A photographic puzzle

Our house has lots of dusty boxes that came from the houses of deceased family members. There’s the box of stuff from my father’s bachelor brother, William “Bud” Buzzell, who served on an LST during World War II and who sold me my first car for a dollar. There are several boxes from my mother’s mother, Thelma Jane MacLean, about whose Telluride parents I have written before.

Not to be outdone by my family’s packrat tendencies, we also have boxes from my husband Scott’s Inglis, Milne, Munroe, and MacCuish ancestors. The Inglis family hailed from Galashiels, south of Edinburgh; the Milnes were from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. The Munroes left Scotland to settle in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. We believe the MacCuishes emigrated from the island of North Uist in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides to Newfoundland.

In one of Scott’s boxes, we found seventeen pages of photos taken probably about 1900 and pasted into a little album. The contents of the various boxes has been mixed up over the years, so we aren’t sure to which family the person who owned or took the photos belonged. The images depict what seem to be everyday scenes in a turn-of-the-century coastal (perhaps island?) community. By sharing them here, I hope you will enjoy them and that someone may be able to help identify where they were taken.

The photographer took the time to create the lovely panoramic view at the top of the page, which shows a cemetery in the lower right corner. Many of the buildings seen here are repeated in the other shots.

These two shots nearly create another panorama. In both, the same lighthouse is visible at the top of a far hill. I wonder if the photographer stood at the lighthouse to take the two shots for the previous panorama?


An unusual house with eight windows on one end appears at the left in this low-tide shot. Perhaps it still stands? Look closely; there is a woman sitting on the side of the boat to the right of the shack in front of stacks of arch-type lobster traps.


If only the photographer had moved his focus to the left, we would have had more of the sign that hangs over the door of the left-hand shack as a clue to the location of the photos! Note the man with his skiff on the beach.



This closer view of the village reveals a solitary bovine.




Does anyone recognize the shape of this small harbor? The white area on the horizon to the right of center is a sailing ship.




Perhaps people today still enjoy the view from this spot, as the couple here is doing.




Could this be the same woman reclining in front of the tree? The shape of the rocks forming the nearer point of land is somewhat memorable, at least in conjunction with the more distant point.


Certainly this unique rock formation has a name? Notice the small boat with four souls aboard to the right side of the photo.

About Sharon Inglis

In nearly 30 years in the educational publishing industry, Sharon developed and directed the production of French, Spanish, Italian, German, social studies, science, and math textbook programs for secondary school and higher education. She is very happy to be at NEHGS and applying her editorial and project management skills to Newbury Street Press publications, theMayflower Descendant journal, and whatever else comes her way!

34 thoughts on “A photographic puzzle

  1. Wish for you that your photographic inquiry receives a response. Your format is interesting in itself. I enjoyed the care the photographer took to illustrate the views that are both pretty and important to he or she.

  2. Can’t help with identification, but may a recommend a mystery novel that given this background you will surely enjoy. Has some good historical info and a genealogical twist. Peter May’s “Entry Island”. Enjoy.

    1. My McNeil and McNish ancestors immigrated from Scotland to Cape Breton in the 1800’s. One cousin even believes that our McNish’s were really McCuish’s from South Uist! The last three photographs you have posted remind me very much of photos I have seen taken by relatives visiting the west coast of Cape Breton, near Margaree, St. Joseph du Moine and Cheticamp. I wonder if the genealogists at Les Trois Pignons in Cheticamp, Cape Breton might be able to help identify the locations if by any chance the locations are in that area of Cape Breton.

    2. Was “Bud” ever in Maine? The #2 photo panorama looks like Monhegan Island harbor and lighthouse looking from the smaller island of Manana. The island is by a mailboat/ferry out of Port Clyde, Maine.

  3. I wonder if the local historical societies of the towns you mentioned might be able to help with ID’ing the locations. If the photos “belong” to one of the towns, I know the local HS would be thrilled to have copies.

  4. What a treasure!! But, Sharon, you must go! Book on the Hebridean Princess, just some 85 passengers, for a memorable trip to these enchanted islands.

  5. Beautiful collection of photographs. I wonder if it could be Baddeck Bay on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia? Good luck with your search!

    1. It reminds me very much of old photos I’ve seen of Mabou Harbour, CB, not far from Baddeck. My family was also from Inverness Scotland, Lochaber to be exact.

