Free Updates

Let us tell you when new posts are added!



November, 2015 (4)
October, 2015 (4)
September, 2015 (4)
August, 2015 (5)
July, 2015 (4)
June, 2015 (5)
May, 2015 (4)
April, 2015 (4)
March, 2015 (5)
February, 2015 (4)
January, 2015 (4)
December, 2014 (4)
November, 2014 (5)
October, 2014 (4)
September, 2014 (5)
August, 2014 (4)
July, 2014 (4)
June, 2014 (5)
May, 2014 (4)
April, 2014 (4)
March, 2014 (5)
February, 2014 (4)
January, 2014 (4)
December, 2013 (5)
November, 2013 (4)
October, 2013 (4)
September, 2013 (5)
August, 2013 (4)
July, 2013 (4)
June, 2013 (5)
May, 2013 (4)
April, 2013 (5)
March, 2013 (4)
February, 2013 (4)
January, 2013 (4)
December, 2012 (5)
November, 2012 (4)
October, 2012 (5)
September, 2012 (4)
August, 2012 (5)
July, 2012 (5)
June, 2012 (4)
May, 2012 (4)
April, 2012 (5)
March, 2012 (4)
February, 2012 (4)
January, 2012 (5)
December, 2011 (5)
November, 2011 (4)
October, 2011 (5)
September, 2011 (4)
August, 2011 (5)
July, 2011 (5)
June, 2011 (6)
May, 2011 (7)
April, 2011 (4)
March, 2011 (5)
February, 2011 (3)
January, 2011 (5)
December, 2010 (4)
November, 2010 (5)
October, 2010 (4)
September, 2010 (4)
August, 2010 (5)
July, 2010 (4)
June, 2010 (5)
May, 2010 (4)
April, 2010 (4)
March, 2010 (5)
February, 2010 (4)
January, 2010 (4)
December, 2009 (3)
November, 2009 (5)
October, 2009 (4)
September, 2009 (4)
August, 2009 (5)
July, 2009 (4)
June, 2009 (5)
May, 2009 (4)
April, 2009 (5)
March, 2009 (6)
February, 2009 (5)
January, 2009 (5)
December, 2008 (4)
November, 2008 (4)
October, 2008 (6)
September, 2008 (5)
August, 2008 (5)
July, 2008 (4)
June, 2008 (6)
May, 2008 (5)
April, 2008 (5)
March, 2008 (4)
February, 2008 (4)
January, 2008 (5)
December, 2007 (4)
November, 2007 (4)
October, 2007 (6)
September, 2007 (4)
August, 2007 (4)
July, 2007 (5)
June, 2007 (4)
May, 2007 (3)
April, 2007 (2)
March, 2007 (1)



<November 2015>

by Maureen A. Taylor

More Links

# Monday, November 16, 2015
Twentieth-Century Mustache Mania
Posted by Maureen

From the White House to Hollywood, mustaches of the 20th century were iconic and considered manly. The underlying message was that strong men wore facial hair. Teddy Roosevelt to Clark Gable and beyond, the presence of a mustache conveyed a sense of strength in personality and actions. Each of these men were facial hair fashion icons for their generation.

Teddy Roosevelt
One can only imagine the shock on Vice President Teddy Roosevelt's face when a photographer in 1901 suggested he shave off his mustache before being inducted in office. As President from Sept. 14, 1901 (after McKinley's assassination), to March 1909, his iconic facial hair set the tone for his time in office. He was a forceful personality in life and in politics.

Library of Congress

This poster is a collage of images of T.R. from childhood to the Presidency—from the long sideburns of his years at Harvard to the brush- style mustache that became equated with being manly.

Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin used his small under-the-nose mustache as a comedic element in silent films.

The Tramp
, 1914

This style of facial hair is still known as a "Charlie Chaplin."

Errol Flynn
Errol Flynn's portrayal of dashing adventurers of the 1930s and 1940s wasn't complete without his iconic pencil-thin mustache. The look is named for him.

It took careful shaving underneath the nose and at the top of the lip to get this tiny mustache just right. 

Clark Gable
Clark Gable's notable performance as Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind is memorable and so was his facial hair.

Clark Gable with the 8th Air Force in Britain, 1943

Like Errol Flynn, his mustache was an integral part of the characters he played in the movies.

So which mustache did the men in your family emulate? The full brush mustache of T.R., the "Charlie Chaplin," the "Errol Flynn," or the look popularized by Clark Gable?

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | 1920s photos | 1930s photos | 1940s photos | World War I
    Monday, November 16, 2015 5:23:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, July 27, 2015
    5 Clues to Solve an Old-Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Every old mystery photo is full of clues if you know where to look. Let's break this one down into five steps:

    1. Consider the provenance.
    Phyllis Reakes' first cousin gave her this photograph. Phyllis knows the man sitting on the far right is her great-grandfather, born in 1839. That chain of ownership of this photo helps confirm the man's identity.

    2. Look at the faces.

    I love looking at these two faces. It appears to be a father and son, who share everything from the shape of their noses to the tilt of their heads when they pose for a picture. 

    3. Add up the genealogical clues.
    Which son is it? Phyllis told me that her great-grandfather had several wives and children. I'd date this photo to the early part of the 20th century based on the women's dresses, circa 1900-1910. A tentative time frame for the image helps determine which son is depicted and allows for possible identities for the rest of the individuals. The woman seated next to the son to our left could be his wife or his father's.

    It's important not to jump to quick conclusions about this picture. Depending on when great-grandfather was married for the last time and the age of his wife, those children could be his. Each identity has to be proven.

    4. Study the clothing details.
    The three young women in the back row wear interesting accessories.

    Two have decorated their dresses with ribbons. This could just be a simple way of accessorizing their outfits, without other significance. The woman in the middle wears a long beaded chain around her neck. This was generally worn with either a watch or a pair of pince nez glasses. Either could be tucked into a waistline pocket.

    5. Study the location.
    Phyllis believes this image was taken in Keiv, Volh, Russia. The studio name isn't on this image, but by reaching out through social media, she might be able to locate other pictures taken in the same area.  It's worth the search to see what turns up.  Photographs have a way of bringing families together. Each of the individuals in the picture likely had descendants. As families grow, these connections are lost. This image might re-connect them.

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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | eyeglasses | Immigrant Photos | men
    Monday, July 27, 2015 8:41:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, June 22, 2015
    Twentieth-Century Childhood Fashion
    Posted by Maureen

    Kyndahl Carlson's aunt is writing down all the family stories she can remember. A family photo album in a cousin's collection may contain key details to add to those tales.

    The album may have belonged to the cousin's grandmother, Ruth Scrivner Laughter. The photos are laid out with the elders first, followed by images of Kyndahl's grandmother and Ruth's children and grandchildren.

    The context of the way all the images in an album are presented can tell you about who's important to the person who created the album, and can yield identification clues based on which photos are on which pages. I haven't seen the whole album, but I can add a few details about the individual images.

    This timeless photo of three children lacks any information about the photographer, but the clothing clues and chair help date the picture.

    The boys wear suits popular from about 1899 to World War I. There were subtle variations in the design of these suits over time, including ties, belts and different insignia. The insignia here is an abstract flower-like design, but I've also seen nautical anchors stitched into the placket of these sailor-collared outfits.

    This style was also popular for girls' dresses. The Sears Roebuck's catalog (searchable on sold suits similar to these for approximately $2. 

    Because these suits were common for more than a decade, it's hard to pinpoint a more-specific year without extensive research. 

    Wicker chairs as studio props first appear in the 1890s and continue in use for several decades. I own a wedding portrait from 1916 of my maternal grandfather leaning on a wicker chair.

    Posing three children together suggests a close relationship between them. I think this photo shows siblings, though I've also seen cousins posed together. Add up the family facts first before jumping to conclusions.

    Kyndahl can look at her family tree for a family with two brothers and a sister (or a brother) born close together. In the 19th century, girls wore center parts and boys wore side parts, but that's not so clear for the 20th century. All three children in this image part their hair in the center.

    The oldest boy could be about 5 years of age, the younger light-haired boy close to 3, and the baby could be 1 or 2. 

    Photo albums are collections of close family pictures, as well as images from friends and other relatives. There is no guarantee that these three are on the family tree. Fingers crossed!

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children
    Monday, June 22, 2015 1:34:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Facial Features as an Old Photo Identification Clue
    Posted by Maureen

    Who do you look like? I'm my father's child from the nose up and my mother's child from the nose down.

    Often, looking at family photographs will trigger a familiar response: "Ah, that's where I got that nose" or "those blue eyes." 

    Using facial features to identify family photographs is often a difficult assignment. It's all about adding up the evidence—clothing, photographer's imprint, format, etc.—and then comparing faces in photos.

    There are more than 20 points in a face worth comparing. Eyes, noses, mouths and ears, as well as the spacing between them, can be key clues. 

    Richard Rainsberger owns this picture of Amanda Lash Newhouse (1862-1945):

    The photographer, Rief, first opened his studio in Canton, Ohio, in 1902.  These types of photo mounts were quite common in the early 20th century. Amanda Lash Newhouse wears a lovely printed cotton blouse with a high neckline, a style popular in the first decade of the 20th century.

    Recently, a cousin gave Rainsberger this unidentified photo of a young woman:

    Amanda had one daughter, Zelma, born in 1884. Could this be her?
    Let's look at the faces more closely.

    Using, I created a collage of their faces. What resemblances do you see?

    We inherit qualities from our mothers and our fathers (and our other ancestors). I see a similar smile and nose on these two women, but do all the facts add up?

    The unidentified woman likely posed for this picture in her late teens or early 20s. The yoked bodice and high collar suggest it was taken in the first decade of the 20th century, just like the photo of Amanda Newhouse.

    Newhouse's daughter was born in 1884. Add 20 years to that birth date and you get 1904, a likely date for the photo.

    There's no photographer mentioned on the unidentified image.

    I'm not sure how Richard and his cousin Rob are cousins. That last bit of information would help identify the provenance of the mystery picture. Who owned it before Rob and what other photographs was it passed down with? I can't wait to find out.

    This could be a picture of Zelma—which would make two genealogists very happy.

    Here are the two images side by side.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | women
    Sunday, March 29, 2015 3:19:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, February 16, 2015
    Old-Time Baby Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    Social media today is full of pictures of children and grandchildren, but posting historical, black-and-white baby pictures hasn't really caught on yet.

    Babies born 100 years ago are just as cute as the darlings posted today.  Take this image for instance: Maria Baker submitted it and wants to know more about it. 

    She found it in her grandmother's things. Maria owns pictures of her grandmother (b. 1901) as a baby, and she knows this isn't her.

    In the late 1890s, it was common to pose children on animal skins like the one depicted here. The wide yoke on the dress suggests that it was taken circa 1900 (either a few years earlier or later). This child is likely belted around the waist to hold him or her in the wicker posing chair.

    The gender of the child isn't clear. Boys wore dresses until they started to become mobile. If this isn't Maria's grandmother, could it be one of her siblings or a picture of her husband? 

    If you look at an image taken overseas, the same basic information of photographer's name and location appears on the card photographs just like the ones taken in the United States. Wien stands for Vienna. Maria knows that her grandmother's family lived in that area. Etzelsdorfer is the name of the photographer.

    I hope having a date for the image helps her identify this adorable baby. I'd estimate the child is between 6 months to 1 year old.  From the warm hat on its head to the expression on the baby's face, this picture is a treasure.

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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children
    Monday, February 16, 2015 8:32:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, February 01, 2015
    Big Hats in Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Ronnie O'Rourke's great aunt Mary (Mamie) Smith (b. 1892) wears an enormous hat in this family portrait. Her grandson identified her in the image, but now the family wants to know who's standing with her.

    Her hat and dress are quite stylish for this outdoor event. The presence of the mandolin suggests that this group was likely singing and maybe dancing along with the tunes played by the family musician.

    Ronnie specifically wants to know if the man standing next to Mamie is her father, John Smith (b. 1865).  The family knows he died somewhere between 1905 and 1920, but they can't find the death record. It's the curse of the common name. She's been trying to narrow down just which John Smith is her relative.

    She wonders if Mamie's cousins, the Nevins siblings Frank (b. 1887), Catherine (b. 1888), Thomas (b. 1892) and Louise (b. 1897) are in the photo.  

    Each photo generates a series of questions. In this case, I'd love to know:
    • Why Mamie is visiting her cousins?
    • Are they all cousins, or did she have siblings?
    • Where was it taken?
    • Who took the picture?  It's a snapshot and someone owned an amateur camera, but who?  There could be other candid shots taken on the same day. 
    • Could the man be the father of the other people in the picture?

    Ronnie wonders about that gorgeous hat. Turns out that Louise was a milliner and it's possible she made it.

    The hat offers a few clues as to when the image was taken.

    In the circa 1910 period large turban style hats became fashionable. French fashion magazines like the Journal Des Demoiselles. Click here to see a fashion plate from 1909. You'll see some similarities between these hats and the one worn by Mamie.

    Fashion savvy Americans knew what the current styles were overseas. Here's the 1909 Spring Sears Catalog showing similar turban shaped hats.

    By 1913, smaller hats were in vogue. The hat is one clue that suggests a time frame. 

    Is it Mamie's father?  Perhaps.  If so, then he was still living after 1905.

    Love looking at hats, check out the styles worn in the nineteenth century in Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900.

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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | hats | summer | women
    Sunday, February 01, 2015 3:34:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, December 08, 2014
    Holiday Generosity and Christmas Clues in an Old Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    This little gem of a holiday picture comes from the Library of Congress collection. Researching the clues in this picture took a little time and involved studying the caption, the history of the image and the clues in photo. It's a lot more than a holiday-themed image. This one picture tells the story of a family's charity in a very wealthy community. It's the perfect Christmas story.

    This picture is half of a stereograph: two nearly identical photographs mounted side-by-side on cardstock. Viewing it through a stereopticon makes the image appear three-dimensional.

    The best place to start untangling the clues was the caption: "LYNDHURST—A Happy Christmas at "Woody Crest," December 1905. Copyright 1906 by Underwood & Underwood."

