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# Sunday, September 25, 2016
Colorful Old Photos: Tintypes
Posted by Maureen



This photo takes your breath away. It's a gorgeous painted tintype. This woman in the blue dress stares into the camera with such intensity, you wonder what she was thinking. 

Tintypes, patented in 1856 in the United States, were available in other countries. This is a particularly nice painted tintype. Photo studies often hired artists to enhance their pictures.

Look at the detail in her earring.



You actually get a sense of the filigree design.

Part of the stunning quality of this image is the delicate treatment of her eyes.



Delicate brush strokes define the shape and of her eyebrows and there is no doubt about the color of her eyes, blue.

So who is she? That's what Karen Krumbach wants to know. This is the only tintype in her collection. Let's see what can be deduced from the picture and Karen's family information.
  • The portrait was expensive. This expert painting wasn't cheap.
  • Karen's great-grandmother immigrated from Sweden in 1872, and then married here.
  • Her dress has a v-neck, rather than a rounded collar. She wears her hair down. The combination of these clues suggest a date in the early 1870s.
  • Karen's Swedish ancestors had reddish brown to darker brown hair and some had blue eyes.

Could this be Karen's great-grandmother's wedding portrait?  If she fits the description, it's possible. Karen should answer these questions:

  • Is she the right age?
  • Did this great-grandmother have blue eyes?
  • When did she get married?

Photos of immigrants document the family before and after they left home. Some pictures remained with relatives in their homeland, while others came to America.

This is a very special family photo. It was taken for a reason. The look in this woman's eyes makes me want to know more about her life, too.


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 | Tintypes | unusual photos | wedding
    Sunday, September 25, 2016 6:48:22 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, September 18, 2016
    Wavy Hair in Your Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I wrote about how "radium perms" gave our ancestors' hair smooth curls. Two readers sent me pictures of their female ancestors with wavy hair. Whether permed or created with a curling iron, these female ancestors ended up with lovely 'dos.


    Sharon Haskin Galitz sent in a 1928 graduation picture of her mother.



    Laura Powell's grandmother Ruth Myers posed for this picture around 1930, about age 16.

    I've written about clues in curls before. See if you can use the pictures in this post and those linked below for comparison with your family photos.  Can you spot the details?
    • Clues in Curls: Some women wore long curls in their youth. This woman's hair steals the attention in this picture.
    • Four Times the Mystery: A set of four photo booth images act as a timeline of one woman's life. Her hair is part of the solution.

    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 | 1920s photos | 1930s photos | hairstyles
    Sunday, September 18, 2016 6:06:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, September 11, 2016
    Toxic Hairstyles in Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    What's the weirdest thing you've ever done to your hair? 

    Bad hair happens to everyone unless your hair is too short to go astray. You know what I'm talking about.

    Generations of women (and men) have spent money on preparations to make their hair conform to the latest style. But some of those lotions and shampoos made problems worse: They could burn the scalp and make people lose their locks.

    There was another trend that actually made people sick! Look closely at your 20th-century snapshots for evidence of a permanent wave. 



    The combination of heat and chemicals made hair behave. Permanent waved hair was very popular in the 1920s, but the process dates back to the 1870s. You can learn more about the history of the "perm" on Wikipedia.  

    Here's another woman with a similar 'do from the 1920s.

     

    It's a lovely 1923 portrait from my collection of research images.  

    So how did these women attain their gorgeous curled looks?

    Radium—the radioactive, cancer-causing substance associated with Marie Curie. Supposedly it also gave you hair that others would envy.

    The full advertisement for the product advertised with this image, copyrighted in 1924 by H.W. Cherry, actually mentions the word "radium."  You could get a permanent for $5.



    There are no statistics on how many women used this process or how many became ill because of it. Do you have a picture of an ancestor with a permanent wave?  I'd love to see it.


    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


  • 1920s photos | hairstyles | women
    Sunday, September 11, 2016 9:48:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, September 04, 2016
    3 Tips to Locate Photos of Ancestors' School Days
    Posted by Maureen

    For the first three years of grade school, I went to class in a 19th-century building. A big wide staircase and a classroom cloak room stick in my mind. That building is long gone, replaced by a modern school. I've search for a picture of the original structure to see if my memories of it compare to how it actually looked.

    Finding images of the schools my family attended is a good beginning to understanding their classroom experience, and it helps flesh out my family story.

    Depending on when and where they lived, the school could be a one-room schoolhouse or a massive brick-and-mortar city school.


