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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# 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]
    # Monday, December 15, 2014
    Mystery Photos in an Old Family Album
    Posted by Diane

    Whenever I see a old photo album, I want to curl up in a cozy chair and read it like a favorite book. That's because every album tells a story based on who put it together, who's included (and who's not!), and when it was laid out.

    One of the keys to "reading" a mysterious photo album is to identify the person on the first page and the next two pages. Generally, they were the most important people to the album's owner.

    This two-part photo mystery involves an album owned by Jim Te Vogt's family in Minnesota. I don't know the layout of the album, but in this case that's not as important as where these images were taken. Eight of the photos were taken by studios in San Francisco. The only Darcy relatives to live in the area were the family of Edward Darcy. So who's in these photos and why were they taken?



    Could this be Hugh Darcy (1858-1902)? Here's how the clues add up:
    • Jim already researched the photography studio, New York Gallery. It operated at 25 Third St. from 1869 to 1887.
    • In the late 1860s and early 1870s, velvet collars and pointed lapels were common for jackets. It's a style that gradually faded out by the latter part of the decade.
    • Beginning in about 1880, men started wearing their hair parted in the center and the era of the full mustache had arrived.
    • There is another clue in this picture. It's the pin on the collar of his vest.

    This is the symbol for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows identifying this man as a member of a fraternal organization. Several years ago, I wrote an article about another Odd Fellows image. The group's slogan, "Friendship, Love, Truth" is represented in the three rings.
    If this image was taken about 1874, then Hugh Darcy would be 16.  This man looks older than that. Since dating fashion can be flexible based on factors such as where a person lived, perhaps it was taken as late as 1880, when Darcy would be 22. The big question is "how old does this man look?" What do you think?  

    Are you looking for family photos? Find tips for locating pictures online and offline in Searching for Family Photos.


    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

  • 1870s photos | fraternal | men
    Monday, December 15, 2014 3:26:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, December 08, 2014
    Holiday Generosity and Christmas Clues in an Old Photo
    Posted by Maureen



    This little gem of a holiday picture comes from the Library of Congress collection. Researching the clues in this picture took a little time and involved studying the caption, the history of the image and the clues in photo. It's a lot more than a holiday-themed image. This one picture tells the story of a family's charity in a very wealthy community. It's the perfect Christmas story.


    This picture is half of a stereograph: two nearly identical photographs mounted side-by-side on cardstock. Viewing it through a stereopticon makes the image appear three-dimensional.

    The best place to start untangling the clues was the caption: "LYNDHURST—A Happy Christmas at "Woody Crest," December 1905. Copyright 1906 by Underwood & Underwood."

    Ben Underwood and his older brother Elmer were just 18 and 20 years old when they established their stereo view company, Underwood and Underwood, in 1880. Within a few years they had offices in Baltimore and Liverpool, England. According to Stereo Views by William Culp Darrah (Times and News Publishing), by 1901 the pair produced more than 7 million cards per year. They revolutionized the sale of cards by producing them in sets.

    A quick Google search for Lyndhurst led me to a page about the house of that name in Tarrytown, NY. You can see gorgeous images of this Gothic Revival style estate and read about it's history. 

    The Library of Congress cataloging record said the image was taken at the Lyndhurst School. There was no mention of the school on the site for the estate, so further research was necessary.

    Only three families owned the house before it was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1961. "Lyndhurst" was likely a keyword chosen by the Underwoods to draw attention to the image. The public was fascinated by the lives of these incredibly wealthy individuals. 

    In 1905, Miss Helen Miller Gould owned Lyndhurst.  Her father was Jay Gould, a railroad entrepreneur who had a reputation as a robber baron profiting off the less fortunate. He made millions. His daughter, one of six children, was a very wealthy young woman. Helen briefly attended law school but decided against a public life. Instead, she focused on philanthropy.

    Helen cared for and educated poor crippled children from the inner city at Woody Crest, a home at Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. She had a reputation as a caring and intelligent woman. Volume 25 of Munsey's Magazine (April to September 1901) featured a story on her charitable pursuits.