    Ben Underwood and his older brother Elmer were just 18 and 20 years old when they established their stereo view company, Underwood and Underwood, in 1880. Within a few years they had offices in Baltimore and Liverpool, England. According to Stereo Views by William Culp Darrah (Times and News Publishing), by 1901 the pair produced more than 7 million cards per year. They revolutionized the sale of cards by producing them in sets.

    A quick Google search for Lyndhurst led me to a page about the house of that name in Tarrytown, NY. You can see gorgeous images of this Gothic Revival style estate and read about it's history. 

    The Library of Congress cataloging record said the image was taken at the Lyndhurst School. There was no mention of the school on the site for the estate, so further research was necessary.

    Only three families owned the house before it was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1961. "Lyndhurst" was likely a keyword chosen by the Underwoods to draw attention to the image. The public was fascinated by the lives of these incredibly wealthy individuals. 

    In 1905, Miss Helen Miller Gould owned Lyndhurst.  Her father was Jay Gould, a railroad entrepreneur who had a reputation as a robber baron profiting off the less fortunate. He made millions. His daughter, one of six children, was a very wealthy young woman. Helen briefly attended law school but decided against a public life. Instead, she focused on philanthropy.

    Helen cared for and educated poor crippled children from the inner city at Woody Crest, a home at Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. She had a reputation as a caring and intelligent woman. Volume 25 of Munsey's Magazine (April to September 1901) featured a story on her charitable pursuits.

    Every year at Christmas she provided a turkey dinner for Woody Crest residents. Dec. 25, 1905, the children turned the tables on their hostess and cooked her a dinner from food produced on the estate. They gave her a gift of a holly and evergreen wreath. You can see her presents to the boys in this picture.

    She gave each of the 16 boys at Woody Crest a chest of "tools," a miniature store, books, and Indian and police costumes. A Dec. 26, 1905, article in the Baltimore American reported details of the event in "Helen Gould's Boys." The writer compared her generosity to that of John D. Rockefeller. While he gave telephone and telegraph operators in Tarrytown $5 each, Gould gave them $10 each.

    The center image shows off the paper bell hanging from the chandelier, the glass ornaments and trimmings on the tree.

    Even Helen Gould's millions had limits. In 1908, she had to decide which projects to continue. According to the Grand Forks Daily Herald, April 5, 1908, in "Helen Retrenches," it was reported that she was going to stop summer outings for poor children at Woody Crest.

    In 1913 at 45, Helen Miller Gould married Finley Johnson Shepard. The couple adopted three children, one of whom was a baby abandoned on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, and had one foster child. 

    It's a heartwarming story just in time for the holidays. 

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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | adoption | children | Christmas
    Monday, December 08, 2014 4:06:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Thanksgiving Day Masquerade
    Posted by Maureen

    It's easy to be confused by this photo from the Library of Congress.  It's a group of children dressed in costume, but the photographer labeled it "Thanksgiving." The signage in the window advertising a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, sweet potatos and cranberry sauce (for 40 cents!) supports the caption.

    So what's going on?

    According to Greg Young, author of the Bowery Boys: New York City History blog and podcast, this dress-up once was part of a Thanksgiving event. He wrote about it last week in a Huffington Post column.  

    There were plenty of street urchins in ragged clothes in New York City in the circa-1900 period. Young states that children dressed like impoverished youth was part satire and part of the history of "mumming." The latter term is associated with men who'd dress in costume and go door to door asking for food and money. In return they'd play music. 

    Long before Macy's began its Thanksgiving parade tradition, groups of New Yorkers in costume would march down the streets. You can read more about the traditions behind this photo combining Halloween-type dress and Thanksgiving in Young's article. If your ancestors lived in New York, perhaps they passed down a story or two about going door to door on Thanksgiving.

    If you want to see more images like the one above, there's a slide show on The Weather Channel site.

    I love how photographs and history intersect.  This week's photo is a perfect example of that.

    I'm thankful for all the readers that check out this weekly blog column! 

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1900-1910 photos | Halloween | holiday | thanksgiving
    Sunday, November 23, 2014 8:58:04 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, November 02, 2014
    Old Family Photos: Mystery Child, Part 2
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

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

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

    Here are a other photos of these folks for comparison:


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

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

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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | facial resemblances | women
    Sunday, November 02, 2014 3:52:48 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, October 26, 2014
    Old Family Photos: Mystery Child From Across the Pond
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | photo albums | women
    Sunday, October 26, 2014 3:38:33 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Sunday, October 12, 2014
    Boyish Charm in an Old, Unidentified Family Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Can a photograph help connect two families?  Erin Garcia received this picture from a distant cousin. She thinks they're related through her great-great-grandmother Martha Ann (Robertson) Potterfield Murphy (born about 1835). 

    Garcia hopes that these three boys are the children from Martha's second marriage to Nicholas J. Murphy. Unfortunately for Erin, the answer is no.

    Their combed hair and clean overalls indicate that these three urchins have been cleaned up for this portrait.

    Only the oldest child has shoes; the younger ones go barefoot. It's not unusual to see shoeless children in photographs taken in rural areas. Likely their parents didn't have the financial means to purchase shoes for all three. They hold identical hats, though.

    These tykes were likely born in the 1890s. The gray cardstock mat suggests an early 1900s time frame for the image. Erin should look for brothers born within a couple of years of each other, but not in the 1860s or early 1870s, as the Murphy boys would've been. 

    The lack of a photographer's name makes it difficult to narrow down a location. That's a detail that could help her identify them.

    One thing is certain. These three adorable boys are nervous in front of the camera.  You can tell from their serious expression. 

    I'd ask her distant cousin to look through his photographs of 20th-century relatives to see if he has other images of these three at an older age. The little boy on the right has a downturned mouth that might help pinpoint him in other images.

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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children
    Sunday, October 12, 2014 8:34:31 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 10, 2014
    A Well-Dressed Couple
    Posted by Maureen

    Old pictures have a tendency to turn up unexpectedly. For Amir Evenchik, this photo was recently found at his parent's house. It's the usual story:  No one knows the identity of the couple or where they posed for this lovely formal portrait.

    Dating this photo is the easy part. Determining where an image was taken is a matter of matching up image clues with family history. Below are four clues (I've used to create a numbered collage of the evidence):

    • Photos 1 and 3: In the early years of the 20th century, women wore their hair swept up in an exaggerated puff in front of the head. The goal was the S-shaped head-to-toe curve that was popular circa 1905. Undergarments helped women achieve this curve.

    Mid-decade, women wore little jackets over their dresses. This is a very fashionably dressed woman, whose outfit is complete with long gloves and a fan.

    • Photo 2: The woman's companion wears his mustache in the style of the late 1890s, when waxing facial hair created extreme twirls. It's a fad that remained common into the 20th century. Notice how the front of his hair has a wave. This was typical at the turn of the century.

    • Photo 4: Looking at a background can help you place a photo. This could be a unique, hand-painted design. The photographer probably used the same backdrop in many portraits. Locating other images taken in the same area with the same background could help determine where the couple is from. 

    Other factors to consider in identifying this image:
    • Does the couple look like any other family members?
    • Based on their appearance, this is a couple of financial means. 
    • Evenchik should estimate the couple's ages, then find couples on his family tree of the right ages around the time this photo was taken. 

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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | hairstyles | Jewish | men
    Sunday, August 10, 2014 1:54:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, July 27, 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, July 27, 2014 5:12:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, July 06, 2014
    Old Family Photos on Cloth
    Posted by Maureen

    Jeff Fee wrote and asked if I'd ever seen a photograph like this before—it's on silk. 

    The answer is yes. I actually own one, of my paternal grandmother. Based on my grandmother's birth year of 1892 and her approximate age in the photo, it was made circa 1910. It's a head and shoulders view of her in a gorgeous dress. 

    The picture Jeff submitted is a full view of a man in work clothes:

    FeeSilk .jpg

    Photographs on silk debuted in 1879, when a silk manufacturer in Lyon, France, coated silk with light-sensitive salts of silver. According to the Oregon State Journal dated January 18, 1879, the firm displayed various sized silk pictures including copies of "old master" paintings.

    Photographic fads took many forms from those little gem tintypes no larger than a thumbnail (thus giving them a nickname) to these lovely images on cloth. You're probably familiar with photographs on metal (daguerreotypes and tintypes), glass ambrotypes and of course, paper-based prints. Photo chemicals applied to a variety of surfaces could result in an image. For instance, I own a set of china teacups with a little girl's picture on them.  In Jeff's case, his photo is on a piece of silk.

    Jeff has questions relating to his picture:
    • Who's depicted?  The man is Jeff's great grandfather, John Henry Ruble (1863-1940) He lived in Wood County, West Virginia before moving to Haydenville, Ohio in the 1920s.
    His work clothes could date from the late  19th century to the early 20th. He wears a collared work shirt, rolled-up jeans and a hat to shield his face from the sun
    If you examine the left side of the picture, there seems to be someone standing there. This suggests that this picture is a copy of a section of a larger photograph.  It's possible that this is a work photo where he stood with several co-workers.  he worked at a sawmill circa 1900.
    • Why was it made? It's 5 inches by 14 inches in size—not a standard size for a picture. It's difficult to know why this image was copied. Jeff surmised that perhaps it was for the man's funeral. That's possible. It's also possible it was made as a 25th anniversary present in 1913 
    • When was it made? Images on silk were commonly available in the early 20th century, which is likely when this photograph was produced. 
    • Who made it? Many of Jeff's relatives frequented Loomis Photographers in Parkersburg, West Virginia.  It's possible the studio advertised this photographic method in newspapers or a city directory. A local historical society may have other examples of this type of picture.

    Jeff's image already has started to fade. If this is an important part of his family heritage, it would be worth seeking out a professional photo conservator with experience working with images on cloth to see if the fading can be stabilized. An online directory of conservators is on the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | occupational | preserving photos | unusual surfaces
    Sunday, July 06, 2014 3:33:01 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, June 15, 2014
    Mapping the Places Your Old Photos Were Taken
    Posted by Maureen

    There are so many layers to a photo identification and interpretation problem. A family photograph is a lot more than just figuring out who's in the image. Each photo tells a story.

    This image of billiard players outside a Mulhall, Okla., pool hall appeared in last week's Photo Detective Blog post, and in the in the May/June issue of Family Tree Magazine.

    In the magazine, I explored occupational clues in their attire. In the blog post, clues in the picture led to a possible identification based on the rivets in one man's chaps.

    This week it's pinpointing the location of the billiard hall. 

    Using the Sanborn Insurance Maps, a ProQuest database that's available through many libraries, I was able to locate where these men stood.

    Sanborn Insurance Maps are a wonderful resource for anyone looking for more information on a particular building.  You can view the building in context of its surroundings, learn about details in the structure such as the location of staircases, elevators and how larger businesses were heated.  Sometimes there is information on the type of building material. Often, the maps tell you what types of businesses operated in a building and sometimes with a specific business name. (Learn more about Sanborn maps and see an example here.)

    These maps are very useful when city directories aren't available for an area or when used in conjunction with city directory information.  The digital Sanborn collection covers the years 1867 to 1970. It's not comprehensive for every city/town or even every block.

    There are several maps for Mulhall in the collection, so narrowing the time frame was the first step.

    The style of the stamp box, combined with the divided design on the back of this photo postcard, dates this card to after 1907. On March 1, 1907, it became legal to include both the address and a message on the back of a postcard.

    The August 1908 Sanborn Map for Mulhall shows that a billiard hall operated at 57 Baty Street.

    mullhall billards.jpg

    According to the 1910 US census, Yeve J. Cox operated a pool hall in town. This map doesn't list the name of the pool hall's owner. It's possible that Cox appears in the photo above.

    There was a surprise on the October 1915 map of the town: The billiard hall was gone, replaced by a moving pictures establishment. At 62-1/2 Baty Street was a photographer's studio. According to Kathryn Stansbury's History of Mulhall, Oklahoma: 100 Yesteryears (Transcript Press, 1988), a  Cunningham's pool hall burned down in 1919. It's unclear if both establishments were the same business.

    This information suggests that the photograph was taken between 1907 and 1915. Given what's known about the men in the picture, it's likely closer to 1907.

    A lot has changed in Mulhall since these men posed for this portrait. Google Maps shows how many of the buildings on Baty are now gone.

    mulhall street view.jpg

    Using a combination of historical maps and modern technology brings a new layer of interpretation to Charlotte Flock's family photo.

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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | occupational | unusual photos
    Sunday, June 15, 2014 1:03:21 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, May 18, 2014
    Cousin Connections Through Old Pictures
    Posted by Diane

    Never underestimate the power of a picture.  A single photo can connect you with a missing piece of evidence, point you in a new direction or help you meet "new" relatives. 

    Last week's picture brought two women closer together and solved a more than 60-year-old mystery.


    Alice Broderick and her cousin Mary Ellen Gillespie arrived at Ellis Island in June 1906.

    At one time the Gillespie relatives were very close, but as often happens, new generations create distance between cousins. Everyone means to keep in touch, but time and circumstances interfere.

    Anne Hanlon has spent years researching her mother's family history. A few years ago, Anne's sister gave her a letter the family found in their mother's belongings when she died in 1949.  It was from a Mary Rupp, signed "your cousin."  Anne didn't know exactly how her mother was connected to Mrs. Rupp.

    Anne periodically Googled the name "Mary Rupp" to see if any new information came to light. One of these searches led her to Maureen Petrilli's page. She sent Maureen a message.  One query answered family history mysteries for both women.

    Mary Ellen Gillespie Donelan Rupp

    Anne, who owns the above photograph of the two women, thought one of the women on the postcard might be Maureen's grandmother. The details in last week's column verified when the picture was taken. There's a striking resemblance between the woman in Maureen's picture of her grandmother and the seated woman in the postcard.

    Maureen's paternal great-grandmother, Mary Rupp, wrote that letter to Anne's mother. No one knows if Mary received a reply from her cousin.

    Mary Ellen Gillespie Rupp's first husband, Michael Joseph Donelan, (Maureen's paternal grandfather) was crushed to death in a mining accident in Pennsylvania in 1921, just four months before Maureen's father was born. Mary became a widow with four children to support and another one on the way. Once she remarried, the family didn't really talk about her first husband.  However, in the letter to her cousin, Mary mentioned that Michael was born in Galway, Ireland, a fact that Maureen didn't know.

    Anne, related to Maureen through Mary's first cousin, sent her newly rediscovered cousin both the letter and the photo. There may yet another connection between Anne and Maureen: Anne's father's brothers married sisters with the same surname as Maureen's grandfather! 

    Online reunions happen everyday. Do you have one to share?

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | photo-research tips | Reunions
    Sunday, May 18, 2014 4:36:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, May 11, 2014
    Mothers in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Who doesn't own an image of an ancestral mother with her children? It seems like everyone has at least one.

    This week's photo doesn't show a mother. Instead, she's referenced in a note on the back.

    Maureen Petrilli's grandmother Mary Ellen Gillespie arrived at Ellis Island with her cousin Alice Broderick in June 1906. They were headed for Alice's sister Margaret's home in Scranton, Pa. Both women were from Eskeragh, Ireland. 

    On the reverse of the postcard is a message: "Give this to Mrs. Broderick Eskeraugh Dooley So from her daughter"

    It seems pretty clear that a copy of this image was meant to go to either Alice's or Mary Ellen's mother. Both bore the surname of Broderick at this point.

    One of the key ways to date a postcard is to look at the back.

    broderick stamp box.jpg

    Stamp boxes are very important. This one shows the postcard was manufactured by the Kruxo Co.  A quick check of Playle's stamp box website provides information on when this style of stamp box was common. Playle's suggests that this design was used about 1907, providing another piece of evidence that Alice and Mary Ellen posed for this picture around the time they immigrated.

    The term postcard first appeared on privately produced cards in 1901; until that point, they were called private mailing cards. Initially only postcards produced by the US Postal Service could use the term.

    In the early years, real photo postcard printers were prohibited from using divided back cards with separate areas for address and message. That changed March 1, 1907. You can read more about postcard history on Wikipedia.

    This particular card doesn't have a divided back. 

    Many of us have postcards in our family photograph collections that were never sent. Maureen isn't sure if this card was ever sent to Ireland or, if it was, how it ended up back in the United States.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | photo postcards | women
    Sunday, May 11, 2014 3:24:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, April 21, 2014
    Foreign Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    This damaged image depicts one family line of Julie Townsend Gontarek's husband. Julie knows the image shows relatives in Poland, but not their identities. There are three possibilities: The Gontareks, Klamsky and Otrasek families all lived there.

    Before she can delve deeper, Julie wants to know when the picture was taken.

    It's a really interesting image. When I view pictures, my eyes dart over all the clues from sleeves to doorways.

    Look at the detail in this exterior doorway. It's lovely: 


    This young woman's sleeves suggest a date of the late 1890s, when there was fullness on the upper arm. The addition of plackets of contrasting fabric on the bodice and the cuffs shows off the skill of the person who made the dress.  I think she's pregnant: The longer bodice shows off what appears to be a baby bump.


    Mom wears a head scarf commonly seen on women in rural regions of Poland and other European countries. Her dress has detailing on the upper arm as well. Her long bodice is a little out of date for the late 1890s.

    Her little girl's clothing is typical for children: hair bows and short sleeves, which suggests warmer weather. I've seen a variety of clothes worn in rural regions both in the United States and overseas. Sometimes women would make clothes using older patterns, reusing older clothes and updating their fashions by adding sleeves or collars.  All the clothing worn here looks to be in excellent condition. 

    Both the mother and the girl shown above photo wear necklaces bearing crosses, which indicates their faith.

    The clothing clues in this image were confusing until I took a closer look at the men. Their collars date this image: Those starched, high-necked collars were popular about 1905. In particular, the man on the left wears a rounded-edge collar, common from about 1905 to at least 1915. 

    Men wore a wide variety of ties in the early 20th century, from long, thin knit ties to wide silk ties, as well as bow ties.

    This photo is full of family history clues:
    • The young girl leaning toward her mother appears to be around five years of age. If the picture dates between 1905 and 1915, then she was born between 1900 and 1910. I'm leaning toward the earlier end of this time frame.

    • The young pregnant bride looks like she'll be having a baby within a few months.

    • All of the individuals depicted could be relatives, but they also could be a collection of friends and family.

    • Who's not depicted?  Did someone in the family own a camera or did a professional take this image?
    I'd love to know the occasion for this photo.  Everyone is dressed up for a special event.  I'm hoping that these details help Julie figure out who's who and a reason this image was taken. 

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | Immigrant Photos | men | unusual clothing | women
    Monday, April 21, 2014 7:08:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, April 14, 2014
    Donating a Piece of History
    Posted by Maureen

    Now that Yvette LaGonterie knows that the mystery photo discovered in her grandparents' house doesn't show her family members, she asked me for advice on donating the image.

    The man in the family portrait LaGonterie found is Rev. George Frazier Miller, one of the founding members of the Niagara Movement, the predecessor of the NAACP.

    This is a question I'm asked on a fairly regular basis.  If you decide you'd like to pass on a photographic bit of history, first find an appropriate facility. Yvette wondered if she should donate the image to Howard University. Rev. Miller graduated from Howard.

    It's a good idea to call a library, historical society or archive first to see if it would be interested in your donation. So I called and spoke with woman who works with prints and photographs at the university. She would love to have the photo in the university collection, but there's a gift process that's pretty typical when an organization considers accepting donated material:
    • Staff would like to meet with Yvette, either over the phone or in person (if she's in the area). It's important to discuss all the details of the prospective gift.
    • Archivists and librarians want to see the condition of the original.  This can also be done virtually using a scan of the photo.
    • The next step is for the library to draw up a deed of gift that outlines everything discussed.
    • Once the parties sign the deed of gift, the university receives a copy and so does the donor.
    It looks like Yvette's picture will have another home. <smile>  Have you ever donated items to a historical or genealogical society?  Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | photo news
    Monday, April 14, 2014 4:27:15 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, March 31, 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, March 31, 2014 3:23:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, March 24, 2014
    A Photographic Link to the Underground Railroad?
    Posted by Maureen

    YvonneMystery Family.jpg

    The condition of this photo isn't unusual. The heavy acidic cardboard mount is very fragile. It's rare to find a photo of this type in perfect condition. Store a photo like this in an acid- and lignin-free folder made of heavyweight cardstock, so it's supported.

    If you've ever found a box of photographs in a relative's home, then you understand Yvette LaGonterie's excitement when she located several photo albums in the back of a closet at her grandparents' house. The albums contained images dating as early as 1918. 

    The big mystery is this photo. It was loose in the box, not mounted in an album. She showed it to her mother, who said, "it looks like my maternal grandmother's family."


    Unfortunately, the facts don't line up exactly.

    LaGonterie's great-grandmother Ella Estelle Powers was born in Philadelphia circa 1878. Ella's parents were Anna Elizabeth White Foreman (circa 1852 - 1925) and Edward Francis Powers (circa 1857-1911). Anna's family was prominent in Philadelphia. She was the niece of Jacob Clement White, Sr., secretary of the Philadelphia Vigilance Association, a group active in the Underground Railroad.

    Anna and Edward had three daughters, so this family doesn't match their family. Did Anna or Edward have any siblings?  This could depict their family. These are some photo facts to consider:
    • The little boy's play suit is a item available from the mid-1890s into the 20th century.
    • Mom's hairstyle with the topknot on the crown of her head was common around 1900. That date also fits with her dress style.
    • Dad's suit is very interesting. While upturned collars were commonly available, it's the style of the jacket that's fascinating. It features cloth-covered buttons and doesn't have a traditional jacket opening. This jacket extends to the neckline.

    It's an intriguing photo due to the connection to prominent Philadelphia residents involved in the Underground Railroad, and because of that suit. Yvette is looking for a family with a son and a daughter that had a connection to her relatives.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | african american | children | women
    Monday, March 24, 2014 7:34:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, March 17, 2014
    Cars in Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    In 20th century family photos, it's pretty common to see folks posed with their automobiles. It's a variation on the late 19th century scene with the family posed with their horse.  

    Not everyone owned a car. Photo studios jumped on this as a marketing opportunity. Individuals could go to have their picture taken and pose in a fake car (or even on a plane).


    Elizabeth Wiseman thinks her grandfather is behind the steering wheel in this studio shot of four men in a fake automobile.  Before I weigh in on who's in the car, I'm going to ask her for a higher resolution photo.

    The first thing you notice when you look at this photo is that the steering wheel in on the right side.  In the early years of American automobile manufacturing, it's not unusual to see the wheel on the right.  It was pretty typical for early horseless carriages.  There was a rare car known as a Hamilton constructed in 1909 that also featured a right-hand steering wheel. Only 25 were made.

    There were so many car manufacturers in this country that there's no comprehensive guide. Just like fashion, the date is in the details. Start by looking at the length of the chassis, the style of the wheels and headlamps as well as the style of the windshield (if there is one).

    These four men posed for a photo seated in a studio prop that resembled a touring car.  I love the small side door with a handle!


    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | automobiles | props in photos | Vehicles in photos
    Monday, March 17, 2014 1:54:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 13, 2014
    Puzzling over Black Dresses
    Posted by Maureen

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | mourning photos | women
    Monday, January 13, 2014 5:52:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, December 23, 2013
    A Look Back at Photo Detecting in 2013
    Posted by Maureen

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Civil War | group photos | hats | men | Military photos | occupational | photo albums
    Monday, December 23, 2013 3:25:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 16, 2013
    A Gleasure Family Story
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about Ben Naylor's letters from the Gleasure Family in Ireland and the photos in the collection. Here's more of the story.

    When Frank Gleasure emigrated to Natick, Mass., about 1900, he left behind a number of younger siblings.

    For several years, his brother Joseph wrote letters imploring his big brother to let him move to America, too. He told of studying so he'd be ready for an office job. His dream was to move closer to his brother and seek his fortune in Massachusetts.

    Joseph Gleasure Litowel2.jpg
    Joseph Gleasure, circa 1905
    On Dec. 13, 1905, Joseph wrote: "I expect you will take me out to America about next March or April. I would not stop here any longer, I am totally sick of it.  If I stopped here any longer I would be getting too old nearly to be taken in an office. I am always thinking of what kind of a job I would get after landing. I would like to be in the Excise or Customs or some job you would be sure of. I think it is easy to get into the Excise or any Government position. Any how, I must till I get over first and then I would know what would be best."
    Two years later, Frank finally agreed that his brother could join him in America. The 21-year-old Joseph arrived in Boston May 10, 1907. He didn't find his dream job in Customs or Excise.  He ended up working on the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad in Boston.

    Not every American dream brought fortune and happiness. Often, immigrants found economic disappointments and tragedy. Only a few months later, Frank had to write to his family and provide sad news. While coupling cars at Boston's South Station on Dec. 19, 1907, Joseph was caught between two cars that collided, killing him instantly.  The newspapers reported that his death was one of two similar incidents that day.

    You can read more about the incident on Ben's blog.

    By searching the letters, Ben found the first mention of a camera. Joseph took the candid pictures featured in last week's posting. In his Dec. 13, 1905, letter he sent his brother Christmas greetings and enclosed a few pictures.

    You can search the Gleasure Letters by using the Blogger search box in the upper left hand corner of the screen.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | Immigrant Photos | Photos from abroad
    Monday, December 16, 2013 5:52:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 09, 2013
    The Old Man
    Posted by Maureen

    Two years ago, Ben Naylor discovered this photograph of a older gent. Ben is stumped about the man's identity. 

    naylor2The Old Man (2).jpg

    Every photo tells a story and this one is no different. Ben's great-great-grandfather, Irish immigrant George Gleasure (1858-1921), had five children and raised them in Natick, Mass. 

    Frank was the oldest child (born in 1882). In 1896, George's wife suffered a fall and died. George immediately moved his whole family back to Kerry County, Ireland. Frank stayed in Ireland for five years until he was 18, and moved back to Natick in about 1900.

    For the next 60 years, Frank exchanged letters and photographs with his family in Listowel, Kerry County, Ireland. Ben's family didn't know about the letters and images until they were discovered in a trunk when his mother's uncle passed away. You can read these letters on Ben's blog The Gleasure Letters.

    Now back to the photo mystery: There were other images in the trunk including this one captioned "My brother George."

    naylorMy Brother George (2).jpg

    The appearance of the two photos leads me to believe that one of young George's siblings owned a camera.  Both are candid images on roughly cut photo paper glued to heavy paper. Fingerprints are visible on the prints. Perhaps this sibling had a darkroom.

    naylorMy Brother George fingerprint (2).jpg

    The younger George was Frank's younger brother (born 1894).  If he was approximately 10 to 12 years old in the above candid photo, it would've been taken between 1904 and 1906.  There's also a photo of Annie Gleasure, Frank and George's sister (born 1884), taken at about the same time.

    So who's the older man? If the photographer was one of Frank's siblings, the man could be their father, the Irish immigrant George Gleasure. In 1906, he would have been 58. Or it could be Ben's third-great-grandfather Francis Gleasure (1825-1911). In 1906, he was 81. 

    I don't think the man in the first photograph is old enough to be 81, suggesting the image is George Gleasure born 1858. 

    Love his muttonchops! This type of facial hair was very common in the 1880s. Men tended to retain the facial hair of their younger years.

    Ben's family has left him quite a legacy of letters and images to reveal the lives of the people on his family tree.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | beards | Immigrant Photos
    Monday, December 09, 2013 5:27:13 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 17, 2013
    Old Family Photos on Postcards
    Posted by Maureen

    Frieda Tata submitted this lovely photo of two women and a girl for some advice. She knows the young woman on the right is her grandmother Mae Davis (born 1888 in Brownwood, Mo.). 

    This is a photo postcard.

    One of the most common questions about family photos is, "My ancestor had their photograph taken and it's a postcard. What does that mean?"

    I love real-photo postcards (RPPC) because there are several ways to date them. 
    • Real photo postcards debuted about 1900. That immediately gives you a beginning time frame for the image.

    • While the photo here was taken in a studio, it is possible your ancestor took their postcard photo themselves. Kodak's No. 3A camera, introduced in 1903, let amateur photographers take images and have them printed on postcard stock.

