Free Updates

Let us tell you when new posts are added!



May, 2016 (4)
April, 2016 (4)
March, 2016 (4)
February, 2016 (4)
January, 2016 (5)
December, 2015 (4)
November, 2015 (5)
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)



<May 2016>

by Maureen A. Taylor

More Links

# Monday, May 23, 2016
Memorial Day Tribute in 1918
Posted by Maureen

A quick search for Memorial Day photos on the Library of Congress website turned up this image. According to the cataloging record, the original was a glass negative, and on the envelope was a note suggesting this was taken by the National Photo Company on Memorial Day 1918.  It's a posed press photo of what seems to be a significant event.

The letters on the women's sashes caught my attention. Downloading a high-resolution version of the photo from the Library of Congress website revealed the letters L, U, S, I, T:

My mind immediately thought about the significance of the day and year of this image.
  • Memorial Day, a holiday that honors service men and women who died in the Armed Forces. Today it's the last Monday in May.  Originally called Decoration Day, after the Civil War this day was set aside to decorate graves with flowers. In 1918, Memorial Day was May 30, a Thursday.
  • In 1918, the world was battling in the First World War.
  • What event helped to turn the tide of American opinion against Germany, eventually pushing the United States into the war? The sinking of the RMS Lusitania, May 7, 1915. The women's sashes likely spell the ship's name.

Searching for keywords relating to Memorial Day and Luisitania with the year 1918 on subscription newspaper website GenealogyBank gave me the answer. Bingo! This mostly unidentified photo now has a story.

On May 7, 1915, a German U-boat torpedoed and sunk the RMS Luisitania, an ocean liner returning to Europe with close to 2,000 passengers and crew on board. Bestselling author Erik Larson featured the tragedy and the events surrounding the sinking in his 2015 book, Dead Wake. Here's a panoramic photo of the ship at anchor in New York harbor in September 1907 for its maiden voyage. It shows the scale of this vessel compared to everything else on the waterfront that day. You'll find more images of the ship on Wikipedia.

Some of the women in the first photo sit within a large wreath.  It was one of two of the wreaths made for the Memorial Day ceremony. The story appeared in papers across country including the Riverside Daily Press (Riverside, Calif.), May 30, 1918:
Down on the peaceful Potomac two gigantic rose wreaths were set adrift, markers for the graves of the Lusitania dead. Daughters of the American Revolution launched the first: the crew of a British warrior the second.
In the photo appear both the members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the crew of the British warrior. They posed for the picture before they set the wreaths in the water.

Identifying the details and the story behind this picture required studying the clues: sashes and the history of the period.  The answer was in the news.

How did your ancestors celebrate Memorial Day? Read local historical newspapers to learn more about the special events in which they participated. Using the details mentioned in those articles, go through your family photos looking for matches.

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

  • 1910s photos | Luisitania | women | World War I
    Monday, May 23, 2016 4:55:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, January 24, 2016
    Old Photos in Print: A Collection of Tips
    Posted by Maureen

    One of the first tips for finding images (photographs, engravings, and paintings) of your ancestors is to start at home and branch out from there.  Those images could be hiding in plain sight on everything from passports to licenses.

    You're probably wondering when you can expect to find pictures of  relatives on those records. For instance, a common question is, "when were pictures first included in school yearbooks?"

    Use this handy guide to when various types of family history documents began to include pictures.

    Newspapers and Books
    Long before pictures appeared in print, editors hired artists to turn  photographs into engravings. You can find examples in early family histories and local histories. Civil War newspapers and magazines featured engravings of famous folks and battlefield scenes many based on photographs. 

    Photomechanical engravings that looked more like the original photographs appeared in 1880, and actual photos appeared in papers around 1919.

    In the mid-19th century, class books at Ivy League colleges contained actual images, carte des visite and cabinet cards. It wasn't until around 1919 that mass-produced yearbooks with photographs were common. Check school archives and local historical societies for copies.

    Immigration Paperwork
    If your great-grandparents liked to travel outside the country, it's possible to find their pictures in a passport created after about 1918. For more information on passports see the National Archives website.

    If your immigrant ancestor applied for citizenship and received it after July 1, 1929, his or her naturalization papers will include a photo.

    Drivers' Licenses
    New York city issued the first paper drivers licenses to chauffeurs in 1910. You can view these licenses in "The Evolution of the New York Driver's License."

    There's more information on how to locate other ancestral picture sources in Searching for Family History Photos How to Get Them Now!

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

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

  • 1850s photos | 1880s photos | 1910s photos | Civil War | Immigrant Photos | newspapers | school photos
    Sunday, January 24, 2016 6:06:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 14, 2015
    Little Boys in Military Dress in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

    Godey's Lady's Book January 1862

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1910s photos | children | Military photos | World War I
    Monday, December 14, 2015 2:19:31 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 22, 2015
    Thanksgiving Shopping in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    1919, Library of Congress

    This little girl is delighted with her Thanksgiving turkey but I'm not sure how I would have felt about carrying home a turkey complete with feet and head. Shudder!  A lot has changed in our Thanksgiving prep.

    The 1918 Fannie Farmer cookbook came with instructions on how to prepare poultry.  My grandmother's likely bought birds like this and did everything from cutting off the heads to cleaning out the cavity.  As a child I watched my father's mother singe off any remaining feathers from chicken whether they were present or not. It was a long ingrained habit and likely a cooking skill she developed early. 

    In addition to the turkey in this picture are a lot of clothing clues for the period. Take a good look at the girl's legs.  She's wearing long leggings beneath her dress to keep her legs warm.  In the background the woman looking at the action wears a plush (perhaps fur jacket) and wool hat decorated with botanicals (berries and branches).  Her dress is a little long for 1919, but it fashion sense due to the cold weather.

    1919, Library of Congress

    This young boy holds a thin but enormous turkey.  He's worn jacket and pants suggest that he could be working at the market rather than buying something for his mother.

    Neither child wears gloves! Wonder if either child got ill from handling raw poultry. They are unnamed in these photographs so researching their lives isn't possible.

    As you get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, ask older relatives about their roles in meal preparation and their childhood traditions. Download the free Storycorps app to your phone and join in the #TheGreatListen2015. Documenting our contemporary family history starts with a story.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    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

  • 1910s photos | children | holiday | thanksgiving | World War I | storycorps
    Sunday, November 22, 2015 6:11:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # 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]
    # Sunday, October 04, 2015
    Mourners in Old Graveside Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    This old graveside picture is proof that family photographs are inherited differently in every family. Sometimes the pictures go to the oldest, sometimes the youngest, and sometimes they get scattered among descendants.

    The same can be true for genealogical information. Huge online genealogy databases like and can help bring all that data and those pictures back together.

    Pam Fisher got this photo from her cousin Mary Fehr. Pam's theory that it depicts the funeral of her great aunt Edna, who died in 1890, didn't agree with the circa 1919 date for the picture. In last week's post, I studied the evidence and theorized that the graveside mourners are close family members and that the deceased could be a child.

    Pam also submitted an image of her great-uncle Benjamin F. Shepardson (born 1863). She thinks he's standing in the group of mourners near the grave. I agree. Matching photographs of individuals involves looking at all the facial features and the spacing between those features. It's also about adding up the facts of their life and making sure the picture details match those facts.

    In this case, they do. Benjamin lived in the vicinity of the funeral. Here's a picture of Benjamin taken in the 1880s and a close-up of him at the funeral. This single portrait together with an image I found online (owned by a distant cousin) helped break the case.


    A quick search of turned up multiple family trees for descendants of the Shepardson family. Several siblings were still living in the circa 1919 period: Arthur (b.1860), Benjamin (b. 1863), Oliff (b. 1867), Pliny (b. 1873), Bessie (b. 1875), Otis (b. 1880) and Victor (b. 1884). Edna (1869-1890) and David (1877-1893) were deceased.

    Benjamin was a favorite uncle amongst the descendants of his siblings—so special that his memorial on Find A includes a testament to him as "Beloved Uncle Ben." He lived in Castle Rock, Cowlitz, Wash.

    I wondered if there were more Shepardsons buried in the Whittle Hubbard cemetery there. Turns out the answer is yes. There's is a family plot there as well. A photo of the cemetery appears on the site. All those evergreen trees and the rolling landscape looked familiar. Bingo! The graveside picture appears to have been taken at Whittle Hubbard.

    Suddenly there was another possibility for who's being mourned: Bejamin's mother Flora died in 1915.

    All the information about the family online might hold a clue to who's standing graveside. Now take a look at the man on the far right: He also resembles Benjamin. 

    This could be Benjamin's older brother, Arthur. Looking at public family trees for the Shepardsons on turned up another picture, this one of their sister Bessie. She could be the woman in the front of the group of mourners or the woman in back standing next to Benjamin.

    Below, I've added suggested identification to the people in the picture. This is a long way from saying exactly who's who. More information is need on where these people lived to gauge whether or not they could have attended the funeral.

    I'm playing devil's advocate with the rest of the identities, estimating how old people might be in 1915. Arthur (55), Benjamin (52), Bessie (40), David (38), Otis (35) and Victor (31). Two of the brothers are missing: Oliff and Pliny, who would've been 48 and 42 in 1915. Now it's time to try to find images of all the siblings and match them up to the folks near the grave. I'm confident that additional research can solve this mystery. 

    It appears that images of the siblings are scattered in collections owned by distant cousins. Pam's going to have fun trying to track down those images. In the process she'll be bringing the descendants of these mourners back together.

    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

  • 1910s photos | mourning photos
    Sunday, October 04, 2015 12:25:03 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, September 27, 2015
    Graveside Clues in an Old Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Our family photo collections are full of pictures of happy occasions, such as weddings, parties and kids having fun.

    But sometimes the camera was used to document a sorrowful family history moment. Pam Fisher owns this graveside group portrait from the Shepardson family. She thinks it was taken in southern Washington state.

    She also sent along a second photo for comparison. It's possible her great uncle Ben stands in the back row on the right of this group photo. Next week, I'll compare the two images and see if that's possible.

    Before I do that, though, I need to study the clues in this picture. If these clues suggest the picture was taken after Ben's death, then he naturally won't be in the crowd. "When was it taken?" is the first question to answer.

    Hats are a great piece of evidence to determine a photo's time frame. Sometimes women held on to favorite hats for years. In other cases, a woman who couldn't afford to update her entire wardrobe would purchase a new hat to look more fashionable. The hats in this group date from about 1919. Each one has a brim and a rounded crown, typical details from that time frame.

    The people at the grave are likely close relatives to the deceased.  

    So who died? The size of the grave and the two people standing closest offer insights into who's buried there. It's a small grave. Standing behind the mound is a man and a woman. They don't look very old. I'm wondering if they could be parents of a child who died. They might also be siblings of the deceased.

    The expressions on their faces convey their deep sadness over the loss of this person. Behind them stands a middle-aged man. An older man with similar features to the first middle-aged man stands to the side. They could be grandparents.

    It's important to remember that this picture represents a gathering of family and friends. It's a useful family history document.  
    • Who died?  Study family history to see who dies circa 1919. The flu epidemic of 1918/1919 occurred in three waves in those years. Perhaps the deceased contracted that illness.  

    • Who's in the family group? If the man in this grouping is great-uncle Ben, this information may help to identify the couple in front of the grave.

    • Who else is at the funeral? I'd look at the family tree again to see who lived in southern Washington state circa 1919, then examine family photos for pictures of those individuals. Next step is to compare those pictures to the faces in the crowd.

    The lack of foliage in the background and the mourners' heavy coats suggest it's cold outside. These details further narrow the time period. It's winter or spring of 1918/1919.

    While this image depicts a sad moment for Pam's relatives, for their descendants the very existence of this picture is worth celebrating.

    Next week I'll try to spot great uncle Ben. 

    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

  • 1910s photos | men | mourning photos | women
    Sunday, September 27, 2015 4:23:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 21, 2015
    Crowdsourcing an Identity in an Old Vacation Picture
    Posted by Maureen

    Alex Jenner of Ipswich, Suffolk, England, bought this photo at a "boot sale." He's fascinated by it and he'd like our help figuring out who posed. Crowdsourcing is a way of spreading information on the internet and trying to find answers through the viral qualities of the web. It might help Jenner figure out who these people are.

    The scenery isn't a mystery. The distinctive landscape is the Gap of Dunloe, Ireland. In researching the image he stumbled upon a column I wrote years ago about an earlier picture of a group near this landmark.

    Photography and family vacations go hand in hand. The first known family vacation photo likely dates from the daguerreotype era of the 1840s, when people posed in front of tourist locations like Niagara Falls.

    Alex also researched the photographer of this image, L. Anthony of Killarney. A quick Google search turned up information on Louis Anthony, a popular photographer in the area. He'd travel daily in the tourist season to the Gap to take pictures, return to the studio to develop them and have them ready for pick up by the time the tourists came back from the Gap.   It's possible that he also took the image in the previous column I wrote about that carload of visitors to the Gap.

    The first number in the close-up above refers to the vacationing group. This information was written on the negative.