    Nebraska State Historical Society, [Digital ID, e.g., nbhips 12036]

    If your ancestor attended school in Nebraska, count yourself lucky. The Nebraska State Historical Society added images to the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress. This one is a sod school, District 62, 2 miles west of Merna, Custer County, Neb., in 1889. 

    In this picture, you can see the backwards writing on the bottom edge of the original glass plate.

    According to the cataloging record, in 1974, someone identified the teacher in the middle as Elsie Thomas who married a Bidgood. One of the girls in the back row, second to the left of the teacher, is Nettie Hannawald. There is another picture of Nettie online as well.

    Tip 1: Look online. Search the Library of Congress for pictures of schools in places your ancestors lived. Choose "Photos, Prints, Drawings" from the dropdown menu at the top, and type search terms such as Merna Nebraska school.

    Then expand your search to Google images. A quick search for history of public school architecture Grand Rapids resulted in a lot of hits including an online article and photo essays for Grand Rapids, Michigan.

    Tip 2: Check newspapers.
    In a town where I once lived, an old schoolhouse is now a bank, but I learned a lot about the building form old newspapers. In the 1930s, some members of the town balked at installing indoor plumbing. The old outhouse was good enough, they said.

    Search newspapers looking for school information:
    • You might locate information about the school building.
    • Merit student lists in the paper could mention your relative
    • There might be an engraving or a photograph published

    Tip 3: Ask the locals. Public libraries and historical societies often have pictures of old school buildings. Check the library or society website for a collection of digital images. Include school yearbooks in your search.

    Let us know what you find!


    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 | school photos
    Sunday, September 04, 2016 5:27:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 28, 2016
    School Days in Old Photos
    Posted by Diane

    September means schools are in session for another year of reading, writing and arithmetic. Today's students learn a lot more than the basic three subjects. Topics taught and student life bear little resemblance to your ancestor's school year.

    It's a good thing many families documented school days in pictures. We can compare the pictures of the past with those taken today. There are similarities, of course: A little kid going off to his very first day of grade school has always been a milestone moment.

    You'll find class portraits. Your great-grandfather might sit in the crowd with an x above his head to identify him, leaving you wondering about the names of other students. Those photographs tell the story of your ancestor's education.

    Turns out mystery school pictures aren't that unusual. Here's an assortment of past Photo Detective blog posts featuring students and teachers:



    This group of mystery pics still lacks identification. The College Girls in an Old Mystery Photo sit on a step engraved with "Class of 1910." Anyone recognize the location?

    If you find a picture of a relative posed holding a rolled up document, it might be proof of graduation. Find a list of what to look for to identify graduates in family pictures in Finding Your Ancestors Graduation Photos.



    The post A Yard-Long Old Photo Brick Wall depicts students at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. It was found in a reader's grandfather's collection. He didn't attend Hendrix, so why did he own the picture?




    Did your ancestor attend a technical school during World War II?  I'd love to learn more about these schools from folks who participated in them. You can learn more in the post World War II Victory Corps.




    Fall and Back to School features one of my favorite photos from my own collection. Without the caption, you'd think the young girl posed with her mother, not her teacher.




    British Schoolboy Uniforms Or The Bluecoats are Coming shares a mystery still waiting to be solved. British school uniforms are very specific, but so far no one has come forward to name the location or the school in this picture. Can you help?


    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


  • group photos | school photos | students
    Sunday, August 28, 2016 3:06:46 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, August 21, 2016
    Figuring out Where an Old Family Photo Was Taken
    Posted by Maureen



    Laura Katz knows that this is picture of her paternal great-grandparents Baruch and Asna Lipitz. They immigrated from Russia in 1906, and Laura wonders if this picture was taken there or in the United States.

    Comparing the date the photo was taken to the date of the couple's immigration should help. The fashion pinpoints a timeframe for the picture. Asna's square neckline became popular in the WWI period and remained a common design element in the early 1920s. Not every woman in the 1920s was a flapper with dropped-waist dresses. There were styles for the young and fashionable, designs for more conservative dressers and everyone in between.

    That's just one of the variables in dating photos based on clothing styles.  For instance, a person may have held onto a dress for a number of years.

    Asna wears her hair in the style of the earlier part of the century--piled on her head with a bun at the crown.

    The checks in her dress fabric, the natural waistline, and the calf length of the dress suggest a date circa 1919. 

    Baruch (born 1862) and his wife Asna (born circa 1863) look like they could be in the vicinity of 60 years old.

