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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, September 28, 2014
One More Photo of Ancestors Goofing Around
Posted by Maureen

A big thank you to Carol Jacobs Norwood! She sent me this 1937 photo of her father at age 16, clowning for the camera in a playpen, wearing a baby bonnet and holding a baby bottle.



Carol thinks this picture was taken at her father's home in Gardenville, Bucks County, Pa.

My question to Carol is whose playpen was it? Did her dad have a baby sibling or was a baby visiting? Or perhaps the family was cleaning out the attic?

Ever wonder if people ever smiled in photos? Go to the Library of Congress online Prints and Photographs catalog and search using the word smiling.  It's actually a picture subject heading.  

Got a funny picture you'd like to share?  Please submit it and I'll share it here.


Solve your family photo mysteries with these books 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
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1930s photos | snapshots | unusual photos
    Sunday, September 28, 2014 9:59:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 22, 2014
    Photos of Our Ancestors Goofing Around
    Posted by Maureen

    Amateur cameras made it possible for our ancestors to relax in front of the lens. Goofy pictures abound in photo albums after 1900. Take this one, for instance:



    Laura Kettner sent in this picture of two women with their backs to the camera. They've put their coats on backward for this image. Why? We have no idea but this isn't the first photographic costume joke I've seen. There seemed to be a trend of goofing around in snapshots in the early years of the 20th century. 

    At a recent conference someone showed me two pictures. The first was a group picture of family members. In the second, the men were in the women's clothing and the women were wearing the men's clothing.

    At another event, a picture showed men and women wearing each others hats.

    Laura's aunt identifies the woman on the right as her great-grandmother Mabel Rheaume (born 1891). She has the same hair as Mabel in other images. On the left could be her future sister-in-law Audrey Kettner. Unfortunately, no one has an image of them facing front taken at the same time.

    The clothing dates the image to early in the second decade of the 20th century, between 1910 and 1917.  You can find short and long coats of this style in Sears Catalogs (searchable on Ancestry.com).

    In that time frame, Mabel was engaged to a man who died in 1917. She later married Joseph Earl Kettner (born 1899). If the woman on the left is Kettner's sister, then Mabel knew her long before she married him.

    Do you have a humorous photo in your family collection?  Email it to me. I'll feature it here.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books 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
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1910s photos | candid photos | women | World War I
    Monday, September 22, 2014 4:33:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, September 14, 2014
    World War II Victory Corps
    Posted by Maureen

    When I was looking for images of students for this space, I stumbled across a World War II program called the Victory Corps. Have you heard of it?



    My Dad and several of my uncles were WWII veterans, but no one ever mentioned this school-based program. This image from the Library of Congress shows a teacher at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles supervising a student using a lathe in September/October 1942.

    Photographer Alfred T. Palmer took this picture for the Farm Security Administration. If you want to see the collection, go to the Library of Congress collection using this link.  

    John W. Studebaker, the US Commissioner of Education, established the program Sept. 25, 1942. The goal was to train students in key areas relevant to the war effort, such as physical fitness, mathematics and science. As seen here, school also taught students how to operate machinery.

    It's possible that someone in your family participated in the Victory Corps.  If it's not too late, ask them about what they did during World War II. Wartime contributions included a lot more than military service. Kids collected scrap metal and women tended Victory Gardens, and it appears high school students learned new skills to support the war.

    Today the National World War II Museum in New Orleans offers a Victory Corps program for kids who volunteer at the museum. They learn more about that era of history, get to handle real artifacts and pass their knowledge on to visitors. Sounds like fun!

    If you have pictures and stories relating to the WWII Victory Corps, please submit them and I'll run a second installment.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books 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
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1940s photos | students | World War II
    Sunday, September 14, 2014 4:15:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 08, 2014
    Sisters in Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Two weeks ago I wrote about Suzanne Wood's photo possibly identified as Eleanor South.  It's well-worn tintype. In the article I suggested that comparing this picture to those of Eleanor's sisters might help narrow down the identification.



    The family has a later photo of Eleanor South Fleming and her husband taken in 1869 (below), as well as images of three of her sisters.



    Notice that a nickname for Eleanor was Nelly.

    The first two of the images below were taken in the 1860s. Mary South Plew has the same full face as the woman reported to be Eleanor.



    Philinda South Schmicka had a much narrower jawline.



    The last photo of one of the sisters was taken in 1874. Harriet South Reynolds posed with two of her children.


    Comparing these photos of four sisters raises interesting questions about family resemblances. There are often facial features (noses, mouths, ears) in photographs that relatives immediately associate with a certain branch of their family. 

    I think that the first tintype could be Eleanor a few years before her wedding picture.

    Can you see the sisterly resemblance's between the three women? Comment below and tell me what you see in their faces. Now I want to know if they look like their mother or their father. 

