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<2017 July>

by Maureen A. Taylor

More Links

# Sunday, 30 July 2017
Too Few Photo Clues: What to Do
Posted by Maureen

This image comes from my mailbag.  If you don't have a scanner you can still submit images for analysis. Follow the instructions here. Barbara Rivers sent me a black and white print of her mystery photo. 

Barbara's aunt found this picture in her belongings.  There were no names on the back. No one else in the family is able to help with the ID either.  As the family genealogist, it's left to Barbara.

Let's start with a date to establish a time frame.

Those sleeves make it easy.  The woman in the back has the most fashionable puff at the shoulder. Her fashion dates the picture to circa 1897.

Armed with a tentative date, Barbara can start to work on the problem. She thinks it might depict the Findlay Family of Iowa. I'm hoping she has a specific town.

The closest census to the date of this image is the one taken in 1900. Using the advanced search feature on you can look for people without knowing their names.

I'd start by entering Findlay and Iowa (with a specific town). In this group portrait there are three boys, two sisters and their parents.  Of course it's possible that there are husbands/wives in this picture, but for now assume that they are all related.

It's a big family, but it's also possible that not all of the children are depicted. 

I'd use the advanced search to see if Barbara can find familiar Findlay names in the 1900 census, then I'd look for them in the 1880 census.  Match up the families to see if there is overlap with her family history.  

She might find the right family on the first try or have to work her way through several searches.

It's a start. Solving those completely unidentified family photos is challenging but it can happen.

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

  • 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | group photos
    Sunday, 30 July 2017 16:54:27 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Sunday, 25 June 2017
    Does This Old Photo Have a Hidden Message?
    Posted by Maureen

    Houston County, TN Archive

    Historical societies all over the country have old mystery photos of local citizens. The picture above is from the Houston County, Tenn., archives. Thank you to Archivist/Records Manager Melissa Barker for submitting this image.

    Melissa knows from the photographers imprint it was taken by Edward E. Collison, Jr., who was born April 16, 1859, and died June 15, 1907. Collison was also the inventor of the Instantaneous Shutter for camera, and received patent #341,887 on May 18, 1886.


    Mom and Dad are cool under pressure. The photographer captured the baby mid-wail. 

    When this photo was taken isn't the mystery: Mom provides the time frame.


    The peaked shoulder seams on her dress and her short bangs date the image to circa 1890.

    The mysterious part of this image is the father.


    I don't think he's holding his hand this way just because. Its position suggests there's more to this. I know I've seen this hand position in photos before, but I can't find an example. I wonder if it's symbolic of membership in a fraternal or other organization. It doesn't appear to be Masonic or signify that the father was interested in Phrenology (a school of thought based on measurements of the human skull).

    Any thoughts on how this dad posed his hand? Maybe Melissa knows of specific groups active in Houston County.

    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
    1890s photos | props in photos | unusual photos
    Sunday, 25 June 2017 22:25:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [22]
    # Sunday, 23 April 2017
    What's the Story in this Old Family Photo? The Big Reveal!
    Posted by Maureen

    It's time to look at the big picture, the whole image and the rest of the details. If you've followed the last two posts, you've heard Mikael Hammerman's family story and seen some of the clues in the picture. 

    Let's answer his big question: Is this his great-grandmother's sister and her daughter?

    The big sleeves on this woman and her daughter date this picture to the mid- to late-1890s. Sharpeyed individuals will see the fashion plate on the sleeping mother's lap.


    The hat and the dress style in the fashion plate date from 1897 to circa 1900. Before Mom fell asleep, she was browsing the new fashions.

    Also on her lap is a paper that says "Bon-Ton." There was a Gazette du Bon-Ton published in France from 1912 to 1925, but those dates are too late for this image.

    This could be an advertisement for Bon-Ton, a department store that debuted in 1898 in York, Pa.

    Adding up the Clues
    Mike's great-grandmother's sister, Mathilda Ericson (born 1859), immigrated to New York in 1879 when she was 20. By 1899, she'd be 40.  Could this woman be her?

    Possibly. The rest of the facts need to add up, including where she lived around the turn of the century.

    Could the girl playing the piano be the daughter Mathilda was possibly pregnant with in 1879?


    This girl looks to be a lot younger than 20.  Perhaps Mathilda had several children.

    What's needed is a timeline of her Mathilda's life from when she moved to the United States until the year this picture was taken. Here are the primary names to trace:

    • Matilda Ericson (born Aug. 25, 1859 in Sweden)
    • Anders J. Carlson (born April 11, 1843, in Sweden)

    According to Mikael, they arrived in New York on January 31, 1879, as Auguste J. Carlson and Mathilda Carlson, a married couple. 

    Next stop: Digging into genealogy databases for more information. A photo mystery needs more than picture clues. It also relies on family history and good old-fashioned genealogical research.

    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
    1890s photos | children | photo-research tips | women
    Sunday, 23 April 2017 17:16:43 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [10]
    # 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, 17 April 2016
    Caption Mystery for an Old Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Identifying captions written with good intentions years ago often confuse descendants rather than clarify who's who.

    On the back of this photo found among the things of Roxanne Turpin's mother-in-law is a cryptic note: "Relative of Grandpa (Grande), I think."  The person wrote in ball point ink, which means it was written after 1941, when those types of pens became widely available. It's possible Roxanne's mother-in-law wrote it.

    There is another problem with this image. It's a copy! This is a 20th-century black-and-white print mounted on cardstock. The scratches visible on the image suggest the original was a tintype. 

    Dating the photo relies on the sleeve style. The peaked fabric at the shoulder seam suggests a date circa 1890. The bodice style agrees with this date. The fabric is likely a patterned cotton. It could be a deep color accented by flowers. 

    So who are these folks? It could be a father and two daughters or a daughter (on the left) and her parents. The man in the middle is definitely older. I think the women are his daughters.

    Roxanne thinks the man is either Gottfried Grande (born 1894) or his father Gottlieb Grande (born 1860), both Germans who lived in an area alternately owned by Poland and Russia. She'd like to know where it was taken. Figuring out who's who could reveal that fact.

    Given the clothing date, the man in the middle could be Gottlieb, who'd be in his 30s when the image was taken, although this man does look older than that. 

    Next Steps
    • Roxanne should check her tree for the birth date for Gottfried. The photographed man looks older than someone in his 30s.
    • Who's Gottlieb's mother? Maybe this isn't the Grande family at all, but his mother's side of the family. Did his mother have a sister?
    • Examining the family information should reveal where the family lived in the circa 1890 period. That information could solve the question of where the picture was taken.

    I can't wait to hear an update from Roxanne! 

    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

  • 1890s photos | Immigrant Photos
    Sunday, 17 April 2016 16:41:45 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Sunday, 10 April 2016
    Round Three: Clues in a Nineteenth Century Family Gathering
    Posted by Maureen

    Heidi Thibodeau is determined to identify the folks in that July group portrait. It's a key to other unidentified photos she may find.


    It can take time to solve a photo mystery. The clues stack up, but making that right match often involves re-examining photos in your collection or asking cousins to look for pictures as well. DNA matches are good for picture clues too. The individuals you're genetically related to may have photos relating to your picture mystery.

    Two previous blog posts explore the identity of these individuals in particular the man in the center of the image. He's a person that whole family posed around, an elder member of that clan.

    The first post looked at the general evidence of clothing and props to support the 1890 date on the image.

    The second post explored whether or not Bessie Hodgdon was in the image. She could be one of these two girls. Bessie once owned the original.

    Heidi was able to rule out Noah Lord, the girls maternal grandfather, as this man, and wonders if he could be the girls' paternal grandfather William Hodgdon (1821-1902), but there are no pictures of him.

    There is a picture of Bessie and Ella's brother Chester. It would be best to find a photo of any of William's siblings for comparison, but there is a resemblance between the man in the group and this man holding a kettle and pan of potatoes. 

    To solve this mystery I'd reach out to anyone else related to William in case one of the descendants has a photo. I'd locate these descendants through the mega genealogy sites like, and FamilySearch.

    Once Heidi is able to identify the man between the two girls, it's possible the rest of the identities will fall into place. It's a lot like falling dominoes—topple one and the rest fall down.

    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

  • 1890s photos | 4th of July | facial resemblances | family reunion
    Sunday, 10 April 2016 14:34:42 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 03 April 2016
    Which Grandmother is It Revisited
    Posted by Maureen

    Three weeks ago I posted about a crayon portrait owned by Joan Klein in Which Grandmother is it? Joan wrote and said she's going to use DNA to locate other information and possibly images.

    DNA can help you connect to other relatives, and it's a good idea to ask about family history "stuff" those matches might own. I've had a number of people tell me that DNA was just the first step. Those new cousins shared pictures and stories that helped solve quite a few family mysteries. 

    A nice email from a reader asked me to revisit the topic and dig a little deeper.

    Could there be other pictures of these women?
    Whether or not an ancestor had a picture taken during their lifetime depended on several factors, like the availability of photography in their area, the family's economic status and whether or not the person liked being photographed. Not every family had a camera.

    While it's true that more photographs were taken in each successive generation, that doesn't mean that more photographs exist of certain relatives. Even if they were taken, it's possible they didn't survive or that they were parceled out to other relatives. Joan is using DNA to try to find more pictures.

    Why does she look uncomfortable?

    In the daguerreotype era, it could take up to 30 minutes to sit for a picture, but by the time this picture was taken, the sitting time was way under a minute. She could feel uncomfortable posing for a picture, or the solemn expression on her face could reflect how seriously she took having a picture taken.

    Is this what she really looked like?
    This crayon portrait rendered by a photographic artist may not accurately represent this woman's appearance. She looks quite young, but that could be an "artistic face-lift." Occasionally I've been shown crayon portraits and the original pictures from which they were created. The biggest difference between the two is the number of lines on someone's face.  Artists wanted their customers to be very happy with the final product.

    It's also possible that this woman's crayon portrait was based on a picture she had taken years earlier.

    Could this be a memorial portrait?
    The short answer is yes, but crayon portraits aren't always memorial pieces. Sometimes couples had them done around the time of their wedding, in other cases men had them made when they'd started a business or reached a milestone. Anniversary portraits were also popular.

    What about the picture of the grandfather?

    Here it is. This picture is either John Gordner (1851-1939) or Charles Carroll Steck (1855-1926), the husbands of the woman shown above. This blue-eyed man could be either.

    The style of this portrait is very different from the one of the mystery grandmother. This was done earlier and by a different artist. The tie, shirt collar and suit combined with the mustache and hair suggest a date from the early 1890s. It's another mystery for Joan to solve. 

    Who do I think the woman in the portrait is? It could be Agnes, who died in 1907, but proof is needed. Fingers crossed that DNA provides Joan with more than genetic cousins.

