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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, August 21, 2016
Figuring out Where an Old Family Photo Was Taken
Posted by Maureen



Laura Katz knows that this is picture of her paternal great-grandparents Baruch and Asna Lipitz. They immigrated from Russia in 1906, and Laura wonders if this picture was taken there or in the United States.

Comparing the date the photo was taken to the date of the couple's immigration should help. The fashion pinpoints a timeframe for the picture. Asna's square neckline became popular in the WWI period and remained a common design element in the early 1920s. Not every woman in the 1920s was a flapper with dropped-waist dresses. There were styles for the young and fashionable, designs for more conservative dressers and everyone in between.

That's just one of the variables in dating photos based on clothing styles.  For instance, a person may have held onto a dress for a number of years.

Asna wears her hair in the style of the earlier part of the century--piled on her head with a bun at the crown.

The checks in her dress fabric, the natural waistline, and the calf length of the dress suggest a date circa 1919. 

Baruch (born 1862) and his wife Asna (born circa 1863) look like they could be in the vicinity of 60 years old.

This looks like a metal photograph popular in that time period. There was a stand attached to the back so it could be propped up for viewing.

The date of the picture clearly indicates they posed for this picture in the United States, years after they arrived here.

It's a lovely picture taken in the garden.  The mystery for me is why Baruch placed his chair in trees, so that leaved saplings shield the lower half of his body.


Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1910s photos | men | women
    Sunday, August 21, 2016 9:16:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 14, 2016
    3 Next Steps in Photo Identification
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week's How to Tell Men's Faces Apart in Old Photos examined two photos thought to be the same man. Two branches of the family identified him as Patrick Sheridan, but the facial clues didn't add up.



    When looking at pictures, it's important to examine other family history details as well. Here are three:

    Family Stories
    According to family members, one of Patrick's granddaughters remembered seeing him when she was young. The feature she recalled was his curly white hair.

    Another story circulates among his Fayette County, Ohio, descendants. Passed down from generation to generation, it claims that he was a stowaway on a ship that arrived in New Orleans.

    A transcription of an obit (the original hasn't been located) states that on his deathbed he mentioned a brother he hadn't seen in 20 years. The family is working on proving this.

    Family Data
    Photos can become a stumbling block even for genealogists who know every detail of an ancestor's life. Pat Dwyer has accumulated a lot of material on Patrick. This is an overview of what she learned:
    • Patrick's naturalization papers from Mason County, Ky., state that he was under 18 when his arrived. He was naturalized April 11, 1853. He must have been in the U.S. by 1848. No age is mentioned in these papers.
    • He lived in Maysville, Mason County, Ky. He was from Cavan County, Ireland.
    • He was either 60 or 70 when he died in Clinton County, Ohio, in 1888. The obit says one and his headstone, the other.
    • In the 1860 census for Maysville, a Patrick Sherdon is a wagoner. If his age is correct, then he was born in 1828. That fact then helps determine his age at immigration (15) and death (60). More census data and other records could dispute or confirm that exact year.

    Family Connections
    The notes on the back of the older man's photo says Wes' grandfather. Wesley, was the son of William. When someone bought Wesley's farm, the new owners found a box of photos in the barn and brought it to the one man in town with the Sheridan surname. 

    Last year, Pat Dwyer visited this Ohio branch of the family and is still overwhelmed by all the documents and information she collected.

    Patrick Sheridan had 12 children. It's possible that the descendants of each one of them have details about his life. Tracking down those individuals could tie all the stories together, plus give Pat even more photos and documents. She's descended from Patrick's son, George. As she reaches out to cousins, she discovers that many of them also have copies of the picture of Patrick as an older man. The younger man is still a mystery.

    It seems that every picture solution opens another avenue worth exploring. Pat Dwyer is going to be busy for years to come.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1880s photos | facial resemblances
    Sunday, August 14, 2016 11:24:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 07, 2016
    How to Tell Men's Faces Apart in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Pat Dwyer reached out through Facebook to ask a question about some confusing family photos. This post is the first of two.

    Pat owns a photograph of Patrick Sheridan, and her cousin thinks he does too.


    Patrick Sheridan



    Unknown man thought to be Patrick Sheridan

    When comparing two pictures of men, look closely at their facial features— especially ears, eyes and mouth. Examining pictures of men also involves comparing their facial hair growth patterns and hairlines.

    Establish a Time Frame
    The second photo of the unknown man likely dates from the late 1870s. The wide lapels and the style of the card the photo is printed on make this clear. It was more common to see men with small ties with loose ends under their collars, but a necktie was an option.

    Here's a photo of Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady wearing similar neckwear.


