Photograph Forensics

Clues to Who’s Who and What’s Where

The cropped photo above (with names and ages added by me) and the full, original photo at the very end of this webpage represent the oldest known photo of Simon Truby’s farmhouse in Apollo PA. The photo was originally posted to Facebook in 2014 by Simon Truby’s great-great granddaughter, Barb Aitchison of New York, who asked if anyone could identify the people or location. The back of Barb’s photo, labeled “708 Terrace Ave,” provided the first clue!

When Simon Truby’s house  was built circa 1844, Terrace Ave did not yet exist. Simon’s house was built with the stately front facing the river. Sadly, when Terrace Ave was created and extended to this part of Apollo borough in the 1890s, the brick-paved avenue traveled along the back of the house, so the back became the front.

In the early 1900s, brick additions to the former “front” of the house hid the original facade shown in the old photo. But the original features of that facade still remain inside the house. Though the shutters are long gone, the former “front” of the Terrace Ave house retains 5 windows across the top and, hidden from view because of the additions, a central door with vertical sidelights and 2 windows on either side, as in the old photo. Holes in the brick indicate where shutters used to be attached.

Then&Now

Counting Bricks and Stones

As mentioned an earlier blog post (Apollo’s “folk-type” architecture), 4-Over-4 brick houses with 5 bays (windows) across the top were a common type of vernacular house in Western Pennsylvania.

So to absolutely confirm that Barb’s old photo represents the Simon Truby house, I enlarged the old photo to the max and compared it to more recent photos. I counted rows of bricks and their arrangements between windows and the edges of the house. Perfect match!

Then, to seal the deal, I examined the fieldstones at the foundation of the house. In the sets of photos below, colored arrows point to unique tool markings that match up in the old (left) and new (right) photos of the Simon Truby house. The arrangement of fieldstones themselves also match in the old and new photos.

TrubyHouse-Old&New-arrows - Copy

Tool markings at the base of the Simon Truby farmhouse are the same in both the 1890 photo (left) and the 2014 photo (right)

TrubyHouse-Old&New2 - Copy

More markings show unique shapes and lines that match up in the base of the Simon Truby farmhouse in old and new photographs.

Who’s Who?

To figure out the identity of the people, I looked at census records for the house’s residents. Most of the U.S. census for 1890 were destroyed in a fire. But by looking at the 1880 and 1900 records, I discerned that in 1890 there were likely 10 inhabitants: Simon’s widow Elizabeth (age 64), Head of Household would have been Simon’s son Henry Hill Truby (age 42), Henry’s wife Sarah Belle Whitlinger Truby (age 41), and Henry & Sarah’s 7 children (Everett, Ophie, Seibert, Eula, Bertha, Elizabeth & Clark), with an 8th child (Evaline) to be born a year or two later. The children’s and adults’ ages match up well with the people in the photo.

Do you know of any additional photos of:

  • Simon Truby of Apollo (1806-1886),
  • of his wife Elizabeth Hill Truby (1826-1901),
  • of their son Henry Hill Truby (1849-1927), or
  • of Henry’s wife Sarah Belle Whitlinger Truby (1849-1914)?
  • of the other Truby children?

See other brief Truby Farmhouse Topics.

1140x930_1890-HenryHillTrubyFamily-Leechburg_WP-big-img

Henry Hill Truby (standing far right) in front of the house built by his father, Simon Truby of Apollo. Photo circa 1890. (Photo courtesy of Barb Aitchison, Simon Truby’s great-great granddaughter)

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One thought on “Photograph Forensics

  1. Simon was my 3rd great grandfather and I am excited to see pictures and be able to add information to my family tree. This line runs: Simon, Mary J Truby, Bertha Henry, Fay R Morford, Dorothy Elizabeth Morford (mother), and me, Roger L. Fleegle.

    Thanks once again,
    Roger

    Liked by 1 person

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