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<2016 December>

by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 02 October 2016
Family History Month: Focus on One Old Photo Collection
Posted by Maureen

Thank you Darlene Sampley! 

I met Darlene last month in San Diego at an all-day seminar for the San Diego Genealogical Society. We started talking about her family photo collection and I started thinking about Family History Month, which genealogists traditionally observe in October. Hmm. Wouldn't it be great to show examples each week from one woman's photo collection?

Darlene agreed and here we are. Let's take a peek at her mystery photos and see what happens:

Last week's Photo Detective Blog column focused on painted tintypes. Darlene has one, too. I enhanced this image to help you see the details.  The hand coloring is much clearer in this enhanced version that it was in the original. Photographers often varnished tintypes, and over time, that coating darkens and makes the image difficult to see. A simple tweak to accept automatic color restoration when scanning made this image pop into view. 

The original customer asked the studio to hand-color certain details in this image—her blonde hair, white collar and gold pin. This girl has light-colored eyes, but unlike last week's picture, the studio in this case didn't dramatically color the eyes. It looks like there might be a subtle tint.

The problem with this image is the dark area of her dress. Other than the collar, very little is visible. The collar could be from the 1870s or 1880s. Which is it? 

The bar pin holds the clue. In the late 1870s, women often wore small pins like this at the base of the throat. It's lovely! It could be real gold or costume jewelry. 

This lady doesn't look that old, perhaps only a young teenager. 

Let's see what happens when Darlene compares these details to her family tree. I'm hoping for a tentative identification.

If you want to learn more about painted tintypes, read an online article about the Dr. Stanley Burns collection, called Forgotten Marriage

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

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

  • 1870s photos | jewelry | Tintypes | unusual photos
    Sunday, 02 October 2016 15:23:19 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 25 September 2016
    Colorful Old Photos: Tintypes
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

    Look at the detail in her earring.

    You actually get a sense of the filigree design.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1870s photos | Tintypes | unusual photos | wedding
    Sunday, 25 September 2016 18:48:22 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 18 September 2016
    Wavy Hair in Your Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1870s photos | 1920s photos | 1930s photos | hairstyles
    Sunday, 18 September 2016 18:06:41 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 07 August 2016
    How to Tell Men's Faces Apart in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

    Patrick Sheridan

    Unknown man thought to be Patrick Sheridan

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

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

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

    Mathew Brady, 1875,

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

    Look at Facial Features

    What do you see?

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

    Here are some traits in common:

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

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

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

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

  • 1870s photos | facial resemblances | men
    Sunday, 07 August 2016 20:22:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 31 August 2015
    Foolin' with the Past in Old Photos
    Posted by Diane

    At historical sites around the country, it's not unusual to see men and women dressed in fashions of the past. The same is true for parades and town anniversary celebrations. 

    If you have a photo of a relative in historical garb, it can make you do a pictorial double-take.

    Donna Bowman has one in her box of old family photos:

    Take a close look at this image. The woman wears 1870s attire, but her hair is out of the 20th century. And it's hard to tell from this digital version, but this is a snapshot, not a typical 1870s card photograph. 

    At the woman's side is a man dressed for a different era:

    This one is a bit confusing. The tie looks like the 1850s and the tall hat also would fit that period, but that cutaway coat is much later. Historical fashion details can get mixed up when dressing up for a one-time event. Serious re-enactors and museums often will research each detail in an outfit to make it period-appropriate.

    So how can we date this snapshot? By this girl in the background and the rest of the crowd watching the action:

    Don't you love her bobby socks from the 1950 era? Here's the full image.  It's very likely that the baby in the stroller is still alive today: 

    If Donna knows who's in this picture, I'd look in the local papers for a special event to link to this image. Too bad the sign on the front of the stroller isn't facing the camera. 

    Do you have any pictorial double-takes in your family 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

  • 1850s photos | 1870s photos | 1950s photos
    Monday, 31 August 2015 15:37:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 19 July 2015
    Old Mystery-Photo Success Story: Six Years Later
    Posted by Maureen

    So how long does it take to identify an old mystery photo? Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes not. It all depends on how many facts you have about a photo and if you can rule out possible subjects. In Michael Boyce's case, it took six years.

    He's determined to bring together Boice/Boyce genealogy with family photos. In 2009, I wrote about this image from his collection in a post called "Family Tall Tales:"

    He initially submitted the photo of the man with a partial missing finger to try to sort out stories in the family  Name changes, migration to the West Coast and a message board contact eventually helped sort out the Boice/Boyce family connections. But what about the man?

    Who was he? John Boice (born 1794) had three brothers, Eli, Jacob and William. Michael Boyce tracked down images of two of the other brothers and was able to rule them out. Last week, he wrote to me and said he'd found a photo of William:

    Comparing two images of the same person requires studying the facts of his life and the clues in the image. It helps to put them in a timeline too. The same is true for comparing images of family members. Sometimes there is a striking familial resemblance.

    In the first image, taken in the 1860s, the man is balding. He has a full face. In this new image William is older and has a lot more hair.  Men wore their hair combed front in the late 1860s to early 1870s.

    Can you spot the family features? They both have blue eyes, prominent eyebrows and a down turned mouth. They also share an intense expression.

    Now that Michael's found pictures of all the other brothers he's pretty convinced that the man in the 2009 column is his ancestor John Boice. Through process of elimination and photo comparison it looks like Michael can finally put a name with a face. 

    You can check out all of Michael's Boyce family research on his new family history website.

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

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

  • 1870s photos | hairstyles | men
    Sunday, 19 July 2015 15:16:48 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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, 26 April 2015
    Wavy Hair in Old Photos: Spot the Right Decade
    Posted by Maureen

    The next time you curl your hair, think about the success of 19th-century hairdresser Marcel Grateau. In 1872, he turned hair tongs upside down when styling a stage star's hair, and created a trend that remained popular for more than 50 years!

    Last week I discussed Jim DeVogt's funeral card for a woman named Jane Early. He'd like to know if this photo shows Jane Early. 

    Right away her hairstyle stood out. It's the Marcel Wave. In this circa 1878-1880 image, this fashionable young woman not only shows off the latest hair fashion, but also a very trendy collar.

    Religious motif jewelry also was worn in the 1870s. Her choice of accessories could be fashion or faith.

    Jane (Darcy) Early, born in Ireland in 1828, died in Wabasha County, Minn., in 1891. Is this Jane? The big question is, how old do you think this woman is? If this photo was taken in 1878, Jane would be 50. I think this woman looks too young, but everyone ages at different rates.

    Provenance could be key. This photo is from Jim's aunt, who inherited it from her mother, who had been married to Hugh Darcy. There are multiple marriages between the Darcy and Early families. The aunt thought that the photo album in which this image appeared had once belonged to the Early family, but the last member of that family died in 1906.

    I'd love to see your pictures featuring the Marcel Wave. Send in your pictures of women from the 1870s through the 1930s wearing the Wave through the ages using this blog's How to Submit guidelines.

    You can learn more about using hair to date your old family photos from my book Hairstyles 1840-1900

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

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

  • 1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1930s photos | hairstyles
    Sunday, 26 April 2015 21:24:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 23 March 2015
    Using Women's Collars to Date Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    The last two images blog reader Kimble DaCosta sent me are from the same period, but show off two different collar styles: one from the mid- to late 1870s and the other from the late 1870s to early 1880s. Both photos are tintypes.

    You can read the first two installments of DaCosta's photo story: Adding Up the Clues to Identify an Old Mystery Photo and Tips to Trace the Lineage of Your Photos.

    Here are this week's two images:



    The collar clues help determine the time period.

    Every year brought many fashion choices. Women were inventive when adapting their current clothing to fit the trends. When dating clothing in old photos, it's important to watch for the details and to add up all the clothing clues. 

    In the first photo, the dress features a high neckline with a scarf tied around the neck. This was common during the late 1870s. The long bodice, called a polonaise, is paired with a shirred skirt.

    We can't see the skirt in the second image, but the woman wears a lovely ruffled tubular collar, common in the early 1880s. Her fitted bodice features a single line of center buttons. Her skirt would've had some trim as well.

    Another type of collar popular in the early 1880s was called a fichu. It was usually lace and extended to the shoulders.

    Both women in these photos are young, likely in their late teens or early 20s.  These ages and the date ranges for the photos give DaCosta a starting point to search her family tree for possible identities.

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

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

  • 1870s photos | 1880s photos | women
    Monday, 23 March 2015 18:15:22 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 21 December 2014
    More Mystery Photos in an Old Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    The trouble with women in light colored dresses is identifying the occasion. Not all dresses that appear white in a picture are that color. Many pale shades such as light blue look white in nineteenth century photographs. A woman wearing a "white" dress could be dressed for a wedding, a graduation, a first communion or for a hot summer's day.  It can be confusing.

    This is another picture in Jim Te Vogt's family album.  He wonders if this could be Catherine M. Darcy when she married in 1884.

    While this girl is dressed like a typical bride, this is actually a First Communion photo. 
    • The length of her dress is appropriate for a young girl but not a grown woman.
    • The veil while usually associated with weddings is also worn for First Communions.
    • This image dates to the 1870s based on the rows of ruffles on the skirt, and the style of the jewelry worn.  Heavy looking jewelry was commonplace in that decade. 
    • Take note of the brace behind her feet. This is a photographer's posing device to hold her still.
    • Chairs of this style were commonly seen in photographs in the 1870s.

    Jim researched the New York Gallery of San Francisco that took this image and found it was in business from 1869 to 1887.  

    Catherine M. Darcy could be this girl. She was born in 1863.  Typical age for First Communion was between ten and fourteen years of age. A explanation of the history of this church rite can be found on the Catholic News Agency website.

    There is another possible photo of Catherine in the album.

    O.V. Lange of San Francisco took this photo between 1885 to 1886. The Darcy's were the only relatives known to live in that area. The brown card stock and the dress design support a date of the mid 1880s. 

    Catherine married on November 25, 1884. The brocade dress fabric suggests a winter wedding, rather than a spring event. I wonder if it's possible that Lange's studio was in business as early as November 1884.

    Queen Victoria popularized white wedding dresses, but for most of the nineteenth century ordinary women married in very nice non-white dresses. If this isn't her wedding portrait then it was taken within a year of the event.

    This lovely pair of images documents two major occasions in the Darcy family. 

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

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

  • 1870s photos | wedding | women
    Sunday, 21 December 2014 14:34:52 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 15 December 2014
    Mystery Photos in an Old Family Album
    Posted by Diane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1870s photos | fraternal | men
    Monday, 15 December 2014 15:26:53 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # 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, 02 March 2014
    Sweden to the U.S. and Back Again
    Posted by Maureen

    Do you have photographs in your collection that were taken overseas? That's Maria Benini's problem. Only she lives in Stockholm, Sweden. and her mystery photo was taken in Illinois. 