    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

  • 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | women
    Sunday, 03 April 2016 19:50:12 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 27 March 2016
    Who's Who in an Old Family Gathering Photo?
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week's column explored some of the identification clues in this family gathering. Heidi Thibodeau thinks it depicts members of the Tibbetts and Hodgson family of Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.

    Bessie Mabel Hodgdon, born in 1877, owned the picture, and it was handed down to her granddaughter (Heidi's first cousin once removed). This photo dates from July 6, 1890. If Bessie were in this picture, she'd be approximately 13 years of age. Only two young women in this picture appear the right age to be Bessie.

    They flank this older man who sits in the center of the group. That's a place of prominence. I wonder if they're his daughters or granddaughters. Bessie had a sister Ella, born 1881, who became Heidi's great-grandmother. Their mother died in 1886. Their father, Albert, born in 1856, would be only 34 at the time of this photo, far too young to be the man shown above.

    The sisters' maternal grandfather, Noah Lord, born in 1830, would be 60 years of age at the time of this picture. Heidi sent me photos of him (from a private source so I can't reproduce them here). The man in this picture doesn't look like Noah Lord.

    Could this man be the sisters' paternal grandfather? Perhaps. I'm going to ask Heidi if she has any photos of him.

    Heidi has another picture of Bessie and Ella from 1905, depicting the Tibbetts Family. Bessie sits on the left in the center row, and her sister Ella Hodgdon Tibbitts is on the right.

    Let's look at the girls and women side by side. The images pixelate when enlarged due to low resolution.

    It looks like the girl with her eyes closed could be either Bessie or Ella. The girl on the lower left is hard to see for comparison purposes.

    Given the history of ownership of this picture, the group on the porch in 1890 could be either the Lord family or the Hodgsons. One of the only ways to determine who's who is to compare other photos of any members of those families alive in 1890 to those faces in the big group picture.  It's a process of elimination.

    This photo mystery isn't solved but with a little time and research the answer may be clearer. I'm hoping Heidi and her cousins have more pictures for another blog post.

    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

  • 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | family reunion | group photos
    Sunday, 27 March 2016 18:57:20 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 20 March 2016
    Old Mystery Photos: ID Clues in a Family Gathering Picture
    Posted by Maureen


    Heidi Thibodeau's cousin found this image in the papers of her grandmother (Heidi's great-grand aunt), Bessie Mabel Hodgdon Hoogerzeil. Bessie was born Jan. 27, 1877. Heidi thinks she might be in this photo.

    A caption on the reverse states the picture was taken by Sprague and Hathaway, July 6, 1890.

    There is evidence to support this date:


    The two women (left and center) in this collage wear the peaked shoulder seams of the circa 1890 period. The children (right) wear striped play clothes popular in this era as well.

    While several women wear dark-looking clothes, they may not have been wearing black. Many bright colors appear dark in 19th century, black-and-white photographs. Popular clothing colors in the 1880s included shades of red, brown and greens.

    Photographic mat
    Chocolate-colored cardstock was commonly available in the 1880s and faded out in favor of light-colored card stock in the 1890s.

    Sprague and Hathaway started their company in 1874 in the Davis Square area of Somerville, Mass. By 1890, the studio was a corporation and they'd moved to West Somerville, Mass. The Smithsonian has trade catalogs relating to these photographers.

    Look closely at the women in the middle row. They carry fans to help them deal with the hot, humid weather of a New England July. Several individuals look like they're tired of posing for the picture.

    One little girl has her eyes closed.

    If this picture was taken today we'd think she was looking at her phone. In 1890, though, she either fell asleep or blinked. 

    So who's in the picture?  Next week I'll tackle who might be who. 

    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

  • 1890s photos | 4th of July | family reunion | summer
    Sunday, 20 March 2016 20:40:51 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 21 December 2015
    Santa Claus Through the Years
    Posted by Maureen

    The depiction of Santa has changed a lot over the years from a thin person with variously shaped beards to the icon we recognize today. He didn't always wear red. According to Holiday Symbols by Sue Ellen Thompson (2000)the modern depiction of him is a combination of the English Father Christmas, the German St. Nicholas and the Dutch Sinter Klaas.  Technology brought kids a new way to imagine Santa by giving them new fictional interpretations and ways to listen to him.  Here's an overview of this loved Christmas character.

    In 1843, Charles Dickens featured him as "the ghost of Christmas present" in a green robe with a wreath on his head in the original Christmas Carol.

    Wikipedia "Santa Claus" accessed December 21, 2015

    By 1868 children no longer had to dream of sugar plums, their parents could buy them. The United States Confection Company used an illustration of a white-bearded Santa wearing a tasseled hat standing astride a reindeer led sleigh as an advertisement for a sweet treat. 

    Library of Congress

    The twentieth century solidified Santa's look as a full figured, white bearded fellow. The Christmas 1901 Puck magazine featured an angry looking Santa with children and a baby.  Toys and books were popular gifts.  Notice the Victrola held by the bespectacled boy.  The National Jukebox project of the Library of Congress allows us to listen to Gilbert Girard aka Santa Claus tell us about his toy shop (1918).

    L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz, wrote a new Christmas classic in 1902, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus which is available on the Internet Archive.  It was adapted for a film of the same name in 1985.

    The new century brought Santa to the movies too. You can find a list of him in early films on Wikipedia. Who can forget the first time they saw, Miracle of 34th street? 

    This holiday, have fun gazing at these old depictions of Santa, listening to his voice and sitting down with family to watch a classic film.

    Happy Holidays!

    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

  • 1840s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Christmas | Santa Claus
    Monday, 21 December 2015 14:53:27 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 23 August 2015
    Proud Mamas in Old Photos: Finding the Clues
    Posted by Maureen

    What's the first thing you see when you look at this picture?  My eye immediately gravitates to the woman and her slight smile.  She's one proud Mama seated with her two children and her husband. 

    Your eye might be drawn to the wicker chairs, the animal skin rug or Dad's crooked tie.  When we look at a family photo our eyes become focused on one detail and then dart all over the image. 

    Clues. There are many types of evidence in an image from props to people but it's the sum total of them that often results in an identification. In this picture the following details provide a time frame.
    • The wicker chairs.  They were popular props in the 1890s and in the early 20th century.

    • Animal skin rugs. Also common in pictures in the 1890s and persist into the early 20th century and beyond. We have pictures of endless bare-bottomed babies in our family photographed on animal skinned rugs in the mid-20th century.

    • Clothing clues:

    In the 1890s men wore their hair short, their mustaches trimmed and waxed and their collars up.  In the first decade of the 20th century, the majority of young men were clean-shaven.
    Mom's puffy sleeves date from the late 1890s. Her pompadour style puffy hair looks more like the circa 1905 period but this could be a personal preference rather than the current style.  Additional genealogical information is needed to narrowly date this image.
    • The photo imprint. J.W. Sires of Tidioute, Pennsylvania took this picture. Unfortunately, he's not listed in this location in Directory of Pennsylvania Photographers, 1839-1900 by Linda A. Ries and Jay W. Ruby (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1999). He appears only as of 1890-91, and in a different location.
    Donna Bowman thinks that the father in this photograph is one of her great-grandfather's brothers, but isn't sure. There's one way to narrow down the possibilities: Find the family in the 1900 census. Let's hope her great-grandfather didn't have 12 brothers! 

    The ages of the children in the census would pinpoint a more-specific year for the picture. The babies in this image are 1 to 3 years old. 

    I can't wait to hear back from Donna!

    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

  • 1890s photos | children | group photos | hairstyles | men | women
    Sunday, 23 August 2015 15:23:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 02 August 2015
    Double-Checking Photo Clues to Solve a Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    James Dinan and his wife solved their photo mystery using the resources of the Photo Detective blog archive. You can access it using the navigation on the left.

    Here's the photo they submitted:

    It's a group of men gathered for an outing. They call themselves The Fatal Nine Spot, and the event is a clambake. These types of social occasions were quite popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I actually own a photo of some members of my family posed with watermelons at a clambake circa 1900.

    The Fatal Nine Spot is likely the name of a social organization. Based on the number of men in the image, it was a popular one. There may be a listing for the group in a city directory or a newspaper.


    At some point in the 20th century (based on the ink form a ballpoint pen ink, which wasn't available until mid-20th century), a family member circled this man's head and wrote "Grandpa Davis." 

    It's great to have an identity for the person in a photo, but James Dinan's problem was simple: Which Grandpa Davis was depicted? It could be either Robert Washington Davis (b. 1835) or his son William Francis Davis (b.1863).

    For this man to be Robert, he'd need to look like a man in his 60s, so William makes more sense. James thought the picture was taken in the 1890s, when William would be 27 to 37 years of age.

    The clothing clues in this image, such as the shapes of the men's ties and jackets and the hair on their heads and faces, determine a time frame of the late 19th century.

    In the late 1890s, the fashion for men was to be clean-shaven. While older men lagged behind the times, young men generally followed the current fashion. Just about every man in this image sports facial hair. Most wear large mustaches, which were popular in the 1880s. I'd date this photograph to the early 1890s based on that fact. 

    Their jacket lapels and ties are a better match to this era as well. Of course there are varieties of facial hair in every generation. There were mustache- related clubs in the late 19th century as well. We have no idea at this point if these men wore this facial hair as part of their club rules, or if they were just being fashionable.

    The format of the photo also is a clue. Large group portraits mounted on cardstock of this color and size date from the late-19th century as well.

    I'd love to know more about the Fatal Nine Spot club. Here are some tips for researching the group:
    • Use family history information to study resources local to where Grandpa Davis lived.

    • City directories often include information on organizations in the back, near business listings.

    • Newspapers usually include short news bits about events held by local groups.

    • The local historical society may have other photographs of these event or this group. It's possible the clambake was an annual event.

    • Utilize social media by asking followers if they recognize anyone in the photo. There are a LOT of men in this picture. Photographers would photograph the group then offer them the option of purchasing copies. Grandpa Davis did and it's likely other men did as well.

    It's a fabulous summer-time 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

  • 1890s photos | group photos | men
    Sunday, 02 August 2015 14:42:11 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 13 July 2015
    Identifying Mystery Photos in an Old Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    eileen poulin.JPG
    A family photo album opens the door to new genealogy discoveries, but reading the clues in an album isn't always easy. It often comes down to what you know about your family and who's depicted on each album page.

    The most important people to the person who laid out the album are usually at the beginning, especially the first three pages. Those individuals are significant. If you know who they are, it's a lot easier to figure out who else is in the album and who's been left out.

    Adding to the mystery is the fact that many people used their albums as part family photo collection and part scrapbook. You'll often find pictures of famous individuals and friends as well as relatives.

    For Eileen Poulin, the whole question of who's in her great-grandmother Josephine Payeur's album is complicated by the ancestor's four marriages. The album may represent her own family as well as those of her spouses.

    Josephine's family hails from Three Rivers, Quebec, Canada. She was born in Vermont and later moved to Connecticut. She had two children with her first husband and one each with the next two husbands. There were no children from her fourth marriage.