    Who do you look like? I have the Taylor eyebrows, nose and height.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books 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
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | facial resemblances | women
    Monday, September 08, 2014 4:02:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, September 02, 2014
    North of the Border Old-Photo Mystery
    Posted by Diane



    Jane Smith owns this lovely photo of a young girl  and an older man. She hopes it depicts her great-grandfather Patrick Hughes, born in 1836 in County Down, Ireland. He died in 1899 in Toronto, Canada, after a successful career as a merchant.

    The picture was found in a box of other photographs of the same family. The box also includes an earlier image of Patrick and a photograph of his house. Location and provenance (history of ownership) are just two of the clues that help identify photos.

    In this case, the girl's clothing is significant. Here's how the head-to-toe clues add up.



    Broad-brimmed hats and spread collars appear in the World War I period, but not at the turn of the century, during Patrick Hughes' lifetime. Around 1910, hat brims drooped down over the forehead. They remained fashionable until the early 1920s. 

    Another big detail in the girl's dress is the dropped waist. That particular detail didn't become fashionable until circa 1912, and it lasted until the early 1920s—a likely time frame for this photo. Waistlines dropped to the hips in the 1920s. I'm leaning toward a more-specific date of the late 1910s for this picture. 

    A possible identity for the girl will help narrow the time frame even further.

    Knee socks were common in warmer weather, usually paired with short boots or even flat shoes. In this photo, the tops of the girl's boots would be visible if she were wearing them.

    Unfortunately, this date means the man isn't Jane's great-grandfather.  Now she has two mysteries to solve instead of one. 

     

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books 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
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1910s photos | 1920s photos | children | hats | men
    Tuesday, September 02, 2014 11:33:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 24, 2014
    An Identification True or False
    Posted by Maureen

    Since I'm packing for the FGS conference in San Antonio, I thought I'd select a image from Texas for this week's old photo mystery.

    Suzanne Wood owns two mystery photos. An elderly uncle identified this pictures as Elenor South (1839-1924), but Suzanne isn't sure if she trusts his memory. Could he have gotten it wrong and it's really Elenor's mother depicted? Elenor's mother was Maradyann Bascom South (1810-1859).



    This tintype has had a hard life. There are rust spots and abrasions on the surface. You also can see the outline of an oval: A mat once covered this image. It suggests that this particular photo was once in a case. 

    The fullness of the skirt suggests that this woman is wearing a lot of petticoats. It's an early 1860s portrait.

    The big question is how old is the woman in this picture? In 1862, Elenor would be 23, and her mother, 52. When her mother was in her 20s, photography wasn't available.

    Further evidence for the identification is a second photograph of Elenor and her first husband. 



    A side by side comparison of the two faces is helpful.



    The woman on the right appears to match—same nose, small mouth, deep set eyes and full face.  Both of these images could depict Elenor (or a sister).

    Here's a photo of a sister Harriet South Reynolds, with her two children taken circa 1875:
     
    wood1874 Harriet Ann South Reymolds-2 (2).jpg

    Hope to see you at FGS! 



    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books 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
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album



  • 1860s photos | Tintypes | women
    Sunday, August 24, 2014 8:18:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 17, 2014
    The Well-Dressed Couple Again and Solving a Group Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I showed you a picture of an unknown well-dressed couple circa 1905.

    Where there's one unidentified photo there are usually more. That's true for Amir Evenchik's collection of images. He owns several other pictures of the same couple taken a few years later. Unfortunately, no one can identify them.



    This one has a caption on it, "Henrik with Feige (a nickname for bird in Hebrew) taken in Baden-Baden." Henrik's gained a few pounds since the first image. The woman's suit and hat date this photo closer to 1910. Having a first name for the husband is a great clue, but it doesn't bring Amir any closer to figuring out their identity.  

    Since most of his ancestors lived in Poland or Belarus, then why are they in Baden-Baden, Germany? It was a popular tourist location, so perhaps the couple is on vacation, or they may be visiting relatives.

    His other unidentified photograph is a group portrait without a single person named.



    Figuring out who's in a big portrait can unlock other photo mysteries in the family. It's likely that there are other images of these 13 people taken later on. This image dates from the early 1900s. 



    • The matriarch of the family is front and center. She's an elderly woman. She wears an older style dress.

    • Are the two men flanking her her sons, or did the photographer place them on either side of her? At least one of them is likely her son, but it's possible that both of them are.

    • Working with that assumption, then the women sitting next to those men would be their wives.
    • Are the three women in the back row her daughters? If so, then there are five of her children in this portrait, two men and three women. The woman standing in the center is dressed very fashionably for the circa 1906 period.

    • The children in the picture are the matriarch's grandchildren.

    Solving a picture mystery like this is about breaking the image down into family groups (which children go with which parents), coming up with a series of assumptions, then testing them by looking at your family tree for possibilities. For instance, the youngest grandson sits on the left.  He's likely 8 to 10 years of age. If this picture was taken in 1906, then he was born in approximately 1896 to 1898. 