    Mathew Brady, 1875, Wikipedia.com

    Pat's photo of the older man standing with his hand on a fake column also dates from the 1870s.

    Look at Facial Features


    What do you see?

    Here are the differences that I immediately notice:
    • Hairlines are different
    • One man has curly hair and the other straight, but the man on the right has greased hair.
    • On the right, the tops of the man's ears tilt away from his head. The other man's ears are larger.
    • The beard is fuller on the man on the left.

    Here are some traits in common:

    • Shape of the nose
    • The brow line close to the eyes
    • A narrow chin

    While these two images don't depict the same man in my estimation, these could be a father and son. I'm hoping Pat has more information on the Sheridans.



    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1870s photos | facial resemblances | men
    Sunday, August 07, 2016 8:22:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, July 31, 2016
    4 Tips to Identify Faces in Old Group Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Joseph Martin has a great photo, a big group portrait. You guessed the problem: figuring out who's who. He knows the identity of three of these individuals, but the rest he's not sure about.

    Here are four tips you can apply to group portraits in your family collection.



    1. Estimate time and place.
    Once you know these things, you can figure out who in your family was around at the time.

    The place in this case isn't a problem. The group posed in front of the Belle Isle Conservatory. The Conservatory is part of Belle Island Park, a popular 982-acre island park in the middle of the Detroit River, Mich.


    Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

    Joseph thinks they posed about 1930. The cloche hats and dropped waist dresses look more like the late 1920s, but then again, not everyone wore the latest styles the moment the new looks were in the stores.

    2. Match faces.

    Joseph knows the woman in the black hat is Marcyanna Skibinski Kaptur and the man behind her is her husband, Nicholas Kaptur.



    To their left in a light-colored hat is their daughter Emily Kaptur.



    But who are the rest of the folks?  By looking at facial features, he thinks they could be a mix of Skibinski and Kaptur relatives, but isn't sure.

    So who's in Detroit in this time period and what's are their age? Those details can solve this mystery.

    3. Make a chart!

    When faced with a problem like this, create a chart and a collage of faces to make studying single faces easier.

    Identify those who could be possibly be in this picture and using a word processing table or Excel, create a chart of how old they would be in 1930. For example: Person's name, birth year, age in 1930. 

    Next, use a free photo editor like Pixlr.com create a collage. Digitally crop each of the faces out of the picture using the adjustment feature, and put them in separate boxes in the collage. You also can use this technique to do a side-by-side comparison of faces you think look alike as well.

    Now armed with the table, the collage and the big picture, study the faces.
    Who are relatives of the husband or wife and who's an in-law?

    Start with the youngest and oldest individuals. Look at the group portrait to see if there are husbands and wives as well as clusters of their children. Family members tend to stand together in household groupings. 

    Doing this will accomplish two things: First, you'll be able to narrow the time frame for the picture based on the ages of the children and the others. It might be 1927 or 1930, for instance, and the children will help you pinpoint when. There are several children in the 4-7 age bracket. Identify them first. Their parents are probably in the picture.

    4. Look for other pictures.
    Joseph didn't say if this is the only picture of the Kapur/Skibinskis in his collection. If he has others, those pictures give more chances to match faces to the group portrait. If he doesn't, it's time to try to find other pictures of the people in this scene. Searching genealogy databases for photos is one avenue. Many people attach photographs to their online trees.

    Group portraits take time to solve. Go slow. Consider all the possibilities. Put the puzzle down for a bit and then go back to the problem. You might see something you missed the first time around.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1920s photos | 1930s photos | facial resemblances | group photos | hats | summer
    Sunday, July 31, 2016 9:50:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, July 24, 2016
    Political Memorabilia in Old Time Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Political memorabilia first appeared in John Adams' campaign of 1796, but that was too early for photographic political pins and advertisements. It was another 60-plus years before followers could wear pictures of their candidates. Tintypes of Abraham Lincoln's face debuted in his 1860 campaign:


    Wikipedia


    Check your family photos for banners, buttons and badges proclaiming your ancestors' political leanings. Philip Hill manufactured caps and capes for the presidential campaign of 1868, which featured Horatio Seymour vs. Ulysses S. Grant.


    Library of Congress

    Men wore the hats and capes shown above for political torchlight parades supporting particular candidates. Some hats worn in these parades even featured oil and wicks in a canister torch affixed to the front of the headgear. You can read more about them in Collecting Political Americana by Edmund B. Sullivan (Christopher Publishing House, 1991).

    Women couldn't vote until the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920, but that didn't stop them from being interested in politics. Genealogist Orvill Paller found an interesting image in his family photos featuring a woman wearing a pin in the shape of a name.



