sisters gathered for this photo less than two years after the end of the Great War (1914-1918). Willie (born in 1893) and Joe (born in 1898) both served overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces. Poor Willie came back home shell-shocked and spent a number of years in veterans hospitals. I get the feeling that Willie and Joe were particularly close, and that Joe feels protective of his elder brother. I also think that Celia (born in 1895) is close to her youngest brother Dave (born in 1903), since she’s holding onto his arm.

Dave’s skin is darker than any of his brothers and sisters. His skin tone might be due to genetics: both his parents are great-grandchildren of Aboriginal women.

I'm grateful that my cousin Nancy shared this wonderful Vanasse family photo with me. I dearly loved my grandmother Julie, who died when I was eight and half years old. After her death, I felt privileged to have known her sisters, particularly Celia, who I used to visit at her home in Ottawa when I was there at university.

Copyright © 2014, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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