Assuming the role of family historian often takes us down roads not expected, at least it has for me as I have become more intensely involved with the details of our history. I have a driving obsession to find proof and with this comes the discovery that much of what we do as genealogists is very closely related to the field of detective work. I find myself imagining that once I have completed my journey in genealogy, I will be well suited for employment as a private detective or at least Sherlock Holmes' sidekick.

During my years of family research, I have run across genealogical records that have brought new thought to old family legends. Sometimes searching for details bring light to stories told and passed between the family ancestors and suddenly, I am faced with retelling the legend in it's truest form. But now I am looking at a family story not of my own but of my husband's: The proud family history of my husband's great grandfather Henry H. Barto, North Dakota ranch hand and homesteader, who shared moments of everyday 'pleasantries' with President Theodore Roosevelt.

We have heard the story many times but as we furthered the discussion with family during the holidays, a picture was presented to provide proof of Henry Barto's relationship with President Roosevelt. The faces in the picture are faint, due to the age and deterioration of the photo but also from the panoramic scope of the picture. I use a magnifying glass to look closer at what is said to be Teddy Roosevelt and glance back at pictures found of him on the internet, however, with my untrained eyes I am stumped. So we have taken a step further in this investigative venture, submitting the picture to two entities, the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site and the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.

As I get that drive once again to find proof, I look at what facts we have. Henry H. Barto was born on the 4th of November 1872 in Wisconsin. He is found with his family at the age of 7 in Castle Rock, Wisconsin on the 1880 Census. Without access to the 1990 Census, the next proof of Mr Barto is on the 1900 Census, working most likely as a ranch hand in Emmons, North Dakota. We have no records of when Henry Barto moved to North Dakota but I am hypothesizing sometime in the mid 1880's or later due to his age.

The story of Theodore Roosevelt's early history includes his time as a rancher and adventurer of the American wilderness in the 'Badlands' of North Dakota. Mr Roosevelt, born on the 27th of October 1858, escaped to North Dakota in the mid 1880's to cope with the grief of the sudden deaths of both his mother and wife who died on the same day in 1884. It was a brief period in his life as Teddy Roosevelt lost his cattle in the brutal North Dakota winter in 1886, returning afterwards to live in New York.

So this is the facts we have before us. Both men were involved in ranching in the North Dakota 'Badlands'; however, can we be certain that they shared stories across the fence posts? Is the gentleman in the 'famous family picture' Theodore Roosevelt, a former president of the United States? The family legend becomes a mystery and one that my husband's family could have easily proven if just one small but very important task would have been taken 125 years ago: a written transcription of names and date posted on the back of the picture. If a family member had provided this documentation, the legend could be proven and my detective work would not be required. We are awaiting feedback from both organizations but fellow genealogists, do your own detective work. Compare pictures and see what you think. Does the man standing on the left side of the photo look similar to the young Theodore Roosevelt pictured in the 'Badlands' in the 1880's? I can't wait to hear what you think!

Compare our picture to those provided at
Theodore-Roosevelt. com

(source: The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site.)

Teddy Roosevelt on the left?
Picture cropped and enlarged of the alleged 'Teddy'.


01/09/2011 6:33pm

I'm no expert myself, but I would guess your photo is of Teddy Roosevelt. The hat seems right, and the build, plus there is something about the fingers which seems like Roosevelt's

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