Nichols family photos and documents.

Old photographs with unnamed faces gaze at me asking to be identified and treasured. Labeled photographs ask for their story to be revealed and shared. I’m fortunate that several of my ancestors saved and passed on so many pictures. However, there are other family lines with gaping holes where there should be smiling faces. What happened to their family photos? According to Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective,“Photos aren’t inherited in a direct line, most times they pass to a relative interested in preserving them. When that doesn’t happen pictures go missing, get destroyed or are sold.”[1]

Using serendipity, cousin connections, and blogging, I’ve managed to fill in some of the missing faces. Taking inspiration from Cathy Meder-Dempsey’s blog, Opening Doors in Brick Walls, and her articles about Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can, I decided to write a series of posts about discovered photographs.


His pale somber eyes gaze at me from the computer screen. Unruly dark hair pokes out behind his pronounced ear lobes. A full mustache drapes over his lips and a slightly graying goatee hides his chin. Although the photograph depicts only a head and shoulder view, he appears slender.  So, this is what you look like Thomas Ackley Nichols? I’d scoured the internet for months looking for his portrait. Serendipity struck on the day I published my first blog about Thomas A. Nichols when I found his photograph on a “defunct” website. You can read more about his story here.


Adjutant Thomas Ackley Nichols, 9th PA Cavalry photos taken about 1864

Cousin connections and blogging led me to two additional photographs of Thomas.  I think the original photograph is the center image and the two identical photographs are copies and reverse images. Although Thomas is not wearing a hat nor can we see a belt buckle, his buttons on the first and last photo are reversed.

  1.  A third cousin read my blog and shared the  photograph of Thomas on the left.  He also emailed me images of Thomas’s second wife (Lillian Bull) and their three children.
  2.  A distant collateral cousin connected with me through ancestry.com; we share a 7x great-grandfather. She generously sent me a collection of Nichols’s family photographs, including the photograph of Thomas on the right.

Some of the photographs in the Nichols collection are labeled, unfortunately, others are not. Prior to receiving the images,  I had very few photos of Thomas and his extended family. He had two wives, six children, and fifteen grandchildren, so my hope is that someone among his descendants is interested in family history and can identify the mystery pictures. I look forward to introducing additional members of the Nichols family and comparing family resemblances.


Genealogy Sketch

Name: Thomas Ackley Nichols
Parents: Matthias Nichols and
Sarah [Ackley?]
Spouse: wife #1 Helena Knerr, wife #2 Lillian Bull
Children: #1 John Mathews Nichols, Bertha Virginia Nichols Donaldson, Charles Knerr Nichols                                                                                                                                                            #2 Mary Watson Nichols Dietsche[later Ditchey], Florence Ackley Nichols Snyder, Howard Ransloe Nichols
Relationship to Kendra: 3x Great-grandfather

  1. Thomas Ackley Nichols
  2. John Mathews Nichols
  3. Mabel Elvina Nichols Hyde
  4. John Fay Hyde
  5. Jean Hyde Hopp Eichorn
  6. Kendra Hopp Schmidt

© 2017 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.

[1] Taylor, Maureen, “A Mystery Photo from the Big Easy,” The Client Files (https://maureentaylor.com/mystery-photo-big-easy/?mc_cid=f8a8de703d&mc_eid=670c5a87f4 : accessed 10 February 2017.

About treeklimber

An interest in history and travel lends itself to a passion for genealogy. The more I research, the more I realize there is to discover. It is a never-ending puzzle.
This entry was posted in My Family Ancestry, Photographs and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Kendra, the middle photograph being from the Civil War period is very likely a tintype and a direct positive or mirror image. This might be of interest: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/lilj/details.html. Thank you for the mention. Good luck with your series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • treeklimber says:

      Cathy, thank you for the tip about the photos. I checked out the link you provided. What made you think it is a tintype and a direct positive? The buttons on the center photograph are correctly buttoned but the first and last photo buttons are reversed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I couldn’t zoom in on them but the middle one looked like it could be a paper framed tinplate. I couldn’t tell for sure if it was reversed or the two on the left and right. That’s the reason for the tip. I should have been more clear on that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • treeklimber says:

        Thanks- I hadn’t thought of a paper framed tin plate. Since I found it online it was difficult to determine what type of photo it is. I determined the one in the middle is the correct position for the buttons and the other two are reversed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Photographers even made it difficult to determine if a photo was a true camera image or a mirror image. They would have their subjects hold objects in the wrong hand to make it look like a camera image. So buttons and letters on caps and belts are good things to go by.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Janice Brown says:

    Super-sleuths! wow I would never have looked at the position of the buttons. Great post! I love photographs!

    Liked by 1 person

    • treeklimber says:

      Janice, thank you for reading and commenting. Cathy’s suggestion to check a Civil War website with information about photographs was very helpful. I too love photographs and learning how to analyse them.


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