    If you're on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media platform, let's get this picture on the web and see what happens. Tell your friends too. It's a good test of the virtual world.

    Let's see if we can make crowdsourcing work to identify this couple.

    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

  • 1910s photos | men | women
    Monday, September 21, 2015 9:04:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, May 17, 2015
    The Wright Brothers and Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    In the early part of the 20th century, three members of the Wright family were among the most famous individuals in the country (if not the world).  Orville and Wilbur's patented flying machine demonstrations on both sides of the Atlantic brought thousands of people to fields to watch them fly.

    Their schoolteacher sister Katherine flew more than any woman of her generation. The three of them stand together in this 1910 photo from the  Library of Congress. If you want to see the Wrights' original patent drawings, they're avilable online through the Google patents search. Their aerial demonstrations mesmerized the public and made our ancestors believe in the future. 

    David McCullough's new book, The Wright Brothers, presents the brothers as ordinary men with extraordinary focus, determination and passion. Many men of their generation tried to perfect manned flight, but Orville and Wilbur Wright were first to actually do it.

    Their exploits even influenced a fashion trend. When Mrs. Hart O. Berg accompanied Wilbur Wright on a flight in 1908, she tied her scarf around her dress at the ankles to keep it in place.  It's possible that the French fashion designer Paul Poiret saw Mrs. Berg and Katherine Wright tie down their skirts. He created a short-lived style known as the Hobble skirt.

    It was difficult to walk in these narrow skirts. This postcard calls it a speed-limit skirt because women could take only baby steps. If you see a photo of an ancestor wearing a skirt of this design, you'll have a narrow time frame for an image of 1910 to 1913.

    Our ancestors had fashion icons that influenced everyday dress. Both Orville and Wilbur Wright dressed neatly for their flights. Wilbur always wore a high-necked collar with a tie, a jacket and a cap. While full-crowned caps were available before the Wrights took flight, they increased in popularity throughout the second decade of the century and beyond. The style of the brim and crown changed in later decades.

    Watch for these fashion trends in your family photos from the circa 1910 period. If your ancestor passed on stories of seeing the Wright brothers in flight, please let me know.

    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

  • 1910s photos | Airplanes | unusual clothing | women | Wright Brothers
    Sunday, May 17, 2015 2:53:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 16, 2014
    A Yard-Long Old Photo Brick Wall
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1910s photos | panoramic photos
    Sunday, November 16, 2014 6:35:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, September 22, 2014
    Photos of Our Ancestors Goofing Around
    Posted by Maureen

    Amateur cameras made it possible for our ancestors to relax in front of the lens. Goofy pictures abound in photo albums after 1900. Take this one, for instance:

    Laura Kettner sent in this picture of two women with their backs to the camera. They've put their coats on backward for this image. Why? We have no idea but this isn't the first photographic costume joke I've seen. There seemed to be a trend of goofing around in snapshots in the early years of the 20th century. 

    At a recent conference someone showed me two pictures. The first was a group picture of family members. In the second, the men were in the women's clothing and the women were wearing the men's clothing.

    At another event, a picture showed men and women wearing each others hats.

    Laura's aunt identifies the woman on the right as her great-grandmother Mabel Rheaume (born 1891). She has the same hair as Mabel in other images. On the left could be her future sister-in-law Audrey Kettner. Unfortunately, no one has an image of them facing front taken at the same time.

    The clothing dates the image to early in the second decade of the 20th century, between 1910 and 1917.  You can find short and long coats of this style in Sears Catalogs (searchable on

    In that time frame, Mabel was engaged to a man who died in 1917. She later married Joseph Earl Kettner (born 1899). If the woman on the left is Kettner's sister, then Mabel knew her long before she married him.

    Do you have a humorous photo in your family collection?  Email it to me. I'll feature it here.

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

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

  • 1910s photos | candid photos | women | World War I
    Monday, September 22, 2014 4:33:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Tuesday, September 02, 2014
    North of the Border Old-Photo Mystery
    Posted by Diane

    Jane Smith owns this lovely photo of a young girl  and an older man. She hopes it depicts her great-grandfather Patrick Hughes, born in 1836 in County Down, Ireland. He died in 1899 in Toronto, Canada, after a successful career as a merchant.

    The picture was found in a box of other photographs of the same family. The box also includes an earlier image of Patrick and a photograph of his house. Location and provenance (history of ownership) are just two of the clues that help identify photos.

    In this case, the girl's clothing is significant. Here's how the head-to-toe clues add up.

    Broad-brimmed hats and spread collars appear in the World War I period, but not at the turn of the century, during Patrick Hughes' lifetime. Around 1910, hat brims drooped down over the forehead. They remained fashionable until the early 1920s. 

    Another big detail in the girl's dress is the dropped waist. That particular detail didn't become fashionable until circa 1912, and it lasted until the early 1920s—a likely time frame for this photo. Waistlines dropped to the hips in the 1920s. I'm leaning toward a more-specific date of the late 1910s for this picture. 

    A possible identity for the girl will help narrow the time frame even further.

    Knee socks were common in warmer weather, usually paired with short boots or even flat shoes. In this photo, the tops of the girl's boots would be visible if she were wearing them.

    Unfortunately, this date means the man isn't Jane's great-grandfather.  Now she has two mysteries to solve instead of one. 


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

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

  • 1910s photos | 1920s photos | children | hats | men
    Tuesday, September 02, 2014 11:33:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, June 29, 2014
    World War I Women
    Posted by Maureen

    June 28 is recognized as the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, which triggered beginning of World War I a month later. The United States didn't formally enter the war until April 6, 1917.

    womens land army.jpg

    When men enlisted in the service and left their jobs, women stepped in to take their places.

    The Women's Land Army formed in 1917 so that women could fill the agricultural jobs vacated by men. This poster was for a training school that prepared women for work as farmerettes. It shows women wearing shawl- collared dresses with pants underneath.  On their legs and feet are leggings and footwear similar to what their menfolk wore in uniform.

    Women participated in the war by serving in the Red Cross overseas, by filling clerical positions, working in the fields and acting as recruiters. In family photo collections are black paper photo albums that document these women's lives. 

    I've seen images of women in the Red Cross but not these farmerettes.  If you have one, I'd love to see it—click here to email me. I did a Google Image search and found great photos of women and girls being farmers including this one of Girl Scouts harvesting crops.

    The Women's Land Army lasted until 1921 and was re-established during World War II.

    According to Wikipedia, women who participated lived primarily in the West and Northeast, and many were college educated, because their colleges and universities formed groups. Many of these women also supported the suffrage movement.

