Photo Forensics in Family History
I have been spending a lot of time in the world of Albert Smith for an upcoming video we hope to release. That, of course, comes with an always challenging effort to find images to help tell his story.
The best and perhaps most beloved photo of Albert is this one, showing him late in life with one of his wives:
This photo has been mired in controversy for decades. That is most definitely Albert Smith, seated in the chair wearing the checkered suit. But the question comes from the woman pictured — is it Rhoda Gifford Smith or Sophie Klauen Smith?
Albert Smith lost his first wife, Esther, in 1856. As was common in the 19th century Albert began looking for a new companion because survival on the farm demanded it. He found a widow, Rhoda Gifford, who was likewise in need of a spouse and they married.
This was in 1857 — right after the arrival of the Willie Handcart Company. Grandma Sophie’s story has been told. Together, with Albert and Rhoda, Sophie went to the endowment house on Valentine’s Day 1857 and were sealed at the same time.
Albert Smith was suddenly a polygamist.
It wasn’t a happy arrangement and we’ll get into that in the video. For now though, let it suffice to say that Rhoda and Albert divorced in 1865 — long before the photo above was taken.
The picture above was taken by George Edward Anderson, a photographer born in 1860. This article from the September 1973 Ensign tells his story. The photo above was found in his collection of images dating from 1880-1928.
We know that Albert died in 1892. So this picture was taken between 1880 and 1892 — long after Rhoda was out of the picture. That woman in the photo is Grandma Sophie.
But in the resolution of one mystery comes yet another. And that is in this image:
Who are these people?
The photo is the next in sequence taken in Anderson’s Springville studio. It is likewise marked “Albert Smith”.
Looking at this couple do you suspect they are married? Or could they be brother and sister?
I have not figured it out yet. The records I’ve found of Albert Smith Jr. are so far pretty scant. He was married in 1883, just 22 years old, to Caroline Nielsen.
Looking at her records, which includes a few images, the woman in the photo above is definitely NOT Caroline. She and Albert Jr had three children in the 1880s — two sons and a little daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who died, along with Caroline, in 1889.
The journal of Albert Smith records a little about this period of time, with letters flying back and forth among the various family members. Not only did Albert Jr suffer from devastating news but sister Albertina, four years older, died in childbrith in June of 1890 in Huntington, Utah. Albert’s journal speaks of Albert Jr. returning to the Smith home in Manti with at least five of the grandchildren to stay with them a while.
I could be wrong — and probably I am wrong — but something tells me that might be a picture of Albert Jr and Mary Ann Humble sometime before they were married in December 1891.
Mary Ann Humble had been married before to a man named Clark Brinkerhoff. She was his 2nd wife. He was sent on a mission and while he was gone the Manifesto came out. With that he never returned to Mary Ann and the child they had together. In 1891 she married Albert Smith Jr, and he adopted the son Mary Ann and Clark had together.
Missing for me in identifying the picture above are the critical details in the histories of Albert Smith Jr and Mary Ann Humble.
Whoever these people are — they knew Albert Sr. and Sophie, because this picture very obviously was taken at the same time and paid for by Albert Smith in the studio of George Edward Anderson in Springville, Utah.
Note: I’m still combing through Anderson’s sizable collection but I did find this image of Manti Temple Workers taken in 1886. I’m wondering if there are any Smiths, Nielsons or Snows recognizable in these faces.
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