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<2017 June>

by Maureen A. Taylor

More Links

# Sunday, 04 June 2017
3 Clues to Solve an Old Photo Mystery
Posted by Maureen

When a family member won't talk about a person in a picture, it makes you wonder why. It also leaves you with an unidentified family photo. 

Dale Wheeler's father never spoke about the woman in this photo. Dale has three possible identities for this young woman:
  • Julia Ann (Stewart) Wheeler (1853-1931)
  • Sarah (Cunningham) Linville (1842-1917)
  • Gertrude (Linville) Wheeler (1886-1924)

This colorized tintype contains clues that help narrow the time frame. 

  • The chair: Fringed photography studio chairs first appear in the mid-1860s.
  • Her clothing: The wide bow, heavy beads and belted waist suggest a date in the late 1860s to circa 1870. 

The tentative date for the image eliminates Gertrude Wheeler from consideration. Now take a good look at this woman's face and estimate how old she is.

This woman looks young. If this picture was taken in 1869, Julia Ann would be 16, and Sarah, 27. I think this image depicts Julia Ann. 

There is one other clothing clue that supports this conclusion—her hemline.

The skirt is short, not floor-length. This is a dress length worn by girls, not grown women.  

The provenance (history of ownership) of this image also needs to be confirmed, with these considerations in mind: 
  • Who is Julia Ann in relation to Dale's father? 
  • Dale's father was born in 1926 and would've been a toddler when Julia Ann died. Did he know her?
  • Do relatives have any photos known to be Julia Ann for comparison? 

In this case, the three clues of fashion, props and age suggest a identity for this woman.

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

  • Save
    1860s photos | Tintypes | women
    Sunday, 04 June 2017 14:37:06 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, 21 May 2017
    Don't Forget the Women and Children in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I examined the cataloging record and photo format clues for this stereograph picture, taken between 1860 and 1864, from the Library of Congress online photo collection. This week, let's talk about the individuals shown.

    The Library of Congress caption states they're members of the Wallack family of New York actors and stage managers. James William Wallack (1795-1864) sits in a chair while his son Lester Wallack (1820-1888) stands to the side with his hand in his coat pocket.

    There are so many unanswered questions that aren't addressed in the caption.
    • Who are the woman and children?
    • Where was the picture taken?
    • Why was it taken?
    • Is the date correct?

    James Wallack

    A quick Google search for James Wallack turned up a Wikipedia page and  many more images of him as a younger man. James acted on the New York stage and his parents were comedians in London. In 1861, James opened Wallack's Theatre, a popular venue in New York.

    Since the stereo photo was taken circa 1860, let's look at the census for information on his family.  

    At that time, James Wallack lived with 6-year-old Charles Wallack (whom we know from other records is his grandson; the 1860 census doesn't state relationships), a druggist of a different surname, two servants and a waiter.

    Each clue generates another query. For example, why does Charles live with his grandfather?

    The Wikipedia page for James has a photo of him with a grandson. A caption, apparently added later by the child, states "I am the boy Charles E. Wallack." 

    Here's a close-up of the boys in the 1860-64 stereoview for comparision:

    We still don't know for sure which boy is Charles, who the other boy is, or who the woman is.

    Lester Wallack
    Before jumping to any conclusions, let's do more looking for the Wallacks. James' son Lester, born in New York, acted in London before returning home to the States and managing Wallack's Theater.

    The 1870 census shows "John" and wife Emily with children Florence, Charles and Harry. The family lived with several servants at 30th Street between 6th and Madison Ave in New York. If you're wondering why the census gives Lester's first name as John, it's because he used John Lester as a stage name.

    Find A Grave has memorials for Lester, Emily Mary Millais Wallack, and Florence. Other memorials may belong to Charles E. and Harold, but aren't identified as such.

    Another mystery?
    If the two boys in the stereograph are Charles and Harry and the woman is Emily, then where is Florence?

    In 1860 Harry was 5; Charles, 6; and Florence, 11. She's missing from this image. 

    The house in the stereo picture doesn't look like Manhattan to me. It's possible that the family had a country house or were posed someplace else.

    An 1860/61 date for the stereograph works. The boys appear to be about the right age. In 1861, the Wallacks were well-known for their theater businesses and acting talents. This stereo of a famous family would be a collectible image for your ancestors interested in celebrities of the period.

    Apply these techniques to your own mystery photos:
    • Start by identifying the photo format.
    • Generate a list of questions to be answered.
    • Research the people.
    • Estimate their ages at the time the image was taken.
    • Put it all together and tell the story of the people and the picture.

    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now

  • Save
    1860s photos | children | photo-research tips | women
    Sunday, 21 May 2017 22:52:54 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, 14 May 2017
    Seeing Double: 5 Clues in an Old Stereograph Photo
    Posted by Diane

    I love the Library of Congress. I can lose myself for hours in its online historical photos collection doing random searches. Sometimes I even tackle one of their photo mysteries for fun.

    If there's one thing that gets my attention, it's when I see a photo with a partial caption. Like this photo, for instance: It's obviously posed for dramatic effect, but why? What's the real story here?

    When I see an interesting image, it's important to step back and study the clues. Remember, not all the details are in the image itself. Picture evidence is only one part of the process. 

    Library of Congress, stereo 1s05258

    Five clues stand out in this stereograph image of a well-dressed family seated on a porch:
    1. It's unusual to see a "family photo" stereograph. This format was popular for scenes and themed collections, like the Civil War. Stereos consist of two nearly identical images mounted next to each other. When viewed using a stereopticon viewer, the image appears 3-dimensional. The blur on the right side of this card on the seated man's face) may interfere with seeing it clearly.

    2. The Library of Congress has this dated to circa 1860 to 1864.

    3. The first stereo cards were published in 1854. Generally, yellow card stock wasn't available until the early 1860s. There were ivory cards, and it's possible the color of this paper has changed over the years.
    4. The catalog record suggests that the image was taken by George Stacy, who operated a studio from 1854 to 1861 in New York.   

    5. The record identifies the men in the image, but not the woman and children.
    Let's push the research envelope and see what else I can discover about the people in this picture. It should be possible to identify everyone in it.

    Do you have any stereo views in your family photo collection? They indicate a pastime enjoyed by an ancestor. Tell me about them in the comments below. 

    Stay tuned for next week.

    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now

  • Save
    1860s photos | children | stereographs | women
    Sunday, 14 May 2017 21:56:36 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, 13 February 2017
    How to Take the Headache Out Of Old Confusing Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Carol Tear has a photos that's full of contradictions. It's enough to give a genealogist a headache, but it doesn't have to.

    She thinks this is Hannah Marquart Obenshain (born in 1788, dies sometime between 1850 and 1860). With a bit of research and family data, some of the identity confusion should disappear. Here's how you can do it:

    1. Study the history of ownership.
    A two times great grandmother, Edmonia, once owned the picture. Edmonia's father and grandparent's once lived with Hannah's eldest son.

    Seems good, right?

    Here's the problem: The picture bears the name of a photographer, W.B. Atkins, in West Virginia. West Virginia didn't become a state until 1863. Carol wonders how it's possible for this photographer to take this picture years after Hannah's death.

    There's another problem with her photo. The white cardstock it's printed on dates from the 1890s. That tells us that this image is a copy of a much earlier picture.

    2. Study the image.
    This is a wonderful photo. Hannah wears a daycap under her headscarf. The caps ruffles frame her face in the style of the early 19th century. She clasps her hands together perhaps to keep her still.

    Don't you love her glasses?  They could be a tarnished brass. That style and material was common in the mid-19th century. There is an interesting article on historic eyeglasses online, History on Your Face. Glasses stayed pretty much the same from 1835 until 1870.  

    When did Hannah sit for her portrait?  I'd estimate circa 1860. 

    3. Research the photographer

    W. B. Atkins first appears in the Bluefield Daily Telegram newspaper beginning in 1896. In the 1920s, he's referred to as the town's pioneering photographer. You can find this paper online at

    Now Carol has another question to answer: Who in her family was living in Bluefield and took an old photo of Hannah to Atkins to have a copy made? 

    In this instance, the clues of ownership and the photographer help clear up some of the puzzling features of this photo.

    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

  • Save
    1860s photos | 1890s photos | women
    Monday, 13 February 2017 01:40:06 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, 24 July 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:


    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, 24 July 2016 21:39:10 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 26 June 2016
    Aerial Photographs and Ancestral Home Towns
    Posted by Maureen

    In the 19th century, daring photographers climbed into woven baskets held aloft by balloons in order to take pictures of local landscapes. While French photographer Nadar's photograph of Paris from the air in 1858 no longer exists, other such landscapes still do.

    J.W. Black of Boston photographed Boston from a balloon in 1860. That picture is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. You can read more about it in Smithsonian magazine.

    The world seemed enamored with aerial photography in the 1860s. During the Civil War, Gen. Ambrose Burnside employed a balloonist, Prof. James Allen of Providence, RI, to take reconnaissance photographs of battlefields and troop locations.

    Visual Time Traveling with the Library of Congress.
    A large number of aerial images are in the collection of the Library of Congress. Search the Prints and Photographs collection using the term, "aerial photography," then use the "Refine your search" options on the left side of the screen to narrow results by date, place or online availability. You might locate an image of an ancestral hometown taken in the time frame your ancestor lived there.

    Richmond, Virginia looking west, April 1865. Library of Congress.

    Kite Photos
    Balloons weren't the only way to photograph from the air. In 1882, a British meteorologist developed a way to attach cameras to kites. The caption of this postcard states that a kite-held camera took this scene.

    Aerial photography never went out of style. Airplanes replaced balloons and kites, and now there are drones. Visit any gadget store and you're apt to see drones capable of taking videos. Search online for "drone film of [fill in the blank]" to see if there's virtual aerial tour of an ancestral hometown.

    You can read more about the history of aerial photography on Wikipedia.

    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 | 1910s photos | aerial photos | Airplanes | Civil War
    Sunday, 26 June 2016 22:13:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 06 March 2016
    Adding Up the Clues in 3 Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Wanda Allison inherited photos of the McIntosh/Pearson families. Last week we looked at a tintype of this man, wearing Masonic regalia and posed with his wife. Relatives thought the couple could be John McIntosh (1810-1898) and Isabella Rutherford (1806-1894).

    The problem is the couple in this 1860s image is a lot younger than John and Isabella would be in this time frame.

    Notice the pink cheeks, a common way for photographers to add life to a portrait.

    Wanda has two other images that weigh into this puzzle:

    Here's a family-identified picture of John and Isabella in the 1880s.

    And a card photo of Isabella in the 1860s. This woman is not the same person as the one in the 1860s tintype at the beginning of this post. Their noses are different.  

    The nose of the young woman on the left is very different from the woman in the middle.

    So who's in the 1860s tintype? That's the big question.

    Last week I mentioned how her arm resting on his shoulder suggested a close relationship. It's possible that the pair isn't husband and wife, but brother and sister.

    John and Isabella had nine children:
    • John, 03 Apr 1833 - 24 Aug 1896
    • William, 07 Jun 1836 - 23 Jan 1913
    • Christina, 30 Jan 1839 - 04 Apr 1918
    • James R., 03 Oct 1840 - 21 Jun 1924
    • Catharine, 25 Feb 1846 - 05 May 1919
    • Jessie, 25 Feb 1848 - 18 Oct 1928
    • Isabella, 21 Dec 1849 - 19 Dec 1895
    • Jane (Jeannie), 02 Jul 1851 - 02 Mar 1888
    • Elizabeth Bruce, 27 Sep 1854 - 09 May 1930
    Let's estimate that the woman in the tintype is in her 20s, and that the picture was taken in 1864. That means she was born about 1844. This birth date rules out several of the daughters born too late to be the age of the young woman in the 1860s tintype. Any of the brothers could be in the tintype—John, William or James. Certainly the man and woman in the tintype bear a resemblance to John and Isabella, something that could lead descendants to believe them to actually be the older couple.

    Sorting this out involves more research and more photo comparisons. 
    • When do the older children marry?
    • Are there pictures of their spouses?
    • Are there pictures of the children?

    Figuring out who's who is all about finding more pictures. There is a picture of Christina with her younger siblings taken in the late 1880s, but it's the older siblings that will help identify that tintype. 

    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 | men | Tintypes | women
    Sunday, 06 March 2016 15:15:42 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 28 February 2016
    Fraternal Clues (and more) in an Old Tintype Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    There is so much to love about this old tintype photo: 
    • The pose and the people are a story waiting to be told. She sits with her arm on his shoulder in a comfortable and personal way. It states that he's her husband.

    • Look at the way his hair sticks out from the sides of his head.

            He wore a hat at some point. Yup! That's 19th-century hat hair.
    • Their direct gaze makes the viewer connect with them. It's like they are here with us.

    • The sash he wears signifies a fraternal membership. Which one? He could be a Mason, but he lacks the traditional apron. Did you notice the slight yellow coloring present in the sash? Lovely!
    So who are they? That's the question. This tintype image dates from the 1860s.

    Could they be John McIntosh (1810-1898), born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and his wife Isabella Rutherford (1806-1894), born in Arngask, Fife, Scotland? Both are members of the photo submitter's family.

    I don't think so. For one simple reason:

    They aren't old enough. In the early 1860s, both husband and wife would be in their 50s. This couple is too young. 

    Next week, I'll compare some other folks in the family and see if the facts add up.

    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 | fraternal | Tintypes
    Sunday, 28 February 2016 15:39:29 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 28 December 2015
    A Year's Worth of Photos: 2015
    Posted by Maureen

    This was another amazing year of photo columns.  Thank you for sharing your family pictures and for re-posting your favorite photo detective blog posts on social media. Can't wait to see what 2016 will bring!