    To analyze who's who in Josephine's album, it's important to study the milestones of Josephine's life—such as her birth and death dates as well as those for each of her husbands and the birth dates of her children. I'd also like to know when they lived in various places. This data provides an outline in which to study the images.

    The next step is to place each of the images in to a time frame based on the usual clues of clothing, photographer's work dates and photographic format. For instance, she submitted a picture from the album (above). It's a lovely photo of a young woman posed with a puppy. Remarkably, the puppy stood still for the picture. The young woman smiles for the camera.

    Two fashion clues immediately place the photo in a time frame: puffy sleeves and an asymmetrical hat with high plumes. These date the picture to the late 1890s. If we estimate the woman's age at about 20, she would've born sometime in the late 1870s. Elaine can match that picture with her outline of people and facts. Unfortunately, there's no photographer's information on the picture to further narrow the possibilities.

    I'd love to know more about the album and see the first pages to help Elaine figure out the story behind it and the woman who created it.

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

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

  • 1890s photos | dogs | women
    Monday, 13 July 2015 15:51:18 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, 21 April 2015
    Photo Clues in 19th-Century Funeral Cards
    Posted by Maureen

    Funeral cards are nothing new. In the 1860s, mourning cards were popular after the assassination of President Lincoln, but not to announce the death of an average person. By the 1880s, though, it was fashionable to print cards to memorialize relatives.

    This funeral card dates from 1891 and is printed on the type of cardstock also used for cabinet card photographs.  While this card features just life and death dates for Mrs. Jane Early (and a poem), it's not unusual to see cards with floral arrangements or photographs of the deceased taken while still alive.

    Dark cardstock was popular in the 1880s and doesn't necessarily declare an image to be a memorial card. White or cream card stock was also used. The presence of a death date on the item is what confirms it to be a funeral card.

    These card were handed out at funerals or sent to friends and relatives to announce a death. The use of this style and format peaked during the cabinet card era of 1880 to 1900.

    Thank you to Jim TeVogt for emailing this card!

    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

  • 1890s photos | Abraham Lincoln | mourning photos
    Tuesday, 21 April 2015 16:58:38 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 06 April 2015
    Finding Gold in Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Family photos can depict a single individual or a large group. While we think of them in terms of our family history, large group portraits might be important to other families as well. Take this photo of a group in Shaws Flats, Calif.

    Shaws Flats was a Gold Rush town in the 1850s that has a reputation for being one of the richest gold areas. Sarah G. Dunster's family settled there sometime in the mid- to late-19th century and they stayed until the mid-20th century. Her last relative in Shaws Flats died in 1985. 

    She's trying to figure out who's in this image and when it was taken. her grandmother Julia stands on a log holding a child.

    Sarah wonders if this image was taken in the 1870s or later. The clothing clues in this image definitely rule out the 1870s. Here's a close-up of the women in the group.

    The young woman on the left dates the picture. She's fashionably dressed for this town; the other women are in everyday dresses and the men are in work clothes. I can't help but wonder who she is and why she's so well-dressed. She's also the only woman not wearing a well-worn apron, and she even wears a restrictive corset to cinch her waist. Outfits like this, complete with a tie, were common in the mid-1890s. Given her appearance it's possible she worked in a store or an office.

    Since Sarah had relatives living in Shaws Flats in 1900, I'd look at the 1900 census to see if it's possible to identify other people in the image. I'd start with the children and add approximately five years to their estimated ages to see if they appear in the census. Of course, it's possible that some of these people moved out of the area between the time of the photo and the census, but the census is a good place to start.

    I'd also post this image on a Facebook page at a low resolution. If there isn't a page/group for Shaws Flats, then this would be a good image to start one. Sarah will be able to connect with other people whose families lived there and maybe collect some local history. She also could edit the image and post the individual faces on the page as an identification puzzle. 

    Love these group pictures that show the life of a community and how ordinary folks lived.  Here's one more closeup of men with work tools in hand.

    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

  • 1890s photos | Gold Rush | occupational | women
    Monday, 06 April 2015 17:13:07 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 15 March 2015
    Adding up the Clues to Identify an Old Mystery Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about the importance of knowing the lineage of your photos. The key details of provenance can keep you from making a photo identification mistake.

    Kimble DaCosta knows a lot about the photos she inherited. Her ancestor Ella Seamands identified most of the images in a chest that Kimble inherited, but there were a few that she didn't name. 

    In this picture, both the woman and the man look uncomfortable in front of the camera. Their discomfort could be due to the reason they posed for the picture or because sitting for a photograph was an unusual event in their lives.

    When identifying the photographic method used to create a 19th-century print, examine clues such as cardstock and the hue of the print. Trained photographic conservators use a microscope at 30X magnification will reveal in detail what an original print looks like at the fiber level. They also look at the surface character of the photo by viewing it flat at eye level.

    The purplish hue of this print suggests it could be either a gelatin or collodion printing-out paper, first available in 1885 and in use until 1920. 

    The clothing clues in this image date it to the late 1890s, when flat, pie plate-shaped hats with high trim were common. All the lace trim on this woman's hat suggests it was meant to be worn in summer. 

    This young woman wears fingerless gloves and carries an umbrella and a fan. While the gloves and hat are likely part of her wardrobe, I wonder if the photographer has supplied the umbrella and fan. She looks awkward holding them. 

    Let's say this picture was taken about 1897, and the man and woman are close to 20 years of age. This is a hypothesis that could help Kimble find the right people in her family tree. They would've been born in the late 1870s, with a little wiggle room on either side of the date.   

    I'm hoping this information leads to an identification. Next week I'll look at two of her other images.

    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

  • 1890s photos | hats
    Sunday, 15 March 2015 14:34:45 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 27 July 2014
    Clothing Clues for Women in Old Photos: Bloomers
    Posted by Maureen

    In 1849, a group that advocated reform dress for women advised them to wear "Turkish dress." That meant a billowy pant that ended below the knee, worn beneath a shorter dress.

    This illustration is from sheet music composed by William Dressler in 1851. He called his piece "The Bloomer Waltz." When Elizabeth Smith Miller wore the style to visit her temperance friend Amelia Bloomer, the press began referring to these "trousers" as bloomers. Women's rights reformers claimed they were healthier than the restrictive corsets and dress styles then in fashion. While a few women wore bloomers, including Civil War doctor Mary Walker, shown below, the trend never caught on with the general public.

    But by the 1890s, the bloomer was back.  It was a safety and modesty issue for women who wanted to ride bicycles.  As this illustration in an 1895 Puck magazine shows, both men and women wore them.

    By the turn of the century, women's colleges adapted the style for female athletics such as basketball teams like the one here from Smith College (found on Wikipedia). Bathing suits of the early 20th century also featured the bloomer look.

    Bloomers remained in fashion for women attending gym classes into the mid-20th century. Those forward-thinking women of the 1850s would be happy to know that they were trendsetters.

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

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

  • 1850s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | women
    Sunday, 27 July 2014 17:12:16 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 27 April 2014
    Sleeves Tell the Story
    Posted by Maureen

    Family history mixups happen all the time, especially with photo captions. Vicki Beegle wrote a name on this image awhile ago, but now she's not sure if it's a woman on her mother's side or her father's.  

    It's going to take a little time to sort this out.  In the mean time, I can tell her that there's one detail in this image that pinpoints the time frame when this woman lived: her sleeves.

    Holleman2 Viola Dickerson or bennett.jpg

    In the 1890s, women's sleeves dramatically changed. At the turn of the decade from the 1880s to the early 1890s, sleeves stood up straight from the shoulder in a sharp peak. In the mid-decade, large, oversize sleeves were fashionable. In the late 1890s, small puffs at the upper arm were common.   

    This woman's sleeve is the sharp peak of the early 1890s.

    Holleman3 Viola Dickerson or bennett.jpg

    It's a clue worth watching for. This small detail places this image in the 1889-1892 period.

    Another clue also confirms it's the 1890s: White cardstock mats were a popular choice in that decade.

    The big question is this woman's identity. She could be Viola Dickerson Holleman (b.1846) or Elizabeth Bennett (b.1841). Another photo of the same woman could confirm her identity.

    It's a worn photo with lots of scratches in the surface of the picture. To protect it from further wear and tear, I'd store in a non-PVC plastic sleeve, such as those available from archival suppliers and the Container Store.

    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

  • 1890s photos | women
    Sunday, 27 April 2014 17:28:20 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 31 March 2014
    Photo Success Story: Reverend George Miller
    Posted by Diane

    Last week I wrote about Yvette LaGonterie's mystery photo and the possible link to the Underground Railroad. The clues dated this photo to circa 1900.


    I wondered if the man's collar was actually a clue to his profession. Could that be a clerical collar?

    Rev Miller.jpg

    That one little question led to an identification. This family has a name!
    Yvette's ancestors Anna and Edward Powers lived in Brooklyn by the 1890s and were active in St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, when the pastor was the Rev. George Frazier Miller. During his time at the church (1896-1943), four generations of Yvette's family knew this man. The relationship extended from her great-great-grandparents to her mother. 

    Yvette found a photo of him on the University of Massachusetts website. It confirmed the identity. Rev. Miller was one of the founding members of the Niagara Movement, the predecessor of the NAACP. 

    He was a important person in the community and obviously someone the Powers knew quite well. That's why this family picture was in with their photos.

    Next week, I'll be back with more on Yvette's family and this photo.

    1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | african american
    Monday, 31 March 2014 15:23:19 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 23 February 2014
    Old Family Photos: Boys in Dresses
    Posted by Diane


    Anna Swinney's question doesn't have to do with the identity of the people in this picture. She knows who they are. She submitted it because of what the youngest child is wearing: a dress.


    Amanda Perryman Collins (1860-1930) and her husband Albert Buell Collins (1862-1942) posed with their three children (left to right): Arthur (1887-1908), Carlos (1891-1985) and Ray (1889-1984).  The absence of their fourth child helps date the picture to circa 1892.

    There are some interesting details in the picture.
    • Mom still wears a popular 1880s hairstyle of curly bangs with her hair pulled back and a wide lace collar. 
    • Notched edges cabinet cards were in style in the 1880s to circa 1900.

    • Dad wears his tie under his collar.

    In the 1890s, Highland-style suits were popular for boys. These consisted of a short jacket and a kilt.

    Since this family still retains remnants of the 1880s in this early 1890s photo, let's look at boys' clothing from that decade: The general rule for both boys' and girls' attire was long dresses until they could walk, then shorter dresses to allow movement. Boys wore skirts until about age 5. Often, boys skirts' were paired with short pants underneath.

    Toddler boys also wore skirts and dresses in the 1860s and 1870s. In the 1860s, there was a type of loose-fitting "French dress" that was worn loosely belted at the waist. 

