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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, February 22, 2015
Identifying Old Photos in Lockets and Brooches
Posted by Maureen

Teri Luna's grandmother Catherine Walker Brown Robson owned two pieces of photo jewelry. 

Her locket contained two photos, one of Catherine and the other of her sister Jean. When Teri removed them, two other images fell out that had been stored behind the other pictures. One was Catherine's husband, William, when he was young, and the other was her brother George Andrew Drinnan in his WWI military uniform.

The other photo jewelry, a pin or brooch, presents a mystery. Teri's not sure who's in this portrait: 



Catherine was born in Dalziel, Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1894, and immigrated to Canada with her mother, Agnes Dunlop Drinnan Brown. Teri is hoping that this picture shows Catherine's father, John Waddell Brown.  Brown was born about 1855 in Fintry, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

People wore pins like this in both the United States and Scotland. But the pin dates to earlier than Teri thinks. Pins of similar design date from the 1850s to the early 1860s.

Based on the man's tie and lapels, I'd date this photo to the early 1860s.  His under-the-chin beard connected to sideburns also was common during that period. In the United States, this type of beard was called a Greeley after newspaperman Horace Greeley.

Because Brown's great-grandfather wasn't born until 1855, this man isn't him. This man is middle aged, with gray throughout his facial hair.  

So who could he be? He could be Agnes Dunlop Drinnan Brown's father, or the father of her husband, John Waddell Brown. I'd need more information on their birth places and years to double-check the data against the photo evidence.

If this image was taken in, say, 1863, and the man was in his 50s (let's estimate 53), then this man was born about 1810. This suggested birth year might help identify him in the family tree.

The best resource for researching photo jewelry, such as lockets, charms, pins and brooches, is Tokens of Affection and Regard (2005) by Larry J. West and Patricia Abbott. Teri's family is lucky to have this gorgeous pin.


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


  • photo jewelry
    Sunday, February 22, 2015 7:29:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, February 16, 2015
    Old-Time Baby Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    Social media today is full of pictures of children and grandchildren, but posting historical, black-and-white baby pictures hasn't really caught on yet.

    Babies born 100 years ago are just as cute as the darlings posted today.  Take this image for instance: Maria Baker submitted it and wants to know more about it. 



    She found it in her grandmother's things. Maria owns pictures of her grandmother (b. 1901) as a baby, and she knows this isn't her.

    In the late 1890s, it was common to pose children on animal skins like the one depicted here. The wide yoke on the dress suggests that it was taken circa 1900 (either a few years earlier or later). This child is likely belted around the waist to hold him or her in the wicker posing chair.

    The gender of the child isn't clear. Boys wore dresses until they started to become mobile. If this isn't Maria's grandmother, could it be one of her siblings or a picture of her husband? 

    If you look at an image taken overseas, the same basic information of photographer's name and location appears on the card photographs just like the ones taken in the United States. Wien stands for Vienna. Maria knows that her grandmother's family lived in that area. Etzelsdorfer is the name of the photographer.

    I hope having a date for the image helps her identify this adorable baby. I'd estimate the child is between 6 months to 1 year old.  From the warm hat on its head to the expression on the baby's face, this picture is a treasure.


    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 | children
    Monday, February 16, 2015 8:32:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, February 09, 2015
    RootsTech 2015
    Posted by Maureen

    Four years. That's how long it's taken for RootsTech to change the way we view genealogy conferences. In those few years, RootsTech has become the largest genealogical conference in the country. Last year, more than 7,000 people attended; this year's expected crowd may double that number in part because the organizers partnered with the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). The FGS conference will be held in conjunction with RootsTech, with separate class sessions but a shared exhibit hall and keynote speakers. Register for either conference and you can purcahse an add-on pass to attend sessions for the other. 

    If you can't attend, look for details (still to come) about the live streaming part of the conference, or watch last year's speakers. Their videos are online.

    I was there in 2011 and 2013, and I'll be there this year.  The reasons it's so popular are simple:

    1.Location. It's in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is home to the largest genealogical research library—FamilySearch's Family History Library

    2.Dynamic programs. Speakers from all over the world present new material at this conference. Each and every lecture is fresh.  This year I'm presenting a total of five at the joint FGS/RootsTech conference.

    3. Excitement. There's a buzz about RootsTech that's hard to miss. From early morning, big name keynote lectures to blockbuster evening entertainment, the conference goes from dawn to bedtime.

    I'll be in booth 1240, nearby Family Tree Magazine, Genealogy Gems and Family Chartmasters. Stop by to say hello, listen to one of our free Outside the Box lectures, and enter our grand prize drawing.

    I love attending conference so that I can meet people and look at their photos.