    Here's a month by month overview of your favorites. Please click links to see the full stories.

    Imagine moving and leaving photographs behind. It happens more often than you'd think possible. January's first post featured a portrait of a man found in a house. He's still a mystery.

    February's post on photo jewelry explained how you can read the clues both in the photos and the settings to discover when a piece of jewelry containing a picture was made and/or worn.  Sometimes pictures were replaced in jewelry settings.

    Comparing faces whether you do it using software or just using your eyes can be tricky. Family resemblances can lead to misidentified pictures. Here's what you need to know to sort out the twenty plus points in a person's face. 

    In April a Gold Rush town picture yielded clues for one family. If you had family living in Shaw's Flats, California, you might spot a relative in this group picture.

    DNA is this year's most talked about genealogical topic but inherited traits can show up in pictures too.  A six-fingered ancestor in one family collection was full of identification clues. 

    June brought clues to help you spot a blue-eyed ancestor in a picture.  Try these tips with your photos.

    It took Michael Boyce to make the right connections to solve his family photo mystery. Here's how he did it.

    One of the most challenging clues in a picture are military uniforms. There were no standardized uniforms in the nineteenth century, but August's column lays out three techniques to sort through the evidence. 

    The clues in September's graveside photo fit together to tell a story of one family's funeral, just not the one the family was expecting. Read all about it.

    Our ancestors dressed like their favorite popular icons from politicians to performers. See how this one young woman dressed like Annie Oakley and see if you can spot these clues in your own collection.

    November focused on facial hair. Imagine writing today's Presidential candidates to influence their facial hair fashions. That's exactly what one little girl did. The true story of Abraham Lincoln's beard is noteworthy.

    Nineteenth century brides didn't usually wear white. They wore nice clothes and so did their grooms which means that wedding pictures are often overlooked in family collections. In Wedding Clues: 1855 Peter Whitmer and his bride Lucy Jane McDonald dressed to the nines for their nuptials.

    1840s photos | 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Abraham Lincoln | Annie Oakley | beards | daguerreotype | facial resemblances | Gold Rush | group photos | jewelry | men | Military photos | mourning photos | photo jewelry | photo-research tips | wedding | women
    Monday, 28 December 2015 17:00:44 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 14 December 2015
    Little Boys in Military Dress in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Patsy Ellinger's picture of 3-year-old Paul Robert Engemann and his older brother Karl Engemann, age 5, is a charming portrayal of two little boys playing dress up. It was taken circa 1902. Both boys wear miniature military uniforms, copying those likely worn by soldiers in Silesia, Prussia.  This is nothing new.

    During the U.S. Civil War, mothers could make their son's Zouave outfits like those worn on the battlefield.

    Godey's Lady's Book January 1862

    Dress-up was more than play-time activity. Children often wore costumes for community events. The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario,  currently has an exhibit Mirrors with Memory: Daguerreotypes in Canada. One of the images on display shows a group of boys dressed in historical costumes taken in 1855. You can see it here.

    To relive your childhood dress-up kits look no further than the Sears Catalog. You can browse your childhood holiday wish list using the catalogs on

    The photo of the Engemann boys captured them in one of their last moments in Prussia. Their widowed mother brought the two boys to the United States in 1903. Karl served as an American soldier and died in 1918 during World War I.

    If you have photos of your ancestors dressed-up as children, I'd love to feature them. Here's how you can submit them.

    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

  • 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1910s photos | children | Military photos | World War I
    Monday, 14 December 2015 14:19:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 29 November 2015
    A Timeline of Portraits
    Posted by Maureen

    Candace LaPrade send in several images of one of her ancestors. She's very lucky to have more than one picture of this man! 

    When you have multiple pictures of the same person, try to put them in chronological order using their attire and age as a guide.

    Peter Whitmer (1828-1909) of Lancaster, Pa., and later Bloomington, Ill., liked the chin beard. As a young man he wore the full chin beard. Later on, he groomed it into a small chin beard often referred to as the "spade."

    Here, Peter is dressed in typical attire for the 1850s/early 1860s with a patterned vest and horizontal tie. In 1860, he'd be 32.

    This is likely an 1880s photo. By now, Peter's hair is more gray. He wears the under-the-collar tie popular in the 1880s.

    This image has the appearance of a late-19th to early-20th century portrait. Note the way the photographer has lit the face to draw attention to it. 

    Three pictures. One man over a 40-year time frame. His face changes in subtle ways from his 30s to 60s. What do you notice?

    Certain facial features identify this man in all the images. The shape of his nose, his straight mouth and eyes, for instance.

    Each of these images was likely taken for a specific reason. The middle one was probably posed for a local history and the last one might signify his retirement. The next step is to place these images in a timeline of his life and see what milestones line up with these portraits.

    Next week, it's Peter's wedding portrait from 1855.  Such a treasure!

    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

  • 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1880s photos | 1900-1910 photos | men
    Sunday, 29 November 2015 18:05:06 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 08 November 2015
    The True Story of Abraham Lincoln's Beard
    Posted by Maureen

    Abraham Lincoln, 1858, Library of Congress

    The story of Abraham Lincoln's beard is a sweet one. In 1860, a young girl named Grace Bedell wrote to the then-presidential candidate, advising him to grow a beard to aid his campaign and his appearance.

    "I am a little girl only 11 years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have yet got four brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. "

    Lincoln responded that he wouldn't make any promises yet a few months later he's photographed with the beginnings of his trademark facial hair.

    1860, Library of Congress

    Lincoln was the first President to have a beard. 

    1863 at Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner's studio, Library of Congress.

    It's a remarkable tale of how a preteen may have influenced a political candidate's appearance (and perhaps his career). Lincoln's beard made his a fashion icon of the 19th century and led many men to follow his lead. You can see more male fashion trendsetters in Hairstyles 1840-1900.

    Many books are written about Lincoln, but two of my favorites focus on photographs of him:
    • Lincoln Photographs: A Complete Album by Lloyd Ostendorf (Rockwood Press, 1998)
    • Lincoln Life-Size by Philip B. Kunhardt III, Peter W. Kunhardt and Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009). 
    Online sources of pictures of Lincoln include the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division and the Allen County Public Library's Lincoln Collection.

    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 | Abraham Lincoln | beards | cased images | children
    Sunday, 08 November 2015 16:09:19 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 06 July 2015
    Triple Tintype Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Most of us feel lucky to have one picture of an ancestor, but imagine finding three images of an identical person in family photos and not knowing who he is. Obviously this man was important to someone in Kyndahl Carlson's family. This triple mystery appears in a family photo album.

    Here are the three pictures:

    In this image, he's posed between two men. The two men each rest a hand on his shoulder showing a close relationship. Kyndahl has no idea who they are. One could be the young man's father and the other a brother or they could be other relatives. 

    The young man wears a suit from the 1860s, with a velvet collar and wide lapels. The other two men also wear suits from the 1860s, but the tie on the man on the right suggests a date of circa 1870. There was a market for second-hand clothing, so it's possible that the young man's suit is a hand-me-down.

    He wears the same watch fob in both images.

    The man on the left has light blue eyes. A few weeks ago I wrote about Spotting Light Colored Eyes. This could be an identification clue if there are family stories about this man and his blue eyes.

    The final tintype is very interesting!

    In this image, the same young man is posed with pants tucked into boots, no jacket, a fiddle, a pipe and an old hat. He's ready to perform. Is he really a performer, or was this arranged by the photographer? Fiddlers often tucked their pants into their boots and wore hats, but not necessarily this style.

    When faced with three images of the same person, it's helpful to arrange them in a timeline. In this case, that's difficult since all three images were taken around the same time. He doesn't age from picture to picture.  Here's the order that I think makes sense:

    A side-by-side timeline of images often reveals details overlooked when examining the images individually. What's apparent from this collage is the expression on his face. He's a solemn person with no smile and sad eyes. 

    Carlson's family lived in Maine, Wisconsin, Montana, South Dakota, Oregon and Idaho. The young man's identification depends in part on his branch of the family. At this point, that's unclear. I'd start by figuring out the following:
    • He's a teen. Who in Carlson's tree was in his mid-teens around 1870?
    • Does he look like anyone else in family photos? There could be another picture of him at an older age. He has a slim nose, a small mouth with narrow eyes and thin brows. Watch for men with similar features and facial shape.

    I'm hoping these additional details help Carlson figure out an identity.

    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 | 1870s photos | hats | men | unusual clothing | unusual photos
    Monday, 06 July 2015 18:05:40 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 03 May 2015
    Old Photo Mysteries and Genetics
    Posted by Maureen

    At the recent New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC) I met Pat McHugh.  She told me about a very interesting image in her family collection.  The name of the couple is currently unknown.

    Their clothing and the studio setting suggests it was taken in the late 1860s. The pair was likely born in at least the early years of that century.  It's not their attire or the setting that makes this image stand out.

    Take a good look at the woman in this carte de visite

    Have you spotted anything unusual about her hand?

    She has six fingers on her right hand. The extra digit is on the outside of her hand, so according to the Wikipedia page on polydactyly, her condition is known as postaxial polydactyly. The incidence is only .6 per one thousand births for female Caucasian births, and it's considered an autosomal recessive trait. 

    This woman wasn't alone. There are many famous individuals who were born with an extra digit and a good number of fictional characters as well. Anne Boelyn's extra finger may be a myth.

    I'm hoping that armed with a date, Pat can determine who they are on her family tree. Unfortunately, the additional digit is unlikely to be mentioned in any documents. There don't appear to be any stories passed down in the family about this woman either. 

    This one image is a reminder to study all the details in a picture very carefully for unusual identification clues.  What's the most unusual thing you've found in a family photo?

    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 | unusual photos
    Sunday, 03 May 2015 22:55:11 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Monday, 26 January 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 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, 26 January 2015 15:22:56 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 18 January 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 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, 18 January 2015 16:19:45 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 12 January 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, 12 January 2015 18:53:06 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 04 January 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, 04 January 2015 16:53:02 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 08 September 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, 08 September 2014 16:02:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 24 August 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, 24 August 2014 20:18:32 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 13 July 2014
    Time Travel Vacations Using Stereographs
    Posted by Maureen

    This summer one of the most popular books is another installment of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (soon to be a mini-series). The story revolves around a World War II nurse who falls through a crack in time in a stone circle and ends up in mid-eighteenth century Scotland.

    We don't have to visit a stone circle to time travel. Photographs let us peek into the world of our ancestors.

    Previous generations took time to enjoy the season whether they traveled afar or to the nearest water venue. Many of the places our ancestors visited are no longer standing.

    For instance, residents and visitors to Philadelphia went to the Smith's Hotel and swimming pool on Smith's Island. The whole island is now gone.  The island once stood in the middle of the Delaware River. In the 1890s the U.S. government removed both Smith's Island and Windmill Island. You can read more about the venue on Philadelphia's Lost Islands. It's also possible to see what the swimming hole looked like by browsing the Library of Congress photo collection.

    The bright green card stock of this stereograph dates it to the mid to later 1860s when this color was common.  In 1868, card manufacturers began rounding the corners. This card still has square corners.

    A stereo card features two nearly identical images that appear 3D when viewed through a special viewer. This is the nineteenth century version of  going to the movies wearing those special glasses. 

    Here's one side of the image showing men using the slide.

    Take a trip into the past by browsing the Library of Congress site.  Start by searching a place name.  Then select an image.  When you do this is what you'll see.

    You'll be able to select the size of the image you can download. Options are underneath the image.  Cataloging information includes the photographer's name, date of publication and usage facts. On the lower half of the page you'll see links for subject, format and collections. At the very bottom you can click the bookmark link so you can revisit the same page.

    These links make it very easy to view other images on a similar topic such as "Swimming pools--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--1860-1870."  Or if you want to see more stereographs from the 1860s click that link.  

    It's easy to take an armchair trip into the past using stereo views.  Try it and see.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | stereographs | summer
    Sunday, 13 July 2014 16:12:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 22 June 2014
    Solving Old Photo Mysteries: Clues in Curls
    Posted by Maureen

    Eunice Amelia Paulk[4].jpg
    Eunice Amelia Paulk (1842-1913)

    Jana Last knows a lot about her ancestor Eunice. She was born in Ohio, lived in Washington, Iowa, and eventually moved to California.  At 19, she was a teacher in common school, a job she likely held until she married in 1876. You can read more about Eunice on Jana's Genealogy and Family History Blog. 

    What drew my attention to this photo of Eunice is her curls. There are a lot of photo-identification clues in a simple cluster of curls.

    The light-eyed Eunice knew the current hair fashions. Using, I created a collage of the whole photo and then pulled out some details to take a closer look.

    eunice collage.jpg

    Top right:  Eunice has very fine hair. She's curled it into wisps that frame her face. A narrow ribbon accessorizes her hair.

    Middle: The long curl is fascinating.  Is it a hairpiece or her actual hair?  Hair pieces (braids, bangs and long curls) were available to women of all economic situations. They were available in various lengths and colors. If a woman couldn't afford a human hair piece, she could get substitutes such as horse hair and yak hair.

    In the late 1860s to the early 1870s, a single long curl draped over the shoulder was very fashionable for young women. Eunice knows the hair fashions of her day.

    Bottom:  While her hair is up-to-date, her clothing is conservative and fitting for a schoolteacher. Narrow, round collars accessorized with a pin first became popular during the Civil War.  She posed for this photograph in either the late 1860s or early 1870s.  By 1870, a new style of collar was paired with those long curls: It was a stand-up collar with an open neck and a ruffle.