    It's an example of how a single detail can offer clues to a person's life.
     


    Frances Althea Cuppernell's pin proclaims her support for James G. Blaine. In 1884, Blaine ran against Grover Cleveland in a tense campaign. Cleveland admitted fathering an illegitimate child and Blaine faced accusations of accepting bribes and being anti-Catholic. As we know, Cleveland won.

    Trinkets sporting slogans and candidates names weren't just for men. Manufacturers produced pins, aprons and hairpins for women to help influence the votes of the men in their lives. During the Blaine campaign there was even a pocketbook emblazoned with his name.

    Do you have any photos of your ancestors wearing political memorabilia? I'd love to feature them next week. You can email them to me.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1860s photos | 1880s photos | Abraham Lincoln | Politics
    Sunday, July 24, 2016 9:39:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, July 17, 2016
    The Love Family Revisted
    Posted by Maureen



    In the July/August 2016 issue of Family Tree Magazine, the Photo Detective column, "An Afternoon Outside" focused on this photo. It's from the collection of Bradley Richardson. His mother inherited the photo and knew it was from either the Love or Allan sides of her family. 

    Bradley shared his exhaustive family research (which included Excel spreadsheets of analysis) with me, as well as another photo.

    One of the clues in this picture is the house number "1204."  The 1901 and 1902 city directories for Kansas City, Mo., list William Allan at 1204 West 25th St. in those years. Allan, his wife Alta E. Love and two children lived here. By 1903, they'd moved to another area. His father lived with the family and Alta's sisters often visited. The 1905 Kansas state census enumerated the family along with Allan's father and two of Alta's siblings, Lois and Laura.

    Photo identification is a process based on genealogical research and picture details. It seemed to fit that the women standing behind the rocker were Lois and Laura, but maybe not. Take a close look at the woman in the blouse.

    Is the opening in the bottom of her shirt due to her pulling it slightly open by putting her hands behind her back, which also puffs out the front of her skirt? Or could she be pregnant?  In the early part of the 20th century, pregnant women generally avoided the camera, especially unmarried pregnant women. This woman looks young. In 1902, Laura was 16.



    Here's Bradley's other picture for comparison



    In this picture, taken circa 1910, are as follows: Front row: George Harmon Love (1845-1926); Mary Cook Love (1850-1946); Harold George Love (1877-1922). Back row from left: Lois Love (1881-?); Laura Love (1886-1913); Iva Love (1874-1954); Alta Ella Love (1872-1940); and Mamie Love (1878-1910).

    One sister is missing from the photo: Esther (1890-1958).

    Bradley and I thought maybe the young woman in back of the first picture could be Mamie or Laura. Here's a comparison of the mystery woman to Mamie and Laura. 



    Look closely at their noses, lips and eyebrows.  It appears the mystery woman has a bit of a "lazy eye."

    OR she could be Esther Love.



    Bradley is still researching the sisters. He's making a trip in September to try to track down more details on the family and their descendants.  It's a lovely mystery.
     


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | facial resemblances | women
    Sunday, July 17, 2016 7:19:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, July 10, 2016
    Old Glory in an Old Photo: Details Revealed
    Posted by Maureen

    A big thank you to June Thomazin for sending me an article, "Mardi Gras Ball" from the Washington Times of February 11, 1917. The article lists the names of the women in the tableau imitating Henry Mosler's painting, The Birth of the Flag. 

    In the last article, I mentioned the seated woman's light colored shoe as being from circa 1917. Seeing the date of the article made me smile.

    As the "Star Spangled Banner" played, the women re-enacted this scene for the third annual Mardi Gras ball of the Washington Camp, No. 305, Sons of Confederate Veterans. According to the newspaper, the four women were Mrs. Andrew H. Plant, Mrs. Maud[e] Howell Smith, Mrs. George S. Covington and Mrs. Paul L. Joachim. 

    But who were these women?


     
    Only Maud Howell Smith used her own name, the rest went by their husband's names, as was common. If you've ever researched female ancestors who did the same, then you know finding their first names can be a challenge.

    Hours later after searching GenealogyBank.com, FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com as well as Google, I have answers. Whew!

    Mrs. George S. Covington was the former Janet Dorsey (1862-1941)

    Mrs. Andrew H. Plant was a problem due to a misprint. In fact, her husband's name was Alfred. Double-check those newspaper articles before accepting the details as fact. Their daughter Olive, crowned the queen of the carnival, solved that case. Mrs. Plant was the former Mary Elizabeth Bond (1863-1942), born in Connecticut.

    Mrs. Paul Joachim was the youngest of the four, born in Georgia in 1887. Her first name was Elmina.

