Sepia Saturday – Is This My John Sylvester Strange?

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs.

Sepia Saturday Theme Image 415

The theme photo this week pictures Enginists of the Finnish State Railways playing chess on call duty. (1951) With back to the camera, caps pulled low, and several profile views, one might be hard pressed to identify these men. And that is my last-minute take on the theme:

Who is this man?

This week I found a couple of photos on identified as my 2nd great-grandfather, John Sylvester Strange. One of the photographs was obviously him – looks like other photographs in the family archive and a couple of cousins think they have copies of the photograph.

This photograph also appears in Lincoln – that County in Kansas by Dorothe Tarrence Homan. My copy arrived in the mail just yesterday! I took this photo right from the book. So that is definitely my John Sylvester Strange on the right.

It was the other photograph I found on ancestry that day that caused a lot of discussion among the cousins once I posted it on Facebook for everyone to see.

This second photograph is identified as John Sylvester Strange and one of his wives. JSS was married first to Elizabeth Hendrickson. She died while he was away during the Civil War. Upon his return home, JSS married Elizabeth’s sister, Susan, who is my 2nd great-grandmother.

My cousins have serious doubts that this is our John Sylvester Strange. And it is all about his eyes. JSS had blue eyes and this man’s eyes do not look blue. At. All. Other features are similar to our guy – but those eyes! Could the photo have been tinted and the eyes darkened?

I asked the person who shared the photo to ancestry where she got it and she said she found it on I finally found it and messaged the person who shared it there. I asked her a few questions about where she got the picture and how we would be related –  there have obviously been more than one man with the name John Sylvester Strange. Her linage fits our family tree to a T. We are related to the same man. She said that her father and grandfather said this was JSS.

So, I give you the photos we know to be our JSS with this man added to the mix. What do you think?


It is hard to tell with that pesky beard, but the cheekbones, forehead, hairline, and nose seem to me to be very much alike.

Besides your input on the facial differences/similarities, I have another question for you. The woman with the photograph kindly provided me with her phone number so that I could call with any further questions. What would you ask her?

By the way, we can’t really go by the wife to make the identification. No one has a picture of Elizabeth and the only one we have of Susan was much, much later in life. And, well, our attention is focussed completely on John.

Looking forward to your input!

Be sure to visit others who have participated in Sepia Saturday this week!

John Sylvester Strange has appeared here before: Strange in a Strange Uniform



10 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday – Is This My John Sylvester Strange?

  1. Well, first off, they do look (to my eyes) the same man.
    As to your new contact , I’m not sure what I would ask her, but she could well be a useful contact & worth keeping in contact with.

  2. The third picture does seem to be of the same man – same slant to the eyes, same cheekbones, same sort of expression. As for the dark eyes – I wouldn’t count that as much – photography being as limited as it was back then. And only you can know what question you might ask your new contact, but as Tony says, she could be a valuable source of information down the road.

  3. I think it’s a very good matched likeness. Early photographers had difficulty with blue eyes and fair blonde features as the emulsion didn’t record those colors very well. People also blinked or shifted their gaze giving them a zombie like appearance in the developed image. Since most photographers could dab color onto cheeks and lips, they often darkened the eyes of subjects that didn’t look right. I think that’s what happened in your mystery photo.

    • Thanks, Mike. I was hoping someone with a bit more knowledge would add a comment. It is exciting to me to think that there is another image of my ancestor that we did not know existed.

    • I’m so glad you left a comment, Rachel. Now you have piqued my curiosity about your relationship to JS Strange. Let me know if you would like to share information!

  4. Hello! I am also a descendant of JSS. Marion would be my great grandfather. I’ve enjoyed seeing the pictures and reading his history. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *