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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, October 19, 2014
The Ring Brothers: Triplets in the 1850s
Posted by Maureen

Multiple births are not uncommon today, but they were rare in the nineteenth century.  Four years ago I wrote about Judy Linnebach's photo of an unidentified set of triplets.  This week it's the adorable Ring brothers.


Meet Charles, Eleazer and Millard Ring!  David Levy bought this lovely daguerreotype.  A daguerreotype is a highly reflective silver coated copper plate first introduced to the United States in 1839. This image dates from the early 1850s.  

A quick search of the 1860 census found the three 11 year old's living with their mother, a sibling and possibly their grandmother in Lubec, Washington County, Maine.  The enumerator wrote beside their names "of one birth."



A source for the Linnebach article, George Milby Gould and Walter Lytle Pyle,  Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, published in 1904 (available on Google Books) stated that most multiple births in the 19th century were to women in the age range of 30 to 34, and heredity was a factor.

Their mother Margaret gave birth to her daughter Lucy at 23 and then two years later (1849) to the boys. The Rings weren't the only multiple birth in town. Just a page earlier in the census Job and Almira Goodwin had a set of fraternal twins--Otis and Emily.

Charles, Eleazer and Millard were obviously doted on by their mother. Their identical tunics and broad brimmed decorated hats attest to that.  David  initially believed he'd bought an image of three girls.

Little boys in this period typically wore caps or broad brimmed hats with a wide hat band.  In this case, what looks like flowers could be a cluster of feathers. Not an unusual hat decoration for a set of very well-dressed boys. The photo studio enhanced their buttons with gold paint.

Lubec, the easternmost town in the United States sits on the border of Maine and New Brunswick. In the 1850s it was a economically stable community of farmers and fishermen. According to Wikipedia, in 1859 the town had a tannery, a gristmill and nine sawmills. While I didn't see a photographer listed in the 1860 census for the town, it's possible that this thriving town had a daguerreotypist in 1850s.


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 | children | daguerreotype
    Sunday, October 19, 2014 4:26:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, October 12, 2014
    Boyish Charm in an Old, Unidentified Family Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Can a photograph help connect two families?  Erin Garcia received this picture from a distant cousin. She thinks they're related through her great-great-grandmother Martha Ann (Robertson) Potterfield Murphy (born about 1835). 

    Garcia hopes that these three boys are the children from Martha's second marriage to Nicholas J. Murphy. Unfortunately for Erin, the answer is no.



    Their combed hair and clean overalls indicate that these three urchins have been cleaned up for this portrait.

    Only the oldest child has shoes; the younger ones go barefoot. It's not unusual to see shoeless children in photographs taken in rural areas. Likely their parents didn't have the financial means to purchase shoes for all three. They hold identical hats, though.

    These tykes were likely born in the 1890s. The gray cardstock mat suggests an early 1900s time frame for the image. Erin should look for brothers born within a couple of years of each other, but not in the 1860s or early 1870s, as the Murphy boys would've been. 

    The lack of a photographer's name makes it difficult to narrow down a location. That's a detail that could help her identify them.


    One thing is certain. These three adorable boys are nervous in front of the camera.  You can tell from their serious expression. 

    I'd ask her distant cousin to look through his photographs of 20th-century relatives to see if he has other images of these three at an older age. The little boy on the right has a downturned mouth that might help pinpoint him in other images.


    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 | children
    Sunday, October 12, 2014 8:34:31 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, October 05, 2014
    Mind-Bending Mystery Photo Revisted
    Posted by Maureen

    Over a year ago I wrote about this headache-causing mystery photo owned by a husband and wife, Art and Pam Crawford, who claimed the couple pictured as relatives. The problem was that Art and Pam each identified this couple as different people. Are they members of the Jones family or are they Crawfords?

    crawford2.jpg

    You can read about in the two installment story, Mind Bending Mystery and
    Mind Bending Mystery part 2.

    In the second post, I dug further into the story and the picture, eliminating Thomas Jefferson Jones and Mary Jane Williams as possibilities.

    Now another Crawford family member has come forward to claim the pair. Agnes Crawford is pretty certain that this photo depicts Nathaniel Crawford and Lois Viola Henley. Nathaniel died in 1937. 

    Agnes has a snapshot of the couple:



    This picture has been in her family for years.  I'm hoping for more information. Both Art and Agnes say Nathaniel and Lois are their grandparents.

    This is a good example of how photos spread through family connections. Photos trickle down in families based on which family members remain close. I'm hoping to introduce Art to his cousin.  Maybe she has more family photos!

    Another mystery remains: How did Pam's family come to have a copy and think that this couple were members of their clan?


    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 | unusual photos
    Sunday, October 05, 2014 5:00:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # 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]