  6. These photographs, if they all were taken at the same location, are of Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine. The two that you call a “panorama” are of Monhegan Harbor. See, for example, Earle G. Shuttleworth, Jr. & W. H. Bunting, An Eye for the Coast: The Maritme and Monhegan Island Photographs of Eric Hudson. Gardiner, ME: Tilbury House Publishers, 1998. Particularly the photographs oppsite the title page and page 115. The lighthouse you mentioned is on Manana Island that forms one side of Monhegan Harbor to the west. There are several other photographs in the book that show houses that are in your photographs. I think you now know where these were taken.

      1. You are most welcome! I love these challenges. Now all you need to do is discoverer why the photographer was on Monhegan. It has always been a magnet for painters, photographers and bird watchers. The photographs in the book by Shuttleworth and Bunting are wonderful even though many of those of people were posed. It might be worth seeking an interlibrary loan to see them first hand.

  7. I saw the title of your post, and stared at the top photo before even reading any of your text. I thought to myself, “Looks like Nova Scotia.” It’s somewhat familiar to me but I don’t know it intimately enough to recognize specific places. But it fits with your family history.

  8. My first thought was Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine, but that doesn’t fit with your family histories.

    1. It may not be a family member who lived there. Maybe they just visited. Good reason to light a fire under the husband to get going on his research.

  9. Jane, you are correct! Robert Frederick Craig and Joshua Smith on our NEHGS Facebook page said the same.

  10. I think Google Maps would be your vfriend here. I’ve seen people do amazing things there. The unusually sharp lines of the inlet look like the northwest shore of Cape Breton

  11. The 1st photo of the harbor with the small island and the photo of the rock formation are definitely Monhegan Island in Maine. I recognized them immediately.

  12. That’s Monhegan and Manana islands off the coast off Maine. My grandfather 16 generations back was an original settler. There’s still a house on Monhegan that was built by his sons.

  13. Monhegan Island. I’ve been there several times. The first panorama, especially, must be Monhegan. Either that or it’s twin!

  14. These photos were, without a doubt, taken at Monhegan Island, Maine which was not only a fishing village, but also a popular destination for summer rustic agora and artists. Many of my Humphrey ancestors lived there in the late 1800s to early 1900s: Capt. Will Humphrey ran the mail boat, and his sister Sarah Elizabeth (Humphrey) Albee ran The Monhegan House, a well-known inn on the island. She was my great grandmother’s “Aunt Liz.” The lighthouse keeper in the 1860s-1880 was the widow Betsy (Morrow) Humphrey.

  15. Thanks, everyone, for the help identifying the location as Monhegan Island off the coast of southern Maine. Now the work begins to find out who took the photos and whether or not they are an ancestor of my husband’s. Sounds like we need to plan a trip there this spring….

  16. Absolutely love these images and am glad people have identified the location. I thought of coastal Maine, near Lubec and Cutler when I saw the images. Thanks for posting!

  17. Wow! It’s amazing how quickly the location was identified by crowd sourcing the problem. I have boxes of mixed photos from the same era. Can’t identify the place or the people. If I can find the right forum, I need to give this method a try.

    1. On Facebook is a site “Forgotten Faces in Time” ; “Forgotten Faces, Forgotten Places”,
      and “Forgotten Faces and Long Ago Places” (I think). At least two of them give help on identification. They are also sites that return old photos to the families.

  18. Hi Sharon, my cousin Marcia Young lead me here. Definitely all pictures from Monhegan. My in-laws have a home there, and I’ve been going out three or four times a year for the last 27 years. I live in Brunswick ME, about an hours drive and an hours boat ride.

    The house is actually visible in the panoramic photo from the top of the page. The bigger house furthest to the left going up towards the top of the hill, sticking out on the horizon. You can see the chimney with the sky behind it, as well as the corner of the porch which looks out to the ocean. The house was built in 1900, by my father-in-law’s great great grandfather, and has been in the family since. And the picture just after the one of the village is from the rocks below our house, looking back towards the harbor and pier. Basically my private swimming hole, as long as the ocean is not too rough.

    All these photos are amazing, as is the island itself. A very special place, whether you’re visiting or a summer resident. The island library and lighthouse museum have an extensive collection of pictures and artifacts. A must see if you visit the island.

    If you do plan to visit, make sure you contact me and I can arrange to have you stop at the house. I am only there a handful of times during the season, but my in-laws George and Karen would love to have you stop by and talk history. ( the house is also rentable 3-4 times a season if interested)

    Also please feel free to email me for any other info in the meantime. I have quite the collection of recent pictures, many from the same spot as the pictures above, that I could forward you for some “now and thens” !


    Paul Croatti

    1. Check back here tomorrow. I am posting a follow up. I definitely want to visit the island this summer.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.