    Benini found this boy's picture in a little brown box that her mother had in her family home in southern Sweden.

     mariabeniniJohn Doe Swedish boy.jpg
    mariabenini backohn Doe Swedish boy.jpg
    This little lad sat for his photo about 1870.  This date is based on the shape and style of the card photograph, the style of his suit and tie as well as the presence of the chair.

    Edgar Codding was a successful photographer in Knoxville, Illinois.
    1870 census codding.jpg
    1870 Federal Census record from National Archive microfilm M593, roll 241, p.87 digitized image from Heritage Quest, a Proquest database.

    In 1888, Maria's great-grandfather, Anders Nilsson, immigrated to Sioux City, Iowa. He wrote letters home about his time in the United States and stayed until 1933 to 1935. He signed his letters from America with the name Andrew.

    Benini thinks this photo might be proof that other family members also immigrated. A quick search of the census shows 38 Nilsons living in Illinois in 1870. The name could be a variant spelling of Nilsson.

    This information is a start. I'll post an update if Benini has any new information.

    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

  • 1870s photos | children | Immigrant Photos
    Sunday, 02 March 2014 17:30:41 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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]
    # Sunday, 22 September 2013
    "Reading" a Family Photo Album
    Posted by Maureen

    I love a good story, don't you? Every photo album tells one if you know where to look. The arrangement of the images is a key part of unraveling the threads of the tale.

    If you're like Daniel Gwinn, you probably inherited a family photo album with few (if any) identified photos. Here's how to approach this very common photographic brick wall.
    • Start with provenance. Who owned the album before you? Who owned it before them? The ownership of the album can help you determine from which branch of the family it descends.

    • Who's on the first page? OK, so you might not immediately know the answer to this question, but this person can unlock the whole album. The person in the number one spot is a very important person to the creator of the album. It could be a mother, a father, a husband, a child or in a few instances, it's the creator of the album. Place this photo in a time frame by studying photographic format, clothing and any other clues that are in the image.
    • Who's next? The individuals closest to the front are also very important to the person who laid out the album. Generally, husbands and wives are grouped together on adjacent pages.

    • Not everyone in the album is necessarily family. Nineteenth-century individuals collected photographs of family, friends, neighbors and even famous persons. Your album might be a mix of these.

    Each album starts with good intentions. The person placing the photos in the book likely had a plan for at least the first half of it. I've seen a lot of family photo albums and they have those good intentions in common—but by the end of the album, images are usually jumbled.

    Like any good book, it's best to begin at the beginning. Don't jump around or rush to the ending. Each page needs to be studied and placed in a time frame and a place. Photographer's imprints can help you place an image geographically. Every little detail can assist in the identification.

    In Daniel's case, the album came to him through his great aunt Elsie Hornberger. It belonged to her grandmother. He knows that most of the individuals in it are members of the Rock family, with origins in Lancaster County, Pa. He's submitted two tintypes that are complete mysteries. 

    Tintypes were patented in 1856 and remained common until the 1930s.


    A few details in this picture place it in a time frame:

    • The fringed velvet chair. This is a photographer's prop. Chairs like it appear in photographs taken all over the United States.  I've never seen it in a photo taken before the late 1860s.

    • The woman wears a bodice called a polanaise with long ends that drape down over the skirt. In many cases, the skirt has ruffles and ruching. This woman's skirt is plain.

    • This photo dates from approximately 1869 to 1875.

    • Dan thinks the woman could be Caroline Rock Cooper, born in 1828. That would make this woman's age in her 40s

    I love the little book on her lap. It appears to have a plush cover and a round medallion on it.

    rock book.jpg

    There's something else that's interesting. Did you notice that the picture is reversed? Unless a photographer used a reversal lens, early images are mirrored. Here's the book with the reversal fixed.

    book reversed.jpg

    Here's the whole image with the reversal fixed.


    She holds the book with her right hand and her left arm rests on the chair.

    Dan's second photo show a little girl smiling for the photographer sitting in the same chair.

    Girl Rock  002.jpg

    It's obviously the same studio because it's an identical rug and chair. The hat is great! It has a wide brim, mid-size crown and features feathers and a velvet ribbon and bow. In the late 1860s, little girls wore dresses similar to those worn by their mothers. The yoked bodice and small ruffled collar point to this image being taken around the same time as the first picture, of the woman. The big question is, "Who is she?"

    • She's probably around 10 years of age.

    • She's not Caroline's daughter, Mary Ann, who was born in 1852. Mary Ann would be 18 in 1870

    While the older woman could be Caroline Rock Cooper, it also could be someone else in the family. It's unlikely that the girl is Caroline's daughter. 

    In order to solve this mystery, Dan needs to examine his family tree for a girl born in approximately 1860. These two photos could be mother and daughter, so locating a girl born in that year could solve both of his photo mysteries.

    For more information on solving family photo album puzzles, see my book Family Photo Detective.

    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

  • 1870s photos | children | hats | women
    Sunday, 22 September 2013 16:17:44 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 11 August 2013
    Old Family Photos: Fraternal Organizations
    Posted by Maureen

    Blanch Flanigan owns not one but two images of family in dress that identifies them as members of a fraternal organization. These secret societies were very popular in the 19th century. They offered men brotherhood, work opportunities and a shared mission.