    There are plenty of variables in dating fashion from economic status to where the image was taken. The assumptions give you place to start.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books 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
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • group photos | hats | Jewish | men
    Sunday, August 17, 2014 5:23:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 10, 2014
    A Well-Dressed Couple
    Posted by Maureen



    Old pictures have a tendency to turn up unexpectedly. For Amir Evenchik, this photo was recently found at his parent's house. It's the usual story:  No one knows the identity of the couple or where they posed for this lovely formal portrait.

    Dating this photo is the easy part. Determining where an image was taken is a matter of matching up image clues with family history. Below are four clues (I've used Pixlr.com to create a numbered collage of the evidence):



    • Photos 1 and 3: In the early years of the 20th century, women wore their hair swept up in an exaggerated puff in front of the head. The goal was the S-shaped head-to-toe curve that was popular circa 1905. Undergarments helped women achieve this curve.

    Mid-decade, women wore little jackets over their dresses. This is a very fashionably dressed woman, whose outfit is complete with long gloves and a fan.


    • Photo 2: The woman's companion wears his mustache in the style of the late 1890s, when waxing facial hair created extreme twirls. It's a fad that remained common into the 20th century. Notice how the front of his hair has a wave. This was typical at the turn of the century.

    • Photo 4: Looking at a background can help you place a photo. This could be a unique, hand-painted design. The photographer probably used the same backdrop in many portraits. Locating other images taken in the same area with the same background could help determine where the couple is from. 


    Other factors to consider in identifying this image:
    • Does the couple look like any other family members?
    • Based on their appearance, this is a couple of financial means. 
    • Evenchik should estimate the couple's ages, then find couples on his family tree of the right ages around the time this photo was taken. 



    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books 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
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1900-1910 photos | hairstyles | Jewish | men
    Sunday, August 10, 2014 1:54:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 03, 2014
    Family Reunions
    Posted by Maureen

    It's that time again: The every-other-year gathering of the Miller clan in Vermont. It grew from a gathering of siblings on a family farm in New York state to a cluster of cousins more than 60 years later. My husband's family is dedicated to keeping this tradition alive.

    Summer is the usual time for family reunions. In my husband's family we pose for photos in groups of families descended from the original siblings (all now deceased). Sitting or standing for family photographs is a time-honored part of a reunion experience.

    The photo below, from the collection of the Library of Congress, shows the Pershing family posing in 1923. It's a huge group of people, captured in a large panoramic image—these were quite popular in the early part of the 20th century. Today, panoramic images are usually found rolled up in a photo collection.



    For a better look at the original image, try this link. If you own one of these and no one has marked an X over the head of your grandmother or grandfather, it may take hours to figure out who's who.



    A short cut to start determining identities is to look at the center of the front row. That's usually where the oldest members of the family sit.

    While our reunion features photo albums of every gathering, there's a lot more we could do at the event. The Chart Chick, Janet Hovorka has Five Fabulous Family Reunion Ideas on her blog.

    As I head off for our reunion I have a few questions for you:
    • Have you ever attended or participated in a reunion?
    • What's the largest number of relatives in attendance? We usually have around 50 people with folks flying in from as far away as Australia! 
    • What type of family history activities take place at your family gatherings? The Pershings had an Infantry band on hand to entertain attendees:



    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books 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
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • family reunion | panoramic photos
    Sunday, August 03, 2014 4:46:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, July 27, 2014
    Clothing Clues for Women in Old Photos: Bloomers
    Posted by Maureen

    In 1849, a group that advocated reform dress for women advised them to wear "Turkish dress." That meant a billowy pant that ended below the knee, worn beneath a shorter dress.



    This illustration is from sheet music composed by William Dressler in 1851. He called his piece "The Bloomer Waltz." When Elizabeth Smith Miller wore the style to visit her temperance friend Amelia Bloomer, the press began referring to these "trousers" as bloomers. Women's rights reformers claimed they were healthier than the restrictive corsets and dress styles then in fashion. While a few women wore bloomers, including Civil War doctor Mary Walker, shown below, the trend never caught on with the general public.



    But by the 1890s, the bloomer was back.  It was a safety and modesty issue for women who wanted to ride bicycles.  As this illustration in an 1895 Puck magazine shows, both men and women wore them.




    By the turn of the century, women's colleges adapted the style for female athletics such as basketball teams like the one here from Smith College (found on Wikipedia). Bathing suits of the early 20th century also featured the bloomer look.



    Bloomers remained in fashion for women attending gym classes into the mid-20th century. Those forward-thinking women of the 1850s would be happy to know that they were trendsetters.



    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books 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
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1850s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | women
    Sunday, July 27, 2014 5:12:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]