    Maud Howell Smith (1876-1966) was a remarkable woman. She rejected using her husband Eli's name at a time when husbands defined women's lives. Her name frequently appeared in the society pages for Washington, D.C.

    In her later years, she acted in amateur theater. The Sunday Star (Washington, D.C.) of Jan. 4, 1953, interviewed her in an article, "Theater's Grand Old Lady Has a New Role." She had wanted to pursue a professional career as an actress, but her parents objected. Instead, she supported local theater groups and later lived her dream of being on the stage in amateur productions.

    She drove an ambulance during World War I. She claimed in the article to have known every President since Benjamin Harrison. In 1953, she served on the Eisenhower Inaugural Committee. 

    Her advice in the interview is timeless: "It's all very well to talk about what you've done in the past, but as a rule if you do too much of this, it means you aren't doing enough today."

    Who's Who
     


    Let's start by putting the women in order by their ages in 1917, then comparing that information to the collage/picture.

    Elmina Joachim, 30

    Maud Howell Smith, 41

    Mary Elizabeth Plant, 54

    Janet Dorsey Covington, 55

    I have no other pictures of these women for comparison yet except for Maud[e]. I'm still looking. 


    Maude Howell Smith as Columbia, 1919.

    The two women on the left of the picture (and to the left in the collage) are the oldest so they are likely Janet Covington and Mary E. Plant.

    The youngest woman (far right ) in both the collage and the picture must be Elmina Joachim. 

    The woman in the center could be Maud Howell Smith.

    The intersection of history, family history and photography all came together in this picture.  Lovely!


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1910s photos | holiday | women | World War I
    Sunday, July 10, 2016 7:05:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, July 03, 2016
    Old Glory in an Old Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    It seemed appropriate to write a column about the 4th of July and the American flag. It's a patriotic holiday with flags hanging in front of houses and bunting-wrapped porches.



    In the collections of the Library of Congress is this beautiful photograph of a tableau of four women sewing an American flag. They aren't really—it's just a pose.

    This image, called Birth of the American Flag, was taken by Harris & Ewing in an unknown year. They were well-known newspaper photographers. The Library of Congress has all but 400 of the 50,000 (!) images they took. The cataloging page lists a broad "created/published" time frame for this image of anywhere between 1905 and 1945. It's hard to know exactly when these women posed for this image if they used an older flag. Determining a tentative date comes down to the details--a shoe, beading and of course the stars on the flag.

    Counting the Stars



    If you own a flag, count the stars to obtain a time frame for it.  You can learn more about the history of our flag courtesy of this PBS documentary. A quick reference guide to when stars were added to our flag due to the addition of states is on USFlag.org. I've counted and double counted the stars in this picture, and I think it's a 48-star flag. How many do you count? 

    If that's the case, and the women are posing with a contemporary flag,  then this image could date anywhere between July 4, 1912, and Jan. 3, 1959. That gives us a starting place.

    The Shoe


    The woman kneeling to the left of the flag has exposed her shoe.  It's a calfskin shoe with a criss-cross upper and a Louis heel. Women wore shoes of this design with this heel from about 1908 to the 1930s, but I've found similar-style shoes dating from circa 1917 in Shoes: The Complete Sourcebook (Thames and Hudson, 2005) by John Peacock.

    The Beaded Dress
    While all the other women wear Colonial-style costume, the woman with the calfskin shoe wears a beaded dress with a wide collar. It's not a colonial design, it's from the 20th century.



    Dresses with diaphanous sleeves and lots of beading also could date from the WWI period. The collar is an interesting addition to this style of dress.

    I'm still looking for a few more details but it appears this picture dates from around World War I.

    There's one more interesting feature of this photo. All the women posed with their eyes closed.




    The Pose
    A sharp eyed reader, Teresa Shippey, found the source of this tableau. While I searched newspapers in a literal way for the "Birth of the American Flag," I didn't find what I was looking for.  I also did a Google Images search using the exact picture. No luck. Then again, not all images online are indexed in Google Images. Turns out I was being too specific in my searching.

    Teresa she used a general phrase "women sewing flag" in Google.  Teresa found the women based their pose on a painting by Henry Mosler titled, "The Birth of the Flag." 

    Why are they posed exactly the same way as the painting? She wondered (and I do too) if the women in the photo were models for Mosler's painting. Another possibility is that they were recreating the painting. Posing as famous paintings and sculptures was a pastime before radio and television so it's also possible that's what they are doing.

    The problem with the modeling theory is that the women in the photo seemed to have posed with a 48 star flag, not the 46 star flag used in 1911. It's hard to tell exactly the number of stars in the picture because part of the star field is folded over.  I'll continue to look for matches.

