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# Monday, May 23, 2016
Memorial Day Tribute in 1918
Posted by Maureen



A quick search for Memorial Day photos on the Library of Congress website turned up this image. According to the cataloging record, the original was a glass negative, and on the envelope was a note suggesting this was taken by the National Photo Company on Memorial Day 1918.  It's a posed press photo of what seems to be a significant event.

The letters on the women's sashes caught my attention. Downloading a high-resolution version of the photo from the Library of Congress website revealed the letters L, U, S, I, T:



My mind immediately thought about the significance of the day and year of this image.
  • Memorial Day, a holiday that honors service men and women who died in the Armed Forces. Today it's the last Monday in May.  Originally called Decoration Day, after the Civil War this day was set aside to decorate graves with flowers. In 1918, Memorial Day was May 30, a Thursday.
  • In 1918, the world was battling in the First World War.
  • What event helped to turn the tide of American opinion against Germany, eventually pushing the United States into the war? The sinking of the RMS Lusitania, May 7, 1915. The women's sashes likely spell the ship's name.

Searching for keywords relating to Memorial Day and Luisitania with the year 1918 on subscription newspaper website GenealogyBank gave me the answer. Bingo! This mostly unidentified photo now has a story.

On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed and sunk the RMS Luisitania, an ocean liner returning to Europe with close to 2,000 passengers and crew on board. Bestselling author Erik Larson featured the tragedy and the events surrounding the sinking in his 2015 book, Dead Wake. Here's a panoramic photo of the ship at anchor in New York harbor in September 1907 for its maiden voyage. It shows the scale of this vessel compared to everything else on the waterfront that day. You'll find more images of the ship on Wikipedia.



Some of the women in the first photo sit within a large wreath.  It was one of two of the wreaths made for the Memorial Day ceremony. The story appeared in papers across country including the Riverside Daily Press (Riverside, Calif.), May 30, 1918:
Down on the peaceful Potomac two gigantic rose wreaths were set adrift, markers for the graves of the Lusitania dead. Daughters of the American Revolution launched the first: the crew of a British warrior the second.
In the photo appear both the members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the crew of the British warrior. They posed for the picture before they set the wreaths in the water.

Identifying the details and the story behind this picture required studying the clues: sashes and the history of the period.  The answer was in the news.

How did your ancestors celebrate Memorial Day? Read local historical newspapers to learn more about the special events in which they participated. Using the details mentioned in those articles, go through your family photos looking for matches.
 


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 | Luisitania | women | World War I
    Monday, May 23, 2016 4:55:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, May 15, 2016
    Counting the Clues to Solve an Old Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    The three parts to this German photo mystery are the caption, the date of the image and the family history information.

    The first blog post dated the image to the 1880s, and the second post discussed caption translation confusion. Please read the comments to the Caption Confusion post. A woman from Germany weighed in on the writing.



    Here are the highlights of the comment discussion.
    • Alex wrote that the caption is written in Suetterlin style and reads "An die Nette der Mutter ihre Schwester" which he says doesn't make sense in modern German, but it could be a local dialect. He thought the ballpoint caption could identify Nettie's aunt as the sender of the picture.

    • Susanna from Germany agreed with Alex's translation of the ballpoint as an indication that "to" suggests the sister sent it. "The person who wrote down the German sentence wrote it as she or he would speak it. It is not a dialect. The person who wrote it is the child of the mother in the picture." She thought it meant the photo was to be given to Nette. Nette is the aunt of the writer.

    • Leslie added that Grossie is likely a shortened form of Grossmuetter, aka Grandmother. Debra Allison, owner of the picture, emailed that the family used that nickname for their grandmother. She found it interesting that Susanna suggested Grosse in German also means a tall woman. In fact, her grandmother was almost six feet tall. 

    So who's in the picture?

    Debra's great-grandmother Antoinette (born 1856) immigrated to America in 1881. She was the youngest of nine siblings. She brought with her two of her nephews, sons of her only sister who didn't immigrate. All of Antoinette's brothers remained in Germany.

    The answer to who's in the photo relies on the ages of the people in the picture as compared to what Debra knows about the siblings. She's dug into records to use the process of elimination.

    Antoinette's eldest sister Katherine and her husband Philipp Letzelter had eight children. The second and the third traveled with their aunt, who was only seven and eight years older than her nephews.