    The fashion effects of World War I were felt in the United States long before the Americans went to Europe and changed the way men and women dressed.
    • military-styled clothing became fashionable.
    • large oversize coats like those worn by soldiers were commonly seen.
    • sailor-style and shawl-collared dresses and shirts for women can date a photo to this time frame. 
    • By the end of the war, women began cutting their hair shorter causing angst among the male population. 

    This centennial of the start of World War I is a great time to research your WWI ancestors. See our WWI research guides for soldiers and women in the July/August 2014 Family Tree Magazine.

    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

  • 1910s photos | World War I
    Sunday, June 29, 2014 5:22:59 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, June 08, 2014
    Western Pastimes: Billiards Buddies Follow-Up
    Posted by Maureen

    In the May/June 2014 issue of Family Tree Magazine is a photo of six men standing with billiard cues.

    Two of the men are Charlotte Flock's maternal and paternal grandfathers. Instead of a formal portrait, Flock's ancestors posed during a pause in their favorite pastime.

    On the far left is Ira Willard Mayfield (born Feb. 4, 1872)

    Next to him is Flock's paternal grandfather Michael Schmitt (born Sept. 12, 1871)

    Their clothing provides possible clues to their occupations. Mayfield and Schmitt were farmers. The man in the center wears dress pants and a necktie. He could be a storekeeper. 

    The man to the far right appears to be a laborer, while the man with the cigarette wears very clean chinos and a shirt.

    Their identity is currently unknown. But the man in the chaps provides a clue to his name—there are initials on his chaps, J.T.

    A search of the 1910 federal census for Mulhall Twp, Logan County, Okla., turned up a possibility. It's a really small town, so browsing the census returns using HeritageQuest online (a ProQuest database available through many libraries) didn't take very long.

    The only man with the initials J.T. was John Thompson, a grocery store owner.

    Next week I'll share new information about where that billiard hall was located.

    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

  • 1910s photos | hats | men | occupational
    Sunday, June 08, 2014 2:12:23 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, March 09, 2014
    Stories in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    Three Women  Man on Fallen Treeedit.jpg

    Way back in grade school, I learned that the building blocks of a good story are who, what, where, when and how. Those elements plus a little family history lore add up to tell a tale.

    In the case of this photo, here's how it breaks down:

    Who: There are lot of "might"s in Jane Bonny's email but here's who she thinks might be in the photo. The woman on the far left might be her grandmother Grace Wickline (born 1891).
    crop1Three Women  Man on Fallen Tree.jpg

    According to Jane, the woman on the far right bears a bit of a resemblance to Grace's sister Bella, but Bella never lived near her sister.

    The woman in the center could be Grace's mother-in-law, Henrietta Gardner, but it all depends on the date of the photo. Grace married in 1923.

    Where: From 1910 to about 1923, Grace lived in Hidalgo County, Texas. She met her future husband, Francis Cooper Anderson, there. 

    Hidalgo County was a base for the US Army beginning in 1916, when American soldiers invaded Mexico in search of Pancho Villa. You can read more about it here.

    What: Exactly what's happening here is a bit of a mystery. It looks like a group on an outing.  Who's behind the camera is unknown.  It's important to think about who took a snapshot, because there's a relationship of some sort between that individual and the folks in a candid image.

    When: Now we are at the key piece of evidence. A date or time frame can help to confirm or refute an identification.

    On the woman who might be Grace, the deep crowned hat with a small brim is interesting. There were hats like this in the late 1910s and in the early 1920s, but hats in the late teens had brims that tilted down, not up like in the 1920s. 

    Bangs start to become fashionable again circa 1920 and if women didn't crop their hair they found ways to pin it up to look shorter. That's what this woman has done.

     crop3Three Women  Man on Fallen Tree.jpg

    These clues plus the dress styles suggest this photo was taken circa 1920. So Grace would be 29 in this photo.

    crop 2Three Women  Man on Fallen Tree.jpg

    Jane doesn't recognize the young man on the far left. He doesn't resemble Grace's husband, Francis.

    There is a great family history nugget relating to Grace. She told her family that she had a boyfriend in the Army, but that she didn't continue seeing him because she judged him to be without character.

    This man is not wearing a military uniform, but Jane wonders if this could be the boyfriend. Could they be holding hands? It's unclear. 

    The how in this photo involves trying to figure out his identity. First I'd compare his photo to other images of Francis. Perhaps he's related to the woman on the far right. 

    If he's not Francis, then who are the other two women?  Perhaps other relatives came to visit Grace in Texas. Posting this image online and in social media might help.

    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

  • 1910s photos | 1920s photos | men | Military photos
    Sunday, March 09, 2014 10:48:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, November 10, 2013
    Women in World War I
    Posted by Maureen

    What did your WWI-era female ancestors do in World War I? On Veterans Day, we typically honor the men and women who served in the military. But what about all the women who didn't serve, but supported the war effort?

    The theme of Who Do You Think You Are Live in London next year is World War I. Next year is the centennial of the start of the war in Europe (the United States got involved in 1917).

    During World War I, women:
    • worked in factories so men could enlist (and to support their families while the men were away)
    • volunteered for the Red Cross
    • worked as Army and Navy nurses
    • served the military in clerical positions
    • knit socks for the troops
    • participated in Victory Bond fundraising
    • marched in Preparedness Day parades to encourage U.S. involvement
    Women also acted as recruiters to encourage men to join the service.
    Young, attractive women often stood alongside male recruiters in uniform

    Dora Rodriguez was one of those recruiters. At the Library of Congress, there are three images of her in uniform taken by the National Photo Company. I'm sure the sight of a woman in pants and a uniform drew a lot of attention.

    dora rodriques 28170v.jpg

    dora 2 28171r.jpg

    dora 3 28172r.jpg

    Some who served overseas as nurses and Red Cross volunteers took cameras with them. Many women kept photo albums during the war.

    At the time of the 1910 census, most individuals with the surname of Rodrigues lived in Puerto Rico. A quick search of Ancestry didn't turn up any immediate hits for her. I suspect her birth name is something other than Dora.

    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

  • 1910s photos | unusual clothing | women | World War I
    Sunday, November 10, 2013 5:27:30 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # 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, August 25, 2013
    The Marsteller Old-Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I outlined the mystery of the Ralph Marsteller photo.  This week I'm back with more details.
    StaffordFamily photo Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller_edited-1.jpg
    Let's start with some basics.

    What are they wearing?
    Clothing clues can be very helpful, BUT it's important to remember that there were lots of different styles every season and people didn't automatically wear the most current fashion. I look for details that help create a time frame. In this image, the most fashionably dressed woman is standing in the back on the far left.


