Thursday, May 3, 2018

Ruth Lyman Wells ~ 52 Ancestors #18

I am participating in this year's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Each week has an optional writing prompt and this week's writing prompt is Close Up.

I feel like I know an ancestor "close up" when I have many photographs of that ancestor in addition to other documents.

My third great aunt, Ruth Lyman Wells (1862-1943), not to be confused with her father's sister, my fourth great aunt, Ruth Lyman Wells (1816-1882), was a much younger sister of my second great-grandmother, Eliza May Wells (1839-1880), who married Samuel Sewall Greeley.

Following are just a few of several photographs that I have of Ruth, who was born July 28, 1862.

This photograph has a Civil War revenue stamp on the back with a May 29 date, suggesting a year 1865. (Revenue stamps were in use from July 1864 to July 1866.)

Ruth was born in Brookline, Massachusetts (close to me; this is just a few miles from where I live) and lived there, in Cambridge, or in Boston all of her life.

However, she did travel.

The first passport application in which I find Ruth L. Wells is in January 1883, when she was on her mother's application, listed as her 20-year-old daughter.

The following photograph was taken in England just a few months later:

Someone wrote on the back:
Ruth Lyman Wells
Exeter, England
July 26 / 1883

Ruth applied for a passport again in 1889 and in 1924, by which time passport applications included photographs. Here is the second page of that passport application:

Ruth was 61 years old, 5'4" tall, with a high forehead, grey eyes and a straight nose. She had a "firm" mouth, medium chin, red hair, fair complexion, and oval face. Too bad there wasn't color photography in the 1920s!

In 1902, she visited her niece (my great-grandmother, Ethel May (Greeley) Copeland) and great-nephew (my grandfather, Lowell Townsend Copeland) in Winnetka, Illinois, and had her photo taken with him. There are multiple copies of this photo and the one from my aunt has a date of June 16, 1902, on the back. (Grandfather was almost 18 months old and Ruth was almost 40 years old.)

Ruth died on October 6, 1943, in Brookline, Massachusetts, and was buried in a Wells family plot at Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston. See her Find-A-Grave memorial.


  1. What great photos you have to document Ruth's life! You are so blessed to have a photo of her from 1865 - the real infancy of photography. I am jealous! Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Megan, yes I know I'm pretty lucky to have a lot of 19th century photos of my ancestors. The earliest photo I have of my husband's family is 1910, and not much more until the early 1940s. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Ruth was beautiful! And I understand how much closer you feel to someone when you can see their face.