    The remainder of the family stayed in Germany. Debra thinks the picture depicts Antoinette's mother, Elisabeth Wiegand Fichter (1814-1888), as well as her sister Katherine (born 1838) and her husband Philipp (born 1837). The children could be their four youngest ones: Ferdinand (born 1871), Victor (born 1874), Antoinette (born 1877) and Karl (born 1881). Two of the older siblings are not in this image. 

    If the picture dates to approximately 1886, then their ages are as follows: Elisabeth (72), Katherine (48), Philipp (49), Ferdinand (15), Victor (12), Antoinette (9) and Karl (5).

    I know that relatives who didn't immigrate often sent photos to family in America. It's likely that Katherine sent this image to her sons and her sister. She may have sent it to her sister Barbara, who also lived in Cincinnati.

    This agrees with the comments in the previous post and the assessment by a Miami University professor who told Debra that the image was to be given to another. 


    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 | children | Immigrant Photos | unusual photos
    Sunday, May 15, 2016 4:34:14 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 09, 2016
    Piecing Together Old Photo Albums: A Challenge
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I collected images from individuals who'd found photos in their registration goody bags at the National Genealogical Society conference in Fort Lauderdale. As the images flooded in to my exhibit hall booth, it quickly became apparent that this was an enormous photo identification challenge. 

    Would it be possible to match up some of these images and recreate some of the original albums? Maybe. 

    Bins and boxes of miscellaneous snapshots that were left behind when someone died or discarded are in almost every antique shop and photo sale. I've watched sellers at photo shows pull apart old albums to sell the images individually. They don't know that albums tell a story and that by taking them apart they are discarding the context of the tale.

    I'd love to have a photo album owned by an ancestor, and I bet you would too.

    For two days, volunteers helped me organize those turned-in images. At last count there were 75 bags of recreated matches ranging from just two images to one envelope that contained approximately 20 images of a New Jersey family.

    Here's how we did it. If you inherit a large box of miscellaneous pictures, these tips might help you put them in order.


    unidentified image, circa 1920.

    • Watch for writing: There was handwriting on some of these images. By matching up the script, it was possible to group pictures captioned by the same person
    • Album corners: One person designed beautiful black photo corners, the remnants of them were still on the images.  They became another group.
    • Caption clues: A person with a flair for poetry wrote on the back of many images, creating a rhyme about the people depicted. You guessed it.  This was a matching clue.
    • Dogs, cars and people: We watched for similarly dressed individuals, thinking that photographers often take more than one picture on a given day. Yes!  That was case, now the challenge is to recreate the order of those images.  

    There were pets in some of the photos and they also served as an identification clue.  So did automobiles.

    • Background: One family posed relatives in front of a grape arbor for about 30 years. It was their own private photo studio. Another family posed in front of a brick house. After studying other clues, it was apparent that this posing in front of architectural elements was part of their family photo technique. Both groups of images represented the same family at different times. Bingo!
    • Photo format: Early 20th century images came in a wide range of sizes, but it was easy to group pictures by the same decorative border, the quality of the sepia tone or those mid-20th century black-and-white snapshots with deckled edges.
    • Photo developing number: After examining all of the above, we turned over the images and started matching developing numbers (those stamped numbers) on the back, cross-checking by image size and people. This resulted in many more matches.

    It's clear that many of the images people gave me were random photos, not part of any of the existing matches. There is still a lot of work to be done on the piles. I'm hoping for a few more picture connections.

    There are still photos out there. If you received one and don't want to keep it, perhaps you'd consider sending it to me.  Email me for instructions.

    I'll be back next week with the third installment of the German 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


  • Vehicles in photos | women | World War I
    Monday, May 09, 2016 4:07:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 02, 2016
    Caption Confusion in a Foreign Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Caption confusion is a common condition. You may suffer from it. The main symptoms are squinty eyes and a headache from trying to figure out what someone wrote on a picture years ago. You can't read the handwriting or follow the cryptic clues.

    Maybe you discover that what's written isn't a caption at all—one of your ancestors used the back of the photo as a notepad or to practice their sums. 

    If you think that's enough to drive you mad, think about Debra Allison's dilemma: The caption is in a foreign language and she's received not one or two translations, but four.



    Last week's blog post examined the clues on the front of the picture, which dated the picture to the 1880s. Now it's time for the reverse side.




    Let's start with the photographer's imprint.

    George Schaffer operated his studio in Oberotterbach (Pfalz), a municipality in western Germany. This clue could narrow down who's in the picture if only part of the family lived there, but that's not the case in Debra's family. They all lived in the area.