    Fashion research suggests that this woman posed for this picture in 1918.  The lightweight fabric worn by everyone in the picture suggests a warm weather month. These little details could help pinpoint when Ralph Marsteller met his family or friends.

    In 1918, broad-brimmed hats with an upturned edge returned. You could buy a similar hat in the Sears Catalog for that year. Widespread collars were very popular on dresses in this period as well.

    stafford boy.jpg

    These lightweight suits for little boys appeared in mail-order catalogs circa 1914 and were still popular four years later. They were recommended for boys 2 to 6 years of age and cost approximately 70 cents. So this boy's attire places him in an age group.

    Who's Not in the Picture?
    Patti Stafford knows that Ralph's wife Eva isn't in the photo, and it doesn't look like their teenage son is here either—none of the children are the right age to be him. Nor is their daughter Arlene in this picture; these girls look too young.

    Who's Who?
    If this picture was taken about 1918, then Ralph's son Ralph could be the little boy in the military style suit. He'd be 5 years old.

    It's also possible that Ralph's sister is in the picture along with her husband and their children. More research into this angle could result in an identification.

    The older woman is not Ralph's mother. She was deceased by this time, but this woman could be an aunt who resembles some of the people in the photo.

    stafford older woman.jpg

    Ralph's mother Dianna Jane Rumfeld/Rumfield had sisters with small children at the time of this picture. This could be a gathering of the Rumfeld/Rumfields, rather than the Marstellers.

    Ralph's brother Henry is still living, so Patti's next step is to show him this photo to see if he can identify anyone in it.

    Research often turns up overlooked information. When Ralph's father William died, a Mr. Snyder was appointed guardian for him. While going through all the family paperwork looking for a connection, Patti found an interesting detail. Dianna Jane's marriage certificate states that her last name was Rumfeld/Rumfield. Her death certificate states that Dianna's mother was Louisa Snyder. This detail suggests that Snyder was a family member.

    I'm hopeful that Henry can put names with the rest of faces, but for now it looks like Patti has a picture of her grandfather and his father taken in about 1918.

    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

  • 1910s photos | group photos | men | snapshots | women | World War I
    Sunday, August 25, 2013 4:30:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 19, 2013
    Looking for a Pennsylvania Connection
    Posted by Diane

    Every week I search the submissions for this column looking for a mystery photo. Each photo is accompanied by some basic information and usually a story. My next steps are to contact the person who sent in the photo either by phone or email, then start digging for more information. This picture is very intriguing. 

    Only one person in Patti Stafford's group portrait is identified. It's her great grandfather Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller (born 1887 in Center Valley, Pa.). The rest of the people are unknown.

    But even having one name is a start. Patti hopes to find other Marsteller or Reinhard relatives who recognize people in this picture.

    StaffordFamily photo Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller_edited-1.jpg

    Ralph's father William Hillegass Marsteller died suddenly at age 40 in 1896, Allentown, Pa, without a will. T he courts appointed a Mr. Snyder as Ralph's guardian. Patti believes the 9-year-old and his sister, Estella, continued to live with their mother. It's possible that court records hold additional details.

    I'm working with Patti to piece together the story of this image.
    • Could the little boy on the left be her grandfather Ralph George Marsteller?
    • Could the older woman in the front be her great-great aunt?
    • Why is her great-grandfather in this picture, but not her great- grandmother and their other son?

    Patti's taking another look at her family history to see if she can find a family with several girls. There are three girls in the picture as well as the little boy in the sailor suit on the left. The gender of the child being held by the man in the back row isn't clear. 

    So how do the clues add up?  I'll be back next week with the rest of the story. I love a good mystery—don't you?

    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

  • 1910s photos | children | hats | men
    Monday, August 19, 2013 2:00:17 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 04, 2013
    Foreign Photos in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    This week I'm at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Conference. It's a huge event with folks attending from all over the globe. I love the international atmosphere and especially like looking at photographs taken around the world.

    Photos taken in foreign lands can be particularly challenging. Instead of showing you this week's photo immediately, I'm first going to break it down into clues. The image is one I purchase for my personal photo collection.


    The style of this woman's hair and the square-necked bodice and the fit of the dress identify a time frame of the early 20th century. Women who followed the current Parisian fashions and who lived in urban areas generally adopted western style dress. Even fashion-conscious women in rural areas might follow trends while others adopted the local cultural dress.


    Her hat rests on a chair. This additional detail narrows the time frame. Hats about 1910 featured wide brims and tall crowns with lots of trim.


    Men didn't always wear western dress. The style of this man's coat and even his mustache suggest a photo taken abroad (or one showing an immigrant in the United States). The insignia on his lapels are military.


    I could use a little help with the imprint. The photographer's information on a photo usually includes a name and address. Is there anyone who can read the Cyrillic on this image? 


    Here's the whole photo. The couple to the right are very fashionable folks for the second decade of the 20th century. The man on the far left and the young man in front draw attention because of their different clothing.  Photo studio props and backdrops vary around the world, but they usually include some basic similarities: a chair, something on the floor (in this case it's hay) and a painted backdrop.


    At their feet are the hats worn by members of this party. Two straw hats with wide bands and one military cap. That likely belongs to the man on the far left (see enlargement above). 

    Photos taken in foreign lands need careful study of every detail. You'll find more help in my book Family Photo Detective.

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

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

  • 1910s photos | hats | Military photos | women | World War I
    Sunday, August 04, 2013 7:07:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, May 20, 2013
    The World War I Era in Color
    Posted by Maureen

    May is the month of gardens and Memorial Day, so I thought I'd take a peek into gardens of the past. On the Library of Congress website, I discovered this gorgeous color image that depicts an important moment in the history of 20th-century gardening.

    editworld war 1 garden.jpg

    While commercially successful color photography was still a few decades away, early 20th century photographers relied on artistic mediums to add color to their images. Even early daguerreotypists colored their photographs.

    During the WWI period, hand-colored glass slides made everyday scenes come to life. In this lantern slide, two boys (one wearing roller skates) and a man read the notices for a garden.

    editworld war 1 gardencloseup.jpg

    They stand in Bryant Park, at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue in New York City, in August 1918.

    Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) photographed this scene for us to illustrate a lecture to women's gardening clubs. She was a famous female photographer who took portraits of well-known figures throughout her career. She was also a proponent of historic preservation.  Sam Watters featured lantern slides by Johnston in his book Gardens for a Beautiful America, 1895-1935 (Acanthus Press, 2012).

    The garden in this photo was part of the National War Garden Commission of 1918. While Victory Gardens are usually associated with World War II, they were also popular during World War I. People planted gardens in public places and at home. There were even rooftop gardens.