    It's also not unusual to see boys with "love-locks," or long sausage curls in family photos. If you're having a hard time telling little boys form little girls, here's a rule of thumb: Boys wore their hair parted on the side, while girls sported center parts.

    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

  • 1890s photos | children
    Sunday, 23 February 2014 17:05:37 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 14 July 2013
    A Multi-Mystery Historical Baby Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Jim Moses recently found himself with a perplexing family photo mystery. When going through a trunk from his great-grandfather Luther Abner Moses (1860-1905) , he found an intriguing photo.


    It's a wonderful photo of a baby laughing. Everything in the trunk is related to Abner, but this photo is a puzzle. As far as Jim knows, there are no family links to this child.

    On the front it says "W. Bryan (4 months old) January 1893)."  The back is even more confusing.


    Along the top edge (to the right—I've turned the image on its side) is "E.R. Pitt."  And in different script, "Compliments of Frank to Earle. Taken by J. Pilbeam (?) with Gen. Miles."

    Underneath that is "Made in Arkansas May 18 (13), 1891." Also written on the card is "Red Cloud and Little Big Horn."

    So many mysteries:
    • Who is W.Bryan?
    • Why is E.R. Pitt written on the back?
    • Who are Pilbeam and Gen. Miles?
    • Who are Frank and Earle?
    • Where was this taken?
    • Why was it in the trunk? 
    • Was the photo taken in 1893 (as on the front of the card), 1891 (as on the back), or neither?

    A search of the 1900 US census on HeritageQuest for W. Bryan resulted in a William Bryan in Arkansas, who was 10 at the time. You can't always trust ages in the census. Could this be the boy depicted in the photo?  Or does the "Arkansas" notation on the back refer to something else?

    The "E.R Pitt" notation could refer to the Earle who received the card from Frank.

    There are no Pilbeams in Arkansas in the 1900 census, but it's not an uncommon name in Michigan, which is where Luther Abner (in whose trunk this photo was found) lived. 

    Gen. Nelson Appleton Miles, whose name appears on the back, served in the Civil War and in the Spanish-American War. He spent two decades fighting on the American frontier and he drove Sitting Bull into Canada after the Battle of Little Big Horn. The names Little Big Horn and Red Cloud appear on the card.

    Could these be notes for something else? I've seen the backs of cabinet card photos used as scratch paper filled with math problems or handwriting samples, but in this case, some of the information seems more significant. 

    It's a picture mystery with lots of different threads to follow. There's one other thing to consider: Our ancestors collected interesting images. Perhaps this was an image bought because it's unusual. In an age when most people posed with serious expressions, the image of a baby laughing was an anomaly.

    In the meantime, I'll keep digging. These multi-layered mysteries are frustrating but fascinating. 

    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

  • 1890s photos | african american | children | unusual photos
    Sunday, 14 July 2013 16:39:26 (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]
    # Sunday, 11 November 2012
    A Veterans Day Salute
    Posted by Maureen

    This weekend I attended the annual Daguerreian Society 24th annual symposium in Baltimore, Maryland. I love those early images. The shiny reflective surface makes the viewer a part of the image because you can see your reflection. There were approximately 56 vendor tables full of mostly unidentified images. These pictures meant something to their original families, but now they are appreciated for their picture quality. With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, one of the most sought-after type of picture were military images. 

    In honor of Veterans Day, here's a look back at some of the men (and women) in uniform featured in this blog.

    Spanish American War
    Deb Wilson's great aunt Mary L. Keeler served as a nurse during the Spanish American War. Her photo appeared as a Women's History Month tribute.

    Civil War

    There are thousands of photographs of soldiers who posed in uniform during the War Between the States.

    Here are some pointers for deciphering the Civil War photos in your collection. Look for uniform clues, research the photographers and study your family history documents.

    There were two blog posts of Civil War-era photos submitted by readers.  Part 2 looks at clues in a piece of photographic jewelry and in a veteran's badges.

    Overseas Veterans
    One of my favorite photo mysteries belongs to Justin Piccirilli. It depicts a member of his family in an Italian uniform.

    If you want to find more military-themed blog columns, use the keyword list to the left. Click "military" to scroll through all the appropriate columns. 

    Next week I'll tackle two multigenerational family photos.

    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

  • 1890s photos | Civil War | Military photos
    Sunday, 11 November 2012 15:46:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 29 October 2012
    Photo Manipulation Before Photo Shop
    Posted by Maureen

    Last weekend I was in New York City for The Genealogy Event. If I'm going to be in New York City, I always make time for a visit to the Metropolitan Museum. I can't resist their photo exhibits. This time I saw Faking It : Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop. It was fascinating!

    Spotting a manipulated photo in your family collection might be easy or difficult. It all depends on the technique. Here are some things to look for:
    • Handcoloring

    There were technical limitations with early photography. One of them was the lack of color. Customers wanted their images to look as realistic as possible so photographers developed ways to add color to their images.

    • Ghostly images in the background

    In the 1860s and early 1870s some photographers took double-exposure images and suggested that spirits were present.

    • The addition of a background

    It was possible to add a background into an image. If you see a person posed in front of an unlikely landscape then it's possible that this image is a composite of two different images.

    • A person added in

    Years ago I bought one of these at a photo sale. Look closely at the background. There is a woman the wrong proportion to the rest of the family. She's also wearing a dress from the early 1890s while everyone else is dressed in the styles of the late 1890s.



    You can see a line around her head that illustrates the place where the studio dropped her into the scene.

    • Multiple poses of the same person

    Here's an example.

    composite.jpg This image dates from circa 1910, but this technique was common before this date.

    This young woman has three poses of herself combined into one photo. 

    Next week I'll be back with a famous example based on two Civil War photos taken by the Brady studio. 

    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

  • 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Photo fun | unusual photos
    Monday, 29 October 2012 15:27:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 01 October 2012
    Photo Restoration of Which Man is It
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I discussed the details in Lois O'Malley's photo of a crayon portrait and asked if someone could try to digitally restore it.  I love the genealogy community!  A woman named Shirley volunteered to see if she could restore the picture. 

    Here's version three of the process. You can see the before and after in this photo. On the right is the damaged side of the picture and on the left is the restored side.
    left collar tieedit3  Simmons (2).jpg

    This poor photo is covered in mold and has visible water-damage and abrasive damage.  A project like this requires time and patience.

    Shirley and I have discussed the clothing details. In a photo as badly damaged as this one, it's easy to interpret certain details incorrectly. Shirley is being very careful.

    She asked whether or not this man's shirt has a collar. I replied that his shirt has a collar and that the tie is wrapped around the neck under it.

    There is a lot of shading around his mouth. It doesn't look like a mustache or does it? I think it's either shading or some sort of paper deterioration.  We'll know more as the restoration proceeds.

    A big thank you to Shirley for tackling this picture! 

    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

  • 1880s photos | 1890s photos | Drawings | men | preserving photos
    Monday, 01 October 2012 12:56:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # 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, 13 August 2012
    Props in Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Don't you just love it when family history artifacts pop up in family photos? This is exactly what happened for genealogist Dorothy Jackson Reed.

    In 2007, she became the owner of a Book of Worship with the name Mary K. Fricke embossed in gold on the cover. According to the title page, this book was published by the Lutheran Publication Society in Philadelphia. It has a copyright of 1870, but a section of the book was revised in 1888.

    Mary K Fricke (Katherine Marie) edit.jpg

    Four years later, Dorothy's sister Miriam gave her a photograph of Mary K. Fricke taken by the London Studios in Baltimore. In the picture, Mary appears to be holding the Book of Worship.

    Mary K Fricke (Katherine Marie)bible2.jpg

    Mary was born in 1878 and lived until 1953. Fashion clues date this image to the mid-1890s:
    • The style of the wicker chair. Most photo studios featured wicker furniture at the end of the century.
    • Her large puffy dress sleeves. In the 1890s, women's sleeves are quite distinctive. 
    • The color of the cardstock. White was a popular color in that decade.

    If this picture was taken circa 1895, Mary would've been 17. She's dressed like a girl with long braids and a skirt above the ankles.

    Could this be a confirmation photo? It's quite possible since personalized Bibles were usually given to commemorate religious events. 

    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

  • 1890s photos | props in photos
    Monday, 13 August 2012 15:57:45 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 21 May 2012
    NGS Photo Spotlight
    Posted by Maureen

    The owner of last week's photo, Larae Schraeder, sent me some additional information on her family. I love the connection between family history and photography! That's no surprise to all the readers of this space.


    Last week, I showed details giving evidence that this picture was taken by an itinerant photographer. One correction to that post. The photo was found in Schraeder's great-grandparents' collection of images. It depicts Caleb and Eliza C. (Jeffers) Coon/Kuhn.  

    If you're wondering about the alternate spelling of the Coon/Kuhn name, Caleb's Civil War pension file contains information on his formal name change.

    What's the most unusual detail you've found in a Civil War pension file?  Add it to the Comments section below. I discovered that my great-grandfather had red hair. No one in the family since has had red hair.


    Caleb was born in Washington County, Ohio, in 1846. He died in 1927 in Vernon, Mo. His wife, Eliza, was born in Gallia County, Ohio, in 1847, and she died in Vernon in 1929.  

    Caleb's family moved to Gallia County and their farm adjoined Eliza's family farm. Caleb didn't farm; he worked in coal mining.

    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

  • 1890s photos | Civil War | group photos
    Monday, 21 May 2012 13:52:46 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 14 May 2012
    What I Saw at the National Genealogical Society Conference
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you to everyone who stopped by my booth at the National Genealogical Society Conference last week! I looked at a lot of photos and many people promised to send in submissions for this column.

    Larae Schraeder showed me two photos. Here's one of them (I'm still working on the other):


    It's a portrait of the Jeffers Family of Missouri. There is so much to like about this picture.

    It was taken circa 1890, based on the women's peaked shoulder seams.


    This was the style for a few years from 1889 to 1892.

    The whole family dressed up for this group portrait, likely taken by an itinerant photographer. Look closely at these two details:
    • You can see the temporary wall set up and the edge of the backdrop.
    • In the second closeup, you can see that the backdrop stands on legs and the grass beneath the family's feet.

    The family took their excursion to the photographer very seriously by dressing up for the portrait and posing with solemn expressions.

    This photo from the Ralph M. and Nettie Finley Jeffers collection is a family history treasure.

    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

  • 1890s photos | group photos | hairstyles | unusual photos
    Monday, 14 May 2012 15:45:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 16 January 2012
    Scottish Photographers
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I discussed Winston Cochrane's family photo taken in Dumfries, Scotland.

    Late in the week he emailed me to say he had new information.

    The image of Mary Jane Rae was taken at a photo studio in the Jubilee Buildings at the Queen's Photo Co. According to Richard Torrance's Scottish Studio Photographers to 1914 (Scottish Record Societies, 2011), Thomas A. Moryson operated the Queen's Photo Co. in the Jubilee Buildings from 1893 to 1900.  The building opened in 1887. 

    Now Winston thinks the photo was taken to commemorate an engagement. Mary married on Aug. 7, 1894.

    The clothing clues are the epitome of the late 1880s. Clothing from the early 1890s usually features fuller upper sleeves, so I have questions regarding this image being taken in the early 1890s.

    Not everyone kept up with the current fashion. When I look in my own closet, I see clothing I wore several seasons ago. Perhaps Mary didn't have the means to buy a new dress or this one was her favorite.

    I'm not sure of the source used to establish the work dates for Thomas Moryson. He bought his photo business from a James Rae, who might be a relative of Mary Jane's. It's possible that Rae also called his business the Queen's Photo Co. and that Moryson bought the name and the equipment.

    This photo remains a little bit of a mystery.

    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

  • 1880s photos | 1890s photos | women
    Monday, 16 January 2012 16:36:09 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 17 October 2011
    1890s Fashion in Color
    Posted by Diane

    It's so easy to look at a vintage photograph and image that our ancestors dressed in drab colors. If you're as curious as I am about fabrics and colors then watch my new video on hand-colored images.


    These two women wear cotton dresses from the circa-1890 period. Their sleeves and hairstyles pinpoint the period. Frizzed bangs were popular in the 1880s.

    Notice the full upper sleeve on the dress of the woman on the right. This style of leg-of-mutton sleeve (a full sleeve that is gathered to be sewn into the armhole) was quite popular in the last years of the 1880s and the early 1890s. The shape and size of this type of sleeve varied throughout the decade.  

    Here's a colorful look at an 1892 fashion plate from the French fashion magazine, Journal Des Demoiselles. I don't have a description of the dresses, but you can see what they looked like in full color. In this time frame, little girls dressed like their mothers.


    I have one last fashion plate to show you. This one is from the February 1890 Godey's Lady's Book, an American women's magazine. Each issue of the magazine featured a series of fashion plates and a description of them. I have a description of both the fabric and the fur used  in these outfits. 


    On the left: Cloak of green and black cloth, trimmed with a band of black monkey fur. Her hat is known as a toque and it's made of velvet trimmed with "jet ornament." Jet was a black stone quite popular in the late 19th century.

    On the right: "Carriage cloak of dark maroon plush and crushed strawberry embroidered satin." An unspecified fur trims the coat but the description goes on to say that the front is made from satin and is tight-fitting. On her head is a velvet hat trimmed with feathers.

    I'd love to see a photograph of a woman wearing one of these outfits. It would be interesting to compare the plate and the photo.

    As you can see from these plates, our ancestors wore bright bold colors or subtle shades depending on what was fashionable. 

    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

  • 1890s photos | women
    Monday, 17 October 2011 13:50:37 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 10 October 2011
    Mother and Daughters
    Posted by Diane

    Family photographs are endlessly fascinating. There is the life story of the individuals in a picture and then there is the story of the person who took the image. I've looked a thousands of photographs over the years so I can spot a talented studio photographer just by looking at their pictures.

    The unidentified studio photographer that took this picture knew what he/she was doing. It's beautiful.  Each person in the image is posed so that she stands out. The girl on the left looks off to the side with a tilted head. The girl on the right looks slightly off to the right while the woman in the center looks directly into the lens. This type of pose, an older woman flanked by two younger women, generally suggests that the woman in the center is older and the mother (or an older sibling). This whole identification mystery hinges on who's in the middle.

    Tom Keith knows that his great-grandmother Josetta (b. 1879) is the woman on the right, but he's not sure of the identity of the other women. Josetta had two sisters, Emma (b. 1862) and Carrie (b. 1880). Their mother Susan was born in 1844. So who's in the picture?

    Emma died in childbirth in 1893. If she's in the picture then the image is from the early 1890s, but if that's the case, then Josetta is only 13 here and Carrie, 12.

    Two clues in this picture pinpoint the time frame. Notice the topknot on Josetta's head? This particular style of hair was commonplace in the mid to late 1890s. Josetta and the woman in the center wear wide-collared dresses with large sleeves. This style first becomes stylish circa 1893. The sister on the left dresses like a schoolgirl with a big bow in her hair and a tailored jacket and shirt.

    I don't believe this portrait was taken prior to Emma's death, because both young women look older than their early teens, plus the fashion clues don't add up.

    If this picture was taken circa 1895, then Josetta would be 16, Carrie, 15, and their mother Susan would be 51. Do you think the woman in the center is old enough to be about 50 years of age?

    I'm looking for more evidence.  Do you want to add your opinion?  Please add your comment below.

    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

  • 1890s photos | hairstyles | women
    Monday, 10 October 2011 20:19:45 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [13]
    # Monday, 26 September 2011
    What is Crowdsourcing?
    Posted by Maureen

    Crowdsourcing has been in the news lately relating to photo identification. According to Wikipedia, the term refers to the outsourcing of tasks to a community. 

    The Library of Congress (LOC) is using the historical, photographic and genealogical community to help identify their photo mysteries. In its Flickr collection is a set called "Mystery Photos Solved." On Dec. 24, 2009, the LOC posted this set and asked for help identifying the images. 

    Within days, they had the answers. Each identification was confirmed through the use of other images and maps. It's a fantastic use of the web-based community.


    Here's one of them. It's a staircase in a Paris Opera House taken between 1890-1900. You'll notice that the image is color and looks like a photograph. In actuality, it's an "ink-based photolithograph."  

    You can view the entire LOC collection of these lovely images on Flickr. You'll be able to travel without leaving your computer screen. <smile>

    The LOC is also using crowdsourcing to try to identify the faces in their Civil War collection.

    This technique is being used to predict weather, identify new planets and save old languages. The techie community is calling this trend outdated, but I love the way folks work together to solve these picture riddles.

    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

  • 1890s photos | unusual photos
    Monday, 26 September 2011 21:14:17 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 06 June 2011
    Contest Winner Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    contest winneredit.jpg

    This is quite the photo problem. Contest winner Juliann Hansen and her family have tried for years to figure out the details in this photo.

    This week I'm going to outline what we know.
    • It was found covered in dust at the Cincinnati Butchers' Supply Co. (CBS) at Elmwood Place in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hansen's great grandfather, Carl/Charles G. Schmidt (1851-1930) established the company in 1886. CBS moved to Elmwood Place in the 1940s. It was a new building, so the image didn't belong to the previous owners of the structure.
    • There were generations of both family- and company-related material stored at the site.
    • Hansen's cousin contacted the Cincinnati Historical Society for help deciphering the picture clues.
    • Last week I mentioned that the card stock dated from the late 1890s to early 20th century, circa 1900.
    • I asked Hansen if anyone in her family was once a member of a fraternal organization. She told me that her father and uncle were Masons, but didn't know about her grandfather or his father.
    The big question is why is a group of late-19th-century men posing bare-chested and in some cases dressed only in loin cloth? 

    An article in Queen City Heritage, a now-defunct publication of the Cincinnati Historical Society, by Susan Labry Meyn, " Mutual Infatuation: Rosebud Sioux and Cincinnatians," (Queen City Heritage, Spring/Summer 1994 issue, 30-48, available online through the Cincinnati Historical Society) sheds some light on the matter.
    • In 1895, the Cincinnati Zoo brought a Cree village to the area complete with actual members of the tribe. They also had a section of the zoo devoted to Arabian, Kurdish, Egyptian  and Armenian families. These living displays were very popular. 
    • Buffalo Bill's frontier show visited Cincinnati in the Spring of 1895.
    • In the summer of 1896, the Cincinnati Zoological Society transported 89 Sicangu Sioux for a display and had them offer western reenactments of famous battles and stagecoach attacks. 
    • Also the summer of 1896, Mayor Gordon Lilly, known as "Pawnee Bill," planned a frontier show with a program called "Cincinnati One Hundred Years Ago" that competed with the Zoo's "Historical Cincinnati" show. 
    cincinnati close-up.jpg

    Look at this close-up of the photo. The men have painted their faces. You can see some light-colored lids in the crowd.  Some of their accessories look like the duplicates you could purchase in dime stores at the time.

    Perhaps this group is just one of the performances held in Cincinnati in the late 1890s.  Photos of the Cree village and the Sioux display are available in Meyn's article, but these men aren't wearing the same tribal clothing.

    It's also possible that this is just a group of Cincinnati men dressed in imitation of the "Indian" craze that swept through the area.

    The final answer has yet to be determined.

    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

  • 1890s photos | group photos | men | unusual photos
    Monday, 06 June 2011 14:48:41 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Friday, 13 May 2011
    Aging Well
    Posted by Diane

    Dating a photograph of an older person presents a unique dilemma: Is the subject wearing contemporary fashion, or an older style that he or she was hanging on to?

    On, Photo Detective Maureen A. Taylor addresses this question as she analyzes these two photos that might show the same woman at different ages.

    Click here to see what clues Taylor finds.

    Got a photo mystery of your own? Enter it into our Photo Mysteries Contest.

    And remember to sign up for the free Photo Detective Live! webinar taking place May 18. 

    1890s photos | 1910s photos | group photos | men | women
    Friday, 13 May 2011 17:01:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # 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, 07 February 2011
    Baby Picture Week
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, Genealogy Insider blogger Diane Haddad, gave birth to a beautiful baby. In honor of this, I'm featuring your ancestral baby photos. Thank you for all the submissions.

    estelle baby2.jpg
    Kim Dolce sent in this picture of her grandmother Estelle Miller Moore, who was born May 12, 1911, in Riverside, N.J. Estelle looks like she's about to topple over. 

    Ben  Adolph babies2.jpg
    Linday Bly Holub emailed me this charming picture of her grandfather Benjamin Bly (on the left), born November 1890, in Moberly, Mo., and his baby brother Adolph Bly, born January 1893, in the same town.

    Carol Norwood submitted several photos of three generations of baby pictures. Here are two.
    This is her maternal grandmother, Agnes Catherine Caroline Simon, born in 1896 in Erlangen, Germany. Don't you love her bare feet!


    This is Carol's maternal grandfather, Helmuth Dromer, born in Potsdam, Germany in 1900. Small children of both sexes wore dresses. Carol actually owns pictures of his two older sisters, who as toddlers also posed in this dress sitting in this basket.

    I've seen many different techniques and devices to photograph babies and small children, but one has to wonder about this basket. Cute, but if you look closely you'll notice the basket is on a pedestal. One false move the this tot is on the floor. 

    1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | children
    Monday, 07 February 2011 14:50:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 10 January 2011
    Time Flies
    Posted by Maureen

    I couldn't help but use this as the title. It sums up the clues in this week's picture. 

    Nance Family Pictureedit.jpg

    Look carefully. The man in the photo holds an open pocket watch in his right hand and has a rooster on his lap. It appears he's trying to convey something about time. It's a triple-mystery.

    Sarah Swanner and her mother spent some time over the holidays scanning pictures and stumbled across this mystery image. They have no idea who the man is, where his picture was taken, or what the story is.

    (An aside on scanning, I recommend setting the resolution at 600 dpi and saving as a tiff, but a 300-dpi tiff file will provide a good quality reproduction. More on scanning next week.)

    All Sarah and her mother know is that this image once belonged Walter Nance, who was married to Sarah's great-grand-aunt Evelyn Dantzler. That's a start!

    The white card style was extremely popular in the last years of the 1880s and throughout the 1890s. There is room at beneath the image for the photographer to include his studio name, but instead of personalizing the cards, he left it blank. It's an odd photo for a studio or an itinerant photographer.

    There were folks who owned their own photo equipment, so I wonder if this isn't an amateur picture—one friend clowning for the other who's taking the picture. 

    The rocks in the background are covered in lichen and there is a type of plant growing on the left. Any geologists out there?  Please weigh in on the type of rock. That might help solve the mystery of where this was taken.

    I think the image was taken circa 1890. That's based on the type of suit he's wearing and the pin in his tie. Those types of pins were very popular in the late 1880s and early 1890s. Plus men tied their neckties with this particular style knot during that period.

    The pin is interesting. Is it just a decorative pin or is it a clue that this man belonged to a fraternal organization?  I'll be looking for something in this shape. Hope to be able to report back next week.  I think it's a fraternal symbol and have some ideas. 

    The next step is for Sarah to figure out which relatives and family friends were living in the 1890s period. It's important to remember that this man could be a friend rather than a relative. 

    You can preserve your family's photo stories and share them with future generations in the book Family Tree Legacies: Preserving Memories Throughout Time.

    1890s photos | men | unusual photos
    Monday, 10 January 2011 21:14:04 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 03 January 2011
    First Communion Mystery
    Posted by Diane

    I can tell that a lot of folks looked at their family photographs last week by the number of emails I received. Scannning, identifying and organizing your photos is a great way to start the new year. Remember to scan at no less than 600 dpi and select Tiff as the format. You can always re-size for various uses.

    Let's ease into the year by discussing a photo with religious overtones.


    Beth Hartley submitted this tintype photo with a question: "Is this my great-grandmother or her mother?" Beth's grandmother told her that she thought it depicted one of these two women with a younger brother, but she wasn't sure about the generation.

    When you think you know who's in the photo, start with family history. In this case, Beth's great-grandmother Ellen McHugh was born in 1885, while Ellen's mother, Bridget Murphy McHugh, was born in 1855.

    Photographic formats often help narrow down the time frame. A tintype is a photograph on a thin sheet of iron; they were popular by the late 1850s. The rounded corners on this image strongly suggest that it once occupied a frame.

    Costume provides clues about the occasion. The girl's white dress and veil clearly indicate it's her First Communion. She's even holding a tiny prayer book. It's traditional in Catholic churches to dress girls in white dresses and veils for this event. First Communion dress styles mimic bridal fashions. The details in the white dress are unclear, but the veil suggests a date circa 1890. In this period, bridal veils hung from a small gathering of fabric or flowers on the top of the head. This information definitely rules out Bridget McHugh.

    The average age for a First Communion is around 7. So if this photo depicts Ellen, then it was taken in the early 1890s. Ellen had an older brother born in 1883 and a younger brother born in 1887. The youngster standing next to her would be 5-year-old William. 

    There are always unanswered questions about photos. In this case, I'd love to know why Ellen's older brother John isn't included in this studio shot.

    For more help analyzing old family photos, use Taylor's guide Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs (now on sale at
    1890s photos | children
    Monday, 03 January 2011 14:49:59 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, 06 December 2010
    Shipboard Clues, Part 3
    Posted by Maureen

    This week is another installment of Jake Jacoby's photo of a group in his collection. Two weeks ago in Photo Mysteries, A Clue at a Time, I discussed clothing clues.  Last week in Shipboard Clues, I told you what I knew about the caption and the ship.

    Photo mysteries take time to solve. I feel like I'm getting closer. After another conversation with Jake, we came to the conclusion that his grandfather might not be greeting a group of immigrants. It could be another occasion.

    I've spent a lot of time calling folks knowledgeable about local history in both Mobile, Ala. and Pensacola, Fla., to learn more about the ship. I'm waiting for news.

    Two readers of this column wrote to me:

    Genealogist Drew Smith also used the search terms german ship baltimore and found a mention of a German ship named the Baltimore that sank at sea Jan. 24, 1897, en route from London to New York. Thank you, Drew!  I followed this lead and discovered a couple of news stories about it. One was in the New York Times and the other is available through the Kentuckiana Digital Library's database of the Daily Evening Bulletin (Maysville, Ky.). 

    That Baltimore was commanded by a Capt. Hillman, but as far as I know, it didn't carry passengers. It sank with its cargo of chalk aboard. I'm excited to find a captain with that surname. Perhaps he also commanded a different ship at some time prior to the sinking. Hillman could be the name in the partially missing caption in Jake's picture.

    Rachel Peirce's great-grandfather was a ship's captain, and she still has his books. There was a ship Baltimore listed in List of the Merchant Vessels in the United States, 1896 (p. 217). It appears to have been in Mobile, Ala.

    I'm also researching packet steam boats that might have operated between Mobile and Pensacola. Quite a few of these boats used Mobile as a port.

    I'll end this week with another picture of Jake's grandfather:

    GrandpaJacoby copy.jpg

    This was a New Year's Eve affair at the Progress Club in Pensacola. The image was taken in 1894. From  left to right are Charles Levy (seated), Lep Hirshman (standing), Joe Jacoby (seated with cane), Nathan Forcheimer (standing) and Ike Hirshman (seated).

    Share your family photo stories with future generations in the book Family Tree Legacies: Preserving Memories Throughout Time. Given with printed photos or a family photo CD, it'll be a treasured holiday gift.

    1890s photos | group photos | Immigrant Photos | unusual photos
    Monday, 06 December 2010 16:43:37 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 22 November 2010
    A Photo Mystery, A Clue at a Time
    Posted by Maureen

    Complex image identification often requires examining each piece of a photo story—historical context, family history, and costume history along with a bit of common sense.

    Jake Jacoby owns this wonderful image of a group of people onboard a ship. There is a caption, but I'll share that next week. I'm still working on it.

    Joseph Jacoby3.jpg

    Jake knows that his grandfather, Joseph M. Jacoby is seated on the far right in the front.

    Joseph Jacobyedit.jpg

    What's he doing on a ship? Jake thinks he's welcoming a group of Jewish immigrants from Germany. 

    I can date the photograph by the hats and other costume clues. The width of this woman's sleeve and the birds and feathers in the women's hats suggest that it was taken about 1896 to 1899.

    Joseph Jacobyhat.jpg

    This is the woman standing directly behind Joseph Jacoby.

    Joseph's life is well-documented. He was born in Mobile, Ala. in 1865, and in the 1885 Pensacola, Fla., city directory, he's working as a clerk at P. Stone. During the period of this photograph, Joseph still lived in Pensacola. He married Esther Myerson on Jan. 4, 1896.

    Despite living in Florida, Joseph maintained his ties with family and friends in Mobile. He actually attended temple there. Approximately 60 miles separate the two cities. Jake knows his grandfather traveled between Mobile and Pensacola via wagon.

    The big question regarding this photo is, where was it taken? Next week, I'll be back with some information on the caption and some tips for researching late-19th century passenger lists.

    I'm planning a special column for the end of the year. Please send in your photos of family celebrating the holidays in the past.  You can email them to me. 

    Happy Thanksgiving!!

    1890s photos | group photos | hats | Immigrant Photos | unusual photos
    Monday, 22 November 2010 17:31:19 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 08 November 2010
    Family Across the Border
    Posted by Maureen

    Like so many French-Canadians and Acadians, some of Marie-Josee Binette's family left Quebec in the 1890s to seek jobs in the United States. She owns a lovely photo album that documents this move in pictures, but she has no idea who the people are.

    Marie-Josee knows that her great-grandmother Elina (Aline) Beaudoin spent several years in Lowell, Mass. with her husband Onesime Deblois. Both worked in area factories. After several years, some relatives stayed in the United States while others returned to Quebec. It's a familiar story to those of us with French-Canadian ancestry.

    From the imprint on this photo, it also appears that someone either lived in or visited the nearby city of Lawrence, Mass. Its nickname is the Immigrant City.


    In the album is this beautiful image of a young couple. The style of her sleeves and dress date the photo to the last years of the 1890s. The photographer, Amos Morrill Bean, appears in Chris Steele and Ron Polito's A Directory of Massachusetts Photographers 1839-1900 (Picton Press, 1993). He was in business from 1868-1900.

    It's a great picture and I've seen poses like this before. While the couple's hands aren't touching, it suggestive of a wedding picture. Both the man and the woman wear very nice clothing. On their hands are brand new rings. The light glints off them. The woman wears her ring on the traditional left hand while her "husband" wears his on the right.  It's interesting.


    My favorite part of this picture is the props. Both the man and the woman hold photographs on the table between them. Could this symbolize family that couldn't be there for the wedding? It's possible. There are any number of reasons to include photographs as props.

    Marie-Josee might find she still has cousins living in this country. Two organizations worth contacting are the American Canadian Genealogical Society and the American-French Genealogical Society. Both organizations have extensive resources on families that moved here, as well as those in Quebec.

    Got a mystery photo? Demystify it with help from Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.

    1890s photos | Immigrant Photos | men | wedding | women
    Monday, 08 November 2010 16:44:17 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 30 August 2010
    Hand-Me-Down Family
    Posted by Maureen

    Years ago, Truli Powell's mother received a box of photos from one of her husband's cousins. Now Truli is trying to date and identify the images. She's hoping that the cousin only gave them images from their specific line.

    Powell Unknown 1 (2).JPG

    In this "like mother, like daughter" tintype, the mother and the woman in the back (I'm assuming grandmother) wear nearly identical dress designs and hats. This 1890s scene depicts three generations on an outing. I love the park bench as a prop.

    Powell Unknown 2.JPG

    In the second tintype Truli sent, a young man in a suit and coat poses with a painted backdrop that features a house and a wall. The "rock" in the foreground is supposed to create the illusion that he's actually standing outdoors. Since backdrops usually reflect the area where someone lived, I wonder where this was taken.

    Truli wants to know if this could be her great-great-grandfather Peter Floyd Powell (1832-1922). Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to the case. This photo depicts a young man probably in his early 20s. From the neatly greased hair to the polished shoes, this is a young man who's dressed very nicely for the late 1880s.

    She sent another picture and I have to include it. Last week I focused on backdrops.
    Powell Unknown 8 (2).jpg
    Here, two young girls posed behind a backdrop with cutouts for their heads. Their hats and the car date the picture to the early 1910s.  One of the girls would be the right age to be the young girl on the bench in the first photo.

    It's too bad that Truli's father's cousin didn't label the photos in some way, but hopefully the information in this column will help her put names with the faces.

    Need help with your own mystery photos? Look for Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.

    1890s photos | 1910s photos | photo backgrounds | Tintypes | Vehicles in photos
    Monday, 30 August 2010 16:07:19 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 02 August 2010
    Your Mourning Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    Two weeks ago I wrote about mourning traditions and clothing and asked for e pictures of women wearing mourning clothes. This week, I'm featuring the two I received as well as one from my work collection of images.

    davison headstone2 (3).jpg

    Toni Mann sent in this very interesting photo.  It's a 20th century snapshot. It blurs when I enlarge it, but I think the women in the far background are wearing clothing from the early 1900s. The woman to the left of the headstone wears late 1890s mourning clothes. Perhaps her husband is buried there. Toni thinks it was taken in the Chicago area. Anyone recognize the headstone? 

    edit1907 Hulse family reunion Greenville TX (2).jpg

    Charman Davis emailed this photo of the Hulse Family August 1907 reunion. The woman on the left lost her husband the previous month.  Everyone wears light-colored summer clothes except for the widow.


    I bought this photo several years ago. It dates from the late 1890s and depicts a woman in mourning standing by a burial. It's a new grave, based on the fresh flowers piled on it. It's intriguing that a widow would hire a photographer to take her picture in this setting.

    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.

    1890s photos | 1930s photos | mourning photos
    Monday, 02 August 2010 16:25:55 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, 22 March 2010
    A Women's History Month Salute: Spanish American War Style
    Posted by Maureen

    Surrounded by recuperating soldiers and orderlies is Deb Wilson's great-aunt Mary L. Keeler, also known as Molly.  She served as nurse during the Spanish American War (1898-99) at Fort Monroe, Va., as well as in Cuba and Puerto Rico. 

    Deb knows this is her aunt, but the names of all the soldiers and other staff are unknown, as is the identity of the photographer.

    Spanish American War (2).jpg

    Molly appears to be the only woman in the image. On the left is a small table with an American flag, a vase of flowers and other small items.

    I never really know where some of these picture stories are going to take me. Now that I've started researching this image, I wonder about the purpose behind it. An article on "Women Nurses in the Spanish-American War" in Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military by Mercedes H. Graf (article date March 22, 2001, available on revealed that female nurses were a controversial topic during the war. Molly's decision to use her nursing skills was a ground-breaking one.

    Traditionally, since the end of the Civil War, men had done the nursing in the military. However, during the Spanish American War, Surgeon General George M. Stemberg knew that women nurses would be needed to help care for injured troops and those ill from yellow fever, malaria and typhoid. According to the article, shortly after the start of the war, the military added 100 women nurses. Was Molly one of those women? Or could she have been among the 32 nurses who'd already had yellow fever and were sent to Cuba to help with the epidemic? There's a bigger story in this photo than just the names of the men. This picture makes me want to know more about Molly and her service.

    From the article, I learned that in 1898 the average nurse earned $30 a month plus a daily ration. By 1899, nursing applicants had to sign a one- year contract, and they received $40 a month for stateside service and an extra $10 per month for service outside the United States. Between April 25, 1898, and July 1, 1899, only 1,563 nurses served the more than 250,000 troops.

    Tent hospitals such as the ward depicted here were commonplace. On the Nebraska GenWeb site is a list of Spanish American War Camps compiled by Fred Greguras.

    Discovering the names of the men in the picture is a tough challenge. Spread the word about this picture, and let's try to put names to their faces. Finding out more about Molly's military service may provide a few leads.

    Does an image in your family photos depict an important piece of American history?  Take a closer look and find the Molly in your family.

    1890s photos | Military photos | women
    Monday, 22 March 2010 17:25:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, 08 February 2010
    The Search for Annie Moore
    Posted by Maureen

    If you don't know who Annie Moore is, you haven't been following Megan Smolenyak's research on her.  For several years, Megan has been intrigued by her. Annie Moore was the first person to step foot on Ellis Island when it opened Jan. 1, 1892—a pretty significant first. There wasn't much known about her until Megan started digging. 

    You know how research can lead to one thing and another? Well, that's what happened with Annie. Before long, Megan found two of Annie's relatives with images purported to show this mysterious woman. They claimed they had seen a photo of her at Ellis Island.

    It's a long story. I've featured the research done so far on both Annie and the pictures on my own blog last week. Megan and I have been trying to verify the identity of the image of three children and figure out where it was taken.

    There are folks on both sides of this photo problem. Megan and I have to do more research, and we'd love to see the original picture.

    Rather than link to all the research in this column, you can view the image and click through the links provided in my blog. It's a complicated piece of photo research.

    Comments are graciously accepted! 

    1890s photos | children | Immigrant Photos | photo-research tips
    Monday, 08 February 2010 19:01:23 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 02 November 2009
    Family Stories: A Photo at a Time
    Posted by Maureen

    Sharon Pike wrote to me with a question about the clothing on the children in this photo, "Do you think the photographer brought clothing as props for the children?" 

    It's a really common query. In her e-mail, along with her question, was the story of this family. Since I believe every photo tells a story. I couldn't resist sharing this lovely bit of family history.


    Thomas "Tom" Schuler and his wife Matilda "Tilly" Mueller (Miller) sit on the stoop of their Louisville, Ky., house with their first four children. The two children flanking the parents are Leo Thomas Schuler on the left and his twin sister Verena Marie Schuler on the far right. The little boy on Dad's lap is Edward Joseph Schuler, and the baby is Louise Matilda Schuler. The presence of Louise dates the picture to the summer of 1899; she was born May 19 of that year. 

    To answer Sharon's question, I don't think the photographer brought their clothes with him. Photographers often carried props and some accessories, but not a wagon full of clothes.

    The kids and their parents are dressed in typical fashion for the turn of the century. Leo's wide-collared shirt and tie were worn by boys across the United States. None of the children is dressed for play; they're all wearing clothes for a special occasion—the family photo. Dad's the informal one: In this time frame, men wore coats in all types of weather, so it's a bit unusual that he's not wearing a jacket for this formal portrait. It was probably taken on a really hot summer day.

    Each photo also tells the "backstory" of the folks depicted. A picture becomes a symbol to remember these family members. According to Sharon, Tom Schuler was born in Switzerland and immigrated with his family in 1870. As a young man, Tom and all the men in the family went back to Switzerland for a visit. It was a timely event. On the return trip to the United States, a young woman named Tilly Mueller was also en route to America with a work contract for a job as a maid. 

    This shipboard romance has a happy ending. Sharon told me that Tom went to the house where Tilly worked and helped her climb out the window so they could elope. They eventually had seven children.

    Telling the story of a picture and a family requires digging for names and dates, but family history and oral tradition fit together with the visual elements of a picture to tell the tale. Next week I'll be back with some tips on how to write your own photo story.

    Thank you, Sharon, for sharing!

    1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | children | group photos
    Monday, 02 November 2009 16:06:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # 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, 30 March 2009
    Picture Origins: Overseas or in America?
    Posted by Maureen

    In response to last week's column on tinted pictures, Barbara Stone sent in this oversize hand colored photo of a young woman.


    It's on canvas and framed in a gorgeous gold setting. According to Stone is was found in a collection of pictures of her father's Irish relatives who lived in Ansonia, Conn. The problem is: Where was it taken and who is it?

    I own a similar type image of my great-grandfather. His picture and the one owned by Stone are charcoal-enhanced photographs. Each is likely based on a much smaller original photograph.

    In the late 19th century, photographers advertised that they could produce this enhanced enlargements. The wide upper sleeves on her dress, the design of the bodice and her hairstyle all provide a time frame for the image of the late 1890s. Stone wrote that it might depict Jane (Lomasney) Coppinger from Kilworth, County Cork, and wondered if it was made it the United States or in Ireland.

    Figuring out if this is Jane is a matter of finding out her birth date to see if she's a young woman in the late 1890s. If that's the case, verifying her immigration year could identify the place of origin for this picture. It's a case of adding up the facts. Do the details of her life (i.e. her age) and immigration information support Stone's hypothesis? I'll let you know if I find out.

    BTW, there is a new Web site for English photo reunions. You can watch my YouTube video about it. If one of your ancestors lived in Hull, England, you'll definitely want to take the Hull Challenge.

    1890s photos | enhanced images | women
    Monday, 30 March 2009 14:15:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 29 March 2009
    Picture Origins: Overseas or in America
    Posted by Maureen

    In response to last week's column on tinted pictures, Barbara Stone sent in this oversize hand colored photo of a young woman.  It's on canvas and framed in a gorgeous gold setting.  According to Stone is was found in a collection of pictures of her father's Irish relatives who lived in Ansonia, Connecticut. The problem is: Where was it taken and who is it?

    # 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, 26 January 2009
    Pets in Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    For weeks the media have been focused on which breed of dog our new First Family would pick for their family pet. Turns out only two presidents have never had pets in the White House. 

    You can read all about famous presidential pets in this article on the Mental Floss blog, from Calvin Coolidge's pygmy hippo (no joke!) to Franklin Roosevelt's adorable terrier named Fala.

    I'm bringing this series of pet photos to an end with these final three pictures. The two previous installments can be viewed on this blog: An Album of Ancestor's Pets and Pet Photos: Our Ancestor's Loved Their Dogs Too.

    Carol Norwood sent in one of her favorite family pictures. It was taken in Gottingen, Germany in 1892 and shows the Agricola family. Agnes Agricola and Hermann Simon (Carol's great-grandparents) are seated in the center of the front row.

    pet1892Agricolas01 (2).jpg

    Claudia submitted a picture of her mother tending geese. She told me that her mother always said they would chase and bite her. She estimates this picture was taken circa 1933-1935.

    petpicturesbyclaudia 301.jpg

    One other reader sent an image for posting here. It depicts her grandfather's older sister Margaretha Petersen, known to the family as Maggie, with their pet dog. The dog's name wasn't recorded. Maggie was born in 1888.  According to the submission, Maggie was the family "pet" herself, the only daughter until her sister was born in 1899.

    The red discoloration is due to dye transferring from a paper sleeve to the image.


    Anyone have a clue about the breed of this last dog?

    Thank you for sharing all these pictures.

    1890s photos | 1930s photos | children | men | Pets
    Monday, 26 January 2009 19:07:59 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  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, 01 April 2008
    Internet Tag: Happy Baby Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    I love the blogosphere! 

    This week the sharp-eyed Kathryn M. Doyle of the California Genealogical Society sent me a posting she spotted on the Genealogue blog about a baby photo. Chris (the Genealogue) threw out a comment that he'd love to see what I'd say about this smiling, barely dressed tyke.

    The photo shows a toddler in a droopy diaper. I can't copy the photo here, but you can see the original posting on the Swapatorium: A Journey Through Junkland blog. It's an odd picture. The child's stocking are dark; and the diaper, light-colored. He's probably around 2 years old.

    But it's not his lack of attire that grabs the viewer. This kid's an optimist. His diaper is falling down and he's got to be uncomfortable, but he's happy. It's great to see a 19th-century picture of someone with a full grin—doesn't happen very often.

    The wicker chair and animal-fur rug date the picture to as early as the 1890s. Anyone want to help me out by researching the photographer, Bigelow of St. Joseph, Mo.? 

    Why pose him just in a diaper?  There are two reasons: First, the mother is showing off her healthy kid. Second, believe it or not, it was the style in the late-19th century to pose in your undies. I've got one I'll share sometime, a middle-age woman in a chemise.

    Send me pictures of your smiling ancestors and I'll post them in my new SmugMug album. It's fun to see what's in other people's photo collections. SmugMug's security settings let me watermark your images and prevent right-click copying.

    1890s photos | children
    Tuesday, 01 April 2008 21:10:09 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Monday, 28 January 2008
    Oklahoma Family Problems
    Posted by Maureen

    Debbie Deaton sent me a photo hoping I could confirm the identity of this family. She thinks this portrait depicts the Deaton family: Franklin Deaton, his wife, Mahalia Mae Archer Deaton, and their children. Standing next to Mahalia is her son and Franklin’s step-son, Harley. The other boy is Arthur Lee Deaton, Debbie’s husband’s grandfather. The girl is supposedly Zelda.

    The clothing in this picture is the first thing I looked at, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The full sleeves on the women’s dresses suggest a time frame of the mid 1890s. That’s the easy part. I know I’ve said it before, but costume is only one clue. In this picture’s case, the family history and genealogy can solve the mystery. 

    Debbie knows little about the individuals in this picture. They lived in Oklahoma, and Mahalia was supposedly a full-blood Cherokee Indian. Franklin worked as a Sheriff. He died delivering a tax bill; as he got to the door, the man shot Franklin dead.

    I searched GenealogyBank for newspaper stories relating to Franklin, but didn’t have any luck. Then I tried the Oklahoma Historical Society Web site, where you can search citations for Oklahoma newspaper articles. Unfortunately, Franklin didn’t appear in the index.

    I decided to search the Federal Census using HeritageQuest Online (I have access with my Boston Public Library card—see if your public library system provides access to HeritageQuest). I didn’t find Franklin, but there was a 1900 census record for Mahalia (below). 

    She’s living with an Archer family. Her relationship to the head of the household is "step daughter;" Mahalia's children are "step grandchildren."  Both Arthur and Zildy (Zelda) appear, but no Harley. The census states Mahala’s race as "Ind." and she reported having given birth to three children. 

    That led me to some possibilities:

    • If this picture shows Arthur (b. August 1894) and Zildy (b. January 1900), it certainly wasn’t taken in the mid- 1890s.  The children are too old and their ages reversed. The girl in this photo is older thn both boys. I’d estimate she's around 10 years old. The boy on the right is 7 or 8 and the other is even younger.
    • Where’s Harley in the census? He may have died. This is a key piece of information that requires additional research. Perhaps the photo shows Mahala and two boys from a third marriage, though I think this is the least likely scenario.
    • Instead of depicting Mahala and her husband, could this image feature the Archer family from the census: Earl, his wife, their daughter and two youngest sons?   

    There are a lot of unanswered questions about the Deaton family and this picture, but it’s a solvable problem. I’d continue to look for a death notice or news story about Franklin’s death, which appears to have occurred about 1900. I also suggest Debbie look at her family tree for other families with children the right ages for this image. Other research that can help includes the Dawes Rolls of Five Civilized Tribe enrollments.  

    I have to admit all the questions around this picture make my head hurt. If you have a suggestion for these Oklahoma research woes, please post a comment.

    1890s photos | group photos
    Monday, 28 January 2008 17:53:58 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Tuesday, 02 October 2007
    Women's Sleeves Are Clues to Photo Dates
    Posted by Maureen

    Bill Dodge thinks one of these young women is his paternal grandmother because he found the picture in his father’s belongings. He wonders if it’s a graduation photo and if the girl on the lower right holds a nurses cap. I truly believe each family portrait tells a story about a person, place or occasion, so let’s deconstruct this image into its pieces and see what’s what.

    Each of these women dressed in one of her best dresses. It’s relatively easy to tell when that was—all wear sleeve styles common in the 1890s. I’d date this picture to about 1897. That’s when tight lower sleeves accented by puffy upper sleeves began to get fashionable, yet you still see evidence of an earlier style.


    The two girls on the right in the back row wear the full fabric sleeve popular from 1893 to 1896. The dress on the young woman on the lower right features an uncomfortable-looking high starched collar and attached scarf. It’s that extra cloth that resembles the shape of a nurse’s cap. If this were a nursing school graduation class, all the girls would have posed in uniform with caps on their heads.

    If you have a photographer’s imprint with a surname and address, but don’t know the first name, try looking more closely. Photographers often included their intertwined initials as a decorative element. In this case, W. T. is for William Teush.

    By researching him in US census records, I learned Teush worked as a photographer for several decades in New York and New Jersey, but by 1900 he had become a hotel proprietor.

    Dodge was probably right in guessing this image was a school picture. In the late 19th century, portraits like this were quite common. I’ve even written about other class pictures of this period. What’s  a mystery is whether this image represents all the girls in the class or a group of friends.

    Who’s Who?
    Dodge needs another picture of his grandmother to find her here. By comparing the shape of her eyes, nose, mouth and other features with this image, he should be able to pick her out of the crowd. I hope to do a follow-up to this piece identifying exactly which one is his grandmother. Stay tuned!

    1890s photos | group photos | photographers imprints | women
    Tuesday, 02 October 2007 20:36:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Wednesday, 12 September 2007
    Identifying People in Two 1890s Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    This week two photos have tentative identifications, but in both cases, the time frame of the image and the life dates for the individuals don’t compute.

    Thomas Wetten suspects the girl in this portrait below is his great-grandmother Margaret Ellen Atkinson, born June 1870 in Durham, England.

    A caption on the back of the second picture (below) states a relationship to the unknown writer, but no name: Grandma—taken in Liverpool. This label makes Barbara Diemer think the simple studio portrait is a relative of hers, who was born in 1820 and died around 1860.

    No photographer’s name appears on either image.

    Unfortunately for Wetten and Diemer, one detail in each picture refutes their conclusions. The wide sleeve on the girl’s blouse and the full upper sleeve on the woman’s dress date these images to the late 1890s. Further proof exists in the girl’s wide collar and striped skirt, and in the woman’s high, collared bodice—both contemporary fashions for the time period.

    Wetten correctly identified the child’s portrait as a tintype (also known as a ferreotype or melainotype) by testing its magnetic qualities. Anyone with any doubt about the type of metal in an old can use a magnet to see if it’s a tintype. Tintypes, first patented in 1856, aren’t actually tin, but iron.

    Wetten has several other suspects on his family tree for the girl. For the photo dates to fit the age of the girl pictured, he should look for a female born in the mid-1890s. (FYI—stone walls and fences were common settings in photographer’s studios of the period.)

    Diemer’s paper print of an elderly woman depicts someone who could've been born in 1820 and lived into her 70s, rather than dying around 1860. Diemer has the right generation, but either the wrong woman or an incorrect death date.

    Click Comment below if you have something to add about either picture.

    1890s photos | children | women
    Wednesday, 12 September 2007 13:50:23 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Tuesday, 17 July 2007
    British Schoolboy Uniforms (or, the Bluecoats Are Coming!)
    Posted by Maureen

    It’s only fitting this week’s photo is a British one—after all, the final installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books comes out July 21. Catherine Hamilton submitted this photograph of her grandfather John Porter with his schoolmates and tutor.

    Here's a close-up of Porter; he’s the one in the back row standing sideways with his hand in pocket and no cap.

    Just like the boys and girls at Hogwarts, British students wear distinctive uniforms and caps. You can identify the school by the color and design of its outfit, as well as the badges worn on students’ blazers. Take a look at some of them.

    There’s some minor variation in caps depending on which house (a kind of division) a student belonged to, or which level of school he attended (such as grammar school, or what Americans call high school). That’s right—the competitive houses of the Harry Potter books are based on the real thing. In English private schools, students belong to houses and compete against each other in sports just as Harry, Hermoine and Ron do.

    Hamilton knows that John Porter (1881-1937) attended school in Manchester, England, and she thinks this image was taken at Chetham’s School (now Chetham’s School of Music). This photo was taken in the early 1890s, based on Porter’s age and appearance.

    A search for photos of the school using Google Image Search suggests these boys aren’t students there. Chetham’s is historically a “bluecoat school.” During Porter’s student days, the school's pupils wore long, cassock-like blue uniform coats, a tradition dating back centuries.

    So where did Porter go to school? I’m still looking. If anyone has knowledge of late 19th-century school uniforms in the Manchester area, post a comment here. Maybe we can wrap this up in time to stand in line for J.K. Rowling’s latest opus.

    1890s photos | children | group photos
    Tuesday, 17 July 2007 21:35:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, 19 June 2007
    Traveling Photographers
    Posted by Maureen

    All Michael Bell knows is that this photo’s subject, Martha B. Bell, sent the image to her uncle (Michael’s great-grandfather) after her father died in 1892. The month and day of the portrait aren’t recorded.

    I’m estimating the photo could’ve been taken before or after Martha's father died—the puffed shoulder seams date the picture to the early 1890s.

    It’s a classic example of a family milestone photo. Tragic events often pushed people into studios to capture images of their remaining loved ones or even the deceased. Read more about postmortem pictures in my column Dead Men Tell No Tales.

    When Bell asked me about a date for the portrait, he also inquired about the photographer, Orris Hunt. I wrote about two other Hunt pictures in a column several years ago, Which one is Real?. When that picture was taken after 1905, Hunt was in St. Paul, Minn., having recently purchased another photographer’s studio.

    The imprint in the lower left of Bell’s picture identifies Hunt as traveling photographer. Hunt’s Palace RR Photo Car was actually a photo studio in a railroad car. Whenever and wherever the train stopped, Hunt opened his studio to residents of the area.

    Martha Bell took advantage of one of these rail stops in her hometown in Floyd County, Ga. Perhaps after a decade or more of endless traveling, Hunt decided to settle down in a St. Paul studio. That’s when he took the photo of the young man in the earlier column.  

    Hunt wasn’t the only railroad photographer in 19th- and early 20th-century America.  Any time you see an imprint with RR as part of the address, you’ve found another one. Then, railroads were what planes are today. They crisscrossed the country bringing goods and services—including photographers—to folks in far-off places.

    Bell’s photo has an interesting past. Not only was it taken for a specific reason, but now he knows he had a patient relative: She had to wait for the next train with Hunt aboard to have her picture taken.

    1890s photos | photographers imprints | women
    Tuesday, 19 June 2007 17:58:12 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]