    Three different scripts appear on the back, including a ballpoint translation of the German written in fountain pen, and a pencil caption. A granddaughter of the original owner added "Grossie's Mother, Father & Sisters & Brother." Grossie was a nickname for Debra's great-grandmother, Antoinette/Nettie Fichter. 

    Which of the following translations is correct? If anyone reads German, please add your translation in the comment field below this article.
    • "To the niece of the mother's sister."
    • "To the nice mother of the nun." [This one is definitely incorrect. While the family was Catholic, no one was a nun.]
    • "on [to?] the Nettie the Mother her sister."

    The family was also told the caption states that the picture was given to someone to give to another person.

    Caption confusion indeed!

    Debra has created tables for all the possible ancestors in this picture, with their life dates and places of birth and death. One thing is certain: This is not a picture of Antoinette with her mother and siblings—the life dates don't add up.

    So who's in the picture?  Debra and I have some ideas.  Watch for the third installment of this photo mystery next week.


    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 | group photos | Immigrant Photos
    Monday, May 02, 2016 10:28:15 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]
    # Monday, April 25, 2016
    Foreign Photo Caption Mystery
    Posted by Maureen



    Ownership is a clue to who's in a mystery photo. The problem is while most people know who gave them a picture—such as an aunt, parent or grandparent—but before that, ownership information may be unknown.

    Debra Allison can trace the provenance (ownership) of this picture back to her great-grandmother Antoinette "Nettie" Fichter Mader (1856-1938).  Nettie gave the picture to her daughter, and then her granddaughter (who expanded the caption on the back) gave it to Debra.

    This photo has a caption on the back that offers ID clues both helpful and frustrating. This week, we'll focus on the front of the photo.

    Debra knows that Nettie Fichter immigrated to the US in 1881 and that she brought her nephews August and Phillipp Letzelter with her. She was the youngest member of her family.

    Should be easy to figure out who's in this photo, right?  Not so fast.

    Debra sent me a page-long chart that included the names of everyone she found who had a family relationship to Nettie. It lists the person's name, their relationship to Nettie, their date and place of birth, date of immigration, marriage and death dates and their place of death. Whew! That's a whole lot of research.

    A family would often pose for a group portrait before someone immigrated to create a memento both for the immigrant and for the family left behind. It also was common for family members to pose for a group portrait after the fact to send to the immigrant.



    Let's look at who's in the this picture. There's a husband (the mustached man) and wife (the woman next to him). The wife has her hand on the older woman's shoulder. A daughter would do this. The older woman occupies the center, the most important spot in the photo. To our left are three children, two boys and a girl. To our far right is a young man with his hand on his mother's shoulder.

    Who might they be? 

    According to Debra's chart, Katherine Fichter Letzelter, the mother of August and Phillip, had eight children. There are only four children in this photo, three boys and a girl. Katherine's mother Elisabeth was born in 1814 didn't die until 1888.

    The clothing clues in this picture, such as the husband's under-the-collar tie and the wife's jacket-like bodice and pleated hem, suggest a date in the 1880s. The dark cardstock mat was also popular in that time frame.

    Take a closer look at the picture. The photographer put a dark dot in the center of each of their eyes. Blue/light colored eyes often paled in pictures so darkening them for portraits was common. It's quite possible that members of this family all had blue eyes.

    I'll be back next week with a look at what's on the back of the picture.



    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 | children | group photos | Immigrant Photos
    Monday, April 25, 2016 6:22:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, April 17, 2016
    Caption Mystery for an Old Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Identifying captions written with good intentions years ago often confuse descendants rather than clarify who's who.

    On the back of this photo found among the things of Roxanne Turpin's mother-in-law is a cryptic note: "Relative of Grandpa (Grande), I think."  The person wrote in ball point ink, which means it was written after 1941, when those types of pens became widely available. It's possible Roxanne's mother-in-law wrote it.



    There is another problem with this image. It's a copy! This is a 20th-century black-and-white print mounted on cardstock. The scratches visible on the image suggest the original was a tintype. 



    Dating the photo relies on the sleeve style. The peaked fabric at the shoulder seam suggests a date circa 1890. The bodice style agrees with this date. The fabric is likely a patterned cotton. It could be a deep color accented by flowers. 

    So who are these folks? It could be a father and two daughters or a daughter (on the left) and her parents. The man in the middle is definitely older. I think the women are his daughters.