    You can read more about these gardens and their history in Gena Philbert-Ortega's From The Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes.

    Charles Lathrop Pack established The National War Garden Commission in August 1917. The war effected food production and he thought American's could boost output by creating small gardens. It's estimated that there were more than 5 million of these gardens during the war.

    You can view other WWI-era color images on the Library of Congress website. Browse the Frances Benjamin Johnston collection to see other examples of her work.

    If you have a photo of an ancestral garden, please submit it to me and I'll post it here.

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

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

  • 1910s photos | World War I
    Monday, May 20, 2013 1:23:43 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 13, 2013
    Part 2 of an Italian Photo Mystery
    Posted by Diane

    Last week I introduced Eileen Poulin's mysterious photos on tin and showed you one of the two images of her Italian relatives.

    Frank LoRusso with a Martinelliedit.jpg

    Poulin's mother left her the pair with a note regarding the identity of the individuals in the photos—but the details are confusing: On the paper with the above image, a confirmation photo, Eileen's mother wrote: "Frank (my grandfather) with a Martinelli boy." The Martinellis are related to Eileen through her great grandmother on her grandmother's side of the family.

    The note stored with the second image, below, read, "brother of above." 

    The family is confused. Is the man in uniform Frank's brother, or the brother of the boy?

    I emailed Eileen for more information about when the family immigrated to the United States and how the Martinelli family was related to them. She called a relative, who identified the boy as her brother Frank Martinelli.

    Eileen's grandfather immigrated in 1916. You can view Francesco Antonio LoRusso's passenger details (or search for your own ancestor) on the Ellis Island website or click this link.

    The boy's suit and the style of the confirmation photo suggest it was taken around the year of immigration. One relative thinks it was in Italy, but Martinelli's sister thinks her brother was born in the United States. 

    The final factors about where the image was taken are the answers to two questions: Where was the Martinelli boy born? When did that family immigrate?

    The military photo was definitely taken in Italy. It depicts a man in an Italian military uniform from the WWI period.  I love that his headgear resembles women's hats of the early 20th century. 

    Military images are full of head-to-toe clues. The headgear, uniform style, insignia and even the leg wraps are evidence. The man may be a Bersaglieri, a corporal in the Italian army. For more information on Italian military uniforms see Italian Armies of World War I by David Nicolle and Raffaele Ruggeri in the Men in Arms series (Osprey, 2003). 

    Now that Eileen has a time period and additional family information, it's possible another relative can identify the soldier.

    Only a few days left to enter Family Tree Magazine's National Photo Month giveaway. The deadline is May 20th.

    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

  • 1910s photos | hats | men | Military photos
    Monday, May 13, 2013 3:46:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 06, 2013
    A Two-Part Italian Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    How many of us have found a note in a box of family photos? I suspect that it's pretty common. Unfortunately, the person who left the note probably didn't realize that it could cause confusion about who's who.

    Eileen Poulin has a double mystery based on a set of notes and two images. On one note, Eileen's mother wrote "Frank (my grandfather) with a Martinelli boy."

    Frank LoRusso with a Martinelliedit.jpg

    The image is on a piece of enameled tin. Usually these images have a device on the back to allow the owner to prop up the picture. This type of picture was very popular in the early 20th century.

    The white arm band on the boy represents the sacrament of Confirmation. Frank was probably the boy's sponsor. Confirmation sponsors had to be a certain age, be a member of good standing in the church and could be a child's godparent. A church document would confirm the relationship between Frank and the Martinelli family.

    Belted suits in the style worn by this boy first became fashionable in the 1910s.

    martinelli boy.jpg

    Eileen's great-grandfather Francesco Antonio LoRusso was the son of Isabella Maria Nardozza (1875-1952) and Vincenzo LoRusso (1866-1959). Both of his parents were born in Avigliano, Potenza, Italy, and died in Waterbury, Conn.

    The second image in this mystery (not shown here) is a military photo identified as "brother of above." Eileen doesn't know if by "above," her mother meant Frank or the Martinelli boy. 

    I have a lot of questions to ask Eileen about the family and more research to do on the uniform. See you next week—and don't forget to enter Family Tree Magazine's National Photo Month Sweepstakes before May 20.

    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

  • 1910s photos | children | Religous Events
    Monday, May 06, 2013 1:40:23 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, April 15, 2013
    Old Photos: Are These Sisters or Family Friends?
    Posted by Maureen

    A few weeks ago I featured Jim Cat's picture of women seated on the stoop in front of their house.


    He recently wrote to tell me more about the women in the picture. His grandmother Mary Florence Filichia Catanzaro was born in Chicago on Feb. 18, 1894.


    Mary had four sisters: Rose (born July 1892), Jennie (born 1900), Virginia (born circa 1902) and Constance (born circa 1906).

    Based on the style of the women's dresses and hair in this image, and a tentative date of circa 1910, only the oldest sisters, Rose and Mary, could be depicted here. The other sisters would be too young.

    If this image was taken at mid-decade, about 1915, the hairstyle of the woman seated second from left would be outdated, but not necessarily those of her companions. By 1915, Jennie was 15. If she's posed with her older sisters here, she'd be the youngest member of this group.

    Clothing and hairstyles changed radically in the second decade of the 20th century. By 1920, many women had shorter hair and wore loose-fitting dresses with shorter hemlines than in recent years.

    Assuming two of these women are sisters, the other two are likely friends. Despite the grainy quality of this type of tintype it should be possible to determine who's who by comparing later photographs of the sisters to this image.

    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

  • 1910s photos | women
    Monday, April 15, 2013 2:47:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, April 01, 2013
    Mind-Bending Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen


    Isn't this a nice picture?  It seems so innocuous. Yet this picture is BIG photo mystery that has a couple puzzled: I met Pam and Art Crawford at last month's RootsTech conference. Using my iPad as a voice recorder, I interviewed them about this picture. You can listen to the recording here.

    Pam's grandmother gave her the image in 1975, in the family photo album. She was told it was Grandma and Grandpa Jones. Pam's grandmother was alive at the same time as the couple depicted, so she would have known them.

    Thomas Jefferson Jones was born Nov. 8, 1843, in Christy Twp., Laurence Co., Ill. He married Mary Jane Williams in Lawrence Co. in 1865. Mary Jane was born May 4, 1850, in Covington, Kenton Co., Ky., and moved to Lawrence Co., Illinois as a child.

    Thomas died March 1, 1934, and Mary Jane died Dec. 24, 1916. Both died in Bonpas Twp., Richland Co., Ill.

