There are two framed oval photographs hanging in my bedroom. Each contains the image of a lady, well dressed, big hair and rather unhappy looking, framed in ornamented Victorian gold and plaster, and coloured. By their dress and hair styles I can date the pictures from the 1880s-90s. I inherited these pictures from my father after his death. Growing up they hung on our living room wall. When asked,Dad would say that they were Corley ladies, but he was never sure who. They were joined on the wall with the framed oil painting of a red-headed man, who Dad identified as a Corley man.
I finally decided to look at the back of the images, behind the paper. The painting was not a Corley, but in fact my great-great Grandfather, John Patrick Cuddy. His name was written on the back of the canvas backing board. The peeling back of the paper on the photos however was not as informative. There was nothing to indicate who the two ladies were.
So how does one go about finding the identity of the sitters? Since Dad’s naming of the other image was off, it is entirely possible that he was wrong for these ladies too. But I can narrow it down to his side of the family, since he inherited them from his parents. But then what.
I looked carefully at the ladies to see if there were any traits or characteristics that could tie them specifically to one part of Dad’s tree. By this I mean, distinctive nose, shape of their heads, hair colour, build…. Unfortunately, both sides of Dad’s family really have similar characteristics, so there is nothing in their faces that scream maternal or paternal line. So I had to do some creative thinking. This is when I got the idea of eye colour. Both ladies had brown eyes.
Of course this does not necessarily seem unusual, but in my family brown eyes are unusual. I come from a long line of blue eyed people (well blue and hazel). From my high school biology course I knew that to have blue eyes, a person had to have two blue recessive genes, and Brown was a dominant trait. So there was a way to trace where the Brown eyes come into play, and then isolate where the person was on the family line. I have since found out that this is a bit more complicated. Blue eyes can be two blue recessive genes (b) or a blue and a light recessive gene (g). Hazel eyes come from the green recessive gene (G) which when combined with a light recessive gene (g). A blue (b) and a green (G) will also give you blue eyes.
So this is the basic premise. I then went and charted my eye colour and worked back. This could be tricky because after a while since I didn’t have passports or military records for all to determine their eye colour. Sometimes I went by photographs, which before about 1960 were black and white, so this was a bit of a hope/guess thing. If their eyes were light, I assumed they were blue.
Since my mother had hazel eyes and dad had blue eyes I can assume that my brother and I, who both have blue eyes are either bG or bg. Dad had blue eyes, and both his parents had blue eyes so he was bb. His mother had blue eyes, and her parents both had blue eyes. The Corleys are therefore eliminated. The ladies cannot be Corleys. So now I turn to the Leitches. My grandfather Leitch had blue eyes – so I am assuming bb, but his brother and sister both had brown eyes (for them Bb). His mother had brown eyes (Bb) and his father had blue eyes (and his father had blue/light coloured eyes – bb). So great-grandmother Leitch was the source of the brown eyes. Her maiden name was Cashion. These ladies are Cashions. So then it is a matter of placing them on Mary Jane Cashion Leitch’s tree. By the age of one, it is likely her mother Jane Burton, and the other is a sister, so either Margaret or Rachael.
And there you have it.