    How many stars can you count in the flag? Post your thoughts below.

    Happy 4th of July!  



    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 4th of July | patriotic | World War I
    Sunday, July 03, 2016 10:54:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Sunday, June 26, 2016
    Aerial Photographs and Ancestral Home Towns
    Posted by Maureen

    In the 19th century, daring photographers climbed into woven baskets held aloft by balloons in order to take pictures of local landscapes. While French photographer Nadar's photograph of Paris from the air in 1858 no longer exists, other such landscapes still do.

    J.W. Black of Boston photographed Boston from a balloon in 1860. That picture is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. You can read more about it in Smithsonian magazine.

    The world seemed enamored with aerial photography in the 1860s. During the Civil War, Gen. Ambrose Burnside employed a balloonist, Prof. James Allen of Providence, RI, to take reconnaissance photographs of battlefields and troop locations.

    Visual Time Traveling with the Library of Congress.
    A large number of aerial images are in the collection of the Library of Congress. Search the Prints and Photographs collection using the term, "aerial photography," then use the "Refine your search" options on the left side of the screen to narrow results by date, place or online availability. You might locate an image of an ancestral hometown taken in the time frame your ancestor lived there.


    Richmond, Virginia looking west, April 1865. Library of Congress.


    Kite Photos
    Balloons weren't the only way to photograph from the air. In 1882, a British meteorologist developed a way to attach cameras to kites. The caption of this postcard states that a kite-held camera took this scene.


    Aerial photography never went out of style. Airplanes replaced balloons and kites, and now there are drones. Visit any gadget store and you're apt to see drones capable of taking videos. Search online for "drone film of [fill in the blank]" to see if there's virtual aerial tour of an ancestral hometown.

    You can read more about the history of aerial photography on Wikipedia.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1860s photos | 1880s photos | 1910s photos | aerial photos | Airplanes | Civil War
    Sunday, June 26, 2016 10:13:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, June 19, 2016
    College Girls in an Old Mystery Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Did your grandmother, great-grandmother or great-great-grandmother go to college? The proof may be in an old photo album.



    In the early part of the 20th century, young women filled black paper albums and scrapbooks with pictures of their family, friends and college activities. You might have one of those albums tucked away in an old trunk. If you don't know where your female ancestor went to school, study those images for clues. 

    I recently found a series of five photographs of young women at an unidentified school. At least five clues immediately stand out in one of the pictures. These details could add up to identify the school, and then maybe the women.



    1. The fluted column.
    This is a distinctive feature. Columns come in various designs, but the size and shape of this one stands out. It signifies a large building. The wall visible behind the column is brick. Right away those two clues come together: It's a large brick building with fluted columns, likely one on either side of the doorway.

    2. Engraved stairs.
    "Class of 1910" engraved into the riser of the top stair provides a starting time frame for the photo. The clothing clues suggested it was taken circa World War 1, but this clue, combined with the column, adds a more specific piece to the puzzle. 

    3. A plaque.
    These two women sat on the stairs of an important building on campus, one with a commemorative plaque. Unfortunately no amount of tinkering with the image could make it readable. 

    4. Clothing clues
    It's possible the girl on the left is wearing a uniform of some sort. This signifies a school with a dress code perhaps. Her attire and that of the woman next to her place this image in the circa-World War 1 period.

    5. Activity
    The girls are making something.

     
    It looks like luminaria. The woman on the right holds a candle. The two bags on the stair have bases that could be filled with sand and an opening for a candle. These are generally made for special occasion. Neither woman is dressed for cold weather so these could be for a graduation, an induction ceremony, a fall festival or some special school event.

    Brick+column+engraving+plaque =a very recognizable building standing as of likely 1910. The problem is...WHERE?

    Where was it taken?
    Posting on social media as a crowdsourcing experiment didn't help, so it's back to research. A timeline of women's colleges in the United States on Wikipedia works as a checklist. I'm using the process of elimination to try to figure out where these women and the other women were photographed.

    It's a three-step process.
    • Use Google Images to look for pictures of each of the colleges listed on Wikepedia to see if there are any buildings with fluted columns built circa 1910. 
    • If there are buildings with columns on the campus, then the next step is to look at digital collections in the school archives on their website.
    • Send an email to their archivist asking if they recognize the building.
    This research takes time.

    So far I've heard back from the following colleges: Wellesley College, Hollins University and Barnard. No matches. 

    So...if you recognize those distinctive features or know of someone who might, please share this.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1910s photos | school photos | women
    Sunday, June 19, 2016 9:36:53 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]