    Two years ago at RootsTech, I met Pam and Art Crawford, who had a photo mystery that defied explanation:

     crawford2.jpg

    I've written a few installments on this mind-bending mystery.  In the second installment I tackled the costume clues in Mind-Bending Mystery Part 2.

    Last October, a woman came forward with additional images and solved part of the mystery. You can read about it in Mind Bending Mystery Revisited.

    One puzzle remains. How did Pam's family come to think that these folks were relatives? Read the columns and weigh in below by adding a comment.

    Can't wait to see new photos this year! 


    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


  • Rootstech
    Monday, February 09, 2015 11:39:05 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, February 01, 2015
    Big Hats in Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Ronnie O'Rourke's great aunt Mary (Mamie) Smith (b. 1892) wears an enormous hat in this family portrait. Her grandson identified her in the image, but now the family wants to know who's standing with her.


    Her hat and dress are quite stylish for this outdoor event. The presence of the mandolin suggests that this group was likely singing and maybe dancing along with the tunes played by the family musician.

    Ronnie specifically wants to know if the man standing next to Mamie is her father, John Smith (b. 1865).  The family knows he died somewhere between 1905 and 1920, but they can't find the death record. It's the curse of the common name. She's been trying to narrow down just which John Smith is her relative.

    She wonders if Mamie's cousins, the Nevins siblings Frank (b. 1887), Catherine (b. 1888), Thomas (b. 1892) and Louise (b. 1897) are in the photo.  

    Each photo generates a series of questions. In this case, I'd love to know:
    • Why Mamie is visiting her cousins?
    • Are they all cousins, or did she have siblings?
    • Where was it taken?
    • Who took the picture?  It's a snapshot and someone owned an amateur camera, but who?  There could be other candid shots taken on the same day. 
    • Could the man be the father of the other people in the picture?

    Ronnie wonders about that gorgeous hat. Turns out that Louise was a milliner and it's possible she made it.

    The hat offers a few clues as to when the image was taken.

    In the circa 1910 period large turban style hats became fashionable. French fashion magazines like the Journal Des Demoiselles. Click here to see a fashion plate from 1909. You'll see some similarities between these hats and the one worn by Mamie.


    Fashion savvy Americans knew what the current styles were overseas. Here's the 1909 Spring Sears Catalog showing similar turban shaped hats.



    By 1913, smaller hats were in vogue. The hat is one clue that suggests a time frame. 

    Is it Mamie's father?  Perhaps.  If so, then he was still living after 1905.

    Love looking at hats, check out the styles worn in the nineteenth century in Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900.


    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 | hats | summer | women
    Sunday, February 01, 2015 3:34:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, January 26, 2015
    Civil War Photo Clues Revisited
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week's mystery photo featured a mother and daughter. Winston Cochrane owns the image and wanted to know if it depicts the daughter's wedding.



    I tentatively dated the image to circa 1868 until more details became available. The back of a card photo can reveal other facts. The presence of a revenue stamp indicates a specific time frame of Aug. 1, 1864, to Aug. 1, 1866. A photographer's name and address can be researched in city directories, census records and online. A caption can confirm or refute the supposed identity of the sitter.

    Here's the back of this image:



    A quick search of the Louisville City Directories on Ancestry.com confirms Winston's details about the photographer. Samuel Jennings operated a studio from circa 1864 to 1866.

    He ran an advertisement in the 1864 Louisville Directory on page 132:



    Kentucky was a border state during the war and eventually sided with the Union. The lack of a revenue stamp on this image is puzzling. Jennings was in business throughout the years when those tax stamps were used, so the image was taken prior to August 1864 or after August 1866.

    A comment on last week's post suggested a circa 1865 date based on the width of the hoop and the style of the sleeve. The frogging on the bodice also was popular during the Civil War. 

    The lack of the stamp suggests it was taken after August 1866. If Mary Meaux and daughter Nannie posed in late 1866, then the daughter would be 17. 

    A date for this image answers Winston's question about whether it was taken at her wedding in 1870.

    You can learn more about Civil War photographs in my book, Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album.


    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 | Civil War | women
    Monday, January 26, 2015 3:22:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, January 18, 2015
    Clues in a Civil War Era Photo
    Posted by Maureen



    Winston Cochrane sent in this adorable photo of a mother and daughter. Mary Meaux and her daughter Nannie M. Cochrane posed for this image, which shows the close connection between the two. Winston would like to know if the daughter is wearing a wedding dress. She married in Louiseville, Ky., in July 1870, at age 21. At the time her mother was 51.

    Before examining those clues, I played with an online site called PicMonkey.com to add details to the image.  Here are a few things I immediately saw when looking at the picture for the first time.