    Roxanne thinks the man is either Gottfried Grande (born 1894) or his father Gottlieb Grande (born 1860), both Germans who lived in an area alternately owned by Poland and Russia. She'd like to know where it was taken. Figuring out who's who could reveal that fact.

    Given the clothing date, the man in the middle could be Gottlieb, who'd be in his 30s when the image was taken, although this man does look older than that. 

    Next Steps
    • Roxanne should check her tree for the birth date for Gottfried. The photographed man looks older than someone in his 30s.
    • Who's Gottlieb's mother? Maybe this isn't the Grande family at all, but his mother's side of the family. Did his mother have a sister?
    • Examining the family information should reveal where the family lived in the circa 1890 period. That information could solve the question of where the picture was taken.

    I can't wait to hear an update from Roxanne! 


    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


  • 1890s photos | Immigrant Photos
    Sunday, April 17, 2016 4:41:45 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Sunday, April 10, 2016
    Round Three: Clues in a Nineteenth Century Family Gathering
    Posted by Maureen

    Heidi Thibodeau is determined to identify the folks in that July group portrait. It's a key to other unidentified photos she may find.

    thibodeau.jpg

    It can take time to solve a photo mystery. The clues stack up, but making that right match often involves re-examining photos in your collection or asking cousins to look for pictures as well. DNA matches are good for picture clues too. The individuals you're genetically related to may have photos relating to your picture mystery.

    Two previous blog posts explore the identity of these individuals in particular the man in the center of the image. He's a person that whole family posed around, an elder member of that clan.

    The first post looked at the general evidence of clothing and props to support the 1890 date on the image.

    The second post explored whether or not Bessie Hodgdon was in the image. She could be one of these two girls. Bessie once owned the original.



    Heidi was able to rule out Noah Lord, the girls maternal grandfather, as this man, and wonders if he could be the girls' paternal grandfather William Hodgdon (1821-1902), but there are no pictures of him.

    There is a picture of Bessie and Ella's brother Chester. It would be best to find a photo of any of William's siblings for comparison, but there is a resemblance between the man in the group and this man holding a kettle and pan of potatoes. 
     


    To solve this mystery I'd reach out to anyone else related to William in case one of the descendants has a photo. I'd locate these descendants through the mega genealogy sites like Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and FamilySearch.

    Once Heidi is able to identify the man between the two girls, it's possible the rest of the identities will fall into place. It's a lot like falling dominoes—topple one and the rest fall down.



    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


  • 1890s photos | 4th of July | facial resemblances | family reunion
    Sunday, April 10, 2016 2:34:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, April 03, 2016
    Which Grandmother is It Revisited
    Posted by Maureen

    Three weeks ago I posted about a crayon portrait owned by Joan Klein in Which Grandmother is it? Joan wrote and said she's going to use DNA to locate other information and possibly images.

    DNA can help you connect to other relatives, and it's a good idea to ask about family history "stuff" those matches might own. I've had a number of people tell me that DNA was just the first step. Those new cousins shared pictures and stories that helped solve quite a few family mysteries. 

    A nice email from a reader asked me to revisit the topic and dig a little deeper.



    Could there be other pictures of these women?
    Whether or not an ancestor had a picture taken during their lifetime depended on several factors, like the availability of photography in their area, the family's economic status and whether or not the person liked being photographed. Not every family had a camera.

    While it's true that more photographs were taken in each successive generation, that doesn't mean that more photographs exist of certain relatives. Even if they were taken, it's possible they didn't survive or that they were parceled out to other relatives. Joan is using DNA to try to find more pictures.

    Why does she look uncomfortable?

    In the daguerreotype era, it could take up to 30 minutes to sit for a picture, but by the time this picture was taken, the sitting time was way under a minute. She could feel uncomfortable posing for a picture, or the solemn expression on her face could reflect how seriously she took having a picture taken.

    Is this what she really looked like?
    This crayon portrait rendered by a photographic artist may not accurately represent this woman's appearance. She looks quite young, but that could be an "artistic face-lift." Occasionally I've been shown crayon portraits and the original pictures from which they were created. The biggest difference between the two is the number of lines on someone's face.  Artists wanted their customers to be very happy with the final product.

    It's also possible that this woman's crayon portrait was based on a picture she had taken years earlier.

    Could this be a memorial portrait?
    The short answer is yes, but crayon portraits aren't always memorial pieces. Sometimes couples had them done around the time of their wedding, in other cases men had them made when they'd started a business or reached a milestone. Anniversary portraits were also popular.

    What about the picture of the grandfather?