    This looks like a metal photograph popular in that time period. There was a stand attached to the back so it could be propped up for viewing.

    The date of the picture clearly indicates they posed for this picture in the United States, years after they arrived here.

    It's a lovely picture taken in the garden.  The mystery for me is why Baruch placed his chair in trees, so that leaved saplings shield the lower half of his body.


    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 | men | women
    Sunday, August 21, 2016 9:16:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 14, 2016
    3 Next Steps in Photo Identification
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week's How to Tell Men's Faces Apart in Old Photos examined two photos thought to be the same man. Two branches of the family identified him as Patrick Sheridan, but the facial clues didn't add up.



    When looking at pictures, it's important to examine other family history details as well. Here are three:

    Family Stories
    According to family members, one of Patrick's granddaughters remembered seeing him when she was young. The feature she recalled was his curly white hair.

    Another story circulates among his Fayette County, Ohio, descendants. Passed down from generation to generation, it claims that he was a stowaway on a ship that arrived in New Orleans.

    A transcription of an obit (the original hasn't been located) states that on his deathbed he mentioned a brother he hadn't seen in 20 years. The family is working on proving this.

    Family Data
    Photos can become a stumbling block even for genealogists who know every detail of an ancestor's life. Pat Dwyer has accumulated a lot of material on Patrick. This is an overview of what she learned:
    • Patrick's naturalization papers from Mason County, Ky., state that he was under 18 when his arrived. He was naturalized April 11, 1853. He must have been in the U.S. by 1848. No age is mentioned in these papers.
    • He lived in Maysville, Mason County, Ky. He was from Cavan County, Ireland.
    • He was either 60 or 70 when he died in Clinton County, Ohio, in 1888. The obit says one and his headstone, the other.
    • In the 1860 census for Maysville, a Patrick Sherdon is a wagoner. If his age is correct, then he was born in 1828. That fact then helps determine his age at immigration (15) and death (60). More census data and other records could dispute or confirm that exact year.

    Family Connections
    The notes on the back of the older man's photo says Wes' grandfather. Wesley, was the son of William. When someone bought Wesley's farm, the new owners found a box of photos in the barn and brought it to the one man in town with the Sheridan surname. 

    Last year, Pat Dwyer visited this Ohio branch of the family and is still overwhelmed by all the documents and information she collected.

    Patrick Sheridan had 12 children. It's possible that the descendants of each one of them have details about his life. Tracking down those individuals could tie all the stories together, plus give Pat even more photos and documents. She's descended from Patrick's son, George. As she reaches out to cousins, she discovers that many of them also have copies of the picture of Patrick as an older man. The younger man is still a mystery.

    It seems that every picture solution opens another avenue worth exploring. Pat Dwyer is going to be busy for years to come.


    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 | facial resemblances
    Sunday, August 14, 2016 11:24:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 07, 2016
    How to Tell Men's Faces Apart in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Pat Dwyer reached out through Facebook to ask a question about some confusing family photos. This post is the first of two.

    Pat owns a photograph of Patrick Sheridan, and her cousin thinks he does too.


    Patrick Sheridan



    Unknown man thought to be Patrick Sheridan

    When comparing two pictures of men, look closely at their facial features— especially ears, eyes and mouth. Examining pictures of men also involves comparing their facial hair growth patterns and hairlines.

    Establish a Time Frame
    The second photo of the unknown man likely dates from the late 1870s. The wide lapels and the style of the card the photo is printed on make this clear. It was more common to see men with small ties with loose ends under their collars, but a necktie was an option.

    Here's a photo of Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady wearing similar neckwear.


    Mathew Brady, 1875, Wikipedia.com

    Pat's photo of the older man standing with his hand on a fake column also dates from the 1870s.

    Look at Facial Features


    What do you see?

    Here are the differences that I immediately notice:
    • Hairlines are different
    • One man has curly hair and the other straight, but the man on the right has greased hair.
    • On the right, the tops of the man's ears tilt away from his head. The other man's ears are larger.
    • The beard is fuller on the man on the left.

    Here are some traits in common:

    • Shape of the nose
    • The brow line close to the eyes
    • A narrow chin

    While these two images don't depict the same man in my estimation, these could be a father and son. I'm hoping Pat has more information on the Sheridans.



    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 | facial resemblances | men
    Sunday, August 07, 2016 8:22:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, July 31, 2016
    4 Tips to Identify Faces in Old Group Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Joseph Martin has a great photo, a big group portrait. You guessed the problem: figuring out who's who. He knows the identity of three of these individuals, but the rest he's not sure about.