    Symbolism varied. The three interconnecting rings of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows signifies friendship, love and truth. Masonic aprons and compasses are also distinctive.

    These groups were primarily for men, but at least one fraternal organization allowed both male and female members: the Order of the Eastern Star. Boston lawyer and educator Rob Morris established this group in 1850. It was represented by a single star.

    Could these individuals be members of this organization?


    This couple posed in the 1870s for this portrait. Mary Ellen and Henry Watson wear a fraternal collar with just one star.

    The Watsons were both born in Ontario, but their son was born in Quebec, Canada. It is unknown if this picture was taken in Ontario or Quebec. It's a solemn formal tintype portrait.

    I've seen pictures of men in fraternal regalia, but not a picture of both a man and a woman in this attire from this period.


    Members of fraternal organizations were supposed to be respectful of their attire, so the second image is puzzling.

    The men are clowning for the camera with their legs crossed, collars askew and with cigars in their mouths. The man on the right is Henry Watson. Seated next to him is his son James.

    The son wears a wide brimmed youthful style while his father wears his work cap. I love the hat on the father. I'll be in touch with Blanch to see if she knows more about Henry's occupation.

    There are a few questions relating to this image:
    • Is James a member as well?  Most groups had age requirements. Is he old enough to be a member.
    • Is the son wearing his mother's collar, or vice versa?
    • Why are they clowning for the camera? Could the collars be photographer's props?

    The basic identification facts of this photo are known, but there's a bigger story.

    I'd start by studying the local history of the town in which the family lived. This will help determine which fraternal organizations were in the area in the 1870s. This is a Masonic-related group, but which one?

    This isn't the first time I've written about fraternal groups. Here are three columns on the Independent Order of Odd Fellows:

    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

  • 1870s photos | fraternal | hats | occupational
    Sunday, 11 August 2013 15:57:11 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 03 June 2013
    A Hand-Colored Photo Gem
    Posted by Maureen

    The other night my husband asked, "How do you find something to write about every week?" 

    There's an easy answer: Every photo collection is unique, and every photo tells a story. You've been sharing photographs with me for more than a decade and no two images are exactly the same.

    Take this week's image, for instance. It's a superior example of sophisticated hand-coloring. It's subtle and gorgeous. The unknown photographer and/or an artistic assistant knew how to turn an ordinary photograph into a painting.


    Hand-colored images like this one allow us to see details in our ancestors' clothing and furniture choices. The maroon chair is a common prop in pictures as of the late 1860s. I know from other images that other colors also were used. I've seen such chairs tinted a grassy shade of green.

    This young woman wears a scarf around her neck. The studio colored it in a slightly darker shade of maroon than the chair. It's a perfect accessory to her soft gray dress. While I've seen other images tinted, I rarely see one where the studio has taken time to tint the hands and face. The end result—this young woman looks like she could walk out of the frame and say hello.

    Robert Stoy sent in this picture of Sarah Simmons (1852-1892) of Georgia. Her clothing suggests it was taken in the late 1870s. Her bodice extending past her waist and scarves of this style were worn in this period.

    By the time Sarah posed for this picture, studios had been coloring photographs for decades. Even early daguerreotypists of the 1840s employed artists to add color to their images.

    It's a gem of an image.

    You can learn more about hand-colored images in my book Family Photo Detective.

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

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

  • 1870s photos | women
    Monday, 03 June 2013 15:27:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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]
    # Monday, 24 September 2012
    Family Resemblances in Old Photos: Who Is This Man?
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I discussed how to care for a badly damaged photograph, and showed an image Lois O'Malley photographed back in 2005. Lois wrote: "As soon as I saw the man in the photo he minded me of my grandfather, William Alexander Simmons (1873-1934)." He's seen here:

    Wm  Alex Simmons edit.jpg

    Her Dad's family all had blue eyes like the unknown man in the damaged picture:

    unknown  Simmons edit.jpg

    Now Lois is wondering if this mystery man is her great-grandfather, Hiram Simmons (1833-1911). 

    Facial comparison relies on looking at approximately 80 different points in a face, including eyes, noses, mouths, ears and the spacing between them.

    Photo identification is about adding up all the facts and coming up with a hypothesis. Here's what I'm looking at in this case:
    • Provenance: Though this man looks like Louis' grandfather, she thinks it might be her great-grandfather because the photo is owned by her dad's eldest sister's son. The process of inheriting photos is complicated. Lois thinks that this cousin ended up with the photo because their grandmother lived with her eldest daughter. However, it is also possible that the image depicts Lois's grandfather.
    • Format:  This is a crayon portrait. It's a photo outlined and colored in with artist materials. This type of picture was very popular in the late 19th century. The problem with crayon portraits is that an artist/photographer's assistant drew in the details. There could be a little artistic embellishment here.
    • Clothing: Due to the condition of this picture, it's difficult to see all the clothing details, but it appears the man wears a wide tie and a jacket with a narrow collar and a wide notch in the lapel. His hair is very short.
    Men wore a variety of ties in the late 19th century. There were wide ties in the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s. In the 1890s, men's neckware usually had a pattern. In the 1880s, lapels were narrow and short.

    In the 1870s, men wore their hair longer and not as neatly combed as this fellow.
    • Facial clues: The man in the portrait has a wider jaw than Lois' grandfather, but they have similar ears, eyes and even the same wide forehead. 
    Does anyone want to try cleaning up the deteriorated picture in a photo editing software? You can email me the results or post them on the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page. Please include details about the program you used and what tools you used in the software.

    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

  • 1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1890s photos | enhanced images | hairstyles | men
    Monday, 24 September 2012 02:02:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 25 June 2012
    Photo Contest Submissions
    Posted by Maureen

    A big thank you to everyone that submitted photos to our contest.  The deadline has now passed and I'm gradually working my way through all the images to pick the winning image. The winner will receive a copy of my book, The Family Photo Detective, and the image may even be featured inside. Watch this space for news!

    Here are three of the pictures folks uploaded to the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page. 

    Jen Baldwin.jpg

    Jen Baldwin uploaded this cute pair of siblings—William W. and his sister Bessie Brown. It was taken in Colfax County, Neb., circa 1880. Don't you just love her pantalettes and his long curls.

    Shirley Jenks Jacobs2.jpg 
    Shirley Jenks Jacobs uploaded this photo of her great-grandmother. I love the hat. In the 1880s, hats had tall crowns and lots of trim on the front. You can't see it, but women in this period also wore large bustles. 

    Suzanne Whetzel2.jpg

    Suzanne Whetzel submitted this family portrait of her maternal great-grandparents Mary Ethel (Wade) and Henry Clark Yost with their son (Suzanne's grandfather) James Meryl Yost. James was born in 1908 and this toddler helps date the photo to about 1910.

    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

  • 1870s photos | 1880s photos | children | group photos | hats
    Monday, 25 June 2012 15:18:25 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 19 March 2012
    Hats Off to the Men
    Posted by Maureen

    First it was work hats, then fancy hats for ladies, but what about everyday hats for men?


    Go ahead. Take a guess: When do you think this young man posed for this image? 

    My mother has an expression, "what's old is new." It's all about how fashion repeats itself. This little tintype is a perfect example.

    Go into any hat shop and you'll find hats for men that resemble this soft felt one with the wide ribbon band. He's a young man wearing a jaunty everyday hat.

    This image is likely from the late 1870s. There were all sorts of hats for men in the 1860s and 70s, but the paper mat for this tintype helps date the image.

    Don't forget the promotion for Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900 is only good through the end of March.  Enter HAT10 as a coupon code to receive 10% off that title.

    The book is part of another deal, too: Spend $30 on these products and receive a free book download of the Family Tree Problem Solver.

    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

  • 1870s photos | hats | men
    Monday, 19 March 2012 14:23:01 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Wednesday, 29 February 2012
    British vs. American: Readers Weigh In
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I posted two photos. One was an American and the other a British one.  

    Photo 1

    Photo 2

    I asked all of you to vote on which one was which. There is no stumping this audience. The majority voted for photo 1 being the American man and photo 2 being the English gent. You're right!

    I looked at hundreds of photos in London last week. All this picture analysis confirmed by belief that while women's clothing in America vs. Britain are very similar, the same is not necessarily true for men's clothing.  In England you're more likely to see men wearing specific work clothes. 

    In photo 2, several folks mentioned the walking stick (also adapted by upper-class Americans), the cut of his pants and the fabric of his suit.  Looks like a tweed to me too. The background is also key. You're unlikely to see a backdrop like this in an American photo.

    The American in photo 1 wears untidy clothes, stands on an oilcloth floor covering and stands in front of a plain wall, with drapery and a post. Notice the wooden photo prop at his feet. This would be clasped around him to hold the man still.

    Great job!! Thank you for adding your comments. March is all about hats. See you next week.

    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

  • 1870s photos | hats | men | photo backgrounds | props in photos
    Wednesday, 29 February 2012 13:34:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Monday, 19 September 2011
    Oral History and Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Behind every family photo is a story. It might be a simple tale of how your ancestor visited a photo studio or a complex story interwoven with local, national and family history.

    Bonnie Farver, Farver family historian for Pennsylvania, sent me this great portrait.


    The Farvers have an oral tradition associated with this woman that claims she's Sohanna or Christina Springer Brice, a Lakota Sioux related to Sitting Bull.

    Have you noticed her blue eyes?


    According to Farver, most of this woman's descendants have blue eyes and blonde hair.

    Farver's been researching Sitting Bull hoping to find a connection to this woman. She learned that Sitting Bull had twin children. It's an interesting fact: There are 24 sets of twins in the Farver family beginning in 1880 to the present. 

    This image is a copy of a one-inch-square tintype. It appeared on a reunion notice.

    Family folklore states that in this picture, she wears a neckpiece of white ermine fur and that the metal pin is actually a Henry rifle shell. Sorting out the truth from the legend is key in every family story. For instance, this neck ruffle doesn't appear to be made from ermine. Perhaps the ermine hangs from the ribbon wrapped around her neck. 


    However, her pin is an unusual shape and might be a refashioned shotgun shell. The Henry rifle was first made in the 1850s.

    Farver wanted to know if the dress was recycled from a Civil War uniform.  While it's difficult to see the fabric in this photo, the style of the collar, the bodice and the big buttons date from the late 1870s. 

    So who is this woman? That's the big question in the family. Could she be the wife of John Conrad Farver (possibly a German immigrant), born in 1755 and died 1823-24?  If she's around 80 years of age and this photo was taken circa 1879, then this woman was born circa 1799.  She could have been the young bride of a much older man—that was not an unusual occurrence.  Proof of her identity is still lacking, but having a time frame for the picture may help narrow the possibilities.

