February 1, 2015

Antique photo album filled with Ohio photos

Cori Henderson shows antique album to Renee


Ohio photo possibly Alora Ohio family photo from antique album Ohio photo from album

I was connected with the current owner of this antique photo album, Cori Henderson, by our mutual Facebook friend, Sandra Doggett. Cori had purchased this album in 1995 at a sale at El Paso, Arkansas.  It tugged at her heart and she bought it hoping to someday return it to the family. She stored it in a ziploc bag and it moved with her to Texas and back to Arkansas.  She recently pulled it out hoping to figure out something about the people pictured. I estimate that the photos were taken from the 1890’s through 1920’s, but could use a second opinion on that.  None of the 36 photos have identification.  Most of them were made professionally by photographers in Hollansburg and Greenville, Ohio.

One possible clue: I examined with a magnifying glass the solo photo of the woman above.  She is wearing a neck pin that appears to spell Alora or Nora.

Another clue: In the album, on paper rather than photo backing, there is a picture of a man with the name A. A. Irelan.  It says Harrison TP (township) at the bottom.  Harrison Township is located in Darke County, Ohio where most of the photos in the old album were taken. It appears to be a very good pencil drawing of him.  I’ve gone to Ancestry.com and searched for A.A. Irelan and found the same portrait in a family tree.  His name is Aaron Abel Irelan. He was born about 1818 in Hollansburg, Ohio according to that family tree.  There is another photo posted to the same ancestry.com family tree picturing four generations…A.A. Irelan, Son Norman Tillson Irelan, Grandson James Eugene Irelan, and great-grandson (baby) Aaron Gaar Irelan all of whom are now deceased.  Here is a link to that photo: ancestry.com.  A man pictured in one of the other photos in the old album has a resemblance to James Eugene Irelan in the four-generation photo.  Could this be an Irelan family album?

Also in the album is a 1920 clipping of an obituary for Daniel Russel Beanblossom of Ohio. I do not know if he was friend, acquaintance, or family of the people pictured in the album.

UPDATE:  This case went straight from “Cold Case” to “Mystery Solved.”  This website, returnthephotos.com, helped solve the mystery.  Back in Hollansburg, Ohio, the Aaron Abel Irelan home, built in 1885, is still standing and is owned by a lady whose grandson curiously asked, “Who built this house?”  This got his grandma, Tess, hunting to find out some information.  She learned that the house was built by Aaron Abel Irelan. She got in contact with the great-great granddaughter of Mr. Irelan.  In her research, Tess did a google search using Aaron Abel Irelan and Hollansburg Ohio and found this website.  She commented on the post and then gave me the email contact with the GGGranddaughter, Kay, who lives about an hour away from Hollansburg.  Kay looked at the photos and identified her great-grandmother Cora, daughter of A.A. Irelan.  Kay has an interest in genealogy and is excited about the photo album.  All we have to do now is arrange the delivery of the photo album.

Mission accomplished!  Photo album delivered by Renee to descendant Kay at the home of Tess and Jim Hall who own the former A.A. Irelan homestead in Hollansburg, Ohio.

Tess, Kay, Renee at Irelan Homestead now owned by Tess & Jim Hall and called Fieldstone Farm



  • I live in the house that Aaron Able Irelan built in 1882 & have been researching the family, too.
    I have copies of the two pictures you mentioned from a gggranddaughter that I’ve had email correspondence with.
    We’d found an old family bible in the house & subsequently gave it to another family member who had stopped by to see where she was born on her way to a family reunion in PA.
    Can you scan the photos so I can view them?
    We also found another picture who we don’t know the identities of the couple.

    • Tess, sorry for the delayed response. I would love to see a picture of the Irelan house you live in! And the email address of the GGGranddaughter would be super. The pictures are in an album that is very fragile so I won’t scan them, but I could snap a couple of pictures to send you and the descendants. I look forward to returning the album to a family member that will treasure it. Thanks for your comment! Please remind me how we got connected. Did I leave a phone message or did you find my website through a google search?

    • Hi Tess,

      I would be related to this family through their Stewart connection. Have any Stewart names turned up in the bible ?

  • reneec:
    I’ve been researching the Irelan family & that is how I came upon “Return the photos”; of course, the mention of Hollansburg caught my eye. I’ll ask the Irelan gggranddaughter if I may give you her email address. Our house is an “I” house (named for their popularity in Indiana, Illinois & Iowa) built with two rooms downstairs & two rooms upstairs and only one room deep with an extension across the then front of the house, now considered the back of our house. This all began when my grandson asked: “Who built this house?”

  • The woman in the picture is my great grandmother, Cora Belle Irelan Williams. She lived in Hollansburg, Ohio. Her father was Aaron (AA) Irelan and mother Phoebe Tillson from the Tillson family who came over on the Mayflower. Brothers and Sisters are: Josephine, Norman, James, Isaiah William and Clara.

    • An added thought about the pin on Cora’s dress is probably her name, Cora and not Nora. I don’t know the names of the other two photos, but will continue to search.

    • So wonderful to hear from a great-granddaughter! Where do you live, Kay? And where are most of the Irelan descendants today? What can you share about your great-grandmother and the Irelan Family? I look forward to getting this treasure back in the hands of family members!

    • Oops, maybe I should have put my reply here !

      Hi Kay,

      I can see that we are related through the Stewart family. Phebe Tillson´s grandfather was a William Stewart, my 4th gr. grandfather. You would stem from William´s daughter Hannah and I stem from his son James. Do you have any interesting info on the Stewarts ?

      Regards, Amy in Denmark

  • Hi Kay,

    I can see that we are related through the Stewart family. Phebe Tillson´s grandfather was a William Stewart, my 4th gr. grandfather. Do you have any interesting info on the Stewarts ?

    Regards, Amy in Denmark

  • Hi Amy,
    I don’t have very much information on the Stewarts, but will review what I have and send it to you or post it. I am having computer problems, so won’t be right away. You have started my curiosity going again. I will get back to you.
    Kay in Ohio

  • Hi Tess and Kay,

    I can’t believe I stumbled on this post while researching AA Irelan. My great great grandfather is Norman Tillson Irelan, therefore AA would be my great great great grandfather. I had neglected doing my paternal family tree for many years but have just started working on it. Norman’s daughter, Nora, married Jacob William Harris. Nora and Jacob are my great grandparents. My Harris’ are from Hollansburg and Richmond, IN.

    I would love to establish contact with both of you. We are trying to plan a family trip to the area this summer.

    Thank you,
    Brian Harris

    • Hi, Brian. It’s so good to hear from you and to see that ReturnthePhotos.com is providing you some clues to your Irelan ancestors. I’ve emailed you contact info for Tess and Kay.

      • Brian:
        Are you related to Norman & Lucille Harris of Hollansburg? Norman was into genealogy. There is a lot of information on both AA and Norman Tillson Irelan on the web. I’m not at home right now to look up the information I have about Norman Tillson’s family. Was Mr. Harris Nora’s second husband? Where are you located? This so exciting!

        • Hi Tess,
          I need to contact you. I believe the Norman Harris you are referring to is my grandfather’s brother. My grandfather was Joseph E Harris, son of Jacob W Harris and Nora Irelan. Yes- second husband.

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