    Kracaw's Fine Art Gallery took this portrait. According to Carl Mautz, Biographies of Western Photographers (Carl Mautz Publishing, 1997) Kracaw's Fine Art Gallery was in business in Washington, Iowa, from 1868-1875.


    You can learn more about old photo clues in all sorts of curls, as well as bangs, beards and buns, in my newly revised and expanded, all color-edition of Hairstyles, 1840-1900. It's currently on sale.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | 1870s photos | hairstyles | women
    Sunday, 22 June 2014 19:08:56 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 16 February 2014
    New England House History Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    There are photos that get stuck in my mind. Those are persistent mysteries that defy strategies to solve them. Bergetta Monroe's photo of a large farm is one of those images.

    I first wrote about it in 2009 in an article called Raising the Roof: Architectural Images. On a cold winter day about 1870, a photographer climbed the roof of a building and took this picture. It's a detailed look at a family's rich agricultural landholdings. Wood smoke comes out of the chimney in the foreground and the possible owner of the property stands at the gate.

    monroe house 2.jpg

    That was five years ago, and web searching has changed a bit since then.  When I first wrote about this image, I discussed the following identification details. Here they are with some updates.

    This is key information. Knowing who owned this image before Bergetta's father can help solve the mystery. Her father told her that her grandfather Sidney Hinman Monroe was born in Jericho, Vt., in 1843, and then moved to Wisconsin. 

    Who's Who
    There may only be three generations between the people who posed for this picture and its current owner—Bergetta's grandfather, her father and her.  There appears to be an older generation sitting on a bench on the side of the house.

    monroe house 3.jpg

    Bergetta's ancestors lived in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Wisconsin. I suggested making a list of all the specific towns in which they lived. 
    • Search census records for the people. It's possible that the man at the gate is the owner or manager and the older couple lives there. The older couple would've been born in the early years of the 19th century. There might be an extended family living there.
    • The owner of this property would stand out due to his wealth.  It's a very large farm with many outbuildings. Tax records and deeds would also supply details on her ancestors' holdings.

    • Show the image to realtors in the towns in which her ancestors lived. This farm and its next-door building (the photographer stood on the roof to capture this picture) would be significant. I spent time today looking online at historical houses in Jericho with no matches.

    • Check with historical societies and historic preservation groups as well. It's possible the house is now gone.

    • I tried using Google Images for matches using Bergetta's photo for comparison by uploading it into the search engine. Nothing turned up.

    Tax Stamp

    Back in 2009, I spoke with revenue stamp expert Michael E. Aldrich.  He stated that this stamp on the back of the photo is significant due to its light blue color. A darker blue stamp was issued in 1864, but this one wasn't available until 1870, providing a date for the image. Because this stamp doesn't fall within the traditional revenue stamp period of August 1864 to August 1866, Aldrich thought it was placed there later.  If you'd like to see what other revenue stamps look like click here.  To learn more about a particular stamp, click the image. 

    I encourage you to go to the original article to see more pictures of the property. The house has gorgeous Doric columns and the barn is of Italianate design.  This was owned by someone who would've been very well known in his community.

    I'd follow the land evidence first to narrow down possible locations. Look for relatives that combine wealth and property. The 1870 Agricultural Census could offer clues once you have a list of towns. This non-population census exists for 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. You can learn more about them from the National Archives. It took awhile to build a farm like this.

    Next step is to check in with realtors, historical societies and preservationists.

    Bergetta has already tried social media using her FaceBook page, but she should also look for pages for the towns in which her ancestor's lived.

    I remain convinced that this is a picture mystery that can be solved!  It's all about connecting with the right pieces of information and following the bread crumbs.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | hats | house/building photos
    Sunday, 16 February 2014 19:40:47 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, 02 February 2014
    Card Photo Clues
    Posted by Maureen

    What's a card photo? If you've heard the term you're probably wondering. A card photo is an image mounted on cardstock. The earliest ones are called carte de visite and are approximately 2.5x4.5 inches (although the sizes can vary a bit). Late 19th-century cabinet cards are larger and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from round ones of the 1880s to long thin ones.

    Dating a card photo relies on its size, the format of the image, the photographer's work dates, clothing clues and family history information.

    Jim TeVogt found this photo in an old album that belonged to a member of the McBride family of Minnesota, who was directly related to the McBrides of Sarpy County, Neb. 

    mcbride unknown.jpg

    I don't have the dimensions of this image, but the photographic format and the clothes hold plentiful clues.

    Images set into an oval were common in the 1860s and beyond. In the 1860s, images in oval settings usually featured pseudo frames or patriotic symbols. By the 1870s, the photographic image included the picture of the person and decorative elements such as the marble pattern surrounding the picture.

    This man's wide lapels on his jacket and his loose tie are common in the mid-1870s. The clues add up to suggest he sat for a portrait in the mid- to late 1870s.

    He definitely resembles the McBrides. This second picture is John McBride, Jr. (born May 12, 1865): 

     John McBride Jr  - Dec  15 1902.jpg

    His father was John McBride, who married in 1861. Here's John McBride, Sr.'s picture:
    John McBride Sr - About 1861.jpg

    The man in the 1861 image has a wider nose and wider jaw than the unknown man in the top image.

    Photo albums are a usually a mix of close family, distant cousins and friends. While the unknown man closely resembles John McBride, Jr., there are big discrepancies in the appearance of John McBride, Sr., and the unknown man.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | 1870s photos | beards | men
    Sunday, 02 February 2014 17:44:35 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 13 January 2014
    Puzzling over Black Dresses
    Posted by Maureen

    Rebecca Foster wrote to me: Most of my elder family has passed away, so I am struggling to piece together my family history. I believe this is my third-great-grandmother Mary Ann Fagan.


    Rebecca initially thought this could be her in 1860s mourning dress, but she's right to doubt her initial assessment. This is an older woman. Mary Anne had a daughter in 1881, so an 1860s date is unlikely.

    She wears a dark dress, but is it black? It's possible the photographer colored only the chair and background, not the dress, making it appear the dress is black. 

    Photographic methods of the 19th century and early 20th century made many colors look black in photos.
    This woman posed around 1900 to 1910. Wicker chairs with curled backs appear in photographs taken in the 1890s and into the first decade of the 20th century (and a bit beyond).

    The dress has full sleeves and a pleated bodice. She could be wearing mourning clothes, but before making that determination, I'd like to learn more about Mary Anne and her family. I'll email Rebecca and see what else she knows.

    The rules for black mourning dress in the 1860s were set by Queen Victoria, and included black fabric without a sheen, black crape covering the face and a total lack of color. However, the rules for mourning varied based on the relationship to the deceased, and not every woman in a black dress is in mourning. 

    Other colors also were popular to show respect for the deceased. There are additional details in Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | mourning photos | women
    Monday, 13 January 2014 17:52:03 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 23 December 2013
    A Look Back at Photo Detecting in 2013
    Posted by Maureen

    It's time for the end of the year round-up just in case you missed one of these columns.  Here are some of my favorites from 2013.


    The Inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln. On March 4, 1865, Lincoln began his second term in office. Photographers were there to capture the crowds standing in the rain.  Perhaps your ancestor was there? 

    I'm a huge fan of Downton Abbey so it was a natural choice to write about the fashions worn on the show in Downton Abbey and Your Family Photos.  The new season starts this January and I can't wait!


    If you've ever walked into an antique shop, spotted an identified photo and thought I'd like to help reunite it with family then you're not alone. Here are some tips on how to do just that in Reuniting Orphan Photos With Family.


    I came back from Who Do You Think You Are Live! in London with a tip for smart phone users.  You can use your phone to look at negatives.  It's an amazing use for the device we all have. Here's how you can do it too.

    How can a husband and wife from unrelated families end up with the same photo of a supposed relative?   Same photo with different identifications. It's a mind-bending mystery in two parts.  Part One and Part Two.

    Two part mysteries are so much fun to work on that I featured another one. This time it was two Italian family photos found in a box with a note. You'll have to read parts one and two to see who's who.

     The nation honored the 150th anniversary of the Battle at Gettysburg.  Burns was 69 at the time he fought as a civilian.  You can read about his remarkable story in John L. Burns, Civil War Sharpshooter.

    A lovely handcolored carte de visite from Charleston, South Carolina is the subject of A Southern Photo Mystery.  Is it Cornelius Webb?  Follow the genealogical bread crumbs to see how it adds up.

    Don't you love when a ancestor puts a name over the head of someone on the front of a photo? The problem in the Marsteller family is that only one person in the group portrait is identified. The rest of the folks are unidentified. Is this a photo of Pennsylvania relatives?  Are they the relatives of the man's father who died suddenly as a young man?  It's another two part mystery.  Looking for a Pennsylvania Connection and The Marsteller Old Photo Mystery

    Photo albums tell a story of friends and family. Here are some tips on how to read your family album. Adding up all the clues in this man's family album led to a photo identification home run--ID's for all three images.

    Spotting a copy in your family collection can be a challenge. In part one I showed how I identified a picture as a copy of an earlier photo and in part two there are tips on what to look for in your own photos.

    A lot of former switchboard operators wrote to me after a picture of women switchboard operators appeared in this space. Ask the women in your family if they worked and interview them about their jobs.  You might be surprised by the stories they tell.

    Here's a classic Irish tale of love and loss in two parts with a few letters and photos too. When a man's wife dies leaving him with several small children. He returns home to Ireland.  The oldest son decides he'd rather live in America and moves back.  His younger brother writes persuasive letters trying to convince his big brother to let him follow him to Massachusetts.  I won't tell you how it ends.  It's a heartbreaking Christmas story.

    Happy Holidays!  Watch this space for new family photo stories in 2014.  It's easy to submit your own photo mystery. Just click the link on the left, How To Submit Your Photo.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Civil War | group photos | hats | men | Military photos | occupational | photo albums
    Monday, 23 December 2013 15:25:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 29 September 2013
    A Photo Identification Home Run
    Posted by Diane

    The little girl in last week's column has a name! She's Lydia Rock.

    Girl Rock  002.jpg

    It only took a few hours of research by Dan Gwinn. I'd suggested that he look for a child born in the early 1860s. He began by re-examining his Rock family history. I was thrilled to get an email that started, "I think I may have found something." His third-great-grandmother Mary Ann Cooper Hornberger was the originator of the album. In it, she collected pictures of her aunts and uncles. Her uncle Allen and his wife Mary had a daughter Lydia, born in 1861.

    In the back of the album was a labeled picture of Lydia from circa 1880. Take a close look at her smile and features.They match the little girl in the fringed chair! Don't you love the marcel wave in her hair?

    Lydia Rock1.jpg

    The little girl, whom we now know as Lydia, and the older woman had their picture taken in the same studio. Allen's wife, Mary, was born in 1839. The older woman is quite possibly her.


    Dan's third-great-grandmother arranged the photos in the album. On the first page is an unidentified man. In the second and third spots are Mary (the woman above) and Lydia. Could the man be Allen?  It's very possible.  The revenue stamp on the back of this photo dates it to between Aug. 1, 1864, and Aug. 1, 1866. This man is the right age to be Allen. Generally, family members are kept together in an album's arrangement.

    CDV Allen Rock (2).jpg

    The first person in an album is someone that an album's arranger knew very well. There was a close family relationship between Allen and his niece (Dan's third-great-grandmother). She admired him enough to name one of her own children after him.

    Dan wonders if the little girl's boots are prominently displayed to show off her father's wares. Uncle Allen Rock was an well-known boot and shoe store owner in Lancaster City, Pa.


    The clues led Dan to identify not one, but three family photos. It's equivalent to a home run hit.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | 1880s photos | children | Civil War | photo albums | women
    Sunday, 29 September 2013 21:35:51 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 22 July 2013
    A Southern Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Cornelius Webbedit.jpg

    The story of a photograph is so much more than its simple details. This is a carte de visite (CDV) image. The mounted size of a CDV is 2.125 x 3.5 inches.  The slight oval shadow on this picture signifies it was once in an album.

    When confronted with a photographic album, read it front to back, studying the placement of the images. Who's in the first position?  That's the most important person to the individual who created the album.

    In this case, the photo is out of the context of the album.

    The photographer's studio is typical for the 1860s. There's a patterned oilcloth on the floor, a plain backdrop, a single drape and a paisley table covering. The studio has given the image a slight tint and added a bit of color to the man's cheeks.

    He wears a sack coat, a shawl-collared vest, a long necktie and loose trousers than narrow at the ankle.  At his feet is either the base of the table or a photographer's posing device. The facial hair is typical for the late 1860s.

    Stephen Taylor owns this image. He's hoping it depicts his great-great-grandfather Cornelius Webb.  Born in Philadelphia in 1836 to unidentified parents, Cornelius married an Irish immigrant, Mary M. Kennedy, in Charleston, SC in 1859.

    The 1860 Federal Census for Charleston lists the young couple living in a boarding house in the third ward (Heritage Quest Online, National Archives film M653, roll 1216, page 252, line 9). He was a tin smith and his personal estate was worth $500. 

    Most tin smiths served an apprenticeship of four to six years, then started their own business. It is unclear whether Cornelius actually manufactured goods or just sold them. The term tin smith referred to either. There were merchants in Charleston with the last name of Webb, but more research is needed to determine if Cornelius was one of them.

    According to the Frederick Ford's Census of the City of Charleston, 1861 (Charleston, 1861), Cornelius lives in a brick house at 123 Church Street, in the third ward. The Charleston Gaslight Co. owned the building. A quick search on Google maps shows that the house (as long as street numbering didn't change) no longer stands. Looking at the street view provides an indication of what it might have resembled.