    If you recognize her, comment below and I'll let Bonnie Farver know. She'd love to have a definite name to go with this face.

    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

  • 1870s photos | unusual photos
    Monday, 19 September 2011 20:54:20 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # 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, 04 April 2011
    Vote for Your Favorite Bad Hair Day
    Posted by Maureen

    It's time to vote! My inbox is full of photos from readers and and Facebook followers. So which photo will win? You decide. I've create a survey form on Click here to see the photos I selected for the survey and to vote for your favorite. The person who submitted the winning photo will receive a signed copy of my Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900. Photos 1 and 2 are from the 1870s, 3 and 4 from the 1880s and photo 5 dates from 1900.

    Drum roll please...the finalists are:

    editSanders Sylvia (pix found in album of DHSaunders).jpg
    Linda Greff submitted this photo of Sylvia Sanders sporting a combination of extremely curly hair and the full hair styles of the 1870s, making an extreme fashion statement. 

    editSophie Bentley.jpg
    Another 1870s full head of hair. Sophie Bentley was born Dec. 6, 1849. Thank you to Katherine Maddox for sending in this image.

    Oh, those flat greased hairstyles of the 1880s were a dramatic contrast to the previous decade's look. Molly (Mary) E. Banning Ross (born 1867) was an older teenager in this photo, submitted by Pat Daugherty.

    Carol Jacobs Norwood sent in this unidentified family photo. It's a variation of that earlier 1880s picture.

    editdavisonMinnie  Everell Dutton Smith.jpg

    It's not the woman in this picture that has the hair problem. It's her companion. His natural wave and longish hair combine to make the style standout from the top and sides of his head. This circa 1900 image is lovely. He was a teacher in Kansas. The couple is Anne Davison's great grand aunt and uncle.

    O.K...Please vote for your favorite here.

    Next week I'll be back with some other photos -- a before and after hairstyle and proof that not just humans can have a bad hair day.

    1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1890s photos | hairstyles
    Monday, 04 April 2011 21:27:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 20 September 2010
    Wearing Family
    Posted by Maureen

    Pikecrop1 (2).jpg

    This is a fantastic family photo owned by Sharon Pike. It's actually a photo within a photo. In this card portrait, a stunning portrait of a well-dressed middle aged woman, Jane Rivers Meriwether (1829-1897) gazes directly into the camera. Let's look at some of the details.

    It appears she has naturally curly hair, but in this period the Marcel Wave was a popular hairstyle. It was invented by Francois Marcel in 1872, created using heated curling irons to form small waves. The style remained popular into the 1930s. You can read more about Marcel here.

    Collar and Dress
    In the late 1870s and early 1880s, wide collars were commonplace. However, they were usually white and made from fabric. This woman's collar looks like small threads woven and knotted, like macrame. She's used the collar to accent her dress, which is a lovely fitted bodice with small buttons and some fullness to the sleeve.

    All right, I admit it: I left the best detail for the end. Jane wears gorgeous drop earrings in what appears to be a floral pattern. Around her neck is a braided necklace made of either hair (yes, hair!) or silk. Both materials were common and popular. In the 19th century, women often wore jewelry made from the hair of their family and friends. Hair jewelry is a fascinating topic and the pieces are quite lovely. You can learn more about it and see examples in an online article from Victorian Magazine. These long braided ropes were often used as watch chains.

    The most prominent feature of this card photo is the piece of portrait jewelry at Jane's neckline. It's a large pin setting with a paper photograph of a middle-aged man. Photo jewelry came in all shapes and sizes. I'm particularly fond of it (although it often costs more than my pocketbook can bear <smile> ). The top experts on photographic jewelry are Larry J. West and Patricia Abbott. Their book, Tokens of Affection and Regard (published by the authors, out of print) took years to research and write.  It's a stunning volume filled with color plates of actual jewelry. You can view examples on the Smithsonian web exhibit based on their collection.

    Pike Pin.jpg

    The big question is "Who's the man on the pin?" Sharon wondered if it was Jane's father, who died in 1840, or could it be her husband, Ethelred Westcott, who died sometime between 1870 and 1895. He's a bit of a mystery man; Sharon doesn't have a specific death date.

    The dark color of her collar could mean the man in the photo deceased. Jane could have had this pin made from a small card photograph. The man's photo is difficult to see, but it could date from the early 1870s. His suit and tie are from that period. He has a full beard with lots of gray in it. I don't have a birth date for Westcott, but it could be him. Women often wore pins depicting children or a spouse.

    This photo of Jane Meriwether dates from the late 1870s or early 1880s. The light pink tone to the card and its gold trim makes me lean toward the late 1870s.

    You'll find advice for creating, sharing and saving your family's photographs in the Family Photo Essentials CD, from the editors of Family Tree Magazine and Memory Makers magazine.

    1870s photos | men | photo jewelry | women
    Monday, 20 September 2010 18:34:10 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 06 April 2009
    Why the Long Faces in Old Photos?
    Posted by Maureen

    Every so often I bump into a 19th century photo in which the subjects are grinning. It's a rare event. Occasionally, you see a Mona Lisa smile, but it's difficult to locate an image from the 19th century where folks actually showed teeth the way we do today. So, you're probably wondering—why the long face in most pictures?

    In the beginning, I imagine that sitters were nervous in front of the camera. It was new, and having your picture taken was an uncomfortable procedure.