    • Flip the card over. Does it have a divided back for the address and correspondence, or is there just space for the address? This little detail can further refine the time frame. On March 1, 1907, federal legislation finally let postcard senders write messages on the back of the cards they sent. 
    •  Take a good look at the stamp box. The designs of those boxes can help date your image as well. They identify the paper manufacturer. For instance, AZO is a popular manufacturer.  Compare your designs to those described on the Playle website.

    • If the postcard was mailed, look at the stamp design and the postmark for a specific date.

    Mae's birth year suggests that this photo was taken circa 1908. I'd love an image of the back to see what clues it holds.

    Last week I wrote about women in World War I and featured photos of  Dora Rodriques. Thank you to Wendy Schnur for telling me more about the Holland-born actress who supposedly walked across the United States to promote recruitment.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | photo postcards | women | World War I
    Sunday, November 17, 2013 4:13:54 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, September 08, 2013
    Ancestral Occupational Portraits
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you for sending in your photographs of ancestors at work! I've got quite a selection to show you. This is going to be a two-part article. There are too many to show in one blog post.

    editnegleyFrank and laundry wagon.jpg

    Wendy Negley owns this lovely picture (above) of her great-grandfather Frank Stefani with his laundry delivery wagon in Issaquah, Wash., in 1913. Frank immigrated from Sporminore, Trentino, Italy, but lived most of his life in Issaquah.

    Wendy says Frank owned the laundry and it was a family business. His son ran the company and Frank's daughters did all the washing and ironing, while he picked up and delivered to customers.


    Carol Norwood's paternal grandfather, William John Jacobs (above), was a blacksmith. He learned his trade as an apprentice in Ireland and when he immigrated in 1907, he found employment in the United States.

    William worked for the John B. Stetson Co. in Philadelphia from March 1917 until October 1935. He served in World War I and during his service, worked in the locomotion machine shop.

    This 1945 photo was taken at the Johnsville Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, Pa. It was poster-size and on display at the center.

    editCorrigan harness maker.jpg

    Jackie Corrigan sent in two pictures. This one (above) shows her husband's grandfather Michael Charles Corrigan (right) (1844-1915) in his harness-making shop. She believes it was taken in Winnipeg, Manitoba, between 1903 and 1911.

    editcorriganHogue Thomas welder.jpg

    Norwood's second image (above) depicts her father, Thomas (1909-1972), who was a welder for the Canadian National Railways.

    What do all these pictures have in common?  They depict only men at work. All date from the first half of the 20th century.

    Next week I'll be back with an office scene and two images taken in a meat packing plant.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | 1930s photos | 1940s photos | men | occupational
    Sunday, September 08, 2013 5:19:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, June 23, 2013
    Fathers and Sons from Readers
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

    fatherDalton Evan Alma  Stutz Bearcat-edit.jpg

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

    father1904Pauledit02 (2).jpg

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

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


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

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

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

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

  • 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | children | men
    Sunday, June 23, 2013 6:06:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 28, 2013
    Confirming Identities in Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    I'm working on a photo mystery that is making my eyes hurt and my brain spin. With any luck I'll be able to present it here next week. 

    In the meantime, Milah Goler Pasto contacted me through Facebook to ask about a couple of her family photos. She was hoping for confirmation that the mother and the child in this picture were who she was told they were.


    Their dress styles, the wicker chair and the painted backdrop all suggest a date of circa 1900. In that period, women's sleeves could have a slight fullness at the shoulder and bodices were pouched and full at the waist. Wicker chairs were a popular studio accessory in the 1890s and in the early 20th century. While painted backdrops were common throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, at the turn of the century they often featured household scenes.

    So who's in this lovely picture?  Irish immigrant Margaret (Mahoney) Sullivan (born 1873) and her daughter Margaret (born 1892).

    John Nathan Sullivan (born 1848), a "free person of color" married Margaret Mahoney and they had two daughters. He was a coachman for Dr. Hubbard of Taunton, Mass., and according to Milah, his obituary said "he was well and favorably known throughout the vicinity."

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | african american | children | Immigrant Photos | women
    Monday, January 28, 2013 4:50:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 14, 2013
    Turn-of-the-Century Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Terry Graham's mother showed him a few unidentified photographs and now he's using the power of the web to try to identify them. He's posted them on his family tree so that family members can comment on them.  He thinks the mother's maiden name could be Turgeon.

    It's the little girl in this picture that captures our attention. The photographer posed her with head turned and eyes on the lens. It's a lovely picture of a turn-of-the-century family.

    Women's Clothing
    Women's fashion began to change circa 1900.
    • More women were employed, and clothing in washable fabrics became a necessity. This woman wears her "Sunday best" dress for this formal family portrait.
    • Wide high-necked lace collars were very popular before 1905. Skirts were worn approximately 2 inches off the floor.  
    • Hairstyles puffed out from the face. Extreme hairstyles were often caricatured in magazines, but this woman has chosen wisely. Her hair frames her face. A large wide-brimmed hat would accessorize the outfit.

    Men's Clothing
    Styles varied from casual dress worn by laborers to suits. The man in the family portrait wears his best suit. Collars worn standing up with a variety of silk ties were fashionable in the period. Men's mustaches were trimmed and waxed in the 1890s; in this turn-of-the-century portrait, he's retained his full mustache.

    Children's Clothing
    Play clothes for children were introduced in the early 20th century, but this little girl wears a light-colored dress that mimics some of the design elements of her mother's dress, i.e. the wide collar.

    Photo Details
    Watch for the spontaneous moments in a family picture. The little girl looks like Mom has just brushed her hair for the portrait, but both parents have little wisps of hair sticking out from their heads: Look at the left side of Dad's head and the hair above the neckline of the mother's dress.

    About the Photographer
    Alfred Adt of Waterbury, Connecticut, took this photo. According to city directories of Waterbury found on and details in census records, Adt was born in approximately 1863 and was a photographer in Waterbury from at least 1894 to 1909.  

    Use the comment field below to tell me how you came to own your family photos. Which relative gave them to you?  

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | men | women
    Monday, January 14, 2013 4:15:39 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, January 07, 2013
    "Downton Abbey" and Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    I can't resist the pull of a period piece be it a television series or a movie, so it's no surprise that last night I sat down to watch the first episode of Season 3 of PBS' "Downton Abbey." There were a lot of moments relevant to both family history and photography.

    The 1920s were a time of transition. Women's hairstyles changed and dresses became less form-fitting. Compare the styles worn by the Dowager Countess of Grantham and the attire of the American Martha Levinson for instance. You can view their attire on the PBS Character Hub.

    The Dowager Countess is conservative and clings to tradition. Her dress and hair support that; she wears dresses from the early 20th century and her hair pulled back. The hourglass figure is the shape attained with corsets and fitted dresses. 

    Martha Levinson is all about being modern. She dresses like a contemporary woman of 1920 with her waved colored hair and shorter, loose dresses. The opening sequence of her appearance says it all. She steps out to greet the staff in a wide-collared brocade coat and a rakish hat with a plume.

    If these women were members of your family and you had a photo of them taken individually against a simple background, then dating the photo based on the Countess' clothing could be misleading. Her appearance suggests a date earlier than 1920.

    Both women's fashion choices also reveal their personalities. I'll be watching to see if the Dowager Countess changes her style as the series progresses or if she remains tied to her long dresses.

    Personally, I love checking out their hats—wide-brimmed summer hats for the wedding of Matthew and Mary, as well as the everyday ones worn by staff and family. You can learn more about women's hats in Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900. I've included several English photos of women "in the service." It's a reference to their occupation of working for families.

    Photo identification and dating an image relies on information. What a person wears is helpful, but not the whole story. Pictorial context is important--where was it taken, who took the image and what else is visible. Adding up the clues can solve the mystery, date the image and identify the person.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | 1920s photos | hairstyles | hats
    Monday, January 07, 2013 4:21:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 31, 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, December 31, 2012 4:07:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 24, 2012
    Christmas Trees and Family History
    Posted by Maureen

    Every year I photograph our Christmas Tree. I know I'm not alone. So why do I do it?  It captures a piece of my family history.  A Christmas Tree is a holiday symbol but it's also a family history treasure. 

    Each one of the ornaments on my tree has a memory attached to it. From the yarn ornaments I made for my first tree to the ones passed down from my mother to me. I haven't recorded the history of those ornaments yet, but I should. About a week ago, the New York Times featured a story about a woman who'd collected three thousand ornaments.  They represent her life story.

    In 1900 the Wright brothers--Orville and Wilbur--photographed their family tree.


    This image lets us peek into a turn of the century holiday. The neatly wrapped presents under the tree and a little girls doll in a stroller.

    The ornaments are a mix of hand-made and store bought.  There is no artificial trim visible, instead someone patiently strung popcorn to decorate the boughs.

    As you pack away the ornaments, think about including a note on acid and lignin free paper that tells the history of that item.

    These interior photos also show us how our ancestors lived. The Wright brothers liked bold wallpaper on their walls but also their ceiling.  In the center of the ceiling is a lovely gas chandelier. It's a pretty typical Victorian scene from the decorations on the tree to the style of rug on the floor.

    Before you take down the tree, snap a picture of it so that later generations can see what the holiday was like for your family in 2012.

    Happy Holidays!

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | preserving photos | props in photos
    Monday, December 24, 2012 2:02:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, December 03, 2012
    Reader-Submitted Multi-Generational Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    I've been thinking about holiday cards. On Thanksgiving all 14 members of my husband's family—three generations of relatives—stood in the yard and posed for a group portrait. 

    I find the thought of having even more generations represented in a single image amazing. Yet that's just what a reader submitted when I asked for multi-generation pictures.

    Kay Haden sent me two five-generation images from her family. There is no duplication of people in the two pictures.

    In the first, someone used a ballpoint pen to write the names on the people. I wish they'd written on the back with a soft pencil, but there are lots of family photos with inked IDs.

    While the image states a date of 1907, Kay knows that it was actually taken two years later in 1909. This is based on the birth year of the baby.
    The baby is Graydon Earl Comstock (1908-1983). He's sitting on his father's lap—Kenney Marcus Comstock (1887-1958). Kenney's father, James Monroe Comstock (1860-1928), stands behind him. Next to James is his mother, Miranda Jane (Brown) Comstock (1842-1912). The oldest person in the image is the 2x great grandmother of the baby, Rebekah Poindexter (Jones) Brown (1822-1912).

    Five Generations edit.jpg

    In this 1961 image, Kay is the young woman in the back row. Her mother stands next to her. The baby is her oldest son. In the front row is the baby's great-grandmother and his 2x great grandmother. I don't usually publish images of living individuals, so I've withheld their names. 

    There is so much family history in these photos! If you pose for one, please take time to also sit with the family members and reminisce about their lives. Bring along a voice recorder/video capture device so that you can relive the moment later on—as well as save a piece of your family history.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | Reunions | women
    Monday, December 03, 2012 12:52:55 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, November 26, 2012
    Multi-Generation Portraits, Redux
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I featured a multi-generation picture submitted by Mary Lutz. We've been communicating about this photo via email, and I have a few more details to share.

    The original post mentioned that the baby is Mary Ruth Talbott Godwin. There is one problem with that identification. She was born in 1892. The clues in this picture (hairstyles and bodice styles) don't add up to that timeline. Instead, it's an early 20th century picture.

    Thank goodness Mary also recognized the discrepancy. She provided an alternative identification for these women, one that makes sense based on the photo clues.

    The baby is Ruth Waterstradt (born 1909). The mother is Pearl Godwin Waterstradt (born 1885). The grandmother in the center is Jennie Witten Godwin (born 1864) and on the left is great-grandmother Mary Brown Witten (born 1834). The baby is likely less than a year old which dates this image to circa 1910. 

    In addition to the four-generation picture, Mary sent in another group portrait. The two individuals in the center are Mary Brown Witten and her husband Samuel. The picture was taken in Grundy County, Mo.


    The woman in the center is the same woman who appears on the left in the four-generation image.

    This photo also dates from the early 20th century. Since Mary knows the identity of the two people in the center, the rest of the pieces should fall into place.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | men | women
    Monday, November 26, 2012 4:04:45 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 19, 2012
    Multi-Generation Portraits
    Posted by Maureen

    It's Thanksgiving! If you're planning a family gathering and are wondering how to keep folks occupied until the meal is ready, try getting them to chat about family photos. It doesn't matter if they are identified images or a group of mystery pics. I'll be taking out a box of snapshots, setting up my digital tape recorder and hopefully capturing some "new" memories.  Images can trigger all types of memories relating to the people depicted, not just the story of that photographic moment. Try it and see.

    Mary Lutz Govertsen sent in a complicated multi-generational photo of several generations of her family. She's hoping that I can compare it to another of her images and identify the date and the people. Isn't it lovely?


    On the back it says "4 generations: Granny [Mary Ruth Godwin, the baby], her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother." In the photo are the two Brown sisters who, due to marriage and disparate ages, are Mary Govertsen's grandmother's grandmother and great-grandmother.

    Family trees are full of twists and turns. Mary's family is a little more complicated. Her family moved from Tazewell, Va., to Missouri; due to multiple re-marriages and inter-marriages everyone is related. This is a family tree that I can't wait to see.

    It's a beautiful family photo that's sure to inspire some great family stories. I'll be back next week with more details on the group and the other image. If you have a multi-generational photo, I'd love to see it and feature it in this blog. The How to Submit Your Photo link provides details on how to send me your picture.

    Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | unusual photos | women
    Monday, November 19, 2012 1:50:16 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 04, 2012
    Historical Fact or Fiction?
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

    First the composite.
    The three images are as follows.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Civil War | men | Military photos | unusual photos
    Sunday, November 04, 2012 6:32:11 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, October 29, 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, October 29, 2012 3:27:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Thursday, August 09, 2012
    And the Winner is...
    Posted by Maureen

    Several weeks ago we put out a call for images for inclusion in my new book, Family Photo Detective (available for preorder in Pictures poured into my inbox and the Family Tree Magazine inbox, and many were posted on the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page.

    Congratulations to Michael Hanrahan, who sent in the winning image and will receive a copy of the book!

    You'll have to wait for the book for the full story of his photograph, but I thought you'd like to see the picture:

    And a closer look:

    It's a really fun picture of a group of women at a party. Here's what Mike says about it: "These ladies include my great-grandmother, grandmother, and numerous great-aunts. I'm thinking the picture was taken around 1910 in Elmira, NY."

