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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# 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]
    # Sunday, November 16, 2014
    A Yard-Long Old Photo Brick Wall
    Posted by Maureen

    Cathy Jordan found three panoramic photographs in her father's old trunk. These oversize photos can cause eye strain and headaches as you try to find your relative in them!

    Thankfully, Cathy's been able to locate her father in two of them, but the third one baffles her. It's a group portrait of students at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. Her father lived in Conway, but didn't attend Hendrix.

    She photographed it in sections to make it easier for me to see it and share it with you.












    There are lots of clues in this long picture.
    • She contacted the Hendrix College archives. Staff told her that the building is College Hall. They looked in college newspapers and yearbooks for more information. The school's 1918 Troubador yearbook contains a photo that shows the same 18 band members. The archivist felt that this photo was taken around 1917-1918. At that time, College Hall was called Martin Hall.

    • The clothing clues and hairstyles agree with the 1917-1918 time frame.

    • One of the mysteries is why this is an all-male group.  Women attended the school at that time.


    These military style haircuts were very popular. Just about every young man in the picture has the same cut.

    In 1917, Hendrix was both a secondary school and a college. In the first image, you'll notice some boys who look younger than college freshmen.

    Hendrix did its part for the WWI war effort, building a Student Army Training Center during that 1917-1918 period.  At the same time, more than half the student population contracted the Spanish flu. Two died of it. 

    No one knows why this picture was taken.  There were no significant events at the school. The band played for football games and other school functions, but the all-male nature of the group rules out a school-wide event.

    Cathy doesn't know why her father owned the picture. He graduated from Little Rock Senior High in 1924. She has his report cards from the Arkansas Normal School, a teacher's college also located in Conway. Maybe this is a joint event between Hendrix and the Arkansas Normal School?  

    Today the Arkansas Normal School is the University of Central Arkansas. I'd follow-up with the university archivist and see if they have a copy of this picture.

    These yard-long pictures were very popular in the late teens and early 1920s. Identifying them is one problem but so is storing them. When I was a photo curator, we placed them in a large folder made from acid- and lignin- free cardstock in an oversize archival box. 

    Do you find vintage panoramic photos as fascinating as I do? Last summer I wrote about a panoramic photograph of the Pershing Family Reunion.


    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 | panoramic photos
    Sunday, November 16, 2014 6:35:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, November 09, 2014
    Religious Clues in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    A single photo tells a story of a person, place or event, but an album often tells the tale of an entire family. Katy Krause inherited a photo album. It all started with single question.

    Katy asked her father-in-law about his family history and said, "I wish I had a picture." That statement triggered his memory, and he brought her an album full of pictures. They appear to be of his grandmother Stella's family. He was able to identify his own father, his uncles and his aunt Irene. Katy thinks that Irene put the album together.

    The album includes several photos of Stella. Here are two:



    Stella, her mother and an unidentified woman, 1916.




    Stella and her children, 1922.

    Then there's this mystery image:



    Is this Stella in front? It's a First Communion photo. The little girl's dress and the white arm bows worn by the boys identify the occasion. The oldest boy holds a small bible and rosary beads.  The cross hangs down.

    The back is a postcard format. The stamp box identifies the symbol for Cyko (a producer of photo paper). 



    According to Playle, this particular design dates from 1907 into the 1920s.  You can use this site to match up the stamp boxes on your photo postcard images, too.

    So who's in the mystery photo? Is it Stella or Irene with two brothers? The children in that family were born as follows: Stella (1900), Jane (1902), Theodore (1906), Irene (1908) and Henry (1919). 

    Those knicker-style pants for boys were in style from the WWI era through the 1920s. The WWI-era styles featured a belted coat. These suits don't have that feature.

    If Stella made her First Communion at age 7, then this isn't her. The dress style is wrong for the first decade of the 20th century. But if that's Irene making her First Communion in our mystery photo, then the ages of the boys are wrong to be her brothers.

    Those children also could be other relatives—or Stella's offspring. In the photo shown above, she had a girl and two boys of the same age range as the children in the mystery picture. The mystery children bear a resemblance to the tots in the picture with their mother. I think they're Stella's children.