    Here are four tips you can apply to group portraits in your family collection.



    1. Estimate time and place.
    Once you know these things, you can figure out who in your family was around at the time.

    The place in this case isn't a problem. The group posed in front of the Belle Isle Conservatory. The Conservatory is part of Belle Island Park, a popular 982-acre island park in the middle of the Detroit River, Mich.


    Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

    Joseph thinks they posed about 1930. The cloche hats and dropped waist dresses look more like the late 1920s, but then again, not everyone wore the latest styles the moment the new looks were in the stores.

    2. Match faces.

    Joseph knows the woman in the black hat is Marcyanna Skibinski Kaptur and the man behind her is her husband, Nicholas Kaptur.



    To their left in a light-colored hat is their daughter Emily Kaptur.



    But who are the rest of the folks?  By looking at facial features, he thinks they could be a mix of Skibinski and Kaptur relatives, but isn't sure.

    So who's in Detroit in this time period and what's are their age? Those details can solve this mystery.

    3. Make a chart!

    When faced with a problem like this, create a chart and a collage of faces to make studying single faces easier.

    Identify those who could be possibly be in this picture and using a word processing table or Excel, create a chart of how old they would be in 1930. For example: Person's name, birth year, age in 1930. 

    Next, use a free photo editor like Pixlr.com create a collage. Digitally crop each of the faces out of the picture using the adjustment feature, and put them in separate boxes in the collage. You also can use this technique to do a side-by-side comparison of faces you think look alike as well.

    Now armed with the table, the collage and the big picture, study the faces.
    Who are relatives of the husband or wife and who's an in-law?

    Start with the youngest and oldest individuals. Look at the group portrait to see if there are husbands and wives as well as clusters of their children. Family members tend to stand together in household groupings. 

    Doing this will accomplish two things: First, you'll be able to narrow the time frame for the picture based on the ages of the children and the others. It might be 1927 or 1930, for instance, and the children will help you pinpoint when. There are several children in the 4-7 age bracket. Identify them first. Their parents are probably in the picture.

    4. Look for other pictures.
    Joseph didn't say if this is the only picture of the Kapur/Skibinskis in his collection. If he has others, those pictures give more chances to match faces to the group portrait. If he doesn't, it's time to try to find other pictures of the people in this scene. Searching genealogy databases for photos is one avenue. Many people attach photographs to their online trees.

    Group portraits take time to solve. Go slow. Consider all the possibilities. Put the puzzle down for a bit and then go back to the problem. You might see something you missed the first time around.


    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


  • 1920s photos | 1930s photos | facial resemblances | group photos | hats | summer
    Sunday, July 31, 2016 9:50:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, July 24, 2016
    Political Memorabilia in Old Time Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Political memorabilia first appeared in John Adams' campaign of 1796, but that was too early for photographic political pins and advertisements. It was another 60-plus years before followers could wear pictures of their candidates. Tintypes of Abraham Lincoln's face debuted in his 1860 campaign:


    Wikipedia


    Check your family photos for banners, buttons and badges proclaiming your ancestors' political leanings. Philip Hill manufactured caps and capes for the presidential campaign of 1868, which featured Horatio Seymour vs. Ulysses S. Grant.


    Library of Congress

    Men wore the hats and capes shown above for political torchlight parades supporting particular candidates. Some hats worn in these parades even featured oil and wicks in a canister torch affixed to the front of the headgear. You can read more about them in Collecting Political Americana by Edmund B. Sullivan (Christopher Publishing House, 1991).

    Women couldn't vote until the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920, but that didn't stop them from being interested in politics. Genealogist Orvill Paller found an interesting image in his family photos featuring a woman wearing a pin in the shape of a name.



    It's an example of how a single detail can offer clues to a person's life.
     


    Frances Althea Cuppernell's pin proclaims her support for James G. Blaine. In 1884, Blaine ran against Grover Cleveland in a tense campaign. Cleveland admitted fathering an illegitimate child and Blaine faced accusations of accepting bribes and being anti-Catholic. As we know, Cleveland won.

    Trinkets sporting slogans and candidates names weren't just for men. Manufacturers produced pins, aprons and hairpins for women to help influence the votes of the men in their lives. During the Blaine campaign there was even a pocketbook emblazoned with his name.

    Do you have any photos of your ancestors wearing political memorabilia? I'd love to feature them next week. You can email them to me.


    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 | 1880s photos | Abraham Lincoln | Politics
    Sunday, July 24, 2016 9:39:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]