    I'll tell you more about this photo in the future.

    You can view the other entries in our slideshow on Flickr. I'll be featuring many of these images in future blog posts.

    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

  • Improve your genealogical skills and connect with other family historians from the convenience of home at Family Tree University's Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference, taking place Sept. 14-16. Early bird registration ends Friday, Aug. 10 at 11:59 p.m.—just enter code FTUVCEARLY at checkout to save $50!

    1900-1910 photos | group photos | unusual photos | women
    Thursday, August 09, 2012 1:44:18 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, July 30, 2012
    Athletic Ancestors
    Posted by Maureen

    With the world's focus on the Olympics, it's time to think about the athletes in your family. There's a family story related to my husband's grandfather: It's said he was asked to play baseball with the Boston Red Sox, but his father forbade it. His father had other plans for the boy.

    Do you have relative who excelled at a sport?  You can post your pictures to Family Tree Magazine's Facebook page or email them to me. (See our photo submission guidelines.) Don't forget to send me their stories.

    The first London Olympics was held in 1908. You can view the athletes in black and white photos on the Library of Congress website; use "1908 Olympics" as a search term.

    1908 olympicsTR.jpg

    1908 olympicscrop.jpg

    On Sept. 5, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt hosted members of the US Olympic team at his Sagamore Hill home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. On his left is sportswriter P.J. Conway and on his right is James Sullivan, secretary of the 1908 Olympic Committee. This is just one of the images available at the Library of Congress.

    Movies and newsreels were just becoming popular at the time. Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can watch an interview with a rower who competed at the 1908 Olympics.

    Here are some fun facts about that first London event:
    • It was supposed to be held in Rome, but when Mount Vesuvius erupted, plans were changed to London. City officials completed the "White City" for the games in under two years.

    • 1,971 men competed versus 37 women

    • The opening ceremony was held April 27 and the games didn't close until October 31.

    • The current length of the marathon was set at these games. Supposedly the race began under the windows of the royal nursery and ended in front of King Edward VII. 

    There were political overtones at this event too. American shotputter and flag carrier Ralph Rose refused to dip the American flag in front of the King. Officials didn't display the Swedish flag, so those team members refused to participate. You'll find more information on Wikipedia and on the HistoryToday website.

    And if your genealogy research includes ancestors who played sports on a school, hobby, amateur or professional team, see our October 2006 Family Tree Magazine guide to researching athletes in your family tree.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | men
    Monday, July 30, 2012 4:18:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [14]
    # Monday, July 02, 2012
    Your Farmer Ancestors: Threshing in South Dakota
    Posted by Maureen

    There are a lot of comments on my posting on the threshing photos I saw last month at Jamboree. I learned a lot about the threshing process.  Thank you! 

    Sharon Pike sent in another picture of threshing wheat. It's of her family in South Dakota.

    Pike farming SDedit.jpg

    Being from the East Coast, I'm not used to seeing such a vast expanse of land. It's so beautiful. The large haystack at the horizon draws your eye from the workers in the foreground to where the sky meets the field.

    On the back of Sharon's photo is a note that states that Will Pike is in back of the "header." She's not sure which part of the machinery is the header. Can someone help out and comment below?

    Will's full name was James William Pike (1887-1931), son of James S. Pike and his wife Hattie Weed. Will traveled around with a crew that harvested wheat. He lived in Brookings, SD, and later settled in Wisconsin.

    Happy Fourth of July this week! I've created a couple of short films on my Vimeo channel to honor the occasion:  One is a colorized engraving depicting a veteran in uniform and the other showcases flags in photographs. I hope you enjoy them!

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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | holiday | men | occupational
    Monday, July 02, 2012 3:44:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Monday, May 07, 2012
    More Family Photos of Ancestral Children
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I showcased your photos of ancestral children and this week it's a second installment.


    This little guy is Sandra Jerome's grandfather, Ralph Frederick Jerome. He was born September 7, 1894 in Jordan, Scott County, Minnesota.   He's wearing attire approximate for boys less than 5--a skirt.  It's paired with a short jacket and a wide collared shirt. A cute hat sits on his head.  He doesn't seem old enough to be able to ride the photographer's tricycle prop.  It was likely taken circa 1899. 

    Jennie Youngedit.jpg

    Can you spot the school photos in your family album?  They usually look something like this.  This 1899 photo depicts 11 year old Jennie Young. She's Bonnie Bolster's great aunt. 

    The boy in the front row holds a sign--Coral School District no. 1 May 27, 1898.  The children wear a wide array of styles popular in that period. The flags in the background are likely for Memorial Day.

    Thank you for sharing pictures of your ancestors as children!  I'm off to NGS in Cincinnati, Ohio. Please stop by my booth 712 and say hello.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | school photos
    Monday, May 07, 2012 5:58:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]
    # Monday, December 19, 2011
    Holiday Photos from Your Family Albums
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you to Kim Dawson, Carol Norwood and Fran Jensen for sending in holiday photos from their family albums. 


    Kim Dawson sent me this lovely photo of a family with their Christmas tree.  The child is Elsie Marion Quakenbush (born 1908). She's posed with her mother Ella Baird Quakenbush and her father, Alfred Garfield Quakenbush.  On the back it says "To Grandma with love from us all don't fail to see Elsie's baby doll it looks just like a baby."  I enlarged the picture to look at the doll.

    It is pretty life-like.  It looks like Elsie also received a book "Sing a Song of Sixpence" and a tea set.  Her parent's are proudly posed with a new Victrola so perhaps that was their Christmas present.  Elsie looks about  6 or 7.

    Kim thinks that Alfred's brother George Willis Quackenbush took the photo. He was a photographer in Oxford, New York.

    Carol Norwood submitted an image of her parent's Bill and Cita Jacobs. They are sitting under the tree at Cita's parents home in Hartford, Connecticut. The Jacobs were still newlyweds.  They were married three months prior to Christmas.


    Fran Jensen emailed me this charming studio shot of four children.  Her grandfather, John Roy Tolve Johansen is on the right. His sister Alma sits next to him. She's hugging a china faced doll. The other boy and girl are the Bough's who were the photographer's children. It was taken in Ringsted, Iowa.

    Here's one more picture.  This is one from my non-family collection.
    I don't know the identify of these two boys, but on the back it says "Christmas 1898."  Don't you just love their modified Little Lord Fauntleroy suits.

    Happy Holidays!  If you want to see more Christmas trees, I have a short video on my Vimeo channel.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | candid photos | children | holiday | men | women
    Monday, December 19, 2011 2:32:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 12, 2011
    Painted Woods Update
    Posted by Maureen


    Richard Levine has taken on this mystery photo, which he originally thought was taken in Painted Woods, ND.  We've emailed back and forth about his progress and I thought it was time to update all of you about what he's been up to. This is the photo featured in two of the November columns of this blog; check out Part 2.

    After this installment appeared online, Richard wrote to say that he now thought the photo was a wedding. He thinks that it could be his grandmother Rose Confeld (b. 1885) and her husband Samuel Levine (b.1883). They were married Aug. 15, 1905, at Kistler's Hall in Minneapolis, Minn. The hall appears in city directories and in newspapers.  His next step was to try to locate a photo of it from the Minnesota Historical Society.

    He's also compiled a list of second and third cousins to mail them a letter and a copy of this picture. He's determined to figure out the significance of this photo!

    I suggested trying to find a Sanborn Insurance atlas of the area around Kistler's. These maps have construction details which would verify that the building was wood and also tell you something about the neighborhood.  This photo appears to have been taken in a rural area. 

    Richard found a picture of Kistler's from 1914.  It shows how rural the area was. He also located a hand-drawn map from the 1920s that identifies a four-story Kistler building on the same street as the Kistler's Hall. The hall is no longer at the junction of 6th Avenue N. and Lyndale Ave.; the area now has a freeway intersection.

    He retraced his steps and went back to his family history. Now he's investigating land his great-grandfather Joseph Confeld owned in Anoka County, Minn. 

    I'll be back with the next update. Every week Richard gets closer to solving this 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

  • 1900-1910 photos | Jewish
    Monday, December 12, 2011 3:05:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, November 21, 2011
    Census Diving: Browsing for Facts
    Posted by Maureen

    As genealogists, we mine census records for our ancestors and the details of their lives. For the last two weeks I've written about Richard Levine's puzzling pic in Is this Painted Woods North Dakota? and Painted Woods Mystery: Part Two.

    One of the tools I used to research the photo was the 1900 US census.  I routinely use online census records to learn more about when photographers were in business and to fill in background information. 

    For the Levine mystery, I wanted to see just how many folks lived in Painted Woods, ND, and whether that information could help identify who's in the picture.

    I browsed the census pages. While I might hesitate to read the census page by page for major metropolitan areas, it's a great way to learn more about small communities.  Here's how to do it:

    On HeritageQuest Online, a ProQuest database available through many libraries, click the link for Census. There are two options at the census tab: Search or Browse (some records aren't indexed, so they're available only by browsing).  Click browse. Select the census year, state, county and location.

    In Levine's case my selections were 1900, North Dakota, Burleigh and Painted Woods. There were only a couple of pages for the families there.

    On it is also possible to browse census pages. On the right hand side of the census search box for each year of the census is a Browse box.  You'll need to narrow the search by year, state, county and location to see the pages. 

    By reading the pages for Painted Woods, I learned that most of Jewish settlers had left the area by 1900. The area was then home to many Scandinavian immigrants. 

    In an unidentified family group portrait, a census record can help you determine who's in the picture: List the genders and estimated ages of the people in the photograph, then check census records for your relatives who were alive at the time the photo was taken. Look for a household whose members match the genders and estimated ages of those in the photo.

    When I use the census to research photographers, I fill in the years between the decennial enumerations with city directories, state censuses and any other pertinent records. 

    I'd like to know if you've ever used the census to solve a picture mystery. If you have, please use the comment box below this column.  I look forward to reading them.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | photo-research tips
    Monday, November 21, 2011 2:42:09 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Tuesday, November 15, 2011
    Painted Woods Mystery: Part Two
    Posted by Maureen

    Yesterday morning, I called Richard Levine to discuss his photograph of a family group possibly posed at Painted Woods, ND.

    I featured the photo and the mystery in last week’s column.

    Levine has known about this photo for only a few months. His cousin Sally showed it to him and told him that her mother said it was taken at Painted Woods. There are a few inconsistencies in this identification, though.

    Richard’s ancestors, Joseph and Anna Confeld, immigrated from Kishinev, Bessarabia in 1885, and settled in Painted Woods.

    Another set of Richard’s ancestors, Barouk and Hannah Dorfman, also lived in Painted Woods. The Dorfmans were among the first settlers to the area in 1882.

    Both families lived there only for a few years and then moved to Minnesota.

    Richard and Sally thought that since family said the picture was taken in Painted Woods, it must date from the 1880s. Last week, I looked at the clothing details and determined the original image dates to circa 1900. This generates some questions.

    The photo might not be of the Painted Woods community. In fact, by 1900, most of the Jewish settlers had moved elsewhere. The 1900 federal census for the community enumerates a number of Scandinavian families living in the area. 

    If this picture was taken in Painted Woods, Richard needs to determine why the family would return to the area. Could it be a family reunion, a wedding, or a funeral?

    One of the big problems is a lack of comparison photographs. I suggested comparing the faces in the group portrait with other photographs in the family. Unfortunately, Richard lacks images of family members. He’s hoping that someone will read this column and either have photographs of Painted Woods or of the Confelds or Dorfmans.

    Richard’s research turned up a first-person account of life in the community. Joseph Steinman (related to the Dorfmans) wrote about the hardships of life on the North Dakota frontier. It’s at the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest.

    Another resource worth investigating is William Sherman’s Jewish Settlement in North Dakota Collection at the Institute for Regional Studies & University Archives at the North Dakota State University Libraries. (Click here to download a PDF finding aid for the collection.) 

    If anyone is interested in reading about daily life on the northern frontier, I suggest Rachel Calof’s Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains (Indiana State University, 1995). It’s an amazing true story.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | group photos | Jewish
    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 2:03:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, June 27, 2011
    Photo Wishes Really Do Come True
    Posted by Maureen

    There are two success stories this week: an answer for the contest winner and a current connection for a 20th century mystery!

    First, there is a solution to the picture of the men dressed like Indians that I covered in Contest Winner Mystery and Contest Winner Revisted. A few people wrote to me and suggested that the men might be members of the Improved Order of Red Men (IORM).

    A year or so ago, I enlisted the help of David Lintz of the IORM for another photo. He confirmed my suspicions (and those of readers) that this group of men dressed in loin cloths could in fact be members of the IORM. He sent me a list of the tribes active in Cincinnati from 1851 to 1905. From 1896 to 1902, there was only one tribe in the city: Wyandot Tribe No. 5.  There were two earlier tribes that worked in German and Lintz thought that perhaps Charles Schmidt was once a member of one of them. However, the only tribe that fits the time frame of the picture is the Delaware Tribe No. 20, which was founded in 1866 and remained active until 1896.

    If Juliann Hansen's ancestor was a member of the IORM, he would have been eligible for membership at age 21. It's time to take a closer look at those painted faces for her great-grandfather.

    contest winneredit.jpg

    Lintz thinks that this photo depicts the Degree Team. He told me that there were usually 16 to 19 members, if the tribe had that many, trained in ceremonies. These men held the initiation ceremony for new members and  raided members through the three degrees of the order.

    Way back in March, I featured a page from Carol Norwood's mother's shipboard scrapbook in Around the World with Family.  Last week she wrote to me to say she'd made a connection.


    Her mother's scrapbook included autographs from fellow travelers, poems and drawings. One of the signatures was from Babeta Hofmeyr, who was on the ship Poelau Tello with Norwood's mother and aunt. Hofmeyr's son is still living and wrote to Carol.  

    I'm so happy for Juliann Hansen and Carol Norwood!

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | Photos from abroad
    Monday, June 27, 2011 8:14:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, June 14, 2011
    Contest Winner Revisited
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about Juliann Hansen's photo of men dressed like Native Americans. It's definitely a mystery. No real breakthroughs this week.

