Monday, May 4, 2015

Like Mother, Like Daughter: Looking for a Livingston Family Resemblance

 One of the first questions people want to know about a baby is "Who does it look like: the mother or the father?"  With babies, this can be a hard call.  How do you compare a baby's face to a grown-up's?  But photography gives us a great tool for comparing people at the same age, and who doesn't love pulling out their old baby photos for comparison?

A while ago, I got into a debate with my mother about who was in a photograph: her or my sister?  (I finally won when I pointed out my sister as a baby in the background of the photo).  And thinking of this made me wonder if the Livingston family resemblance--which has often been heralded as being pretty intense--would show up as well in photos.

So below I have assembled three Livingston mothers and daughters for comparison.  See what you think:

1.  Alice Delafield Clarkson (1840s-1910s) and Alice Delafield Clarkson Livingston (1872-1964)

Our Alice (Honoria and Janet's mom) was, in fact, named after her mother, and--lucky for us--the two were both photographed around the same age.  Alice the Younger is 8 years old in her photo on the right, a little girl with knee-length skirts and loose wavy hair, which were markers of childhood in the late 19th century.  I like the fact that the large, regular waves suggest that she wore her hair in braids when she went to bed.

Her mother appears to be about the same age when her photograph was taken, maybe a year or two older, although the caption in our archives has her labeled as 16.  She is wearing a large coat with sloped shoulders in a popular silhouette for the 1850s, and her shorter skirt (just ankle length) is held out by a nicely rounded hoop.  Her big sausage curls suggest that instead of braids, she slept last night in rag curls.

Finding a likeness in the two girls means zooming in for a closer look, but their similarities aren't necessarily as easy to express as the details of their clothes.  Is it the nose?  Is it the chin?  The clothing is distracting, but nevertheless it's not unbelievable that the girls are related.

Alice Livingston and her mother seemed to have had a pretty close relationship when she grew up.  Her parents might have begun to despair of ever seeing grandchildren by the time Alice finally had children at 36, but once she did they did their best to be part of the girls' lives with regular visits.  Alice also kept her mother abreast of the day-to-day details of her babies' lives by writing letters.  Everything from overall behavior to diet and digestive function were worth sharing.  Alice also sought comfort from her mother when Arryl House burned down and talked to her about her distress over her husband's reaction to the loss.  It's the sort of relationship that many of us might recognize today, only with less texting.

2.  Catherine Hammersly Livingston (?-1873) and Katherine Livingston Timpson (1873-1933)

If working from two photographs was hard, it's a little harder working from a photograph (right) and a photograph of a painted portrait (left).  But that is all we have for Catherine.  Nevertheless, seeing the women as adults makes it a little easier to identify their similarities.  Maybe it's just easier having a fully-developed facial structure that helps.

Katherine was not lucky enough to have her mother's advice about children when she grew up.  Her mother had died shortly after Katherine's birth, and instead the little girl was raised first by her aunts and later by her step mother.

Instead, Catherine's only way to directly ensure her daughter's future was through a sizable trust fund.  This money helped Katherine throughout her life, paying for swimming and tennis lessons, trips to Bar Harbor, and traveling in England and all over the world as a young woman.  Years later, when Katherine's marriage grew rocky, that money also helped her to purchase her own house and live financially secure away from her husband, something that not all women in her situation could hope for.

3.  Alice Delafield Clarkson Livingston (1782-1964) and Honoria Livingston McVitty (1909-2000)  

Alice Livingston (from above) grew up and eventually had two children of her own: Honoria (at right) and Janet.  Honoria was a glamorous girl who definitely got her mother's large, dark eyes.  Beyond that, though, the two look very different.  Photographed somewhere around their mid 20s, it's not easy for me to pick out the similarities.

Like Alice and her mother, Honoria and Alice also remained fairly close as the years went on.  In fact, after Honoria married, the newlyweds moved into Sylvan Cottage, about 1/2 a mile away just inside Clermont's gate.  A few years later, her mother moved into the property's other cottage, and the two women lived down the road from one another for the next 20 years, until Alice's death at 92 years old.

I was kind of interested to notice that Honoria looks even more like her sisters: Janet and her half-sister Katherine.  I guess there really is a family resemblance after all.

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