A reunion of the McAllister sisters

I recently found two copies of a photo that I’d like to share with you. This photo captures the reunion of the McAllister sisters in their later years. These sisters are among the thirteen children born in Ontario, Canada, to George McAllister, a frontiersman who immigrated from Glasgow, Scotland, and Mary Gordon, from Donegal, Ireland. The McAllister girls grew up as poor, hard-working women, and difficulty of their lives comes across in this photo, despite their brave comportment.

One of these sisters (second from the right in the back row), Margret (McAllister) Scott (1872–1910), is my great-great-grandmother, the first wife of Frank Scott (1869–1937). Margret died a month before her eldest daughter (my great-grandmother, Gertrude (Scott) Askew) turned 13, so memories of her in my family are very faint. These photos of her and her sisters are two of only three photos I’ve so far seen of her.

Of the nine daughters of George McAllister (1825–1910) and Mary (Gordon) McAllister (1837–1884), only seven are pictured here. I don’t yet know whether the other two (Sarah and Annie) had died or were simply absent from the photo.

I would guess that the following is a more recent (1930s–1940s) reprint of the original image, due to the more recent photographic paper and processing that appears to have been used.

The sisters are arranged in order of birth, with the youngest at the back right and the eldest at the front right. In the rear row, from right to left, are:

  • Ellen “Nellie” (McAllister) Helmbrecht (1873–1911)
  • Margret Elizabeth “Maggie” (McAllister) Scott (1872–1910)
  • Jessie (McAllister) Robins (1865–_?_)
  • Martha (McAllister) McLaughlin (1862–1937)

The sisters in the front row, from left to right, are:

  • Mary (McAllister) Switcher (ca. 1859–1923)
  • Marion “Mern” (McAllister) Robson (1857–1914)
  • Rebecca (McAllister) Adrain (1855–1923)

Margret died in 1910, so that gives us the latest possible date for this photo. As all but two of the sisters are wearing black, perhaps they are in mourning, and perhaps they are all gathered together for their father’s funeral in Deer Creek, Minnesota, in January, 1910? If the photo was indeed taken in 1910, these would have been the ages of the sisters:

I assume that the older matted version belonged to Maggie and was displayed in the house she and Frank Scott shared. On her premature death, I believe it passed to her husband, and then to their eldest daughter Gertrude (or perhaps straight to Gertrude). From Gertrude it would have passed to her daughter Harriet and then to Harriet’s grandson, me.

The more recent version may have come from Eva Scott, the youngest daughter of Maggie and Frank, who was only 3 when her mother passed away in 1910. Perhaps Gertrude (or Frank) had additional copies made in the 1930s or 1940s for other family members?


I found the following copy of this same photo on Ancestry.com today, submitted earlier this year by user speedyma53142 (from Yukon, Oklahoma).  The annotations appear to have been made by someone named Lloyd Tuffs.  This photo is evidence perhaps of the extent to which this photo was reprinted—both originally (for the sisters themselves) and possibly at later date(s).

2 thoughts on “A reunion of the McAllister sisters

  1. So Ellen “Nellie” McAllister Helmbrecht was my great grandmother. She died giving birth to my grandfather Harvey Helmbrecht January 10,1911 at her farm in deer creek Minnesota

    • Man, that’s rough. I see now she died just one day after giving birth to your grandfather Harvey. I don’t have any of Harvey’s family (wife or children or other descendants) in my tree yet. I’ll send you my email offline if you’d be willing to help me fill out your side of our family tree. Thanks for stopping by!

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