    Genealogy Insider Diane Haddad found another collection of Cincinnati Butcher Supply Company material at the University of California at Davis. A small group of material was donated by the Schmidt family in 2001. Alas...the photos in the collection date from the 1920s to 1950s, too late to be related to the men in the original image.
    contest winneredit.jpg

    Juliann's cousin Peggy is also curious about this photo. She owns a copy of an 1890 portrait of the men who worked at the Cincinnati Butcher Supply.

    cbs01 002.jpg

    I studied the two photos and didn't see any faces that jumped out at me as being the same men. A Nov. 17, 1939, article in the Cincinnati Times contained this image with a caption identifying a few of the men. The problem is, the caption was wrong. The middle boy is definitely Oscar Schmidt, Juliann's grandfather.

    So right now there are no answers. I'm back to considering fraternal organizations. The degree of undress in the first image suggests that women weren't present. Too scandalous for their delicate temperaments <smile>.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | men | organizations | props in photos
    Tuesday, June 14, 2011 8:46:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, May 23, 2011
    Scenic Assistance
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you to everyone that attended last week's Photo Detective Live! webinar. Don't worry if you missed it. You can still watch and listen to it online. There's even a free PDF download to go with it.

    This week's photo was submitted as part of our call for images for the contest that accompanies the webinar. (The Photo Mysteries contest concludes this Friday, May 27—here's how to enter.) I'll be featuring these photos and questions in the next few weeks.

    Sharon Woodsum sent in a great set of images. Her family called this photo "Roberts on the Cliff" and believed that it was taken in Wales, home to her husband's grandfather of that surname.

    That's until Sharon spotted this postcard of the exact location.

    Notice the similarities in the background. You can see the lighthouse and the other buildings on the cliff. Now Sharon thinks the family is actually the Emersons of Portland, Maine. It's possible that her grandfather Anthony E. Roberts is in the picture. I'll fill you in on that comparison next week.

    So why did the family go to Nubble Light? It's a beautiful lighthouse and has been in that location since 1879. If this is the Emerson family, they could be on a day-trip to York, Maine, but since it's more than 40 miles from Portland to York and the lighthouse, perhaps the family is on vacation in the area. The date for the photo of this group on the rocks is circa 1900.

    Sharon was lucky to find a postcard view that confirmed the location of the first photo. It yielded a clue that is helping her sort out the evidence in the group portrait.

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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | group photos | photo backgrounds | unusual surfaces
    Monday, May 23, 2011 6:56:22 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, April 25, 2011
    A Picture Pile-up
    Posted by Maureen

    I love unusual surnames. It's probably because my last name and many of my ancestral surnames often end up on those top 10 lists of popular names.

    Laurie Clement has a great chance to identify the folks in her unidentified image. She thinks this large family group shares the surname of Burkepile.

    All she needs is a date and she's on her way.


    I think this could be an impromptu itinerant photo studio shot. The whole family is standing in front of a white backdrop that looks suspiciously like a sheet. Mom, Dad and seven children stare directly at the camera. There's a single boy in the back row. Finding this family in the census should be possible. 

    The tight dress sleeves and hairstyles suggest a date of circa 1900.  It's a great picture of a family caught on the cusp of a new century. 

    A quick look at the 1900 federal census using HeritageQuest Online (available through many libraries) found families of Burkepiles living in Kansas, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania.  I didn't find any obvious matches, but Laurie and her distant cousins are working on a solution.

    My fingers are crossed!

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | group photos
    Monday, April 25, 2011 8:39:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, February 07, 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, February 07, 2011 2:50:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 17, 2011
    In Honor of Martin Luther King Day
    Posted by Maureen

    I realized today that I don't spend enough time on Flickr. If you're not familiar with it, try it today. It's a wonderful free resource. You can upload picture files, invite comments and share your pictorial heritage.  If you want unlimited uploads and storage, user statistics and more then upload to a Pro account. It's only $24.95 a year.

    So who's on Flickr?  Lots of folks including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. Smaller public libraries and archives also use Flickr to showcase the images in their collection.

    In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Day, I searched for image collections appropriate to the occasion.

    Black History Album
    A lovely group of images including one of Martin Luther King and his wife.

    Black History Group
    Members of this group share photos and videos and join in discussions

    African American Baseball Team courtesy of the Library of Congress
    Here's one of the images in the Library of Congress.

    Medal of Honor Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter, Jr. courtesy of the U.S. Army
    Even the U.S. Army has a Flickr page!

    Next week: Preservation Pointers.

    Get ideas for taking, preserving, sharing and analyzing family photos from our Family Photo Essentials CD (now on sale at

    1900-1910 photos | african american | men | Military photos | Photo-sharing sites
    Monday, January 17, 2011 4:04:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 13, 2010
    Immigrant Clues and Family Stories
    Posted by Maureen

    Poorescan0002 edit.jpg

    Terri Poore and her cousin have a lot of questions about this photo. Who, what, when and where is just the beginning.

    Unfortunately, the original owner of the picture is currently unknown. Terri's cousin received a copy of it years ago and can't remember who gave him the print.

    Terri and her cousin believe the folks in the picture are Felix Horvat (1884-1952), his first wife Sophie (1890-1918) and their daughter Anna 1909-1997).  I agree with this identification.

    There is a long complicated story about this couple. It's very important to write down the oral history of your family because you never know when all the pieces will link up. This photo is a perfect example of how stories and pictures are a natural match.

    First the facts: Sophie's hat in this picture and her coat date the picture. She is very well-dressed in a heavy wool coat, fur collar and an oversize hat known as a toque. Her hat and clothing combined with the birth date of their daughter date this picture to circa 1910. Toques were all the rage at the end of the first decade of the 20th century.

    Her husband wears ethnic dress that identifies him as a resident of Croatia. The family lived in Ljubljujana, Croatia.

    Now here's where it gets interesting. Family stories relate how this couple met. He was a country boy who worked as a coach driver for a wealthy family—the Bahuneks. Their daughter ran away with the coachman!  Sophie, her husband Felix and their daughter Anna immigrated to the United States in 1911 and lived in West Virginia for a time. The Bahuneks followed their daughter and also immigrated. 

    There is a sad twist to this tale. According to family lore, when Sophie gave birth to Terri's grandfather Nicholas in 1912, Sophie's mother was present for the birth. Her mother and the midwife decided she shouldn't have any more children with that "awful man" so they tried to perform a gynecological procedure to prevent more children. 

    The Horvat family moved to Michigan, but Sophie was so ill after the childbirth procedure that Felix allowed her family to move her back to West Virginia so they could care for her. He retained the children. In 1918, Sophie likely died from complications related to that botched procedure.

    Family stories also relate how immediately following her death, her husband Felix and her father had a knife fight to determine the custody of the children. Felix won. He took the children back to Michigan and eventually married the children's caretaker, also named Sophie.

    This photo is the gateway to an amazing family tale. Present in the image is pictorial evidence of the economic difference between the husband and wife. She's very fashionably dressed while he still wears his native dress. She's the city dweller and he's from the country.

    Now Terri is trying to piece together the family history and try to locate living relatives.

    1900-1910 photos | children | hats | Immigrant Photos
    Monday, December 13, 2010 4:47:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, November 15, 2010
    Lookalikes in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    I'll blame it on the holiday season. I'm feeling a little silly today. I laughed out loud when I saw Karen Thornhill's picture submission. Thank you Karen! 


    It's not the subject matter of the photo that made be chuckle, it's how she started the e-mail. First, though...who do you think the woman on the left looks like? Karen wrote me with the following opening line "Glenn Close, Abraham Lincoln and a baby." 

    It started me thinking: Do you have any celebrity lookalikes in your family album? Go ahead. Send them in to me in an email.

    Just for comparison purposes, here's a picture of a young Abraham Lincoln from the Library of Congress. It was taken Oct. 1, 1858.


    And here's a Wikipedia link to images of Glenn Close.

    The actual subjects depicted in this family photo are Karen's grandparents and her aunt—Rosetta (Seeley) Eldred and Emmet Ernest Eldred with baby Emma (Eldred) Johnson.

    Share your family photo stories with future generations in the book Family Tree Legacies: Preserving Memories Throughout Time.

    1900-1910 photos | men
    Monday, November 15, 2010 2:42:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, September 27, 2010
    It's Fall and Back to School
    Posted by Maureen

    This week, I've created a short video of photos from school days in the past. You can watch "School Days" and other video shorts on my Vimeo page.

    While the majority of images in "School Days" are from the nation's picture library, aka The Library of Congress, some of the pictures are from my collection of photographs I've purchased.


    One of my favorites is this little girl and a woman in a dotted shirt that dates from around 1900. Without the caption, you'd immediately think this is a mom and her daughter. Not in this case. It's a little girl and her teacher.

    It's evidence that this little girl attended some sort of school (of course this could be her piano teacher). When you're researching your family it's easy to overlook records relating to ancestral childhoods. School records are a great way to find out just where you got your talent in math or in my case, my poor handwriting <smile>. You can learn more about school records here and don't forget to use the search box at the top right of the Family Tree Magazine site to search our archive of articles.

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

    1900-1910 photos | children | women
    Monday, September 27, 2010 9:15:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, July 26, 2010
    Prize Catch
    Posted by Maureen

    No doubt about it, I've looked at a lot of family photos. Every so often there's an image that not only depicts an ancestor, but also documents a bit of local history. Take this photo, for instance:

    Otis Shepardson family  cougar edit.jpg

    Pamela Fisher sent me this photo owned by her cousin Lorrie Glover. The women thinks the man on the right (with the dog) is their great-grandfather Otis Shepardson.

      Otis Shepardson family  cougargrandfather.jpg

    Not everyone in the family agrees.  Shepardson was born in 1880 in Home Valley (Cowlitz County), Wash. 

    This picture is mounted to a gray piece of card stock. It can be difficult to date a group photo where no one is wearing very fashionable clothes. Men's clothing is particularly challenging because the fashion changes are subtle. The style of men's hats suggests that it was taken circa 1900.  If that's true then it could be Otis.

    There is one woman in the picture. She wears a frontier-style bonnet that protects her face from the sun. Perhaps one of the boys is her son. 

    Otis Shepardson family  cougar bonnet.jpg

    Also in the photo is a man in the background who looks like he just stepped off his horse. He wears a cowboy hat and a kerchief around his neck.

    Otis Shepardson family  cougarman.jpg

    This photo just begs the viewer to fill in the details and answer these questions.
    • Who shot the mountain lion?
    • Why are the men gathered around? (It could be the day the lion was placed there.)
    I think I know why a taxidermied mountain lion is on display in the town. It's quite possible that this animal threatened the town. Once it was shot, the town mounted it on tree stump (notice the wooden post to keep its head up). Whoever shot it must have been the town hero.

    My husband's ancestral hometown of Peru, Vt., once had a bear on display in the town center. I have photographic proof in an early 20th century postcard.


    You'll find help identifying the mystery photos in your family albums in Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.

    1900-1910 photos | group photos | unusual photos
    Monday, July 26, 2010 6:37:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Monday, April 26, 2010
    Head-to-Toe Fashion Sense
    Posted by Maureen

    Pamela Fisher sent in this gorgeous photo of a confident and determined young woman. Her direct gaze shows she's comfortable in front of the camera. The question is, of course, who is she?

    Pamela owns an old book that had a small collection of photos stuck in the pages. The book and the photos belonged to the Fisher family. Since the provenance (history of ownership) of the items suggested young woman was a member of the Fisher family, Pamela thought this would be an easy ID. She thought it must be Rilla Cooper (b. 1860)who married into the Fisher family and that the photo was taken in Spokane, Wash., circa 1880.  Rilla is a mysterious ancestor her family doesn't know much about.

    Unfortunately, this identification is incorrect. As soon as I saw the image, I knew it wasn't taken in the 1880s, when women's dresses had fitted bodices and large buttons.  From head to toe, this young woman is the epitome of early-20th century fashion.

    When I called Pamela to discuss the picture she wondered, "If not Rilla, then who?" That's the exactly the problem. Let's stack up the clues and see if it's possible to narrow the time frame.

    Hair: In the first decade of the 20th century, women wore their hair full. Creating this hairstyle required a "rat," a device made from your own hair harvested from a hair brush and formed into a sausage roll or (artificial versions existed). Women's magazines such as Ladies Home Journal ridiculed the extreme hairstyles of this period by showing examples of good and bad hair.

    Hat: It's difficult to see, but it appears that this young woman wears a hat. Large hats were the style in the decade from 1900 to 1910. In this case, it looks like a collection of ribbons.

    Dress: In the early years of the 1900- to-1910 period, dresses featured high necklines and lace insets in the yoke; in the latter part of the decade, large buttons added detail to the yoke. Corsets, which women wore beginning in their teens, created narrow waistlines.  

    Late-19th century dress reform advocates changed the way women dressed. In the 20th century many women worked in offices and needed functional, easy-care clothing.  The two-piece outfit—blouse and skirt—was a necessity.

    A quick glance at the 1909 Sears catalog shows blouses, skirts and hairstyles just like the one worn by this girl. You can view them in Joanne Olian's book, Everyday Fashions 1909-1920 as Pictured in the Sears Catalog (Dover Publications). Shirts with buttons and tucks were commonplace from about 1905 on.

    Shoes: Pamela wondered why this girl crossed her legs. It's not uncommon to see women in this time frame posing this way, but most women of the time believed crossing one's legs was not in good taste. 

    Perhaps this girl wanted to show off her boots. They're highly polished leather walking boots laced up the front. It looks like they have a bishop heel that tapers from the heel to the bottom. If that's true, this detail helps date the image. According to Nancy Rexford's Women's Shoes in America, 1795-1930 (Kent State University Press), this type of heel was popular through 1905, then it was replaced by other shapes.

    So who is this stylish young woman? If the photo was taken about 1905, Pamela wonders if she could be Rilla (Cooper) Fisher's daughter Elizabeth who was born between 1883 and 1885. In 1905, Lizzie would be 20 to 22 years of age.  

    1900-1910 photos | hairstyles | women
    Monday, April 26, 2010 3:49:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, April 19, 2010
    Birth and Death in the Family Album: Readers Respond
    Posted by Maureen

    Joy and sadness often go hand in hand in family photo collections.  This week I'll show off some photos that readers sent me.  Be warned....the last two pictures depict disturbing images.


