Saturday, November 26, 2016

Old Paintings from Old Family Portraits

I recently met a "new" Peters cousin through Ancestry and we have been sharing photos and other information. She sent me two paintings that her family believed were of William Peters (1850-1927) and his wife, Mahala McFarland (1859-1906). William was a son of Joachim Peters (1815-1894), the immigrant patriarch I've been sharing about recently.

Cousin's Painting Labeled William Peters,
son of Joachim Peters. Used with permission.

Cousin's Painting Labeled Mahala
(McFarland) Peters, William Peters' wife.
Used with permission.
When I saw the paintings, I thought they looked really familiar. My family has a photo of our Peters' immigrant couple, Jochim and Henriette (Bünger) Peters, which is shown below.

The two paintings and the photo looked incredibly similar! Even the hair styles and clothing looked a lot alike. I decided to look at the photos and paintings side by side:

Portrait and painting of Joachim Peters (1815-1894). Photo taken circa 1870.

Portrait and painting oHenriette (Bünger) Peters (1817-1874). Photo taken circa 1870.

I think it is obvious the paintings of the man and the woman were actually made from the photo. Both the dating of clothes (likely 1860's or 1870's) and the couple's age (probably in their 50's or 60's) indicate the couple is Joachim and Henriette Peters, and not William and Mahala Peters.

I love that two branches of the family have now, about 150 years after the fact, digitally brought together these images of our immigrant couple. And, I wonder if other families have seen old paintings which were known to have been made from an original photo? If so, please let me know! I am wondering how common this practice was!

Do we have common ancestors? If so, I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at


  1. I have a photo of a very handsome man but I never knew who he was so left it in a box. Finally I saw the obituary of my great grandfather and lo and behold, there was the photo I'd been hanging on to! I now have it framed and sitting prominently on a table in my hallway.

    1. What a neat story! We have unidentified photos, too. We can also always hope that, someday, another relative will have a photo of that same person and we can identify them! Or we can find their photo in a newspaper. :)


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