    Here's the mystery:
    A few months ago, Art's cousin started a Facebook group, "Descendants of David Crawford." Art joined the group and saw this photo, identified as Nathaniel Alpheus Crawford. When he showed it to Pam, she said, "I know that photo!"

    Nathaniel Crawford was born Oct. 21, 1861, in Summerville, Chattooga Co., Ga. He married Lois Viola Henley in 1891. She was born May 27, 1871, in Georgia. They both died in Chattooga Co., Nathaniel on Sept. 13, 1937, and Lois on Aug. 4, 1956.

    Obviously there are multiple mysteries:
    • Who's really in the photo?
    • How did it end up in both families?
    • Is there a relationship between Pam and Art's family?

    It's a real stumper. Let's start with the picture: It's a 20th-century photo—after World War I, based the design of the woman's collar.

    I'm off to the library to figure out the rest of the clues and double-check a few things. I'll be back next week with more details.

    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

  • 1910s photos | 1920s photos | men | women
    Monday, April 01, 2013 3:47:30 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, March 18, 2013
    Intinerant Tintype Artists and Your Family
    Posted by Maureen

    Jim Cat found this photo when his grandmother died. It's one of those family photo mysteries—Jim doesn't know who these women are.


    I love the way the photographer captured four young women sitting on their front stairs.

    Jim labeled it a daguerreotype, but it's actually a tintype. The spontaneous pose reminds the viewer of a paper snapshot. In fact, tintype "snapshots" were available long before George Eastman invented his amateur negative camera. The word snapshot refers to taking an "instantaneous" image using a handheld camera. It generally means an amateur was taking the picture, but there were professional photographers who specialized in capturing these fleeting moments.

    Itinerant tintypists traveled from town to town in wagons loaded with chemicals, plates and darkroom equipment. Tintype photographers also walked the streets of major cities enticing customers to memorialize their visit with a photo. 

    The tintype was usually presented to a customer in a paper sleeve. I've seen sleeves in bright pink, red, blue and just about every other shade. Some have embossed designs like this one, while others have printed decorations.

    What they all have in common is a tendency to deteriorate. If you own one of these early 20th-century tintypes in a paper sleeve, you should scan it at a high resolution—at least 600 dpi—to preserve the content.

    From the dress styles and the hair, the date of Jim's picture is circa 1910.  The short sleeves and lightweight fabric suggest a warm weather month.

    The woman second from the left has rested a hand on her adjacent companions, a clear sign these are close friends or relatives. Cat thinks these women may be family. I'm waiting for additional information to help with that detail.

    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

  • 1910s photos | candid photos | snapshots | Tintypes | women
    Monday, March 18, 2013 2:12:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, February 17, 2013
    Clues in Old Photo Postcards, Part 2
    Posted by Diane

    Jennifer Bryan sent me a photo-postcard mystery and I featured part one in last week's post.

    This week I'll share what I learned about the recipient of the postcard, Miss Flossie Howell of Baker City, Ore.


    Flossie's friend Desca wrote:
    Hello. Rec'd letter other day ans soon. What are you doing? Still working in store? Its snowing here today and is quite cold. I am feeling pretty good but can't stand much work. Lee is at work. Will come home soon. Do you like the pictures? Lo Desca. 
    I'd estimated the date for this card as circa 1910 based on the attire, so I used to search the census for that year. I started my search by thinking that Flossie was a nickname for Florence and didn't find any good matches. I should have taken the direct approach. I immediately found a match for Flossie Howell in Baker City. The enumerator appears to have written her last name as "Hawell" rather than Howell.


    She's living with Nathaniel B. Starbird, a janitor in a bank, and his wife Ada. Flossie works as a bookkeeper in a grocery store. She was 20 at the time of the census, suggesting a birth year of 1890. You can find this census record using the following link.

    Flossie was born in Kansas, but she didn't know the birthplaces of her parents. The Starbirds were originally from Maine.

    Flossie lived in Baker City from circa 1908. She appears in the Baker City, Ore., City Directory for that year, working as a domestic. You can view the city directory on

    I'm still working on the identity of Desca, Hazel and Mabel. Desca turns out to have been a somewhat common name. 

    This week I'm at Who Do You Think You Are Live in London!  Each year I share images from the event.  I'm taking a few extra days in London, so watch for my images in two weeks.

    Next week I'll write about how I'm helping to identify images from a photo album in a historical society. My new book, The Family Photo Detective, has a whole chapter on unraveling clues in photo albums. It's one of my favorite types of mysteries.


    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

  • 1910s photos | hairstyles | photo postcards | women
    Sunday, February 17, 2013 7:09:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, February 10, 2013
    Clues in Old Photo Postcards
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about orphan photos and how you can reunite them with family. This week I'm featuring one such image that Jennifer Bryan bought. I'm hoping that a descendant will see this two-part story.


    These three young women—Desca, Mabel and Hazel—sent this real photo-postcard to their friend Flossie. It's a postcard with clues on the front and back. Postmarks, postage stamps, address information and the message all add up to tell the story of these women. 

    I'll start with the front. The high necklines of these blouses suggest a time frame of circa 1910. These white lawn fabric blouses could be purchased through the Sears Catalog for 49 cents to $1.35. You can view the Sears Catalog pages on

    I especially love the fashionable hairstyle of the woman on the right. She's rolled her hair away from the sides of her head. She's accessorized her appearance with a hairstyle she may have seen in a women's magazine, a watch pinned to her bodice, and a neck ribbon.


    Just like the best- and worst-dressed issues of People magazine, ancestral fashion magazines had articles about fashion foibles. What do you think of this young woman's hair? 

    The other two women are not as fashion-conscious as their friend, based on their simpler hairstyles and lack of accessories. Their hair and blouses agree with the tentative time frame about 1910.

    Next week, I'll examine the clues on the back of this photo-postcard to see how the clues add up.

    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

  • 1910s photos | photo postcards | women
    Sunday, February 10, 2013 11:37:28 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]
    # Tuesday, September 04, 2012
    The Story Behind Unknown Faces in Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I featured Julie Magerka's genealogical photo mystery. As you know, I believe that every photo tells a story.  By piecing together the clues present in a photo—photographer's imprint, props, faces, clothing and photographic format—you can let that photo talk.  Even if you can't identify who's in an image, those basic elements may eventually lead to new discoveries.


    Julie's photo encouraged her to investigate her Romanian roots. While the photo seems like a simple group portrait, the story represented in the image is anything but ordinary.


    Julie's grandmother's name appeared on her son Rudolph's birth record as Julia Magierka. The record was marked that the baby was "illegitimate." Julie's Dad always used the spelling of Magerka for his surname, without the i in the surname used by his mother.