    Susan Roose thinks the photo above depicts William (died November 22, 1877) and Daniel Hunt (died November 30, 1877). They were both just a few months older than one year.  Notice the woman under the cloth. She's holding them still. These two babies look very healthy here.

    twinsC07 Alston girls (3).jpg

    Elizabeth Handler emailed this ambrotype of Marion Helen Alston (1850-1885) and her twin sister Christina. The back of the image states that it was framed by J.J. Gillespie Co. Fine Arts. Gillespie was a famous frame shop in Pittsburgh.

    Violet Olive Victoria  Victor Clements (2).jpg

    Bonnie Bileski of Winnipeg, Manitoba sent this snapshot of Violet Clements, her grandmother Olive Clements (back, right) and the twins, Victor and Victoria (born July 1, 1899).

    Last week I told you I had some sad pictures from Judy Linnebach's family collection. Since so many folks e-mailed me to see them, I'll share them here.

    deformed baby (4).jpg

    Judy thinks that this picture depicts Freida Kohler (Nov. 7, 1907 -July 6, 1924). The cause of death was congenital hydrocephalus.

    dead guy (3).jpg
    Judi has no idea who this man is. All that's certain is that he's deceased and that he was photographed in St. Louis. Jay Ruby's book, Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America (out of print, but available used) is the best guide to this topic.


    Jackie McGuire sent in this picture with a heartbreaking story. A family story relates the tragedy of Elsietta Burns: "She was a much-beloved little girl, they say, but one day she was outside playing under the cherry tree and eating lots of cherries. She didn't know to spit out the pits and they killed her before the family could do anything for her."

    1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | children | men | unusual photos
    Monday, April 19, 2010 3:55:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, December 07, 2009
    Finding the Story, Part Two
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I examined a lovely portrait of a young couple and their son. Although family in Canada identified the husband and wife as Fred and Marie Klingbeil, the facts of Fred's life and the date of the photo don't add up.

    I asked Joan Lee if she had any other positively identified images of Fred to use for comparison. She did:
    Klingbeil Frededit .jpg

    In this one, Fred is a young man. This image looks like a high school graduation picture, which would place it in the c. 1900 time frame. His clothing and hair are appropriate for this period.

    If you compare this image to the one featured last week, you'll see how the two men have strong jaws, but their other features aren't a match. They have different ears, eyes and even hair.

    There's an even bigger question in Joan's research than who's who in the first image: She's been thorough and careful, but could she be looking at the wrong family tree. She started with a simple question about her father-in-law, Melvin Lee. "Who was his father?" Lee didn't know. He's alternated used Lee as a surname with that of his step-father, Martinson. Joan aimed to find out.

    Joan found Melvin's birth record in a microfilm of the St. Petrie American Lutheran Church (Nome, North Dakota) 1904/05 register she'd obtained from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. His parent's were listed as Fred Cleigbol and Josie Lee. Josie Lee wasn't married to Cleigbol.

    Lee birth.jpg

    Tracking down additional information on the Lee family didn't turn up any new leads on Melvin's father, but Joan did find a name change. The Lees were Norwegian immigrants originally named Olson. The family legally changed their surname in 1876.

    I'm impressed with Joan's follow-through. She researched 28 surname variations and left messages on multiple message boards. No luck!

    A breakthrough came when a Lee cousin planned a family reunion and arranged a service at the St. Petrie Church. Joan's job was to write down the family history so that it could be handed out to attendees. As she was working, she began to think, "Could the C in Cleigbol be a K?" Her husband studied the record and agreed with her that it could represent a K when pronounced. She suddenly started finding information on Fred Klingbiel and connected with two other relatives.

    Finally she felt the missing pieces fall into place. The Canadian branch of the Klingbeil family told her that Fred's father Julius had immigrated to join his brother Louis in Canada before moving to the United States. The documentation seemed to prove the relationship between her husband and his Canadian cousin. 

    Being a thorough researcher, Joan thought, "why not confirm it through DNA?" Oh boy, there was yet another twist in this tale. Stay tuned for next week. Joan and I need another week to sift through this part of the story.

    1900-1910 photos
    Monday, December 07, 2009 9:18:57 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, November 30, 2009
    Finding the Story: Picture Clues and Family Facts
    Posted by Maureen

    There's nothing like a photo riddle when the picture and the facts don't add up. In my experience solving that particular problem relies on more than the pictorial evidence. You have to dive into family history in detail.

    Let's take Joan Lee's photo of a young couple and their child as an example. It's a symbol of a long complicated family story that has so many twists and turns it's like a maze. A good way to gain freedom from the intricacies of this tangled web is to sort out the facts and list a series of questions.

    Klingbeil Fred baby and wifeedit.jpg

    This photo was given to Joan by a descendant of her husband's great grandfather's brother. He's identified as Fred Klingbeil, his wife and their son. It came with a sad story: The little boy supposedly drowned in Three Mile Lake in Ontario. If this is true, Joan can't find the proof. There's no death record, no cemetery record and no headstone where the family lived in Ontario.

    But Joan has an even bigger problem. Does this photo even depict Fred Klingbeil? A timeline of his life compared to the photographic details conflict. He was a man on the move. (If anyone wants the exact citations for this article, please send me an email to Joan will be happy to supply them.)

    Here are the facts of his life:

    1882: Fred is born in Detroit, Mich., to Julius and Amelia Klingbeil, recent immigrants from Germany. According to family letters, Amelia was pregnant with Fred during their passage to America.

    1891: Fred appears on the Canadian census for Windermere, Ont.

    1902/03: A newspaper in Enderlin, ND, mentions that he's in town to build an addition onto his widowed mother's house.

    1910: According to the U.S. Federal Census, Fred lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota working as a wallpaper hanger.

    In October of 1910 he marries for the first time in Idaho. His bride, Marie Evans, states on the marriage record she's from Aberdeen, Wash.

    Here's where it gets tricky. For this to be a photo of Fred and Marie with a son, it would have to be taken after 1910. But this woman's dress, with the belted waist and tight-fitting bodice, dates from about 1900.

    Her hairstyle confirms the date. In my new book, Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles, I examine photos and discuss men's and women's hairstyles. The topknot on the crown of her head was common from the late 1890s to the turn of the century. By 1910, women wear their hair full around the face with a bun on the top. It's a different look from what's seen here. The father's upturned collar, suit style and silk tie are consistent with c. 1900 as well.

    So is it a different Fred, or does it depict a different family?

    You won't believe where this family history mystery goes! I'll be back next week with part 2. Stay tuned.

    1900-1910 photos | photo-research tips
    Monday, November 30, 2009 9:48:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, November 23, 2009
    It's a Family Tree Magazine Reunion!
    Posted by Maureen

    In July, I wrote a column, Which Immigrant Is It, on a photo submitted by Jeannette Bias.

    Last week, another woman contacted me to say that she's related to Jeanette and is the great-great-granddaughter of Simon (1843-1892) and Mary (1850-1932) Dulas, the couple possibly depicted in this portrait.

    Bias Unknown Dulas.jpg

    Except that this "new" relative doesn't think the man is Simon. She thinks he could be their son Joseph with whom Mary lived after the death of her husband. Oh boy!  The facts in this case make my head hurt. 

    Here's the line-up of details.  I didn't originally assign a date to this image because I was hoping for a little more photographic evidence.
    • Simon Dulas dies in 1892 when Mary is only 42.  This couple looks a lot older than their early to late 40s.
    • There is another picture of Mary for comparison.
    Dulas Mary (2)crop.jpg Unknown Dulas (2)close-up.jpg 

    The image on the left was taken in the early 20th century, probably not long before her death. It is definitely Mary.

    On the right is a close-up of the photo from above. Both of these photos appear to be of the same woman, but I wonder. There's a slight difference around the eyes.

    There is yet another positively identified photo of Mary, only this time, she's posed with her children behind her.

    Dulas Simon 1901 .jpg

    That's certainly Mary in the front row. Standing directly behind her is her son Joseph (b. 1880).  This picture of him confirms that it's not Joseph in the very first photo in this column. The baby on Mary's lap is her first grandchild. 

    So the mystery remains. If the woman in that first photo is Mary then who's the man standing next to her?
    • It's not a brother.  All of her brother's were still-born infants.
    • Could it be Simon's nephew John (1856-1918)?  There are no known pictures of him. 
    • Could it be Mary's parents? Johan Glowik (1822-1896) and Elizabeth Staloch (1823-1884) Her father immigrates after his wife's death.
    • Or is it a very old looking Simon?
    If only Jeanette had the original of the first photo. Unfortunately, she doesn't. She obtained a copy from a relative who had gotten a copy from a now unknown other relative. The location of the original cabinet card is now completely a mystery.  That's unfortunate.  A photographer's imprint on the back could tell us where the picture was taken and help date the photo,  perhaps clearing up the identity of the folks in it.

    At this point I'm leaning towards the couple in the first column and in the first photo in this column being Mary's parents. That would account for the strong resemblance of the women in all the photos. If that's the case then the couple posed for a picture around the time of Mary's mother Elizabeth's death in 1884.  Photos in this time frame could certainly be on white card stock and often featured elaborate painted backdrops of interior scenes.

    I'm not completely certain and neither is Jeanette, but it does clear up the age issue.  If this couple were Mary's parents and they posed for a portrait in 1884 then Johan would be 62 and Elizabeth 61. Seems likely.

    Any one have any aspirin? This case gave me a headache <smile>.

    1880s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Immigrant Photos
    Monday, November 23, 2009 5:46:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Monday, November 02, 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, November 02, 2009 4:06:57 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, October 19, 2009
    Which Generation is it?
    Posted by Maureen

    There are photos that just drive you CRAZY. Ronald E. Wade is a very dedicated genealogist, but this image has him confused. His relative Mary Beulah Petty gave him all her pictures and that's great. Ronald has a fantastic picture history of his family thanks to her, but there's one problem—this picture:

    StinsonsSmaller (2).JPG

    It's a lovely picture of a couple in their later years posed with canes in hand. He's rumpled but she's neat and tidy. It's just a gorgeous photo. The question is, who is it??

    Let's start with the provenance, ie., the history of ownership of the pictures. This is actually where it gets confusing:
    • Mary Beulah Petty inherited her photographs from her mother, Texie Ann Busby (1861-1918). 
    • Texie received the photos from her mother, Matilda Stinson Busby (1831-1903).
    • Matilda got them from her mother, Mary Polly Robertson Stinson (1789-1833), or so the story goes. 
    Do you see the problem?

    First, photography isn't available until 1839, years after Mary Polly dies, and paper photographs aren't widely available until at least 1859.

    Here's the other issue: This photograph dates from circa 1900. This estimate is based on the style of the picture, the photographer's imprint and the clothing. Yet, family members dated this picture to the 1850s. 

    If these folks were in their 70s in this photo, then they were born about 1830. Seems like a neat solution—it's Matilda Stinson Busby and her second husband, John Busby (1822-1907), right? Possibly wrong. Ronald Wade has pictures of Matilda and John, and these folks don't resemble them.

    While Mary Beulah called these folks Grandma and Grandpa Stinson, she claimed that they were Mary Polly Stinson and her husband, Alexander, the couple who died years before photographs were available. Mary claimed her mother, Texie, also thought this image depicted Mary Polly and Alexander. Ronald can't imagine Texie's mom misidentifying her own parents. 

    On the back, someone wrote Matilda Stinson—why not Busby?  It's a real tangled mess of family history, family folklore and photographic facts.

    Ronald knows that only a few of the Stinsons moved to Arkansas, which should narrow the field of possibilities. He's been collecting family pictures for decades and even wrote a genealogy. I told him I'd present his case here and see what turns up. Now's he's considering that maybe this photo comes from the Robertson side of the family.

    The facts are clear:
    • The picture was taken about 1900
    • It's not Mary Polly and Alexander
    • The couple is at least 70, which suggest birth dates in the 1830s period.
    I love their expressions. It's a family history treasure!

    1900-1910 photos | men | women
    Monday, October 19, 2009 6:40:46 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Monday, September 07, 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, September 07, 2009 8:59:22 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, August 31, 2009
    Funny Ancestral Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    Roxanne Turpin sent me a photo that made me think about the transition in photo poses. In most of the images from the 1840s, 1850s and even 1860s technology and our ancestors' discomfort with being photographed combine to make folks look like they're in pain. Then suddenly, people started to relax in front of the camera. They had fun with photography. Photo studio props and poses caught sitters in action.

    I own a picture of a man with a curious expression on his face. It's a little odd:


    Turning over the image gave me the answer. The photographer's imprint says the following: "Caricatures, (patented) Ask to see those Funny Pictures taken only at... Theo. F. Chase, Photographer."  The pose was intentional! It was taken about 1880. 

    Now let's look at Turpin's image taken around 1900 (I'm still refining the date) in Fergus Falls, Minn.


    It depicts five men playing poker. Their cards and money are on the table. It's a friendly group of men all smoking cigars. The man in the middle moved a bit and blurred—I wish he hadn't moved so I could see his odd hat. 

    In the July 1909 issue of Photographic Topics (published by the Obrig Camera Company) is a brief news item about how amateur photographers could take funny images of their friends:
    Freako-Shutter for Funny Photographs. Fits any camera. The Freako-Shutter is a simple, amusing attachment, and everyone who used a camera should have one. It can be fitted to any camera in a few seconds, after the first adjustment. It will cause no end of amusement in making funny pictures of friends, etc. ...
    Basically, the Freako-Shutter allowed the user to shoot two exposures on the same negative. It first became available in 1903. Users could also shoot stereo images with the attachment.

    Taking "funny pictures" is still going strong today. Think about the times you put rabbit ears behind someone's head. <grin> If you have a funny ancestral photo in your family album, send it to me. I'll feature in an upcoming post.

    1880s photos | 1900-1910 photos | men | Photo fun
    Monday, August 31, 2009 5:16:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, February 17, 2009
    Two-Sided Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    This photo will have to be covered in several installments. It's a complex mystery that involves dating the picture, figuring out where it was taken and deciding who's in it. What's on the back of the image is a whole other story.

