Thursday, November 8, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday ~ A Queen's photo albums

"The Royal Album"
Endpaper of Photo Album 26
Unidentified Woman
Album 26

Unfortunately, lots of photograph albums are thrown away and lost.  But those of famous people are saved in archives and historical societies.  If you are lucky enough to be related to someone famous, or locally famous, you should search out these treasures.  I went to the Hawaii State Archives in Honolulu to see if there were any photo albums or single photographs of my great aunt Mary (Jones) Dominis, but didn't find any.  In the finding aids, and in discussions with the archivists, I found many photos of Queen Lili'uokalani, her daughter-in-law, in official files.  But they also told me that there were seven of her personal photograph albums in the vault.  This was my best bet for finding family photos.

Photo Album 28
We photographed the cover, and tag, of each album
They were old, fragile and historic, but the photos were
in very good condition considering their age. 
I brought my mother to the archives, since it was her grandmother who remembered meeting the Queen during her trip to Boston in 1897. The archivist told me that some photos were labeled, and the others are all unknown photos.  She asked if we could help identify some.  The relatives in the photos would be long dead people we wouldn't know, but we might recognize?  Fingers crossed we filled out the paperwork and waited for the albums to be pulled from the files.
"Holt, John Dominis"
Photo Album 26
[John Dominis Holt (1844 - 1922) died in Oxford, England
son of Robert William Holt and his 2nd wife, Caroline Tawati Robinson.
He was named after his uncle,  Captain John Dominis, the
husband of my 4x great Aunt Mary Jones) 
"Owen J. Holt"
Photo Album 26
[son of Robert William Holt and his 2nd wife Caroline Tauwati Robinson,
named after his first wife's (my 4x great aunt Ann Marie Jones) father,
Owen Jones b. 1768 in Wales and died 1850 in Boston]
It was very strange looking through these very personal albums.  There were photos of Lilioukalani's dogs, and her friends and relatives.  Then suddenly there would be photos of crowned heads from Europe, and we were reminded that she was more than a relative, she was a royal person herself!  Photograph album 29 had her entire genealogy, including photos going back to the Kamehameha's and earlier ali'i in her lineage.  Then we would be looking at dogs, flowers and relatives again!

"Mrs. William Lee" by Sarony's Studio, NY
Photo Album 26
We found many relatives.  Some were easily identified even by nicknames.  Some had us stumped because women would be listed by their husband's names only, such as our mystery photography of "Mrs. William Lee".  Our cousin, the Boston publisher William Lee, had two wives.  Which one was this?  His second wife, Sarah (White) Lee, wrote many letters to the Queen and hosted a grand party for her in Boston in 1897.  Possibly this is Sara?

I had a phone consultation with genealogist Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective, about this photo.  She is certain that it dates from the mid-1870s and shows a very wealthy, well dressed woman between 30 to 50 years old.  Wife #1 was Anna M. T. Leavitt, born 1819 in Hampton, New Hampshire and died in 1883.  She married William Lee in 1861, and in the mid-1870s she would have been about 50 years old.  Wife #2 was Sarah White, born in 1849 in Hillsdale, New York and died in 1925.  She married William Lee in 1888 and in the mid-1870s she would have been in about thirty years old.  If anyone knows of a photograph of wife, I would love to compare it to this photo to see which wife this is!  I've never seen a photo of either woman, so this would be a great clue.

"Georgie Holt"
Photo Album 24
[George Hoonewaneewa Holt (1868 - 1929) son of Owen Jones Holt]

"Mr. Aldrich"
Photo Album 26
[William Arnold Aldrich (1824 - 1892) husband to Elizabeth M. Holt,
daughter of Robert William Holt and Ann Marie S. Jones (my 4x great aunt)
He was born in Westmoreland, New Hampshire ] 

My husband patiently photographed every page of all seven photo albums, and took closeup photos of the ones we knew or suspected to be relatives.  In looking through letters in the archives there are many references to "I'm sending a photograph" or "Did you get the photograph?" and I hope to match up some of these, but it is an almost impossible task since I never met these folks, and they all died almost 100 years ago.  But it is a project we can work on slowly over time, and hope that more clues will become available.

Hawaii State Archives

All these photographs are from the Hawaii State Archives, Photographic Albums, Queen Lili'uokalani Collections, Albums 24 - 30, from the Lili'uokalani Estate 1921.

Maureen Taylor, "The Photo Detective"

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. What a wonderful find, Heather! Kudos to your patient helpful husband, too!

  2. You did what I've wanted to do for years. My father and brother are named Owen Jones K Holt after Owen Jones Holt and my son is named for George "Ho`onewanewaonalani-o-lunalilo" Holt. So nice to see younger pictures than the ones I've seen. Mahalo!

    1. They are all named after my 5x great grandfather, Owen Jones, born in Wales. Thanks for your comment, Taryn!

    2. I know... we've discussed that. Have you ever discovered anything about Boston's shipping industry involving Owen Jones, RW Holt and Cpt John Dominis? I've been curious about that for years. Also if James Robinson and Robert Lawrence were connected to them in NE. They are the 2 that ran the Hawaiian shipping co with RW Holt.

    3. No, I've never found any documents or newspapers about them. Perhaps that is another thing to look for in the Hawaii Archives?

  3. Thanks for posting these. I will have to check on the royal albums next time I'm there.

  4. Nice and very historical Picture Album. If you want to store and share your photos, there are free online sites where you can manage them.