Thomas Tintype Identities Revisited

I’m going to revisit a couple of tintype photographs in a semi-futile attempt to find out something about them.  This exercise is based on my belief that the man in both of these photographs may be Joel B. Thomas (1842-1925), who was my 1st cousin, 4x removed.  As back-story, these two tintypes (and others) were found hidden in a writing desk that was owned by Charlena Thomas.  Her family said that they are not people from her mother’s side of the family and believe they are from the Thomas side.  Charlena’s grandfather was Charles Franklin Thomas Sr. who would have been Joel’s first cousin.

First of all, this photo compares the man in the tintypes with a photo known to be Joel as an older man:

Man on left is Joel B. Thomas

Man on left is Joel B. Thomas

If, for the purposes of this exercise, we accept that the man on the right is Joel as a younger man, what can we say about these two photos?:

Thomas Tintype 1

Thomas Tintype 1

Let’s call the man on the left “Mustache Man” and the man on the right “Bearded Man”.

Thomas Tintype 2

Thomas Tintype 2

Let’s call the younger man on the left here “Clean-Shaven Man”.

In my estimation Clean-Shaven man is about 20 or 22.  Mustache man is about 33 to 35, and Bearded man is about 40 to 42 years old.  If we accept that Mustache man is Joel B Thomas, then the photos were taken about 1875-1877.  Joel was living in Burlington, Vermont at that time.  What other men from his family were around to be photographed with him at that time?   There aren’t many suspects of the right generation.  Here are four I’ve identified:

  • Beriah Wolcott Thomas (1853-1901): Beriah was Joel’s brother.  He was living in Burlington and would have been about 24 years old.
  • Warren Perry Thomas (1860-1896): Warren was living in Canton, NY and was only about 17 years old at the time.
  • Charles Franklin Thomas (1854-1927): Charles was living in Canton, NY and was about 23 years old.
  • Joel Wells Thomas (1835-1916): Joel was living in Burlington, Vermont and would have been about 42 years old.

We have photos of Charles Franklin Thomas, and he doesn’t look like the younger man.  To me the most likely combination would be:

Bearded Man: Joel Wells Thomas

Mustache Man: Joel B. Thomas

Clean-Shaven Man: Beriah Wolcott Thomas

They are the right ages, and were all living in Burlington, Vermont during the period these photos would have been taken.  This mystery will have to await the discovery of other, identified photos to confirm or refute the theory.

Just for completeness, here are the other tintypes found in the desk with the two shown above:

Unknown man at desk

Unknown man with mustache

Unknown Child

Unknown Child


About cthomas1967

Seeking to bring my ancestors out of the shadows of history and into the light. I have always been interested in history, and at a few different times I tried to do a family tree, but wasn't able to do it with the technology that was available then. On a business trip I visited the World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO and it was a very impressive establishment. While I was there I remember thinking, "Didn't my great-grandfather father fight in World War I? And wasn't his brother killed alongside him in some famous battle? I wonder if I can find out where he died." That's what started it all. View all posts by cthomas1967

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