    Let's tackle the simple part this week—assigning a date.

    The 15 people in the photo wear everyday clothing. Only one man (on the far right) wears a jacket; the rest are attired in work shirts and pants with wide-brimmed hats to shield their faces from the sun. The little boys wear short pants and wide-collared shirts.

    The outfits on two of the women suggest an initial time frame for this group portrait. The smiling woman on the far left wears a dress with full sleeves, a pouched bodice and a wide double collar. Her skirt has fitted tucks at the hips.

    The woman on the right in the back row wears a loose tie around her neck with a pouched front blouse and full sleeves.

    Their topknot hairstyles clinch the time frame: The group probably posed for this portrait circa 1900 to 1906.

    Next week I'll be back to discuss how the rest of the facts add up.

    BTW, the creases on the image suggest that this image was folded and unfolded multiple times. The paper has actually worn away at the center. The staining you see is due to the glue used to adhere it to the paper.

    1900-1910 photos | group photos | hairstyles
    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 3:16:12 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, February 10, 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, February 10, 2009 2:13:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 15, 2008
    Capturing the News
    Posted by Maureen

    Joan Enders sent this photo of a man she believes is her great-grandfather William Riley Keeth, of Iberia, Miller County, Mo. She wanted to know more about the backdrop and to verify it's him.

    William Riley Keeth.jpg

    In the late 19th century, photographic props and backdrops were very elaborate. Some even included bales of hay and faux stone walls. A photographer posed this man with a backdrop that looks like the interior of a Victorian mansion, complete with a multi-paned window and what resembles wallpaper. Of course, it's all just paint and canvas.

    I wish there were a directory of photo backdrops! It would be so useful to know which photographers were using which backgrounds. It might even help pinpoint where a picture was taken.

    For example, Joan could contact a historical society in the area where her ancestor lived. The Miller County Museum might have a collection of local images. Then she could compare backdrops in those images to her own to see if they were shot by same photographer or studio. A city directory could tell her when the photographer was in business, helping to date the image.

    One of the largest online databases of pictures is Dead Fred. While it's primarily a photo-reunion site, I searched for Missouri photographers to see if I could find anyone near Miller County. No luck! But it's a good tip to try: Use the search feature to look for surnames or place names.

    The best part of this image isn't what's behind the man, but what he's holding— a letter. Notice how the envelope (in his left hand) is ripped open. Despite being a posed image, this picture has captured a spontaneous moment. The man looks at the camera with a surprised expression. 

    He's wearing work clothes and appears to have rushed into the photo studio to document the receipt of this written news. So what was in the letter?  There might be a family story associated with some sort of important information.

    Based on his clothing, the background and the plain brown cardboard backing, it appears this photo dates from about 1900.

    Does the photo really show William Riley Keeth? Keeth was born in 1865 and married in 1888. Here's a known photo of Keeth with his bride Mary Ella Thomas, taken in the year they married:

    William R and Mary E Keeth.JPG

    While the man in the first photo shares many of the facial characteristics of the man in this image, their ears are different. Notice how small this man's ears are. There's something odd about this tintype, too—it almost looks like a tintype of a painting. The edges of the couple's features are blurred. 

    Before deciding if these two men are the same person, I'll ask Joan for a better scan or picture of this image, and ask some additional questions about her family. I also still have a question about the backdrop: The window looks like backgrounds I've seen in English photographs, not like an American home.  I'm still looking for an image with a similar backdrop. If you have one in your family collection, send it in and let's help Joan solve this.

    1900-1910 photos | photo backgrounds | props in photos
    Monday, December 15, 2008 10:38:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Monday, September 15, 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, September 15, 2008 8:55:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Friday, May 09, 2008
    Fraternal Membership Clue
    Posted by Maureen

    David Farmer wrote asking about a photo of his paternal grandfather. It's on metal and depicts Charles Birchfield Farmer in his work clothes.


    Charlie Birchfield Farmer was a farmer. He stands in front of a barn and an old wheel. Tucked into his overalls is a pistol, and slung across his chest is a canteen for when he got thirsty working in the fields. 

    Farmer was born in 1885 in northeast Tennessee and lived in southwest Virginia. This image depicts him in the early part of the 20th century. as a young man, so I'd estimate this was taken before 1910. Any gun experts out there want to take a look at his pistol?  That could narrow the time frame even further.

    Photographs could appear on any type of surface that could be coated with light-sensitive chemicals, such as metal, leather, fabric and porcelain. In this case, it's a metal frame.

    The most unusual part of the image wasn't its setting, but the letters and symbols surrounding Farmer's portrait. David wants to know what the letters FLT mean.

    The interlocking three rings at the top of the frame indicate Farmer was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the FLT—that stands for the group's slogan, "Friendship, Love, Truth."

    If you have an image of an ancestor in a fraternal costume, send it in. I'll feature it in an upcoming column.

    1900-1910 photos | men | unusual surfaces
    Friday, May 09, 2008 3:30:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    Locks and Lace
    Posted by Maureen

    050808Earl Lamson.jpg

    I couldn't resist posting this photo submitted by Cyndi Fraser.  This little boy is Charles E. Lamson, born November 20, 1899 in Minnesota.   Sears Roebuck's sold similar blouses for 50 cents.

    Thank you Cyndi!

    1900-1910 photos
    Friday, May 09, 2008 2:58:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, May 05, 2008
    Curly Locks: A Trend Revealed
    Posted by Maureen

    I asked for it. I posted a request for images of curly-headed tots and now I've got several. Thank you!!

    They confirm my hypothesis about boys and hair. It appears that in the early 20th century, there was a trend—little boys with long hair and hair bows. They look just like their sisters. What's a genealogist to do to tell them apart? 

    Family traditions, oral histories and good old-fashioned genealogical research are the only ways to tell the boys from the girls in these cases. Don't jump to conclusions when you see a bow in this period—you might be wrong. Add up the kids in the family, ask older relatives if they know who's who, and try to match up their ages to kids in the photo using census returns and other documents.

    Here's an image Esther Thompson sent me: 

    Her emails says it all "This is a picture of my great-grandparents William and Ida Johnson, and the boy in the front with the curls (and bow in his hair) is my grandfather Andrew Clyde Johnson, born in 1897. I got this picture from my Dad's sister and when I asked her who the little girl was, she said, 'that little girl is your grandfather.' I couldn't believe it."

    Here's a close-up. Enjoy!

    050608 child.jpg

    1900-1910 photos | children | group photos
    Monday, May 05, 2008 4:26:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 10, 2007
    Dress Details Reveal Photo Dates
    Posted by Maureen

    This week’s mystery photo comes all the way from New Zealand.  Don’t you just love the way the Internet brings us all closer together!

    Janet Drinnan wrote of the picture below “We think it may be our great-great-grandmother, who was born in Buchanan, Stirlingshire, Scotland, in 1810.  Her daughter Elizabeth, who emigrated to New Zealand in 1862, had it.  It is not Elizabeth, as we have several photos of her in New Zealand—she was born in 1840 when her mother was 30 years old. Elizabeth’s mother, who was born in 1810, died of cancer in 1865 at 55 years old.”

    Unfortunately, I have bad news for Janet: This woman isn't her great-great- grandmother (born 1810).

    The woman in this photo lived long after 1865. The design of her dress dates the picture to circa 1900 to 1905. Notice her scalloped collar with jet beaded trim, and the pleated inset in the bodice. She has three-quarter-length sleeves. Lower sleeves extend to the wrist, with pleats and a beaded wristband. It’s a gorgeous dress, probably made from black silk. The woman wears a chiffon rose pinned to her bodice and a similar hair bow. (Hair bows were worn by younger women in this period, while older women usually chose plain hairstyles.) The bow, dress and setting provide elegance to this portrait.

    Clothing styles were different in the 1860s. Women then wore wide skirts and full sleeves with small collars. Jet beaded trim was also commonly used in the 1880s, but the other clothing details point to the 1900 to 1905 time frame.

    Now that I’ve destroyed a family oral tradition of who’s depicted, let’s see if I can help determine who this really is:

    •  Where was the photo taken? Janet didn’t mention a photographer’s name and address, but that would make a difference. Is this woman a relative who stayed in Scotland, or a friend in New Zealand?

    • Who was important enough in Elizabeth’s life that she’d keep the picture? Elizabeth had it, but it didn’t come with her on the long trip from Scotland in 1862. The image was taken too late for that. This woman could be a friend, sister (if she had any) or aunt.
    • Who’s old enough? While musing over these questions, Janet has to keep in mind that this woman is in her middle years. She should examine her research for a woman born likely after 1840 but definitely before 1860. Signs of aging vary with genetics and illness so this woman with white hair could be a bit younger or older than this time frame allows.
    • What else does the photo show? This woman doesn’t wear a wedding ring, but tshe still may have been married. Not everyone in the 19th century wore a wedding band. Or, this woman could’ve been widowed or removed the ring due to weight gain.  

    Once Janet considers these questions she should be able to list a few suspects.

    1900-1910 photos | women
    Monday, December 10, 2007 4:55:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 26, 2007
    Mourning Photograph?
    Posted by Maureen

    This week's picture comes from the Photo Detective Forum. This is used by folks who want their pictures analyzed for this column, but you can also post a photo-related question.

    Alissa Booth wrote that someone crossed out the original caption, C.C. Smock's wife and wrote Mother. A little girl stands next to an elderly relative, and Alissa wants to know which is the wife and who's the mother? Is it the older woman or the little girl? Alissa thinks her father changed the label when he was identifying photos to give to his children and now she's confused.

    From researching census records, Alissa knows C.C. Smock's wife, Mary Amalong, was born Oct. 10, 1855, and his mother, Sarah, was born about 1831.

    The key to identifying the women in this photo is the date. The girl's dress with it's ruffled yoke suggests this picture was taken circa 1900. Her grandmother's dress is simply styled without the full sleeves of the late 1890s, and further confirms the time frame.

    If this were C.C. Smock's wife, Mary (born in 1855), the older woman would be approximately 50. If it's Smock's mother, she'd be approximately 70. The latter is a more likely fit for the identity of the woman. She looks much older than 50, with a full head of white hair and knarled hands. Notice her handkerchief tucked into the waistband of her dress.

    She's dressed in black as a sign of respect for a deceased family member. It could be her husband or another close relative.

    The little girl could be her granddaughter, but given the fact that this little girl was born in the 1890s, it's probably her great-grandmother or even great-great grandmother. It all depends on when her parent's birth years and their relationship to the family matriarch.

    Alissa's Dad wrote Mother probably referring to the little girl, but that still leaves her with another mystery—who wrote the original caption?

    P.S. Don't forget to look at the comments for Ancestral Vacations. I've added some new details.

    1900-1910 photos | children | women
    Monday, November 26, 2007 2:39:14 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, August 28, 2007
    Clues from Hats and Backgrounds
    Posted by Maureen

    These four are dressed for an evening out. Everyday male attire in this period didn’t include silk top hats and shawl-collared vests, unless you were quite affluent.

    Sandra Guynn believes the man in the center of this photo is Charles Anthony Doyle (born 1867), and the women, his daughters (born in 1891 and 1892). She can’t identify the man on the left.

    Let’s answer the simple question first—when was it taken?

    The women’s hats provide a time frame of 1904 to 1908. Large hats and pouched front bodices gave women a then-fashionable S-shaped figure. (Read more about women’s headgear history in Jonathan Walford’s online article on Vintage Fashion Guild.)

    However, this date somewhat disagrees with Guynn’s tentative date. Doyle’s daughters would be young children at the beginning of that time frame and teens by 1908. So let’s look at other evidence:
    • Hindering this investigation is the lack of a photographer’s imprint. Guyunn’s photo is a copy and doesn’t know where the original is. Since a house’s clapboards and window sash are visible, likely this is an amateur snapshot rather than a professional studio photo. Guynn could examine her own and relatives' pictures for a house with similar construction. 
    • Also in the background are two screens. One is a fabric divider commonly found in houses of the era, while on the right is a large divider with attached photographs. They’re blurry, but Guynn should enlarge this photo and try to see if any of the images match other family pictures.

    • One man stares directly into the camera while the women look to our left (probably at another person), and the other man looks in the opposite direction. The man with the top hat is the significant figure based on how they’re posed.
    That man is Charles Anthony Doyle, according to Guynn’s tentative identification. He’d be about 40, the right age for this photo. The pose and attire indicate he’s a man of authority. 
    The questions remain about the women. Further research using census records could help sort it out.

    I’ll be back soon, hopefully with more information and an ID. 

    1900-1910 photos | candid photos | group photos | men | photo backgrounds | women
    Tuesday, August 28, 2007 9:35:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 13, 2007
    Clues Your Old Photo Was Taken in Summer
    Posted by Maureen

    Here in New England where winters are long, we embrace summer and often carry cameras to capture moments in the sunshine. When you think about  picture-taking patterns in your family, don’t disregard the seasons. This week I’m revisiting some of my older columns to show you how to spot scenes of summer in your family photo collection.

    Last year, Judy Miller sent this photo of a family in front of a seashore backdrop, a clue that perhaps the group lived near the shore or visited on holidays. The children's lightweight white dresses indicate warm weather. The mother’s hat actually suggested a season, too—a similar hat appeared in the August 1885 Peterson’s Magazine.

    Clothes also indicate a summer get-together in this photo—the women’s dresses look like lawn, a light fabric, while the men shed their jackets and rolled up their sleeves. Counting stars in the flag provided a time frame of 1908 to 1912. (Find out how the stars helped.) Patriotic decorations could show up for events at various times of year, but combined with the summer attire, they suggest this is an Independence Day celebration.

    The dresses on the four girls sitting near the railroad tracks in this candid snapshot date it to about 1900. The lush foliage on the trees across the tracks narrows the time of year to summer.

    This similar group portrait, also taken by an amateur photographer, is clearly another summer snapshot—you can tell from the white dresses and leaves on the young trees in the background.

    Go through your photos to find women and children in white, men and boys in straw boaters (a popular summer accessory) and trees and gardens in full bloom. Add them to the Photo Detective Forum and I'll put together an online album to celebrate the end of the season.

    1880s photos | 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | photo backgrounds
    Monday, August 13, 2007 7:47:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]