    • They both have slight smiles on their faces.
    • They are holding hands!
    • On the mother's dress, you can see the hoop line on her skirt.

    Clues to Date the Image

    • The size and shape of the card photograph identifies it as a carte de visite, a type of photograph first introduced to the United States in 1859.
    • The double blue line on the card was popular throughout the 1860s.
    • By the 1860s to early 1870s, round, cornered cards on thick cardstock were common.
    • In the mid-1860s, fanciful trim appeared on dresses. I love how the zigzag stitch on the mother's skirt appears in a tighter pattern on the daughter's bodice. The daughter's dress features plackets of different colored fabric at the shoulder seam and along the bottom of the dress. It's more than an everyday dress. The mother's sleeves feature ruffled trim at the wrists, a common trim in the mid to late 1860s.
    • How old are they? This is the big question. Does the daughter look 21? What do you think?
    • One detail I don't have is the back of the card. A revenue stamp on the back would narrow the time frame, as would the design of the photographer's imprint.

    So when was it taken? 

    I'll rule out the early 1860s.The daughter wears a lovely dress with plenty of details that suggest it's worn for a special occasion. It's a light colored dress in an indeterminate color. Wedding dresses ranged from white to darker colors.  Most brides in this period wore a very nice dress, not necessary white.

    Her hat dates from the mid-late 1860s, when narrow-brimmed hats with trim became commonplace. 

    Until I see the back, I'll place this image in the circa 1868 time frame. Dating clothing is not always an exact science. Sometimes people wore older clothing styles, comfortable with what they've been wearing, rather than newer styles. 


    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 | Civil War | women
    Sunday, January 18, 2015 4:19:45 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, January 12, 2015
    Dating an Old Tintype & DNA Clues to American Indian Ancestry
    Posted by Maureen



    I love the slight, Mona Lisa smile on the woman in this picture. She's comfortable and relaxed in this image, and so is the happy baby chewing on its fist. Rex Maggert thought he knew the identities of the woman and the baby, but now he's wondering if his initial ID is correct.

    Could this be Almira Helmer Funderburg (born Feb. 11, 1813) and her son Solomon Mosier Helmer Funderburg (born Feb. 6, 1842)? If this was the case, the image would've been taken in the early 1840s.

    Rex knows that an early 1840s date would make the original a daguerreotype. The problem, though, is that you can see the scratches typical for a tintype, a process not patented until 1856.

    He's right to doubt the identity and focus on the photographic method. Those scratches clearly indicate that this was a tintype. He owns the original, which is approximately 2x4 inches, a popular tintype size known as a bon ton.

    Rex asked, "Could it be a tintype copy of a daguerreotype?" That's a possibility, but only when the other clues in the photo support that hypothesis. In this instance, clothing and other clues suggest a later date.

    The woman wears a cotton or wool challis dress in a bold pattern. The loose fit of the dress is common for the early 1860s. Her sleeves have drop shoulders and full gathers at the wrist. Big bows worn under collars also are typical of the early 1860s. It's likely this woman made this everyday dress.

    In the 1840s, on the other hand, women's dresses were close-fitting and the sleeves were tight on the arms.

    If this isn't Almira and Solomon, who's depicted?  Whoever she is, this woman is married. There is a wedding ring on her left hand.



    Rex's grandmother Alice Maggert told her descendants they had Native American roots. Other family researchers were told the same thing. Rex's DNA results show a zero chance of that ancestry, but test results can vary depending on the test taken, who in the family is tested, and how distant an American Indian ancestor might be. Family Tree Magazine's on-demand webinar Using DNA to Solve Family Mysteries, presented by Blaine Bettinger, can help you make sure you have the right test—and test-taker—to answer your family history question.

    Unfortunately, photographic evidence can't be relied upon to prove ancestral ethic identities. I have the same problem in my maternal ancestry. Documents and DNA are the best indicators.  

    The best chance for proving his family's American Indian roots lies with either a paper trail (Almira appears in the census as "white," but that enumeration may not be correct) or by having other close relatives genetically tested to see if their results are different.

    I'm hoping that Rex can name both the woman and the baby in this picture. It's the first step to solving a family history 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


  • 1860s photos | children | women
    Monday, January 12, 2015 6:53:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, January 04, 2015
    First Photo Mystery of 2015
    Posted by Maureen

    Diana Luellen and her father found this old photo at his sister's house almost 20 years ago. A lot of the aunt's pictures were identified, but the portrait of this man and several others were not.

    Diana emailed me that "this is the one I keep on my computer desk, willing him to tell me who he is each day." It's no wonder. The quality of this portrait shows us this man's expressive face and light-colored eyes.