    Look closely at your early photographs and see if you can spot a posing device such as a wooden stand behind the subjects' feet. This device sometimes extended as far up as the head and had clamps around a person's waist or head to keep him still for the long exposure time. Would you feel like smiling?

    In this 1870s tintype, you can see a chair with the adjustable back. This man holds the the chair back, but if you look closely at his feet, you can see a wooden brace stand.


    You can learn more about photographic patents and these tools in Janice G. Schimmelman's American Photographic Patents 1840-1880: The Daguerreotype & Wet Plate Era (Carl Mautz, $25.00). Unfortunately, I don't own a picture of a full clamping device. Anyone got one to share?

    I have a small collection of women and babies I call "hidden mothers." Women hid under blankets and rugs to keep their babies still for the camera.  In this photo, a mother or a photographer's assistant braces the toddler for the picture.


    There were also devices to hold babies that look like medieval instruments of torture.

    Let's not forget another reason individuals didn't smile for the photographer: dental care. Forget cosmetic dentistry—few folks had a full set of pearly whites. In fact, dentistry was a new profession in the mid-19th century. The online Encyclopedia Britannica has a short article on the history of dental care.

    If you have a picture of a "hidden mother," a smiling ancestor, or a photo that includes a posing device, email it to me and I'll post it in this space. Both of the images above are from my research picture collection.

    1870s photos | children | men | photo backgrounds | women
    Monday, 06 April 2009 17:26:27 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [7]
    # Tuesday, 10 February 2009
    Pets in the Family on YouTube
    Posted by Maureen

    It's not hard to believe that the three installments of this blog on ancestors' adorable pets were among the most read. After all, it's family history from a different perspective—pets in the family. Since this week is the Westminster Dog Show, I thought I'd try a different presentation method for the photos.

    I've received a few more pictures for this album, but instead of posting them individually, I incorporated them into a video.

    I'm going to tweak it some more and see if I can boost the quality. I produced it in high definition but uploading it to YouTube compressed the files resulting in some blurring.

    Just in case you missed the series: 

    Pets in Pictures

    An Album of Ancestors' Family Pets

    Pet Photos: Our Ancestors Loved Their Dogs, Too!

    I'd like to thank everyone who sent in pictures! 

    (For more genealogy videos, see the Family Tree Magazine YouTube channel.)

    BTW—I have a new e-newsletter that lists my speaking schedule,and contains a link to the Photo Detective video podcast. It's absolutely free. Sign up is on my Web site.

    1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | 1920s photos | candid photos | children | men | Pets | Videos | women
    Tuesday, 10 February 2009 14:13:17 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 28 July 2008
    The Weller Family Revisited
    Posted by Maureen

    My search for living descendants of the little girl in Finding Family Photos on the Web is ongoing. It's a perfect example of how not everything is on the web.

    Having looked at census records and whatever else was online, I ran into a virtual brick wall—I'm sure you know the feeling. Here are some of the sources I learned about and how I located them.
    • A reference librarian at the Littleton, NH, public library made my day when she found an obituary for "Fontie" WELLER Fitch in the Littleton Courier, the local newspaper. After marrying Henry Fitch, Fontenella and her new husband moved to Spokane, Wash., so he could accept a job with the Washington National Bank. She gave birth to a child in January 1892, and within three months, both mother and child were deceased. Their obituaries appeared in the Littleton Courier March 16, 1892.
    • Since I didn't have an obituary for Fontenella's father, I went back and tried locating one using the historical newspaper subscription site GenealogyBank. I finally found it by using Weller in the surname field with Littleton as a keyword. According to the Argus and Patriot (Montpelier, Vt.) of Dec. 12, 1877,  "Frank G. Weller, a well-known manufacturer of stereoscopic views, died at his residence in Littleton, NH, on Saturday, aged 44 years."
    Intrigued by the use of "well-known," I set out to discover more about the man behind that beautiful photo of a girl and a flag. Just how famous was Weller, and did he take any other stereo views of his family?

    A stereo view is a double picture taken with a binocular camera; it captured two slightly different images of the same view. You then used a special viewer to make the scene 3-D. Stereo views of people are rare. These double images were entertainment—you could purchase scenes of places you'd visited (or would like to visit) or play out with friends the tableau scenes in cards with allegorical and literary themes.
    A quick search of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog using F.G. Weller in the author fieldturned up several images by him. I've posted two here; the other two aren't online. This one depicts "A Country Choir":

    weller11553v country choir.jpg

    In the 1870s, stereo photographers often created thematic scenes from literature. Without the catalog record, it's difficult to recognize the tableau below. It represents a card-playing scene from Francis Bret Harte's poem Plain Language From Truthful James. Harte was a American author who wrote about life in California.


    The back of the card yielded some additional information. I wasn't aware that Weller had copyrighted his images. The stamp in the upper right hand corner provides a year for the card-playing view.

    weller11555rback men.jpg

    Weller was an accomplished photographer. The evidence is in the crisp quality of his images.  I'd love to see more.

    In the 1880s, after Weller's death, it's likely the family sold his negatives. His pictures began to be published by the Littleton View Company, and later, by the major producer of stereo views, Underwood and Underwood. Some depicted allegorical scenes, others focused on literature, and in a few instances, he took pictures of local scenes (as evidenced on a label on the back of one of his views).