    A photo like this is a genealogical document. It's picture proof of a family event. I wonder if there is a church record that supports the evidence in the picture? A record of the children's First Communion could support the tentative identification.


    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

  • 1920s photos | children | First Communion
    Sunday, November 09, 2014 7:15:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, November 02, 2014
    Old Family Photos: Mystery Child, Part 2
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I shared Jacqueline Curry's 1910s mystery photo of a woman and a young child. The family identification didn't hold up.

    Several people commented that the tot could be a boy. I'm waiting for a bit more family information from Jacqueline to help answer that question, but it certainly is possible. In the early 20th century, little boys wore dresses until about the age of 5. 

    Jacqueline's great-great-grandmother Harriet, born in 1862 in Sussex, England, would be about the right age to be the mother. In this photo, she's facing away from the camera so that it's difficult to see her face. 





    From Jacqueline's family tree, here are two candidates for the woman and child in our mystery photo:
    • Harriet Day, born 1862
    • Her daughter Elsie, born in 1902. (Another daughter, Dorothy, born in 1891, is definitely not in the photo.)

    Here are a other photos of these folks for comparison:

     

    A lovely day at the beach in the 1930s for Harriet and her granddaughter Jeanne. Jeanne is Elsie's daughter, born in 1931.




    Elsie and her future husband Thomas at the time of their engagement.


    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 | facial resemblances | women
    Sunday, November 02, 2014 3:52:48 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, October 26, 2014
    Old Family Photos: Mystery Child From Across the Pond
    Posted by Maureen

    This week's mystery comes from a woman in the UK.  I love the way the web connects us all.

    Jacqueline Curry found this photo in her grandmother's photo album:



    Look at the curls on that child! The woman is trying to get the child's attention and elicit a smile by tugging on the skirt.



    You guessed it—no one knows who's in this picture. Jacqueline thinks the child bears a resemblance to her grandmother. However, her grandmother thinks it could be a sister of her grandmother, Jacqueline's great-great-grandmother. 

    Here's the problem. Jacqueline's great-great-grandmother Harriet was born in 1862 in Sussex, England. Her only sisters were Ann (b. 1864) and Rhoda Matilda (b. 1871).  That's not even close to a birth date for the child.  This is a 20th-century photo.

    It's possible that the older woman with the child could be one of those women born in the 19th century. Based on the clothing clues in the woman's dress, I'd place this picture to circa 1910.

    When working with a photo from an album ask these questions:
    • Where is this photo in the album?  Since there's usually an order to the photos in a album (such as chronological or by family), placement could help solve the mystery.
    • Who else is in the album?  Is it Jacqueline's grandmother's family or another branch of the clan?
    • Who owned the album before her grandmother?

    There's a photographer's imprint on the image in the lower right hand corner.



    It looks like Bates and Son, 187 Maple Rd, Penge. Penge is a suburb in South East London in the borough of Bromley. Bates and Son operated a studio there from about 1902 to at least 1913. I'm still tracking down information on them. Stay tuned!


    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 | photo albums | women
    Sunday, October 26, 2014 3:38:33 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Sunday, October 19, 2014
    The Ring Brothers: Triplets in the 1850s
    Posted by Maureen

    Multiple births aren't uncommon today, but they were rarer in the 19th 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.


    Image copyright: David Levy. Not to be used without permission

    Meet Charles, Eleazer and Millard Ring! David Levy bought this lovely daguerreotype. A daguerreotype is an image on a highly reflective, silver-coated copper plate, a photographic method 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-olds living with their mother, a sibling, and possibly their grandmother in Lubec, Washington County, Maine. Beside their names, the enumerator wrote "of one birth."



    A source for the Linnebach article, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George Milby Gould and Walter Lytle Pyle (published in 1904 and available on Google Books) states 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 age 23, and then two years later in 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 upon by their mother. The identical tunics and broad-brimmed, decorated hats in this photo attest to that. Because of the fancy hats, David initially believed he'd bought an image of three girls.

    Little boys in this period typically wore caps or broad-brimmed hats with wide hat bands. 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 an 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.

    Thank you to David for pointing out that another daguerreotype of the Ring triplets is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. You can view 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

  • 1850s photos | children | daguerreotype | unusual photos
    Sunday, October 19, 2014 4:26:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]