    At one time this oval portrait was in a frame. The solemn, formal portrait makes me wonder if this man held a position of importance in his community. Nineteenth-century local histories feature men dressed in this fashion. It could've been taken for inclusion in a town history.

    The clothing is conservative. Wide lapels with deep notches and a silk stock around his neck over an upturned shirt collar date to the mid- to late 1860s. His tie style is more appropriate to the late 1850s or early 1860s. However, the style stayed in fashion for men in business and politics long after that period. His side whiskers don't appear to continue under the chin.

    If this man were approximately in his mid-60s when photographed, and this photograph was taken about 1867, then he was born circa 1800. Judging age is difficult, of course, because it relies on various factors including occupation, health and genetics. The man also could be in his early 70s.

    Diana has one clue. The man looks like the paternal side of her family, which lived in Luzerne/Susquehanna Co., Pa.

    My advice to her is to reexamine her family history for men born near the turn of the 19th century and still living during the 1860s. I'd then consider their occupational history, searching for someone who may have been a community leader or well-known business person.

    I'd also use the Internet Archive or Heritage Quest (a ProQuest database available through libraries) to look for local histories for the towns in which her ancestors lived.

    In this picture mystery, age, dress and local history are clues that could identify this man.


    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 | hairstyles | men
    Sunday, January 04, 2015 4:53:02 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 29, 2014
    My Favorite Photo Websites of 2014
    Posted by Tyler

    Happy New Year! Here are some websites that readers and friends told me about in 2014. Add them to your to-do list of sites worth exploring in 2015. 

    Edit and Share Photos
    Pixlr.com
    Not a week goes by that I don't take time to explore new ways to edit and present photographs. You've seen the results in past blog posts such as Clues in Curls.  It's easy to edit images, insert text and create comparative collages. You chose whether to use the full editor, the express for collages and editing or Pixlr O-Matic for photo fun.

    Canva.com
    Need a little help designing your Facebook cover, your Twitter page, an email header or a holiday card?  You can do all that and more with this easy to use online design shop. If you use a Canva image there is a dollar charge for each.

    State-wide Memory Projects
    Family photo history seems to be everywhere this year from mega genealogy sites like MyHeritage.com and FamilySearch.org to social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram, but there are state-wide collections worth exploring too.

    Collaborative sites that bring together organizations in a particular state are a great tool for looking for family photographs. Take the Florida Memory Project, the Kansas Memory Project, the Maine Memory Network and the Ohio Memory site for a test drive by searching for family photos and documents. You'll find more useful websites in my Kindle eBook, State by State Guide to Finding Family Photographs Online and watch for March/April issue of Family Tree Magazine for more family photo rich websites.


    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


  • Photo fun | Web sites
    Monday, December 29, 2014 3:19:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, December 21, 2014
    More Mystery Photos in an Old Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    The trouble with women in light colored dresses is identifying the occasion. Not all dresses that appear white in a picture are that color. Many pale shades such as light blue look white in nineteenth century photographs. A woman wearing a "white" dress could be dressed for a wedding, a graduation, a first communion or for a hot summer's day.  It can be confusing.

    This is another picture in Jim Te Vogt's family album.  He wonders if this could be Catherine M. Darcy when she married in 1884.

    While this girl is dressed like a typical bride, this is actually a First Communion photo. 
    • The length of her dress is appropriate for a young girl but not a grown woman.
    • The veil while usually associated with weddings is also worn for First Communions.
    • This image dates to the 1870s based on the rows of ruffles on the skirt, and the style of the jewelry worn.  Heavy looking jewelry was commonplace in that decade. 
    • Take note of the brace behind her feet. This is a photographer's posing device to hold her still.
    • Chairs of this style were commonly seen in photographs in the 1870s.

    Jim researched the New York Gallery of San Francisco that took this image and found it was in business from 1869 to 1887.  

    Catherine M. Darcy could be this girl. She was born in 1863.  Typical age for First Communion was between ten and fourteen years of age. A explanation of the history of this church rite can be found on the Catholic News Agency website.

    There is another possible photo of Catherine in the album.


    O.V. Lange of San Francisco took this photo between 1885 to 1886. The Darcy's were the only relatives known to live in that area. The brown card stock and the dress design support a date of the mid 1880s. 

    Catherine married on November 25, 1884. The brocade dress fabric suggests a winter wedding, rather than a spring event. I wonder if it's possible that Lange's studio was in business as early as November 1884.

    Queen Victoria popularized white wedding dresses, but for most of the nineteenth century ordinary women married in very nice non-white dresses. If this isn't her wedding portrait then it was taken within a year of the event.

    This lovely pair of images documents two major occasions in the Darcy family. 

    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 | wedding | women
    Sunday, December 21, 2014 2:34:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]