    But he also was one of only two photographers in the pre-1875 period who specialized in photographing children. He called this series his "Stereoscopic Treasures." Perhaps he included his daughter and her friends in "The Tea Party" and the "Girl posed with a Tablet." Unfortunatley, neither is available online for comparision. This additional information is from John Waldsmith's Stereo Views: An Illustrated History and Price Guide (Krause, $24.95).

    Weller was an early stereoscopic photographer, a trailblazer in his field, who also used his talents to photograph his only child Fontenella. As far I as I know, no single repository holds Weller's images—they're in private collections or the Library of Congress. It's a pretty typical situation for a photographer's legacy.

    1870s photos | photographers imprints
    Monday, 28 July 2008 17:42:15 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 14 July 2008
    Finding Family Photos on the Web
    Posted by Maureen

    A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how one genealogist created a short video about her online photo discovery. I was so intrigued by her effort that I decided to try putting together a short piece with images depicting flags.  It's one of my collecting areas—I can't turn down a picture of the personification of flags and other American symbols. You can watch the video on Roots Television. It was only my second attempt at movie-making, so don't be too harsh.

    One of the photos I included came from the Library of Congress and serves as a good example of how family photos can also represent history.  It's a gorgeous stereo view of a young girl dressed as a symbolic figure.


    According to the cataloging record, this image is Fontinelle Weller posed as Columbia, taken on March 13, 1873, by F.G. Weller of Littleton, N.H. 

    The 1870 census provides additional details. The girl's name was actually Fontanella A. Weller and F.G. was her father Frank G., a photographer. (You can find this record using the following citation: 1870 U.S. census. Grafton County, New Hampshire, population schedule, Littleton, p. 567, dwelling 170, family 191, Frank G. Weller citing National Archives microfilm publication M 593, roll 841.)

    I used my Boston Public Library card to find Fontana on the subscription database Heritage Quest, but you can also locate her using

    The depicting of individuals as symbols of America goes back to the founding of this country. Fontanella has a serious expression on her face while holding the flag. Her white Roman-style dress with a crown identifies her as "Columbia, Mother of the Republic."

    In the late 18th and early 19th century, Columbia was a woman, but as seen here, in the mid-to later 19th century, she became younger. You can read more about American symbolism in David Hackett Fischer's Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas ( Oxford, $50).

    If you haven't searched the Library of Congress catalog of prints and photographs, try it and see if you can find images of the members of your family. Anyone out there related to Fontanella?  According to FamilySearch, she married Henry Fitch on June 13, 1890.

    If you've located family photos on the Library of Congress site, let me know by posting a comment below.

    1870s photos | children | props in photos
    Monday, 14 July 2008 20:39:54 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, 24 March 2008
    Baby Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    In honor of Women’s History Month, I’ve decided to run another picture of a woman and baby—but this time only part of the woman appears in the picture.

    I’ve taken to categorizing images like this as “hidden mothers.” There's no way to say for certain the arm extending into the carriage to brace this child belongs to its mother, but it’s either a cautious mother, a nursemaid or a photographer’s assistant. I vote for the mother.

    Before I start dissecting this picture—do you have any images with partial women in them? I’d love to see them and feature them next week. Send them to me.


    So who’s this darling tot? Gwen Prichard doesn’t know. A genealogical Good Samaritan gave her the album it was in after finding it in an antique trunk in California. Several of the people are identified members of the Godfrey and Locke families who, according to the photographer’s imprint, posed for pictures in Jonesburg, Mo. 

    The woman who purchased the trunk wanted family members to have the photo album so she contacted Jonesburg Historical Society who in turn suggested she write to Gwen. It’s one of those odd serendipitous genealogical connections.

    Gwen thinks the album belonged to Olive Cornelia (Locke) Smith (born in 1861) based on the identified images. Now she’s trying to figure out who else is represented. This is one of the mystery pictures. There are four photos on a page—this baby, an older child, a man and a woman. They may be the baby’s parents, but before jumping to conclusions let’s date this picture.

    •  While the baby picture doesn’t have a photographer’s imprint the other three were taken in Moberly, Missouri.
    • The light green card stock of this small (4” x 2 ½”) photo was typical in the mid to late 1870s.
    • The toddler wears a white dress with colored sash and a necklace. This child’s attire is also typical for the early to mid-1870s.

    These last two details date the picture, but it’s the baby carriage that draws our attention. The first carriage that could be pushed was invented in 1848. Before this, baby carriages were drawn by ponies and other small animals. Newer carriages, like this one, enabled mothers, nursemaids and nannies to stroll with their children. This fringed model looks similar to the horse-drawn surrey carriages used by families in the 1870s. The top would protect the child from the sun. Babies faced front to be admired by passersby.

    This particular carriage is well padded with an animal fur lining and a checkerboard knitted blanket. A scalloped edged embroidered cloth decorates the inside. The woman has her hand underneath this cloth supporting the baby allowing us to see the beautiful stitching. You can see other examples of early carriages on the Wisconsin Historical Society website.

    While this is a picture puzzle, the date brings Gwen one step closer to figuring out who it might be. This baby (probably a girl because her thin hair in parted in the middle) was born in the mid-1870s.

    Anyone interested in helping me narrow the time frame? Check patent records to see if you can match up the design of this carriage. I’ll give you a hint: The leading baby carriage designer in this time frame was Adolph Meinecke. Don't forget you can respond in the Comments field below.

    1870s photos | children
    Monday, 24 March 2008 15:04:44 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # 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]