    Here it is. This picture is either John Gordner (1851-1939) or Charles Carroll Steck (1855-1926), the husbands of the woman shown above. This blue-eyed man could be either.

    The style of this portrait is very different from the one of the mystery grandmother. This was done earlier and by a different artist. The tie, shirt collar and suit combined with the mustache and hair suggest a date from the early 1890s. It's another mystery for Joan to solve. 

    Who do I think the woman in the portrait is? It could be Agnes, who died in 1907, but proof is needed. Fingers crossed that DNA provides Joan with more than genetic cousins.


    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


  • 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | women
    Sunday, April 03, 2016 7:50:12 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, March 27, 2016
    Who's Who in an Old Family Gathering Photo?
    Posted by Maureen



    Last week's column explored some of the identification clues in this family gathering. Heidi Thibodeau thinks it depicts members of the Tibbetts and Hodgson family of Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.

    Bessie Mabel Hodgdon, born in 1877, owned the picture, and it was handed down to her granddaughter (Heidi's first cousin once removed). This photo dates from July 6, 1890. If Bessie were in this picture, she'd be approximately 13 years of age. Only two young women in this picture appear the right age to be Bessie.




    They flank this older man who sits in the center of the group. That's a place of prominence. I wonder if they're his daughters or granddaughters. Bessie had a sister Ella, born 1881, who became Heidi's great-grandmother. Their mother died in 1886. Their father, Albert, born in 1856, would be only 34 at the time of this photo, far too young to be the man shown above.

    The sisters' maternal grandfather, Noah Lord, born in 1830, would be 60 years of age at the time of this picture. Heidi sent me photos of him (from a private source so I can't reproduce them here). The man in this picture doesn't look like Noah Lord.

    Could this man be the sisters' paternal grandfather? Perhaps. I'm going to ask Heidi if she has any photos of him.



    Heidi has another picture of Bessie and Ella from 1905, depicting the Tibbetts Family. Bessie sits on the left in the center row, and her sister Ella Hodgdon Tibbitts is on the right.




    Let's look at the girls and women side by side. The images pixelate when enlarged due to low resolution.



    It looks like the girl with her eyes closed could be either Bessie or Ella. The girl on the lower left is hard to see for comparison purposes.

    Given the history of ownership of this picture, the group on the porch in 1890 could be either the Lord family or the Hodgsons. One of the only ways to determine who's who is to compare other photos of any members of those families alive in 1890 to those faces in the big group picture.  It's a process of elimination.

    This photo mystery isn't solved but with a little time and research the answer may be clearer. I'm hoping Heidi and her cousins have more pictures for another blog post.
       


    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


  • 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | family reunion | group photos
    Sunday, March 27, 2016 6:57:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, March 20, 2016
    Old Mystery Photos: ID Clues in a Family Gathering Picture
    Posted by Maureen

    thibodeau.jpg

    Heidi Thibodeau's cousin found this image in the papers of her grandmother (Heidi's great-grand aunt), Bessie Mabel Hodgdon Hoogerzeil. Bessie was born Jan. 27, 1877. Heidi thinks she might be in this photo.

    A caption on the reverse states the picture was taken by Sprague and Hathaway, July 6, 1890.

    There is evidence to support this date:

    Clothing


    The two women (left and center) in this collage wear the peaked shoulder seams of the circa 1890 period. The children (right) wear striped play clothes popular in this era as well.

    While several women wear dark-looking clothes, they may not have been wearing black. Many bright colors appear dark in 19th century, black-and-white photographs. Popular clothing colors in the 1880s included shades of red, brown and greens.

    Photographic mat
    Chocolate-colored cardstock was commonly available in the 1880s and faded out in favor of light-colored card stock in the 1890s.

    Photographer
    Sprague and Hathaway started their company in 1874 in the Davis Square area of Somerville, Mass. By 1890, the studio was a corporation and they'd moved to West Somerville, Mass. The Smithsonian has trade catalogs relating to these photographers.

    Props
    Look closely at the women in the middle row. They carry fans to help them deal with the hot, humid weather of a New England July. Several individuals look like they're tired of posing for the picture.

    One little girl has her eyes closed.



    If this picture was taken today we'd think she was looking at her phone. In 1890, though, she either fell asleep or blinked. 

    So who's in the picture?  Next week I'll tackle who might be who. 


    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


  • 1890s photos | 4th of July | family reunion | summer
    Sunday, March 20, 2016 8:40:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]