Sunday, September 14, 2014

52 Ancestors: #33 Sarah Ann Lane's Album and a Shorthand Mystery

Sarah Ann Lane

Sarah Ann Lane was my third great-grandmother.  She was born on July 30, 1836.  Unfortunately, I don't know who her parents were or if she had any siblings.  I'm not even sure where she was born or where she lived before she was married.

I have some notes that my grandmother wrote in Gregg shorthand that contain information about Sarah's life.  The problem is that I can't read shorthand!  From what I can decipher, Sarah lived with the Hamilton family, and she may have come from Cincinnati on an orphan train.  I know that the initials "J. H." mentioned in the note stand for her husband, James Harvey Bird.

I really would like to know what the rest of this note says. Can anyone help me out with this?

My Grandmother's Shorthand Note.  

On Christmas day of 1864, Sarah received a photo album with the following inscription:
 A Christmas Gift
     To Sarah Lane,
     from T.G. Hamilton
     Dec. 25, 1864
I assume that T.G. Hamilton was a member of the Hamilton family mentioned in the shorthand note; however, I have not been able to find a census with Sarah living with the T.G. Hamilton family.  [EDIT on 12/7/14: Since posting this, I found a "Sarah Maine" listed as a domestic servant in the 1860 census in the household of William Warder Hamilton, T.G. Hamilton's brother!  I am pretty sure this is Sarah Lane; she is the right age and in the right place.]

Glass negative of Sarah Lane Bird.
On March 14, 1865, Sarah Lane was married to James Harvey Bird, a widower.  He was ten years her senior and already had seven children by his first wife.  Sarah and Harvey had three girls: Nina, Grace and Mary Edna (my great great grandmother.)

In 1873, Sarah gave birth to her only son. Sadly, Sarah and the baby both passed away in June of that year.  Since death records were not kept at that time in Decatur County, Indiana, I do not know the exact cause of her death.  She was only 36 years old.

Below is a slideshow of the 26 photographs contained in Sarah's album, given to her by T. G. Hamilton.  Sarah is in one of these photos herself, and there is a picture of her husband, James Harvey Bird.  The images are tintypes and carte de vistes. None of the pictures were originally identified. Fortunately, I was able to identify some of them by referring to labeled family pictures.

Because the number of photographs exceeds the limit for a slideshow, the album is divided into two parts.  Please let me know if you are able to identify any of these people.  Enjoy!

Below are the remaining eleven photographs.


  1. Dang! I took shorthand in high school but most if it is gone. Here is a link to a Gregg shorthand dictionary that should help.

    1. Thanks for the link! Since I posted this, I was given my grandma's shorthand book. I'm hoping it will help.

  2. Brenna, I'm interested to know where you got the album. I think I may have given it to your grandfather sometime in the 1990s, although I can't remember when I was last in Indiana visiting John William Gilchrist.

    1. Yes, you are right! I have a letter that you wrote to my grandpa about the album. So nice to hear from you!

  3. Brenna, I can't tell you how pleased I am that you have that album! I had hoped, since I have no children, that someone in your family would treasure it -- and be able to identify pictures. Thank you so very much for sharing some of them online. Seeing the images of William, Maria, and J. Harvey Bird and reading the stories that you've uncovered has made me want to go back to my Indiana side and learn more. I have been searching for that picture of my grandfather Koester for quite awhile, knowing that I'd seen it but being unable to find it in any of my files. What a treat! I remember John Richard Green as an engaging, interesting man. My father (an in-law to the Indiana group) always spoke so highly of him. He was a big help in getting me started in genealogy decades ago. Rest assured that I don't want the album back -- it's exactly where it needs to be, and I could not be happier about that. Thanks once again!

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed reading the stories! I also have an album that belonged to John Richard Green's mother, Mary Ida Sefton. There are some photos of your mother and grandmother that you may like to see. You can email me at

  4. Hi, Brenna.
    One of your unidentified pictures is my 2x great grandfather, William Warder Hamilton. I’m so excited to see this picture!

  5. Hi Heather,

    I'm so glad you recognized the picture of William Warder Hamilton! Which picture is it? I should have numbered the pictures, but can you identify it by the photographer and date at the bottom?