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Margaret Rose Amell

Left: The portrait of the mystery lady I am dying to know more about!
Right: This is the front cover of the album this picture is held in.

On Sunday, March 29th 2015, I was given a bag of old photographs to browse through. These pictures were mostly portraits of people posing with their families. There were several portraits of couples, both young and old, photographs of siblings, and several other family combinations. 

All of these pictures were fascinating, but there was one that stood out to me. In the middle of this pile, I found a photograph of a young woman. 

I held this picture and starred at it for ten minutes. I was completely captivated by this lady. Her eyes seem gentle as they stare directly at the camera. She has a light smile on her face. Most of her hair is pinned off to one side of her face, while a single ringlet sits gently on the other side. The curls border her face, and sit loosely on her chest. The entire time I starred at this woman, I couldn't help but feel: "Sara.. There's a story here.." You might laugh and think I'm crazy (and maybe I am), but that feeling has seldom been wrong.

The first thing I did after her and I had a starring contest, was to check the back of the picture and the frame it sat in for any details. Nothing was written on the back to give me a clue to who this woman could be. 

Although there were no markings to identify her, I used the picture and the frame for clues:

1- On the bottom of the picture frame, the words "McKenzie Duluth" can be seen.

  • Is this a photography company?
  • Is this the name of a photographer?
  • Is this the name of the place where someone purchased this frame from?
  • There is a town in Minnesota called "Duluth" - Is she from this area?

2- If you look closely at this picture, you can clearly see that someone is standing behind this woman. (I can make out someones waist.)
Someone obviously cropped this photo to single this woman out. 

  • If this was originally a group photo, was she with family? 

3- In "The Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History" it states, "throughout the 1800's and early 1900's, young girls tended to wear at least part of their hair hanging loose. Many girls wore long "drop curls" that were known as sugar curls or barley curls. Pinning up their hair and wearing longer skirts were signs that a girl had become a young woman, usually around the age of fifteen or sixteen."

When I googled pictures of "sausage curls" I saw thousands of pictures of ladies who wore their hair similar to my mystery lady. 

Because of the quality of the picture, I wouldn't date it in the 1800's. However, I do think it is safe to assume this was taken in the early 1900's. (Anywhere from 1900 to 1930.) The hairstyle still matches that time period.

4- On the frame there is a "fleur de lis" on the front. When I googled "Mckenzie Duluth" in Quebec, I found a "Rue Duluth." This road was re-named in 1890. 

  • Could there have been a photography studio with the name Mckenzie in it on this street?

Update: Monday, March 30th 2015

When I google the name "McKenzie Duluth" or "Duluth McKenzie", google keeps leading me to  Hugh McKenzie who was a photographer  in Duluth, Minnesota, during the time period 1902-1947.

Browsing his collection at the Minnesota Digital Library, there is a photograph titled: "School Event, Duluth, Minnesota." The description indicates that this is Miss Wilson's class, at 1817 Third Street East, and this is a picture of 10 year olds doing a tambourine dance.

This photograph is dated September 6th 1915.

Here is a copy of the picture:

If you zoom in closely to the third girl from the left.. She looks awfully similar to my mystery lady. Here is a zoomed in version on this "tambourine picture" with my mystery girl beside her for comparison.

Hugh McKenzie was a principal Duluth photographer. McKenzie's studio was in this Seip/Smith Building on 101 West Superior on the northwest corner. (Located downtown.) It was the last frame building in the main business district on Superior Street when it was torn down in 1926.

McKenzie himself took this photograph of his studio in 1913-1915.

Update: Tuesday, April 14th 2015

Although it seemed highly unlikely that I would ever find out who this lady is, we are one step closer. And by close, I mean CLOSE.

I was told by a family member that he couldn't remember the mystery lady's name, BUT he did remember that her father's name was Louis Amell, and that Louis had married a lady with the last name "Leroux."

So, I started digging.

Louis Amell was born on July 29th 1843 to proud parents, Louis Sr. and Marie Margaret (Gadbois) Amell. 

In the 1851 census, Louis Amell's record states: Living in Cornwall Township, Stormont County, Canada West (Ontario), Canada.

In the 1881 census, Louis Amell's record states: Living in Cornwall Township, Cornwall County, Ontario.

Occupation: Farmer.

In the 1901 census, Louis Amell's record states: Living in Cornwall Township, Cornwall & Stormont County, Ontario, Canada.

Louis Amell died on February 25th 1932, and was buried in St. Andrew's Church.

Louis did indeed marry a Leroux. He married Louise "Harriet" Leroux on February 21st 1870, in St. Alexander's Catholic Church, in Lochiel.

They had eleven children:

1. John Amell, who was born on December 16, 1871.

2. Moses Amell, who was born on April 28, 1873.

3. Mary Amell, who was born on September 22, 1876.

4. Lewis A. Amell, who was born on April 18, 1879.

5. Josephine, who was born on May 11, 1881.

6. Francis "Frank" Amell, who was born on December 7 1883.

He married Viva Jane Donnelly, the daughter of Isaac William Donnelly and Sarah Jane "Jennie" Woodward.

Frank and Viva had one son, Morton Amell.

7. Alexander Amell, who was born on May 7, 1886.

8. Mary Louise Amell, who was born on May 21, 1887.

9. Jennet Ann Amell, who was born on February 24, 1889.

10. Edgar Amell, who was born on January 1, 1891.

11. Bertha Ann Amell, who was born on April 7, 1895.

Now, if this information is correct, my mystery lady is one of the five girls listed above. She is either:

Mary Amell, Josephine Amell, Mary Louise Amell, Jennet Amell or Bertha Ann Amell.

The only question I have with all of this, is: Why is her photograph in a frame that has "McKenzie Duluth" on it? This photographer was from Duluth, Minnesota. 

Did the Amell's visit relatives in Duluth? Did they go on a family trip? Did they temporarily move? Was the picture placed in a random frame that had "McKenzie Duluth" on it? Or, is this mystery lady not an "Amell" at all?

The Answers: Thursday, August 20th 2015

On Thursday, August 20th, 2015, I got to meet Rita who was "my mystery lady's" first cousin. On this day, I finally learned this lady's name, and bits and pieces of her story. 

I would like to introduce you to Margaret Rose Amell. She is the daughter of Lewis Amell and Lillian Leroux. If you look through the information I had found above, I was given a hint: "I was told by a family member that he couldn't remember the mystery lady's name, BUT he did remember that her father's name was Louis Amell, and that Louis had married a lady with the last name "Leroux."

This was Margaret Rose's Grandfather!

If you look through the list of Louis Amell's children, you will see Margaret Rose's father's name: "Lewis A. Amell, who was born on April 18, 1879." I mistook her Grandfather as being her Dad because both her Grandfather and Father married Leroux women! (And they both have the same first name, just with a different spelling!)

Lillian and Lewis Amell had six children:

One child who died at birth.

Gordon Amell.

Orval Amell.

Louis Amell.

Margaret Rose Amell.

Mildred Amell.

I was correct in the fact that this family DID live in Duluth, Minnesota. Lewis and Lillian moved there because of Lewis' job. Rita told me her cousin's family lived on Polk Street.

I was slightly correct about the "tambourine" picture. This is indeed a picture of an Amell girl, but it is not a picture of Margaret Rose, this is a picture of her sister, Mildred! (Do they ever look alike!)

Both girls did not live long lives. Margaret Rose and her sister Mildred died at about fifteen or sixteen years old from the Spanish Flu, and they are both buried in Duluth, Minnesota.