    Julia Magierka met John Turansky/Turiansky supposedly when he was a prisoner of war during World War I, and she was a translator. The couple married and had a daughter. John immigrated to Canada first, then about a year later, Julia and Rudolph's half-sister, Anne, followed.

    Rudolph didn't immigrate to Canada for another decade. Family story-tellers used to have a lot of theories about the fact that Jullia left him alone. Perhaps he lived with the family depicted in this photo.

    Julie is hoping that further research will reveal the names of the other people in this people. All she knows at this point is that there is definitely more to this photo story. 

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor, all available in

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

  • 1910s photos | group photos | Immigrant Photos | photo-research tips | Photos from abroad
    Tuesday, September 04, 2012 3:14:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, August 27, 2012
    Identifying Unknown Faces in Old Photos
    Posted by Diane

    Over the years, a lot of you have sent me emails talking about a "picture moment." Genealogists are taught to look at census records, city directories and vital records, but if you read this column then you know that a photo can trigger a genealogical response. Gazing at an ancestral face suddenly makes you want to know more about the person.


    That's what happened to Julie Magerka of Ontario, Canada. This photo is the image that encouraged her to start researching her family tree. It's a nice image of an older woman surrounded by her descendants. In her email, Julie told me that her paternal roots "are in dark and mysterious Romania in a small village (now part of Ukraine) in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains."

    Julie's great-grandmother Catherine is the woman seated in the middle. Her dad is the boy on the right, with his mother behind him. Only her grandmother immigrated to Canada and sadly, never talked about her family. She's surrounded by her siblings in this picture, but no one in the family knows their names. Julie's father saved other photos of his aunts, but unfortunately, they are a mystery.

    This picture, taken circa 1916, generates some other questions:
    • Why was it taken?  
    Individuals often posed for a family picture before moving away. That could the reason for this picture.
    • Where is Catherine's husband?
    It's difficult to tell the color of Catherine's head scarf, but if her husband was deceased, she'd be wearing a dark-colored scarf. So why isn't he in this photo?
    The persistent mystery in this picture are putting names with the faces of the siblings. I'm hoping that by posting this picture online that someone will recognize them. 

    If you have a blog can you re-post this column to spread the word. Let's see if we can get the online community of genealogists to participate.

    Catherine and her sisters were aware of the fashions being worn in the circa 1916 period. Skirts were at the ankle and blouses featured the variety of collars worn by these women.

    The date for this image is based on the subjects' clothing but also on the birth date of Julie's father. He was born in 1911, and could be at least 5 years old in this photo.

    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

  • 1910s photos | group photos | Immigrant Photos | women
    Monday, August 27, 2012 3:11:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Monday, July 09, 2012
    Answers to our Farming Ancestor Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Do you read the comments posted on blogs?  Last week I posted Sharon Pike's photo of a wheat harvest and asked if anyone could identify the thresher.  We then posted the query on Family Tree Magazine's Facebook page.

    Thanks to savvy readers, Sharon now knows which man is her ancestor.

    Pike farming SDedit.jpg

    The thresher is on the far left of this line of men and machines. Her ancestor Will Pike is the man standing up.

    Pike farmingcloseup.jpg

    Thank you to everyone who commented and posted! 

    Here's a call for images.  I'm moving from the Boston area back to my native state of Rhode Island.  It made me wonder if any of you have photographs of your ancestors moving houses. You can email them to me. I'd love to see 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

  • 1910s photos | occupational | unusual photos
    Monday, July 09, 2012 10:48:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 05, 2011
    Storytelling Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    You never know what you're going to find in a family photo collection.  If you have an odd picture, please send it along. You can email it to me.

    Dario X. Musso sent me a lovely family photo:

    Seated on the right side is Nikita Radionov. Dario's grandmother is next to him. This photo of the Radionov family was taken circa 1919. 

    The curious part of Dario's family collection isn't this image, it's the series of photos taken of Nikita's funeral in 1929. He was dragged to death by a horse. 



    I've shown you two of the four images Dario submitted.  From the size of the crowds at this funeral, it appears that both family and townspeople attended this event. 

    Photos like this are an opportunity: I'd scan the faces to find other relatives. It might end up being the only known image of a particular person.
    1. Start with the front row and the pallbearers. Those individuals are likely family members or close friends.

    2. Compare the faces in the family group portrait with the individuals at the funeral. 
    If you had relatives living near the Radionov family in Russia, then you might find your family represented as well. I'll double-check the location with Dario and publish that next week. 

    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

  • 1910s photos | 1920s photos | group photos | mourning photos
    Monday, December 05, 2011 4:45:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Friday, May 13, 2011
    Aging Well
    Posted by Diane

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

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

    Click here to see what clues Taylor finds.

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

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

    1890s photos | 1910s photos | group photos | men | women
    Friday, May 13, 2011 5:01:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, November 01, 2010
    From My Mailbag
    Posted by Maureen

    Not everyone has owns a scanner or has access to one, so in the "How to Submit" link to the left, there are instructions on how to send me copies (not originals) of your mystery pictures.

    Every so often I receive a package containing photos from the editors at Family Tree Magazine. This week, instead of digging into my e-mail backlog, I thought ... let's check out the real mailbag. 

    There was a problem. I'll show you two pictures in a minute, but first a gentle reminder. Please send me updated contact information when you move. I'm not sure what happened to the folks in my mailbag. All five of them no longer have active telephone numbers and don't appear to be living at the same address. My last attempt to contact them will be via their e-mail addresses. I'm not confident that those will work either. Sooo, if you know Mary Leal, formerly of Houston, or Christine Regan, formerly of Cincinnati, please let them know I posted their pictures here.

    Mary Leal sent in this lovely photo of a young woman. Mary inherited a box full of unidentified photos from her mother. She has no idea who this is, but believes she once lived in the South Texas area because Mary's mother was from the Brownsville area.

    Mary wanted to know why someone would cut this image. It's probably because it was once in one of those oval frames suitable for wall hanging or setting on a bureau.

    The wide collar with pointed ends and the dress with the double row of buttons is in the style worn circa World War I, about 1915.

    There's a long story associated with the picture Christine Regan sent in. She wasn't sure who was in this image, but hoped it depicts Louisa Whitford Hannay (1847-1897). Unfortunately, it's more likely Eva Grace Hannay Mitchell (born 1890). Just about everyone in Christine's family is gone and she's left with a pile of mystery images. It's a shame that no one in the family ever passed on the identity of these two young women. Eva lived until 1982!

    As a young child, Eva's mother, Louisa gave her to an aunt to raise. Louisa had tuberculosis and couldn't care for her child. