By Jazmine Aldrich

What information can we glean from a family photograph album of unknown origins? Surprisingly, quite a lot!

Last summer, the ETRC received a photo album that the donor, Lisette Gagné, had purchased from an antique dealer in Ayer’s Cliff in the early 2000s. Ms. Gagné had no personal connection to the family – she simply felt that the album was an important piece of history that should be preserved.

The album consists of 216 black and white photographs, as well as one postcard. The photographs mainly depict individuals and groups of people in domestic scenes, as well as landscapes and buildings. The dates of the photographs range from about 1916 to 1958. The greatest challenge for our Archives Department team, however, is that only 24 of the 216 photographs are identified.

A few of the individuals in the photographs are identified by first and last name, including Bessie Anderson, Edna Anderson, and Helen Anderson. The photographs of the Andersons were taken in West Norfolk, Virginia. It is possible that the Andersons were southern relatives or friends of someone in the Townships and that the photographs were received and added to the family album; or, perhaps the Andersons visited Virginia in 1917, when the photos were taken. Given that we have very little information about this album, we must consider a variety of explanations.

Others identified by first and last name include Leigh Smith, Robert Peacock, and Sam Marshall.

Leigh Smith’s photograph includes an inscription, which indicates that it was taken at “Newport High” in 1937. This could refer to Newport High School in Newport, Vermont, although there are cities called Newport scattered across North America and beyond.

The photograph of Robert Peacock is dated June 14, 1937. Peacock is wearing a graduation cap and gown, standing in front of a rural scene. Could this be the same Robert J. Peacock living in Brome-Missisquoi – 66 years old at the time of the 1931 census? Unlikely, as the subject of the photograph looks considerably younger than 72 years old. Maybe, he is the Robert Peacock who lived in Fulford/Bondville at the time of the 1921 census – though he was 46 then, which would make him 62 at the time of the photograph. One is never too old to graduate but context clues lead us to believe that we do not have a match, so the search continues.

Ms. Gagné researched Samuel Marshall (1844-1937) and found that he was born in Inverness, Megantic County, and lived in Sawyerville. He married Catherine Annie Jones Edwards (1859-1949) in Lower Ireland in 1886.

Several Lennoxville scenes, including the cenotaph in the former Lennoxville Square, a covered bridge in flood, and the C.P. trestle bridge, are featured in the album. Some Sherbrooke scenes include the Soldiers’ Memorial on King Street, the Lake Park Hotel, and the Granada Theatre. Other photographs appear to have been taken around Capelton and North Hatley. Overall, we get the sense of a strong Townships connection without strong ties to any one location.

Despite all of the above information that we have gathered, we still do not know the origins of this album. All of the photographs have been scanned and uploaded to our online database, the Eastern Townships Archives Portal, and are freely available at the following address: We encourage anyone with information about any of these photographs to contact us. Together, we hope to solve this mystery! If you have any information or would like to learn more about the history of the Eastern Townships, please contact the ETRC Archives by email or by telephone at 819-822-9600, extension 2261.