    Every year at Christmas she provided a turkey dinner for Woody Crest residents. Dec. 25, 1905, the children turned the tables on their hostess and cooked her a dinner from food produced on the estate. They gave her a gift of a holly and evergreen wreath. You can see her presents to the boys in this picture.



    She gave each of the 16 boys at Woody Crest a chest of "tools," a miniature store, books, and Indian and police costumes. A Dec. 26, 1905, article in the Baltimore American reported details of the event in "Helen Gould's Boys." The writer compared her generosity to that of John D. Rockefeller. While he gave telephone and telegraph operators in Tarrytown $5 each, Gould gave them $10 each.

    The center image shows off the paper bell hanging from the chandelier, the glass ornaments and trimmings on the tree.

    Even Helen Gould's millions had limits. In 1908, she had to decide which projects to continue. According to the Grand Forks Daily Herald, April 5, 1908, in "Helen Retrenches," it was reported that she was going to stop summer outings for poor children at Woody Crest.



    In 1913 at 45, Helen Miller Gould married Finley Johnson Shepard. The couple adopted three children, one of whom was a baby abandoned on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, and had one foster child. 

    It's a heartwarming story just in time for the holidays. 


    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 | adoption | children | Christmas
    Monday, December 08, 2014 4:06:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 30, 2014
    5 Brick Wall Busters for Old Mystery Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Give yourself a present this holiday season by taking time to solve one of your unidentified-photo mysteries. Here are five proven ways to break down that pictorial brick wall:

    1. Broadcast your picture. Take it to family gatherings, post it on your social media pages and share it in Facebook groups related to your family history, such as surname pages or location-specific pages.

    2. Study the clues (again). Try to forget that you've ever seen that picture before. Start with a clean slate and re-examine the clues—the photographer's work dates, clothing clues, props and whatever else is present in the image. Combine it with information from your family history research.

    3. Broaden your search. Photographs don't always go to family. Just because an image was in your great-grandmother's collection, doesn't mean it's a picture of her. It could be a collateral relative or a friend.

    4. Look for family patterns. Think about your family photographs as documents and fit them into a timeline of a person's life. You might be surprised to see how those images line up with historical and genealogical data.

    5. Submit your mystery to this blog. Fifty-two blog posts plus three Photo Detective Family Tree Magazine columns per year means a lot of people are taking advantage of this free way to get expert advice on their pictures. Your photo might be one selected for publication. All you have to do is follow the guidelines for submissions. Can't wait to see what's in your photo shoebox!

    Looking for more tips on solving picture puzzles? Check out my book  Family Photo Detective.


    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

  • fraternal | occupational | unusual photos
    Sunday, November 30, 2014 4:32:34 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Thanksgiving Day Masquerade
    Posted by Maureen



    It's easy to be confused by this photo from the Library of Congress.  It's a group of children dressed in costume, but the photographer labeled it "Thanksgiving." The signage in the window advertising a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, sweet potatos and cranberry sauce (for 40 cents!) supports the caption.



    So what's going on?

    According to Greg Young, author of the Bowery Boys: New York City History blog and podcast, this dress-up once was part of a Thanksgiving event. He wrote about it last week in a Huffington Post column.  

    There were plenty of street urchins in ragged clothes in New York City in the circa-1900 period. Young states that children dressed like impoverished youth was part satire and part of the history of "mumming." The latter term is associated with men who'd dress in costume and go door to door asking for food and money. In return they'd play music. 

    Long before Macy's began its Thanksgiving parade tradition, groups of New Yorkers in costume would march down the streets. You can read more about the traditions behind this photo combining Halloween-type dress and Thanksgiving in Young's article. If your ancestors lived in New York, perhaps they passed down a story or two about going door to door on Thanksgiving.

    If you want to see more images like the one above, there's a slide show on The Weather Channel site.

    I love how photographs and history intersect.  This week's photo is a perfect example of that.

    I'm thankful for all the readers that check out this weekly blog column! 

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1900-1910 photos | Halloween | holiday | thanksgiving
    Sunday, November 23, 2014 8:58:04 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]