    Could this be Cornelius Webb?  It seems pretty likely.  He died in 1869 at 33 years of age, leaving behind five small children, including one born that year.

    He would have posed for this image between his arrival in the city circa 1859 and his death a decade later. Harvey Teal's book, Partners with the Sun: South Carolina Photographers 1840 -1940 (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2001) documents five photographers who operated studios in Charleston prior to the Civil War. During the conflict, the Confederate government's Tax Act, levied a tax of $50 a year on anyone operating as a photographer (Charleston Mercury, May 9, 1863, page 1). After the war, several new studios opened. Most operated studios on King Street.

    The presence of a photographer's imprint on this portrait would help narrow the time frame. Teal's book lists specific dates for photographers.

    The man in this image appears prosperous. He's posing clasping his coat at the lapels, a sign of pride. This man appears older than his early 20s, so if this is Webb, it's likely he posed after the Civil War when he was in his late 20s or early 30s.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | beards | Civil War
    Monday, 22 July 2013 15:23:44 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 07 July 2013
    Clues, Cousins and Contacts: Three Ways to Solve a Photo Mystery
    Posted by Diane

    What does it take to solve a picture mystery? In this case it's clues, cousins and contacts.

    ThomazinTintype Tintededit.jpg

    June Thomazin is determined to solve this tintype mystery! I featured it in my Photo Detective column in the September 2010 Family Tree Magazine (you can get a download of that Photo Detective column or the full issue at

    She was hoping someone would come forward with more information, but no one did. Here's how the story evolved.

    Back in 2010, June submitted two painted tintypes. I studied them and suggested they were taken in the late 1860s. Tintypes, patented in 1856, remained popular until the mid-20th century. The wide lapels on the man's jacket and the woman's belted dress fit the period.

    In June's tireless search for an answer, she discovered three other copies of this picture owned by various cousins. At some point, a descendant of this couple took the image to a studio to be copied and had different versions of it made. Of the four existing images, two are tintypes and two are crayon portraits (photos enhanced with charcoal and artist's materials).

    One cousin owns the tintype above. His mother wrote on the back "Grandma Dunaway's parents." June and her cousin thought this meant Wesley and Elizabeth (Close) Newman.

    In another cousin's collection is this tintype:

    Thomazin2TinType painted (5).jpg

    In the 1860s, photographers had reversal lens. Some tintypes are reversed images, while others are corrected. Two of the cousins' four images have the husband seated on the viewer's right; in the other two, he's seated on the viewer's left.

    The other two versions of the photo are paper prints.

    This four-fold mystery raises a lot of questions:
    • Who had the copies made?
    • Is one an original, or is the original image missing?
    • Are there other copies?

    Three of the four images are owned by cousins who descended from James William "Harvey" Dunaway (1829-1880) and his wife Treasy Humphress Bateman (1820-1901). Could this be the link that June's been hoping to find? 

    June created this graphic to illustrate who owns what.


    In May 2010, I'd posted about June's detective work trying to identify a cabinet card. That post disproved a caption identifying the couple.


    A distant relative saw that blog post and sent June a copy of the exact cabinet card. This couple turned out to be the Newmans. The tintypes above show some other couple. It was an online Family Tree photo reunion

    She had such good luck with the last photo posted here, that she's crossing her fingers that a Dunaway descendant will be able to figure out who is in the tintypes. 

    I hope so too!  I'd love to write another reunion story.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | enhanced images | Tintypes
    Sunday, 07 July 2013 20:30:06 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, 30 June 2013
    John L. Burns: Civil War Sharpshooter at Age 69
    Posted by Maureen

    This week the nation commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. For three days, July 1-3, 1863, Union and Confederate forces fought. When it was over, 50,000 had died. It was the bloodiest battle of the war.

    One of the men who survived the battle wasn't even enlisted—he volunteered on the spot. John L. Burns, a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, tried several times to enlist for the Civil War but was turned away because of his age. He was 69. 

    Instead, he served as a teamster until sent away to his hometown of Gettysburg.

    gettsburg Burns.jpg

    On July 1, Burns left home with his flintlock musket and powder horn in hand, ready to fight for the Union. Accounts mention that he dressed in clothing he'd worn 40 years ago: trousers and a blue "swallow tail" waistcoat with brass buttons and a tall black silk hat. 

    Maj. Thomas Chamberlin of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and his regimental commander Col. Langhorne Wister allowed Burns to join the fight near the McPherson farm as a sharpshooter. A wounded soldier gave Burns his Enfield rifle. Wounded several times, Burns crawled away and encountered Confederates. He managed to convince them he was trying to find help for his invalid wife. Their doctor bandaged his wounds and Burns found shelter in the cellar of a nearby house, and later, at home.

    Mathew Brady sent one of his photographers, Timothy O'Sullivan, to photograph Burns at his house. That image and the story of his bravery made this senior citizen a national hero.

    In November of that year, President Abraham Lincoln came to Gettysburg to deliver his address at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery.  He requested to meet Burns. After the war,  E. and H.T. Anthony issued sets of stereographs of Brady's Civil War scenes. They included O'Sullivan's image of Burns in "The War of the Union."

    Gettysburg John L. Burns.jpg

    Burns died in 1872.

    There are a few photographs of Abraham Lincoln taken while at Gettysburg.

    In this image, Lincoln lacks his high hat, but his face and beard are clearly visible.

    Gettysburg lincoln at gettysburg.jpg

    This Brady picture was only rediscovered in the National Archives in 1952.

    gettysburg close lincoln at gettysburg.jpg 

    Lincoln spoke for only two minutes, after a two-hour oration by the well-known speaker Edward Everett. At the time, the crowd greeted Lincoln's remarks with slight applause. Yet today, those seconds remain a part of our national heritage. Schoolchildren memorize these words:
    "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
    You can learn more about the Gettysburg Address in Smithsonian Magazine and see more photographs of the battlefield in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.  Use "Gettysburg" as the search term. You can read about Civil War photographs in Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album.

    All the images in this article are from the Library of Congress.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | Abraham Lincoln | Civil War
    Sunday, 30 June 2013 15:55:41 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 23 June 2013
    Fathers and Sons from Readers
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about two famous fathers and asked you to submit photos of fathers and sons in your family album.  Thank you very much for sending in your photos!

    fatherHans C  S  Hegstededit.jpg
    Geraldine Rudloff emailed this photograph of her immigrant ancestor Hans Christian S. Hegsted holding one of his children. She's not sure if this is the first born son who died in Denmark at age 3 or one born later on. Hans immigrated in 1865. 

    fatherDalton Evan Alma  Stutz Bearcat-edit.jpg

    Proud Papa Dalton Godfrey posed seated on the running board of his 1918 Stutz Bearcat with his two youngest children, Evan and Alma. When this picture was taken in 1922 the family lived in Joplin, Missouri.  Gwen Prichard thinks her 16 year old father took the photo of his father and siblings.

    father1904Pauledit02 (2).jpg

    Carol Jacobs Norwood sent in two pictures. This one and the one below. Both were taken in Germany.

    In this 1904 photo her 4 year old grandfather Paul Emil Helmuth Drömer poses with his 43 year old father Theodor Albert Gustav Drömer.  She believes it was taken in Potsdam, Germany.


    This casual portrait captures Carol's great-grandfather Dr. Hermann Theodor Simon with his youngest son, Gerhard Hermann Simon (born 1903).  It was likely taken in 1904 at their family home in Göttingen, Germany. Gerhard's life took an unpleasant turn during World War II. While serving in the war, he was taken prisoner later starved to death in 1946 in a Russian POW camp.

    Over the years Carol Norwood and Gwen Prichard have shared many of her family pictures in this blog. If you'd like to see others type Gwen or Carol's names into the search box in the left hand column below the "categories" links.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | children | men
    Sunday, 23 June 2013 18:06:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 16 June 2013
    Famous Fathers: Happy Father's Day
    Posted by Maureen

    Father's Day wasn't official until 1966, when President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation making it the third Sunday in June. President Richard Nixon made it a permanent holiday in 1972. 

    Other presidents wanted to designate a day to honor fathers. President's Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge both tried. In Wilson's case, Congress wasn't in full support because members feared the day would become commercialized. Coolidge suggested that the United States observe the day but never issued a proclamation.

    At least two men who occupied the Oval Office were fathers of young children at the time. They lived a century apart: Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. As we know, they shared a tragic fate as well, both being assassinated while in office.

    lincoln and son.jpg

    On February 9, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad visited the Mathew Brady Gallery in Washington, D.C.  In this photo, they're looking at an early photo album. There's additional information on the history of the first photo albums in Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album.


    Almost 100 years later Photographer Cecil Stoughon took this picture of President Kennedy and family in Hyannis Port, Mass., on Aug. 4, 1962.

    Image credits for the images are contained in the web links.

    While it's common to see 19th century images of women posed with children, I've not found very many pictures of men posed just with their offspring.  If you have one, please share it with me. You can email it or submit it using the "how to submit your photo" link.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | 1960s photos | children | men
    Sunday, 16 June 2013 17:54:36 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 26 May 2013
    Decoration Day, 1868
    Posted by Maureen

    History intersects at ironic moments that make the past very interesting. Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day, is one of those moments.

    All over the United States on this day, towns hold parades and locals decorate veterans' graves. This stereo image from the Library of Congress depicts the first Decoration Day, held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868.

    First Decoration Day.jpg

    A who's who of national figures gathered to pay their respects to the Union soldiers buried on the property of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. That land also has a connection to the American Revolution.

    It originally belonged to George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington and the adopted son of George Washington.


    When he died, the land was owned by his daughter, the wife of Robert E. Lee. During the Civil War, the property was used for military purposes. The US government bought it at a tax sale and dedicated 200 acres for a national cemetery. Approximately 16,000 Civil War soldiers are buried there.

    The reviewing stand featured flags, bunting and touches of black. Two future presidents were in the stand that day.

    decoration daycropped.jpg

    Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. James A. Garfield are in this photo. Grant served as President from 1869 to 1877; Garfield served only 200 days before his assassination in 1881.

    Garfield, who was a member of Congress, delivered the oration. He began with the following:
    "I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden it must be here beside the graves of 15,000 men, whose lives were more significant than speech and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung." (The New York Herald, May 31, 1868, page 10)
    There is debate over which city held the very first Decoration Day. In 1868, May 30th was selected because it didn't commemorate any battles and because flowers are in bloom. The last Monday in May didn't officially become Memorial Day until 1971.

    Take a look at your family photo collections and see if you have photos of any veterans in your family. I'm going to post my pictures of those individuals on my social media pages to honor them.

    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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | Revolutionary War
    Sunday, 26 May 2013 16:29:21 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 21 January 2013
    Lincoln's Inauguration and Your Family
    Posted by Maureen

    From movies to today's inauguration, all things Lincoln are in the spotlight. On March 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln participated in his second inauguration. Thousands of individuals came to Washington, DC, to witness it. The news media of the time were present, reporting on the events of the day.

    Photographs of inaugurals usually focus on the President, but in 1865, at least one photographer captured the crowds. This rainy inaugural photo is from the Library of Congress collection and captures Washington, DC, at a key moment. The Civil War was drawing to a close, and Lincoln spoke to that in his address:

    "With malice toward none, with charity for all ... let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds ..."


    A reporter for the Sunday Mercury published in Philadelphia on March 5, 1865, wrote about the weather:

    "Rain had been falling all yesterday and last night, making the proverbially filthy streets of the political metropolis filthier and more unpleasant than ever. (page 3)"

    If you look closely at this photo you'll see people dressed for inclement weather, wearing heavy overcoats and hats, standing in deep puddles. There are a few children in the foreground. Somewhere in this group are African-American troops who marched in the Inaugural Parade.


    A crowd scene like this allows a peek into the past. There is a wide variety of clothing, from wool coats to hoop skirts, worn by these individuals. Take a close look at the hats worn by the men in the crowd. Only one man is wearing a stovepipe hat; the rest are in smaller hats and caps. The man in the tall hat is dressed formally for the occasion. Men of means or who had significant jobs usually dressed the part. In the 1860s, the hat a man wore could tell you a lot about their occupation or fashion habits. For more information on men's hats, see Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900.


    Do you know about the political leanings of your ancestors?

    • There may be images of women bearing suffragette banners or men wearing political memorabilia such as pins.
    • Even if your ancestor wasn't politically active, study the history of your ancestors' lives to see how political decisions influenced their everyday experiences.
    • Take a close look at the pictures in your family, set them in a time frame and investigate the history in your genealogy. There may be images relating to immigration, military service and even social events—all a result of the political situation of the country in which they lived. 

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | group photos | hats | men
    Monday, 21 January 2013 15:26:59 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 31 December 2012
    Twelve Months of the Photo Detective
    Posted by Maureen

    It's time to look back at the year. Every week I write a Photo Detective blog post—that's 52 columns in 12 months. It's a lot of free photographic advice and tips. Here are my month-by-month 2012 favorites.

    Last New Year's I offered advice on sharing images online, tackled a photo mystery about the identity of the mother in a picture, and discussed a Scottish picture.

    I got into the planning for my trip to WDYTYA Live in London by comparing British and American fashion. 

    Hat's off to spring! Last March I featured toppers for men, graduation caps, and talked about the relationships between hairstyles and hat design. If you want to learn more about hats or hair, my books, Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900 and Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900, will help.

    The whole month of April focused on identifying photographs of children. Study the clues to add names to those pictures of tykes.

    A trip to the National Genealogical Society inspired a series of columns on the Jeffers Family photo.

    You can view the entries in the Family Tree Magazine photo contest, study a photo of ancestral blue jeans or be awed by the images of wheat threshing.

    With the world watching the Olympics, I deciphered the clues in a picture from the 1908 Olympics.

    I revealed the winner of the Family Tree Magazine Photo Contest. That photo mystery now appears in my new book, The Family Photo Detective. It's now available in the store.

    Have you considered the relationship between photography and genealogy? I took a look at the types of records that help solve a picture mystery.

    This month was all about preservation. A badly damaged image encouraged me to talk about ways to save family pictures. There is more information on storage and labeling images in Preserving Your Family Photographs.

    A picture of a giant mechanical grasshopper appeared in my Photo Detective column in Family Tree Magazine, and some readers stepped forward to tell the story of their ancestors' fascination with creating these creatures.

    I shared the story of a woman who found a family picture after three decades and explained how old-time photographers could alter pictures long before the development of Photoshop.

    Have you ever posed for a multi-generation photo? It's not a new phenomena. Our ancestors did, too. Mary Lutz sent me several images of her family. It turned into a series on identifying who's who in a group picture.

    I love snapshots! They are spontaneous and often capture bits of everyday life. Follow this series on a picture of a man standing in his backyard.

    Thank you for reading this column and for submitting your family photos. If you'd like to participate, there is a link, "How to Submit Your Photo," in the left-hand margin. I can't wait to see your pictures!

    Happy New Year!

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | 1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | 1920s photos | candid photos | cased images | children | Civil War | group photos | hairstyles | hats | holiday | house/building photos | photo backgrounds | preserving photos | props in photos |
    Monday, 31 December 2012 16:07:01 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 04 November 2012
    Historical Fact or Fiction?
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about ways to spot manipulated photos in your family collection. My inspiration was an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

    Mathew Brady is the most well-known photographer of the Civil War. His studio documented well-known figures of the period as well as ordinary soldiers. When he died in 1896, his nephew Levin Corbin Handy inherited the collection. Handy was a photographer as well, and at times he tinkered with his uncle's images. In the exhibit is one of those composites. It depicts Ulysses S. Grant on horseback at City Point, Va. Or does it? Take a good look at the composite—it's actually made from three pictures.

    First the composite.
    The three images are as follows.

    Handy used a Brady image of Grant at Cold Harbor, Va. (1864) and removed his head. He then placed it on the body of General Alexander McDowell McCook on horseback taken in 1864. I don't have the image of McCook, but here's the Cold Harbor one.


    Handy placed the composite of Grant over a Brady image of Confederate prisoners after the Battle of Fisher's Hill, Va., taken in 1864.

    Here's that scene.
    Fishers Hilledit2.jpg
    Handy created the composite in 1902. Because Americans were still clamoring for images depicting the Civil War, Handy found new ways to market his uncle's images.

    The full story of this picture appears in the book Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop. Thank you to the curators who put this exhibit together. The exhibit will also be at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., from February-May 2013 and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in Houston, Tex., from June-August 2013.

    If you'd like to see more pictures taken by the Brady Studio, go to the Library of Congress website, and search the Prints and Photographs collection for "Mathew Brady."

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Civil War | men | Military photos | unusual photos
    Sunday, 04 November 2012 18:32:11 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 15 October 2012
    Old Family Photo Rediscovered After Three Decades
    Posted by Maureen

    This year Jackie Corrigan's sister-in-law opened a suitcase that once belonged to her father. It hadn't been opened in 33 years! Bertram Corrigan lived from 1884 to 1979. The suitcase was in his belongings that family split up after his death.

    In the suitcase was a letter from 1892 and lots of pictures—a photographic treasure trove. It included pictures of his parents and other relatives, but also unidentified cartes-des-visite and tintypes. The most mysterious image is this one:


    It's incredibly faded. The picture is on cardstock and measures 4x6-1/2 inches, and according to family, looks like it was cut along one edge.  On the original writing is visible, but in this scan it doesn't appear.

    There are enough details to date the picture. The woman wears a short cape and her dress has a small round collar. This type of head-and-shoulders image, combined with the clothing clues, suggests the original image dates from the 1860s.

    Jackie and her sister-in-law think this might depict Elisabeth Davidson (1837-1905). It can be difficult to determine a person's age in a perfect print, and the condition of this picture makes it especially unclear. She could be in her 20s, making it possible this is Elisabeth.

    The provenance—or history of ownership—of the pictures could help verify this woman is a family member.

    Of course the most obvious proof would be to find another image of the woman later in life. In that suitcases of pictures might be a second one of her. Elisabeth's life overlapped with Bertram's, so it's quick possible there's other pictorial evidence.

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | women
    Monday, 15 October 2012 15:34:06 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 16 July 2012
    Which War is It?
    Posted by Maureen

    Mike Empting found this photo in a box with other cabinet cards. Only two men in his family served in the military:

    Unknown Soldieredit.jpg

    • his great-grandfather, who at age 35 enlisted for the Mexican American War. He was a bugler. The time frame for this war, 1846 to 1848, coincides with the daguerreotype era. The photos of this war are amazing to look at. Here's a website with several Mexican-American War images.

    • his great-grandfather's wife's brother enlisted in the Civil War in an artillery unit for two tours.

    The problem with this photo is that Empting isn't sure which man is depicted. Adding to the confusion are details on the photographer. According to the Minnesota Historical Society, J.J. Fritz aka the Fritz Studio operated in Saint Cloud from 1892 to 1909. Those work dates don't align with either war.

    The style of this cabinet card suggests the 1890s. At some point during that decade, someone likely had an earlier photograph copied. This was a common practice when multiple family members wanted a copy of a photo. The original photo was a carte de visite, a small card photograph popular during the Civil War.

    In the 1860s, the standard studio pose often included a pedestal on which the subject could lean.

    Since there weren't standard military uniforms during the Civil War, the details in this man's attire may help identify him.

    Mike's not sure this man is an Empting. The woman who gave Mike the images is deceased, but at the time of the gift, she didn't know the name of the soldier.

    National Public Radio recently broadcast a program about identifying a Civil War picture. You can listen to it here.  There's a bit of controversy about whether or not the photo in that story was reversed. It's possible. Reversal lens were available to correct the mirror image inherent in photo technology of the day, but not all photographers used them. 

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | men | Military photos
    Monday, 16 July 2012 01:21:47 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [10]
    # Monday, 11 June 2012
    Jean-ealogy: Ancestors in Blue Jeans
    Posted by Diane

    When I was working on my book Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album, I spent a lot of time looking for all sorts of clothing examples.

    As one of the photo shows, I found this picture of a man wearing what looks like blue jeans. Today jeans are an American export, possibly our most popular clothing style overseas.

    The ancestor of the jeans we wear today dates back to 1873. Levi Strauss, an 1840s German immigrant, immigrant is responsible for our blue jean obsession. He sold canvas pants reinforced with copper rivets, which were strong enough to withstand the rigors of mining. You can learn more about the history of these pants online.

    During the Civil War, there was a cotton twill called jean cloth. The man in this late-1860s image wears an overcoat and trousers that look like they are the predecessors of the canvas jeans. 

    In his right hand, the man holds what I think is a divining rod for looking for water.

    Got a picture of an ancestral family member in blue jeans? I'll feature it here in a timeline of the pants in family photos. Email me your picture with a brief description.

    1860s photos | Civil War | hats | men | occupational | props in photos | unusual clothing
    Monday, 11 June 2012 18:23:32 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 30 April 2012
    Ancestor Mystery Photos: Unidentified Kids
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you for all the pictures of your ancestors' cute kids!

    prichard21-A- Josie Powell  Nannie Wilsonedit.jpg
    These little girls are named Josie Powell and Nannie Wilson. Don't you love their identical outfits? They are in a photo album owned by Gwen Prichard. She's trying to establish a relationship between them. Perhaps their mothers were friends? The two girls are even the same height.


    Candace Buchanan emailed this lovely trio dressed for winter. The boy in the middle wears attire from his family's cultural background. Buchanan bought the image at an auction and only knows that it was taken in Waynesburg, Pa. Is the dog real or a stuffed prop? It looks a bit unnatural to me.


    This unhappy little fellow (look at that expression) posed with hat in hand in the 1860s. Bonnie Bybee-Bolster isn't sure if he from her Young or her Brown family line. The families lived in Baraboo/Delton, Wis.

    Another 1860s pose.  You can see the brace at this girl's feet. I love the fact that she holds a parasol. Rachel Pierce bought this image because of the little girl's shoes. Unfortunately, the photo is completely unidentified.

    cute kids1edit.jpg
    Shelley Baumeister isn't sure who the child is wearing an oversized collar in this photo. She thinks the child is a girl. I think she's right because of the center part in her hairstyle. This photo was passed down through Shelley's maternal line. This child posed in 1887 in Dubuque, Iowa.

    I'll be back next week with more photos of children. My inbox is full of gorgeous images.

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | 1880s photos | children
    Monday, 30 April 2012 15:16:20 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Wednesday, 28 March 2012
    Graduation Caps
    Posted by Diane

    It's the last week for hats. It's also your last chance this month to save 10% on Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900. Use HAT10 as the coupon code when ordering from

    I've blogged about a lady in a fancy hat, a young man in a felt hat and two men wearing work hats. You're probably wondering what's next.

    A graduation cap!

    graduation caps.jpg

    This image, from the collection of the Library of Congress, is from about 1860. I love the young man's blue bow tie and red tassel. He's smiling for the camera with a toothy grin. That's something you don't usually see in a 19th century picture.

    Notice the stripe down his pant's leg? He wears military style trousers. It's possible he's a cadet.

    ehow credits the contemporary mortarboard to 15th-century France and Italy. The term "mortarboard" comes from its shape—it looks like a piece of equipment that a bricklayer uses for mortar. Today's graduates wear tassels that reflect their school colors. Some students personalize their caps, too.

    I hope you've enjoyed this month's worth of hats. I'll be back with other caps, hats and bonnets this year.

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1850s photos | 1860s photos | hats | men | unusual clothing
    Wednesday, 28 March 2012 12:59:53 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 23 January 2012
    Which Mother is It?
    Posted by Maureen


    This lovely image depicts either someone's mother or stepmother. The question is, which one? It's a north-of-the-border mystery.

    Chris Rye inherited this photo from his grandfather, who in turn inherited it from his mother. The back of this tintype reads "Enos Mother." Enos Storm is Rye's great-great-great grandfather. 

    Enos' mother was Susannah (born in 1836), who died in childbirth in 1866 when Enos was born. The family lived in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada.

    Susannah also had three daughters, born in 1859, 1861 and 1862. This woman is posed with a toddler on her lap. Notice the size of the toddler, as compared to the mother's diminutive size. She has large hands but a tiny body in contrast to her very hearty child.

    Enos' father remarried a woman named Mary (born about 1847) and she had a daughter in 1879.

    The clothing clues in this picture point to the 1860s.  The mother wears an everyday dress with cap sleeves and a small collar, and wears her hair pulled back. In the late 1870s, women's clothing featured more trim than this, and even everyday dresses had fitted bodices.

    The little girl's dress also dates from the 1860s. 

    This is an entrancing portrait. Susannah looks directly into the camera with a slight smile on her face, while her child sits still for the image. It's a family history treasure!

    This is one of the three daughters, but which one? She could be any one of them depending on a specific year.  The toddler is likely around 3 years of age, meaning the photo was taken in approximately, 1862, 1864 or 1865.  Any photos of the girls taken later on would be useful for comparison.

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | children | Tintypes | women
    Monday, 23 January 2012 16:30:55 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Monday, 03 October 2011
    Foreign Intrigue
    Posted by Maureen

    Each photo has a life story. Who took it, why was it taken, and if it's in this column, who is it. This picture from Maureen Ballantine's collection has an additional issue—how did it get so damaged?


    The scan she sent me was so faded that I enhanced it using Adobe Photoshop Elements.

    The portrait of this unidentified woman has experienced the passage of time: The cardboard mount is broken and the right edge is missing part of the picture. The area around her face is rippled—that bit of damage suggests that at one point this part of the image was wet and the photographic paper became separated from the cardboard. This image is in fragile condition.

    According to Ballantine, the portrait wasn't taken in the United States; this mystery woman posed for her picture on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Over the years, the tropical heat and humidity took its toll on this lovely image.

    Maureen's cousin thinks that it is her great-great-grandmother Anne Philibert, and that the picture was taken between 1870 and 1880.

    I don't have Anne's life dates, but the photo evidence suggests a date earlier than the 1870s.


    The woman wears her hair pulled back in soft curls. Her dress features full sleeves and a hoop skirt. The dress suggests a date in the early 1860s. 

    While there are slight stylistic differences in clothing worn in different countries, this woman's attire also suggests that she's aware of the current fashion. Dresses in the 1870s have more-elaborate trim, long bodices and different sleeves from this one.  In the background of the larger image, you see the standard tasseled drapery used in studios in the 1860s.

    It's time for Maureen and her cousin to double-check their genealogy to see if Anne is still a possibility for a woman living in the 1860s.

    A damaged photo requires special care. An acid- and lignin-free folder would protect it from further abrasion. Scanning it at 600 dpi as a TIF file provides a backup copy. Maureen might want to consider having a professional photographic conservator provide an estimate to stabilize the image. She can find one through the American Institute for Conservation of Artistic and Historic Works. This image will continue to deteriorate.

    There is more preservation advice in my book, Preserving Family Photographs and details on hairstyles in Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles.

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | unusual photos
    Monday, 03 October 2011 16:53:26 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 22 August 2011
    Godfrey Update
    Posted by Maureen

    It's week three of the project to identify all the faces in Gwen Prichard's family composite.


    In the first installment, I introduced this lovely composite and then last week I showed an original image from which one of the tiny portraits was taken.

    This week, Gwen wrote to me with a new piece of information. Her niece did a quick search of the city directories on Fold3 (formerly and found a photographer named Peter Godfrey living in Louisville, Ky., in 1866. She thinks it's her ancestor. This suggests that Godfrey created the composite after 1866 when he was living in Fulton, Mo.

    We're still trying to sort through photos for facial comparisons and then trying to compare the life dates of those individuals with their possible ages in the composite.

    I agree with Gwen that Godfrey probably photographed family members residing in Louisville before he moved, and then the Missouri Godfreys later on. There is also the possibility that family members sent him photographs of themselves for inclusion in the composite.

    This photo has a lot of angles worth exploring! According to Gwen's emails, it appears she's identified around a dozen individuals. That's great news. Photo mysteries like this take a long time to decipher. She's doing all the right things—comparing faces to photos in her collection and reaching out to relatives. She's taking it one face at time.

    Photo challenges come in all sizes from single unnamed images to large group portraits. In Gwen's case, she's got a lot of genealogical information to help her follow the pictorial trail.

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | Photo fun | unusual photos
    Monday, 22 August 2011 14:10:35 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 15 August 2011
    Tackling the Godfrey Family Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week's column focused on Gwen Prichard's family photo mystery. This small composite image is a genealogical lock. All Gwen has to do is find the key. 


    In this case, the key is her family photo collection. Gwen spent last week comparing each face in this picture to possible matches in her collection. She's well on her way to solving this picture puzzle.

    Here's one of her comparisons.  In the second row from the top, on the far left, is a little boy in curls.


    Gwen has the original photo in her collection. 

    boy with chair.jpg

    He's dressed in what appears to be a riding outfit for boys, with a whip in his hand. As Gwen looks at each face, she's trying to match the date of the composite (mid to late 1860s) with what she knows about the folks in her family pictures:
    • Who's the right age to be in the picture?
    • Do their facial features match—eyes, noses, mouths and shape of face?
    I'm not convinced all the images in this composite were taken at the same time. While she's working on her family collection, I'm studying each tiny picture for clues.

    I'll be back next week with another update on this fascinating photo.

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | unusual photos
    Monday, 15 August 2011 16:06:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 08 August 2011
    Godfrey Family Picture Puzzle
    Posted by Maureen

    Gwen Prichard and her cousin Libby Claypool have quite the family photo mystery. The image is a composite of what appears to be several generations worth of Godfreys.


    Several years ago I saw something similar, but that woman didn't have a clue about the identity of the people in the collage. In Gwen's case, there are some identifications written on the back. 


    She has no idea who wrote the caption, but that detail could be the key to figuring out the identity of the folks depicted.


    According to the caption, the first three women in the top row (left to right) are Fannie Godfrey, Sarah Ostick Dalton and "Aunt Godfrey." 

    This photo generates a lot of questions. It's going to take some time to figure this out. 

    According to Gwen, photographer Peter Godfrey appears in the 1870 and 1880 census, but she's been unable to find him in the 1860 federal census. He was born in 1841. I found a Peter Godfrey living in Ohio in the 1860 census working as a farm laborer. His age is 23. Could this be the photographer?

    The history of ownership of an image can offer clues worth following. In this case, Libby Claypool is fairly certain the photo belonged to her great- grandmother, Fannie Williams Sloane, who was Peter Godfrey's niece.   Perhaps she wrote the identifications on the back. If so then Gwen might be able to figure out the first name of "Aunt Godfrey." This aunt is an elderly woman and likely the oldest person in this photo. Did Frannie Sloane have an aunt who lived into the 1860s?

    Date of Photo
    There are a lot of faces in this composite. A quick assessment suggests that most of the images in this collage were taken in the 1860s. This carte de visite card photograph with a double-gold-line border was common in the 1860s. The photographer's name and address is also of a design popular in the Civil War decade.

    It seems quite possible that Peter Godfrey had a photo studio in the 1860s. Did he take all these photographs of family members or just make copy prints and lay them out to form this multi-generational group portrait?

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | unusual photos
    Monday, 08 August 2011 18:24:42 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 02 May 2011
    Civil War Era Mystery
    Posted by Maureen


    Did you know that you can mail us a copy (no originals please) of your family photos for this column? To find out more about submitting photo click on the How to Submit Your Photo link in the left-hand column. This week's photo mystery was mailed to the editors of Family Tree Magazine, who in turn forwarded it to me.

    Betty Nance's great-grandmother knew the identity of the man in this photo. Sarah Jane Elizabeth (Jennie) Renfro told her daughter (Betty's mother) his name.

    Unfortunately, by the time Betty asked about this photo, her great- grandmother was deceased and all her mother could remember was his first name "Thomas" and that he was a cousin to Sarah Jane.

    There are big questions about this photo. First, which branch of Sarah Jane's family does he represent?

    Sarah Jane was born in 1866, and since this is a Civil War photo of a Confederate soldier posing with a revolver, it's possible that she knew him. Well ... that could be the case if he didn't die during the war. 

    So who is he? I've poked around a bit looking for men with that first name in both the Renfro and Fowler family lines—but no direct hits.

    I've also searched family trees and found one for the Renfro family. Based on the information that Betty sent me, it appears to be the right one, but no Thomas.

    The 1860 US census might hold a clue. I used the census on HeritageQuest Online (available through many public libraries). There are 93 Thomas Fowlers in the census, but only a few in Illinois and Tennessee, where the family lived, and no Thomas Renfros in those states. Of course, he could have a different last name if his mother's maiden name was Renfro or Fowler.

    This is an involved family history project, but one that is solvable. I'd start by looking for Civil War enlistment lists for the states in which the family lived, and hope for a direct match. If not, then Betty would have to find all the collateral lines for her ancestor, Sarah Jane Renfro. With any bit of genealogical luck, she'll find her Thomas.

    One of the problems is that Betty doesn't know what degree of cousin Thomas was. If he's not a first cousin, then even more research is needed.

    Untangling this mess could take a bit of time.  I did a general search for Thomas Fowler, and found a Thomas Jefferson Fowler who died in 1862 during the war. Other research is needed to determine whether that's the connection.

    The young man in this photo isn't very old—I think late teens or early 20s. That will narrow down the number of possible candidates in Betty's family tree.

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | men | Military photos
    Monday, 02 May 2011 14:56:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 11 April 2011
    Bad Hair Day Winner!
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you for voting in the Bad Hair Day Contest and for sending in all those great hair photos. There is a winner!

    Here's how the votes stacked up.

    83.7 % of the voters selected this photo. Congratulations go to Pat Daughtery for winning the contest and a copy of Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900.


    The runner up is ...
    editSophie Bentley.jpg
    71 % voted for this photo.

    I promised a few more photos this week so here goes.


    Rachel Peirce sent in this before-and-after picture of her ancestor Hunter Carson White at 9-1/2 years old during the Civil War. She owns a picture of the boy's father with his hair standing up on his head and wonders whether the second photo was taken to make the boy look more like his father.


    Photo collector David Chase sent me this photo. It proves that man's best friend also can have bad hair. <smile>.

    Last weekend I was at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference. I met Janine Penfield who showed me this unusual photo in her family album.


    It depicts a female performer known as Illavaro at age 14. She was photographed at several different times by Charles Eisenman of New York City. She would have been very comfortable in the late 1960s when this hairstyle was a fashion statement.

    Hope you've enjoyed this look back at 19th-century hairstyles!

    1860s photos | 1870s photos | 1880s photos | african american | children | Civil War | hairstyles | unusual photos
    Monday, 11 April 2011 17:08:38 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 25 October 2010
    Deciphering a Photo, Civil War Style
    Posted by Maureen

    GibsonCivil War Photo.jpg

    Nancy Gibson's story will sound similar to many readers. She found this photo in her great-grandmother's album. Initially, she had no idea who the man might be, but now she thinks it might be her great-grandfather, born in 1822.

    This is a fabulous photo! It's a man dressed in uniform posing with his weapons—sword at his side and pistol on the table. At his feet (to the right) you can see the brace that holds him in place:

    GibsonCivil War Photobrace.jpg

    He wears an officer's or enlisted man's nine-button frock coat. These coats were worn by company-grade officers and enlisted men. In this case, I think he's an officer. The sash could be for dress-up for the photo, or it could signify that he's the officer of the day. The symbol on his hat signifies the type of unit:

    GibsonCivil War Photo headress.jpg

    I've called in a military expert to help with that. I'll add the information here as soon as I have it. The type of cap is a kepi. It was worn by thousands of soldiers during the Civil War. A great source for information on uniforms is William K. Emerson's Encyclopedia of United States Army Insignia and Uniforms (University of Oklahoma Press, $135.00). 

    GibsonCivil War Photoeditback.jpg

    On the back of the picture is the photographer's name and a revenue stamp (above). Unfortunately the photographer's imprint is lightly stamped and too faint to see here, but it reads "J.D. Wardwell, Photographer, Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia."

    The US Treasury Department collected revenue from photographs from Aug. 1, 1864 to Aug. 1, 1866. Photographers were required to put their initials and the date on the stamp, but few fully complied. Wardwell wrote his initials on this two cent stamp. It signifies that Gibson's ancestor paid 25 cents or less for this image.

    As for Wardwell ... He was taking pictures at a temporary earthwork fortification built in Alexandria County, Va. You can learn more about it on Wikipedia. Today it is a state park. It's likely Wardwell was one of those photographers who spent his days photographing soldiers so they could send images home to loved ones.

    There are a lot of story angles in this picture. The man and his days in the service during the Civil War, the photographer, or the fort.

    It's possible that this man is Gibson's great-grandfather. A good way to check would be to determine which units served at the fort during the latter part of the War. She also could check Civil War papers at the National Archives or the Civil War service records or pension records online at

    You can see more Civil War photos in the Family Tree Magazine 2011 Civil War Desk Calendar. If you need help researching your Civil War ancestors, check out the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital download from

    1860s photos | Civil War | Military photos
    Monday, 25 October 2010 19:29:51 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 18 October 2010
    Civil War Roll Call, Part 2
    Posted by Diane

    I hope you enjoyed last week's gallery of Civil War soldiers. I have several more to share with you this week.
    Merle Ladd's ancestor Lemuel Ladd (below) lost his life at Blackburn's Ford, near Manassas, Va. on July 18, 1861. He served with the 12th New York.

    Lemuel Ladd1838-18612.jpg

    Roxanne Munns sent in this photograph of George Allen (below). This photo was stored with her Young family pictures. She doesn't know who George is, but she thinks he might be George Allen of Co. G of the 7th Wisconsin. If anyone is related to this man, email me and I'll forward your message to Roxanne.


    Bruce A. Brown's great-great-grandfather John McNown (below) enlisted Oct. 6, 1861, into Company F, 16th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment from Lemonweir Township, Juneau County, Wis.  He lost his life on April 6, 1862.

    John McNown immigrated from the Isle of Man to Canada about 1825, and then to the United States in 1849.


    This picture of John is a copy of the original photo. From its appearance, the original is a tintype or an ambrotype. There are distinctive marks that suggest it was once in a case with a mat framing the image.

    Four children of Oliver and Lucinda (Boodey) Leathers of Maine served in the Civil War.  John served with the Maine cavalry, Alphonso served with a New Hampshire regiment while the other two brothers enlisted with a Minnesota unit. Lynn Kent submitted the photo below and thinks it depicts Charles Leather from the 1st Minnesota regiment.

    Leathers CW perhaps Charles2.jpg

    Look closely at Emvira Smith Fuller's dress (below). She was the wife of Calvin Fuller of Barnard, Maine. She wears his picture in a piece of photographic  jewelry.

    Thank you for all the photos! 

    For a guide to researching your Civil War ancestors, see the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital download from

    1860s photos | Civil War | men | Military photos | women
    Monday, 18 October 2010 19:44:58 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 05 July 2010
    Uncovering Your Revolutionary War Ancestor
    Posted by Diane


    This carte de visite of Daniel Frederick Bakeman commemorates his status as the last living Revolutionary War soldier in 1868. Bakeman died the following year. This image was widely available in the 19th century and Bakeman is generally accepted as the last living Revolutionary War soldier, but there is one problem: Other lesser-known men outlived him and were photographed. One such man was John Kitts of Baltimore, who died in September 1870.

    Photographs of other members of the Revolutionary War generation exist in public, private and family collections. While I've collected 70 images of men, women and children who lived during the war, I know that additional images are still undiscovered. I'm hoping that by studying your family photograph collections that you'll find images that meet the following criteria: 
    • Men who lived during the war and who were alive after 1839 when photography was introduced in the United States would be at least 80 years of age. These individuals could be patriots, soldiers, loyalists or non-participants in the war.
    • Women may be wives or widows. Locating pictures of these women means looking at pictures taken anywhere from the advent of photography to the early 1900s. The last Revolutionary War widow died in 1906, according to this New York Times article.
    Please contact me if you think you've located a picture of a Revolutionary War ancestor.

    If you're interested in seeing my first collection of images, they appear in my new book, The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation (Kent State University Press, $45)

    Taylor cover (2).jpg

    Revolutionary War research resources from Family Tree Magazine and

    1840s photos | 1850s photos | 1860s photos | cased images | men
    Monday, 05 July 2010 20:46:08 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 28 June 2010
    Stitching Together an Identification
    Posted by Maureen

    Last June, I wrote about a photo owned by Candace Fountoulakis that was surrounded by a cross-stitch pattern. At the time I published the photo, Candace thought the couple was from either her Watts or Boohler side of the family, but now she's not sure. This photo changed her mind:
    MaryJaneHill edit.jpg

    This photo was in her mother's collection and is captioned: "Aunt Mary Jane Hill." The young woman wears a beautiful dress with dark trim on the bodice. Her small waist is highlighted by a belt. She leans on a chair for support. This pose and the dress style were common in the 1866-1868 period. The line line border was also common on card photographs in the late 1860s.

    Now Candace thinks this woman is the sister of the woman in the first image:


    The image above was also taken in the 1860s, making it possible for the two women to be of the same generation.

    Candace knows a lot about the Hill family. They were a pioneer family in Gallia County, Ohio, and intermarried with the Watts family.

    Additional research needs to be done before confirming that these two women are sisters, including:
    • If this is Mary Jane's sister, it's important to verify the birth date and parentage of this woman. 

    • Who's the man in the photo? 

    • Are there any other pictures of him in the family?
    Since both images were in Candace's family, it's clear that there is some connection to her.  All that's left is to put the pieces together.

    Need help researching, preserving and displaying your family photos? Visit for how-to books and CDs.

    1860s photos | women
    Monday, 28 June 2010 17:45:02 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, 05 January 2010
    Texas Twosome Revisited
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week's tease mentioned that I'd solved a persistent mystery. Ah ... I really thought I had the answer to the Texas mystery. Late last year I ran a three-installment story about these two men in their embroidered shirts. In the first piece, I showed you the pictures and mentioned some possible solutions. The following week I raised a couple of other issues. The third installment focused on readers' suggestions.

    092109img038 (3).jpg092109img041 (5).jpg

    A couple of weeks ago I was browsing through a book, Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War by T. J. Stiles. One of the illustrations is a photo of the outlaw "Bloody Bill" Anderson, and he's wearing an embroidered guerrilla shirt from the Civil War. I immediately jumped up and thought, "Oh, gosh, that's it!" The two men in their shirts could be guerrillas fighting for the Confederacy.

    It seemed logical. The tintypes date from the Civil War, and Dr. Francis Montgomery was a Confederate officer for a short time before he was sent home ill with diabetes.

    But was this new theory true? I picked up the phone and called the Museum of the Confederacy. Curator Robert Hancock was able to explain a few things about embroidered guerrilla shirts. He'd never seen anything like these two shirts before and really doubted that these two were Confederate guerrillas. Oh, DRAT!

    He told me that guerrillas wore whatever they wanted to. Since they weren't sanctioned by the Confederacy, they weren't issued any uniforms. They worked outside the Confederate military establishment.

    While he wasn't familiar with these two shirts, he was able to tell me a fascinating fact: During the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s, some young men wore embroidered shirts. Hancock told me that this fashion statement was akin to the shirts of the 1960s. In the 19th century, young men rebelling against the white shirts and black frock coats their fathers wore would wear embellished shirts. There were even outlandish printed shirts in England. Some of these featured skulls and crossbones, snakes and other outrageous designs. I'd love to see one of these 19th-century shirts!

    There were other similar shirts to the one's worn here. Battle shirts for men and those worn by firemen could feature some designs. Hancock was quick to say that these two men are wearing very unusual floral pattern motifs that don't fit either category.

    The big problem with these shirts is that while the shirts and the pictures are identical in many ways, the embroidery is not. So who are these guys and why the shirts? Perhaps we'll never know.

    1860s photos | men | unusual clothing
    Tuesday, 05 January 2010 14:15:49 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 12 October 2009
    Texas Trouble: Readers Respond
    Posted by Maureen

    It's been three weeks since the first post on the photos of two Texas men with mysterious decorations on their shirts. In the second column, I really didn't have much to add, but since then, readers have sent in their suggestions/comments.

    Here's the latest news.

    092109img041 (5).jpg092109img038 (3).jpg

    The Smith County Historical Society couldn't find anything relevant in their archives, but the staff members will keep their eyes peeled just in case something shows up. I really appreciate their help.

    Kim Lawonn and a couple of other folks wrote to me with a suggestion, "Could the men be wearing early Western-style shirts?" It's possible. In the 1860s, most shirts lacked collars and closed with the double-butto,n as seen here. I'm looking for proof.

    Beni Downing sent me a long e-mail outlining her thoughts. She's an avid needleworker. Beni wants me to consider that the shirts were made for a special occasion, such as a wedding, and to think about a Central European origin. I'm intrigued by the first suggestion.  As far as I know, Peggy Batchelor Hamlett doesn't have any central European ancestry.

    Beni wishes she could see the shirts more closely. I second that desire!  Here are close-ups for further inspection.

    Above is a close-up of the design from the left-hand photo.

    Here's the pattern from the right hand photo.

    Both Kim and Beni's suggestions have merit. These elaborate designs are similar to patterns seen in needlework. The eight-pointed star is a common quilt design. 

    Beni's suggested I have my genealogist/needlework hobbyists check needlework pattern books for matches. Good idea! Beni has already looked in her books on Scandinavian designs.

    I really think we're getting closer to solving this one.  I'll be in touch with Peggy to see if there's any family information to help. 

    Thank you for all your help!

    1860s photos
    Monday, 12 October 2009 17:11:47 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Monday, 28 September 2009
    Texas Mystery Photo Puzzle: No News
    Posted by Maureen

    No news not good news in this case. A week ago I posted the Two Texas Mysteries column with the hope that someone out there would be able to shed some light on these two pictures. Nope! Not a word.

    I received an email from David Lintz of the Improved Order of Red Men (I'd consulted him because I wondered if the interesting designs on the men's shirts had to do with a fraternal organization), but he didn't have a solution either.

    So for now, this mystery remains just that: a mystery.  I'm temporarily out of angles. I'm back to considering either religious or Masonic symbolism, because Dr. Francis Marion Montgomery, who may be in one of the images, was linked to both types of organizations.

    Here are a couple of interesting links I found this week. 
    • Freemason Symbols This site didn't prove helpful to this particular case, but if you have a picture of a man in fraternal attire, look for the symbols here and solve your own mystery.

    • 8-Pointed Star This explanation of the star symbol comes from the Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sterling, Illinois.  An interesting perspective.
    Now if I could only figure out the symbols on the second man's shirt. Any guesses?

    1860s photos
    Monday, 28 September 2009 21:39:41 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, 22 September 2009
    Two Texas Mysteries
    Posted by Maureen

    092109img041 (5).jpg

    Take a good look at these photos from Peggy Batchelor Hamlett.  I can date them, but I'm still working on identifying the symbolism on the men's shirts shirts. 

    Pictorial Evidence:
    • The design of the mat for the above image suggests it was taken in the 1860s.

    • The image is a tintype, which isn't unusual for the time period.

    • The man's beard in the photo above is a style called a Greeley, after newspaper publisher Horace Greeley. In the image below, the man wears an imperial-style beard.

    • Both men's shirts are in the style of a collarless work shirt with a double-buttoned small band around the neck.

    • The eight pointed stars on shirt of the man above and the design down the button placket are very interesting. The eight-pointed star is called the Star of Redemption, and is associated with baptisms.
    Peggy and I are trying to determine if this image represents her ancestor Dr. Francis Marion Montgomery, of Tyler, Texas, who was born c. 1830. He was a devout Methodist and became a circuit minister. 

    Montgomery could be the man in the image above, but there's one problem—the second image, below. Who is this man, and do the shirts signify that the two pictures are related somehow?

    092109img038 (3).jpg

    This image made me start from scratch. I've seen work shirts like these from the 1860s, but frankly, I haven't seen this design before. In the second photo, the design looks like either a tree of life or the flame of life. 

    Are these fraternal society photos? I don't think so. I consulted with Rhonda McClure of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and we agreed the markings are unusual, but couldn't find a fraternal match. David Lintz of the Improved Order of Red Men is taking a look at the images to see if he recognizes their significance.

    A couple of folks at the Smith County Historical Society in Tyler, Texas, are working on this problem, too. They have a large photo archive, so my hope is that someone there will have an "aha!" moment. They're considering Civil War Uniforms or volunteer firemen.

    Could the shirts be traditional attire from another country?  Peggy's family had been in the country for a while when these images were taken.

    Could the pictures show Montgomery and a colleague who traveled with him on the circuit? I contacted the United Methodist Archives at Drew University, but they couldn't identify the star or the other design as part of their symbolism.

    Could these be people who aren't in Peggy's family? Anything is possible.

    At this point I'm waiting to hear back from a few folks ... I'll keep you posted. If you have any ideas, contact me.

    1860s photos | men
    Tuesday, 22 September 2009 19:24:46 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 07 September 2009
    An Album of Funny Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I asked readers to submit funny pictures. Thank you to everyone who sent images. I've been laughing all week. So here they images that leave you wondering, "What were they thinking?"

    EdminsterWill Samels Robt Shane and others.jpg
    Sue Edminster sent in this photo (above) of men with numbers on the soles of their shoes. Why?  Who knows!  The men are, bottom to top, Will Samels, Bob Shane (Edminster's grandfather) and Will Young. The photo was taken circa 1890.

    mcclenahan2kirk brothers.jpg

    Here's a card-playing group courtesy of Merna McClenathen. With her grandfather, Milton "Tom" Kirk (2nd from right), are his brothers, William McCready "Crede" Kirk (3rd from right) and Alfred "Alf" Kirk (far right). The man holding all the cards on the far left is unknown. McClenathen thinks this photo was taken circa 1890 in the Black Hills of South Dakota near Lead, SD,when the Kirk brothers were working as carpenters at the Homestake Mine.

    McClenathenGeo Alford.jpg

    Merna sent in two images. Above, you can see what a double exposure looked like taken with either the real Freako-Shutter mentioned last week, or a similar device. Your eyes aren't playing tricks. It's the same man, George P. Alford.


    The earliest funny picture I received came from Rachel Peirce. This one (sbove) dates between Aug. 1, 1864 and Aug. 1, 1866. I know this because on the back is a tax revenue stamp. One can only wonder why this man posed feeding a doll. The doll probably has a china head and cloth body, and could be an imported model. The man is "feeding" it from the dish on the table. The photographer hand-colored the doll's dress a light pink.

    PikePoker girls.jpg

    Sharon Pike sent the most recent image in this set. It dates from c. 1900. I've seen other images from this time frame of women dressed like men in funny pictures. Here, it's Belle and Fanny Curtis. Belle was born in 1882. Their father, Asaph Curtis, owned the Hotel Rockford on Long Lake in Washburn Co., Wis.

    Come back next week, when I reveal an unusual coincidence in a reader's picture.

    1860s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | group photos | men | Photo fun | props in photos | women
    Monday, 07 September 2009 20:59:22 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 27 July 2009
    Adding Up Photo Clues
    Posted by Maureen

    I had trouble deciding the angle for this story. Would I discuss the problem of trying to figure out the photographic method or mention a family brick wall? Then I re-read all the emails from Randy Majors and decided to cover those topics as well as how he identified his picture.

    What is it?
    Electronic files are wonderful for sharing pictures, but nothing compares with looking at the original, especially when you're trying to determine the photographic method. One of the first questions I asked Randy was, "Can you describe the picture?"

    There were two types of metal images in the first 20 years of photography. Daguerreotypes are shiny, highly reflective images that are reversed, but tintypes are on a thin sheet of iron and usually varnished. They aren't really shiny. He said that the image was somewhat shiny, but not mirror-like. 

    So what is it? Without seeing the original, I'd guess a tintype. If you look very closely at the left of the picture you can see a crackled pattern in the photographic emulsion. I've never seen that in a daguerreotype, which is created by chemical salts on a silver plate. 

    Williamcrop 1.jpg

    The other detail that makes me think this is a tintype is the hole in the upper-left corner. I've seen scads of tintypes with this, but never a daguerreotype.

    This lovely picture was once covered by an oval mat, appropriate for either a daguerreotype or a tintype.

    When was it taken?
    Let's look at the subjects' attire from left to right. The boy wears a jacket several sizes too large. The stiff wave of hair atop of his head was particularly popular in the 1850s. His father wears a collarless shirt, a vest and a jacket. His hair is long and combed back. A full under-the chin beard completes his appearance.

    It wasn't unusual for little girls in the 1850s and in the early 1860s to wear dresses with shoulder-bearing necklines and short epaulette sleeves, with strings of beads around their neck. Their attire could be from the late 1850s or even the early 1860s.

    The girl's doll could date the picture. I'm no doll expert, but determining whether this is a rag-style doll or a china doll could help place this image in a time frame. I think it's a china-headed doll. The problem is that the detail is missing from the face. For help with dating dolls in images, consult Dawn Herlocher's 200 Years of Dolls, 3rd edition (KP Books, $29.95).


    Who is it?
    One of the best ways to identify a picture is by swapping with relatives to see if they have similar images. The unidentified picture Randy sent was his great-aunt's. In Rady's collection was an identified picture of William Riley Majors, (1821-1881).

     William Riley Majors (2).jpg
    Notice anything familiar? You guessed it.  It's not only the same man—it's the same picture, only a copy.

    So who's in the first picture with William? His son William Andrew Majors and his daughter Martha Etta Majors. Based on the children's ages, Randy thinks this picture was taken about 1865 in the Madison County, Ill. or St. Louis, Mo., area. He could be right. This late a date also would suggest that the image is indeed a tintype.

    Randy's biggest problem is that no one has been able to find out the lineage of William Riley Majors. He was born in either Alabama or Kentucky, and died in Cowley County, Kan. "He remains my biggest brick wall," Randy wrote.

    Anyone have any research suggestions for Randy?
    1850s photos | 1860s photos | children | men | Tintypes
    Monday, 27 July 2009 20:55:27 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 01 June 2009
    Photo Crafts From Our Ancestors
    Posted by Maureen

    So far, no one has answered my call in last week's column for pictures of creative endeavors using family photos, but I found an example of a historic photo craft attached to an email from Candace Fountoulakis. She received this photo from her maternal aunt.

    It's a lovely piece of needlework, but no one knows the name of the couple in the center. Candace thinks they could be from either the Watts or the Boohler side of her family from Ohio.

    This image was taken by the Grand Central Gallery of Omaha, Neb. German immigrant Herman Heyn was the owner of the studio, according to the 1883 city directory for Omaha (available on In subsequent years Heyn is at the same address until his photo business becomes James & Co., circa 1900.

    Given the style of their clothing, this picture is likely a copy of a much earlier image taken in the 1860s. The couple is dressed in everyday work attire; notice the apron worn by the woman.

    Figuring out who they are requires examining family history. Fountoulakis can see who lived in Omaha in the 1880s or 1890s, then look at the birth and death dates of their parents.

    A woman created the frame using cross stitch. Don't jump to the conclusion that this couple is necessarily on a maternal line. During the 19th century, it was customary to call your in-laws Mother and Father as well as your own parents.

    Although the identity of this couple is a mystery for now, it's no secret what happened to Heyn. He later became famous for taking pictures of Native American tribal personages during the Indian Congress of 1898.  You can view some of his stunning handcolored pictures on the Library of Congress Flickr site.

    1860s photos | Photo fun
    Monday, 01 June 2009 19:23:29 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 22 September 2008
    Tackling an Albumful of Mystery Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Bobbi Borbas wrote back after I posted her unidentified group portrait to say that after looking at her family history, she still isn't sure who the folks are in her mystery image. Some photo mysteries take a great deal of time and patience to solve. I still think the case can be cracked!

    A similarly vexing mystery: I was on the road again this weekend meeting people at the Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center in Manassas, Va. I saw some gorgeous photos and new mysteries. One in particular stands out. A woman brought in a photo album that had been passed down in the family. She didn't know who any of the people were, but I really believe she can put the pieces together.

    I don't have any photos to share, so I'll describe the album: It had two clusters of photos. The first half featured photos from the late 1880s, all taken in Grand Island, Neb. The last couple of pages had photos from the 1860s, with no photographer's name or address. It appeared that at least two generations were included.

    Here's how I'd approach this problem (similar steps can work for your own photos):
    • Research the population of Grand Island in the 1880s. That's the easy part. According to Wikipedia, less than 3,000 people lived there in 1880, but close to 7,500 did as of 1890. The reason for this population boom: the railroad. 
    • When was the photographer in business? I'd start this search by contacting the Nebraska State Historical Society. Its reference department might have a list of photographers in the area.
    • Next, look at surnames in the family and think about the following questions: Who lived in Nebraska in that time frame? When did they settle in the area and why? Those answers can lead to sources such as land and church records, which can fill in for the "lost" 1890 federal census schedules. 
    • The number one spot in a photo album is key. In this case, that picture was a young boy, with the second and third images showing a couple, followed by two girls. Did the boy die?
    • Look for facial similarities. In this album, there were clusters of pictures where it was clear from their noses and mouths that they were all close relatives.
    • Re-examine the family history. By adding up all the clues, I think it's possible to assign some probable names to these individuals.
    Every piece of evidence helps tell the story of a photo album. There was a reason behind the order of the images. Who created it often becomes clear, and by solving one of the picture mysteries, you get that much closer to figuring out the rest. 

    This is one problem I'd love to help solve.  If the woman from RELIC would like some assistance, send me an e-mail. It'd make an interesting case study for a future column. 

    1860s photos
    Monday, 22 September 2008 15:04:05 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 15 September 2008
    Photos Handed Down in the Family
    Posted by Maureen

    Raise your hand if you've discovered a cache of family photos you didn't know about after the death of a relative.

    I'm sure if I asked an audience of hundreds, few hands would remain down.  You'd think there wouldn't be any surprise photos in my family, but no ... Even my Dad squirreled away a few I didn't know about. I think he forgot he had them. Now I'm trying to figure out the significance of those long-lost pictures.

    Bobbi Borbas is in a similar situation. She found these three images in a box of photos that once belonged to her mother.

    In the first (below), a family sits for a group portrait. Look closely—only the father gazes at the lens, the rest of the family's eyes aren't on the camera, but on the person who stands to our left, near the photographer. It makes you wonder what's happening on the other side of the camera. Was the assistant trying to distract the children or making last-minute suggestions?


    The clothing (note the mother's full upper sleeves) and the decorative embossing on the mat date the picture between the late 1890s to about 1905. That gives Bobbi a starting point.

    When she wrote, she thought the picture might depict her great-grandfather.I called her today and asked her to send me a family chart. She's looking for a family that fits the following details around the turn of the century:
    • Six children (three girls and two boys, plus a baby less than a year old)
    • The oldest boy and girl (behind their parents) close to their early teen years.
    • A boy (standing between his parents) around school age. 
    Borbas' second image (below) is a tintype of a young girl. This is a gorgeous image without any of the darkening varnish so often seen in early tintypes.


    The photographer added gold leaf to the girl's jewelry to make it stand out. She's probably an older toddler, not yet school age, and sits with a hand in a pocket of her cotton dress.

    The dress style dates the image to the early 1860s; Wide necklines like this for young girls are seen in photos of the 1850s and 1860s. The identification clue is clearly her ears—Bobbi needs to watch for similarly shaped ears in other family pictures.

    The third image is very interesting. It's set in a tiny piece of photo jewelry, only 3/8 inch wide by 1/2 inch high. The photo itself is only a quarter inch. You'll have to wait until next week to see it—I'm still working on a couple of the details. With any luck, I'll be able to report success in identifying the individuals in these two images. Stay posted!

    1860s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | group photos | women
    Monday, 15 September 2008 20:55:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, 15 April 2008
    Belieu Babies
    Posted by Maureen

    Within moments of posting last week's column on the pictures of Catherine Denison Belieu and her babies, I received an e-mail from Midge Frazel, Denison family historian. Turns out there's nothing simple about those Belieu kids. Did Catherine have 11, 12 or 13 children? It's still being debated.

    I wrote that the family traveled to Oregon by boat, but another family historian commented that the family could have traveled overland. She's right, but this family took the water route. You can read Midge's note about how the family got to Oregon by clicking Comments below last week's piece. 

    So which babies are depicted in these portraits? Catherine's clothing is a simple dress with a small collar accented by a pin. This helps date the picture to a short time frame, the mid-1860s to at least 1869. After 1869, women's collars changed. Of course there's no guarantee Catherine stopped wearing her older clothing into the early 1870s.

    Catherine and her husband, John Asbury Belieu, had several children in the late 1860s and early 1870s.
    • Sarah Naomi Alice, born Dec. 4, 1864; died June 13, 1867.

    • Jesse Leander, born Oct. 11, 1866.

    • M. Elizabeth Evalin, born Feb. 3, 1869. This Eva is supposed to be Carole Hayden's great-grandmother, but some genealogists claim this child died in 1872.  There's a mistake in here somewhere.

    • James Asbury Elmer, born Jan. 2, 1871
    It's likely the two babies in the photos are two of these children, but it's difficult to assign names. I think that at least one of them is Sarah, who died in 1867. It was a common practice to pose for a picture with a first child.

    The two images show different children. I've come to that conclusion by comparing the shapes of their heads—they're slightly different. Both children wear dresses, but you can't jump to the conclusion they're girls. The mother could be reusing a garment from her first baby.

    Regardless of who's who, these two images are treasures for the Denison/Belieu family. Now here's a challenge to other descendants. Do you own pictures of Catherine with her other children? Send them in and let's really try to settle the question of which baby is which.

    1860s photos | children | women
    Tuesday, 15 April 2008 14:09:13 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 07 April 2008
    Family Travels and Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Every family has significant events documented in photographs. For immigrant families, that usually meant taking a group picture before a loved one left home. The immigrant also often sent pictures home to show he'd arrived in one piece and was happy.

    In some families, photographs don't actually document the travels, they become the icon for the retelling of a family story. Carole Hayden owns two images of women with a baby. She found them in a box of newspaper clippings saved by her great-great-grandmother, Catherine Lavinia Denison (born in 1848). 

    When Catherine was a mere 2 years old, her parents took her to Oregon. In those days, that meant boarding a ship and sailing around the tip of South America. Approximately 6,000 other people also made that trip. If you've got an ancestor who decided to settle in Oregon in 1850, you can check his or her name against this online list of pioneers. It's not comprehensive and the Denison family doesn't appear there, but you might get lucky.

    Now Catherine's descendant wants to know the significance of these two tintype images. Do they show the same woman?

    040708Belieu1.jpg     040708Belieu2.jpg    

    Definitely! These images depict the same mother, but is the baby the same?  That depends how many children Catherine Denison had with her husband Asbury Belieu. They married in 1863, and judging from her clothing, these two pictures were taken in the year or two after their marriage. Family history research would provide information on when their children were born and the sex of the babies. The babies in both images appear to be female.

    I need to do a little more research before I can answer the rest of Carole's questions. Back next week with more!

    By the way, thank you to everyone who added comments about last week's column. You'll have to look at the column and the comments to see my response :)

    1860s photos | cased images | children | women
    Monday, 07 April 2008 23:22:32 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Friday, 26 October 2007
    Hunting for Clues Part Two
    Posted by Maureen

    For genealogists, it's easy to underestimate the power we yield. If you need proof, think about this: The recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article on The Photo Detective was the number one article read online at the WSJ for a week!

     This means thousands if not millions of people are interested in their family photographs. That's great news!

    A couple of folks who read that piece commented on the type of gun depicted in the cover photo. Last year I wrote a column, Hunting for Clues, about this picture of a hunter. Now new evidence has surfaced.

    There's a lot of discussion about what type of gun appears in the picture and the date for the image. Faced with the new facts, I could've been off by a few years. The man wears his old clothes for a soujourn into the wilds of New Jersey. Instead of just saying his photo is from the late 1860s, I'm stretching the time frame to include the early 1870s. It doesn't change my analysis, but the additional details add depth to this image. Here's what turned up:

    I spoke with LeRoy Merz of Merz Antique Firearms about the gun in the photo. While my original expert was right about it not being a Civil War piece, it's not a Winchester 66, either. Merz set me straight. It appears to be a double-barrel shotgun, and the shells around the man's waist are 10-gauge.

    Merz thinks this man holds a European model probably imported from England in the early 1870s. It was first introduced there in the late 1860s. In England, these shotguns were used for market hunting of water fowl. (Notice the game bag at the man's side.) It appears Majorie Osterhout's relative liked to go bird-hunting, probably for duck or geese, with his trusty four-legged friend. Though the dog (hard to see here) isn't a traditional breed for retrieving game, it could've been trained for the task.

    Merz's opinion is just one of several. All are in agreement the gun isn't a Winchester 66, but there's still lots of talk about the actual model and the gauge of the shells.

    Next week, I'll take a look at another earlier column and tell you more of the fascinating story behind a reader's family photo.

    1860s photos | 1870s photos | men | props in photos
    Friday, 26 October 2007 19:16:03 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Wednesday, 10 October 2007
    Could this happen to your family history treasures?
    Posted by Maureen

    Before diving into this week’s identification, I have a question for you: Have you specified in your will who’ll receive your heritage photos after you’re no longer here? If not, your relatives could find themselves in a battle.

    Carolanne, the owner of this week’s photo, has spent 17 years trying to gain ownership of her great-aunt’s pictures and family history materials. When Addie Mattilda Weed died in 1990 at age 106, the tenants in her house gave her manuscripts to a university and kept her photos.

    Carolanne, Addie’s closest living relative, finally got the photos, but she’s still battling the university—which currently expects her to pay even to copy the papers. So, make sure you’ve planned for the future of your genealogy collection.

    On to Carolanne’s question: Who are these people?
    She hopes they’re Addie’s mother, Laura Gilman (1844-1926), and father, James Wyatt Weed (1839-1888). 

    I think Carolanne’s right. Addie lived her whole life in one house—birth to death. Since these photos were in that house among her belongings, they’re likely her close relatives. Also, this couple is the right age to be her parents.

    That’s easy, but as usual, there are other questions: When were these images created, and what format are they?  

    Both are photographs enhanced with charcoal. Photographers generally took pictures first, then enlarged and enhanced them—turning an ordinary cabinet-style picture into a piece of art. I happen own a similar-style image in a large gilt frame. The frames for these images are missing, and if there were smaller photos, those are unfortunately lost as well.
    From about 1869 to 1875 women wore high, ruffled collars, long curls and ties at the neckline just as in this portrait. Notice her neck ribbon. Since Gilman and Weed married in 1873, it’s possible this is an engagement or wedding portrait.  

    It’s much more difficult to date the picture of her husband, due to the sparse costume details in his picture. If his picture was done at the same time as Addie’s, he’d be 34 years old. His beard resembles the untrimmed facial hair men wore in the mid-1870s. Unlike his wife’s unwrinkled face, he has lines around his eyes, suggesting hard work that required he squint into the sun. According to the 1880 US census, James Weed worked in a mill, but I imagine he also spent time outdoors in his native Maine.

    Caroleann sent a third family photo. I’ll tackle that next week, with a few more things to say about the three images. ‘Til then…

    1860s photos | 1870s photos | enhanced images | men | women
    Wednesday, 10 October 2007 19:50:43 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]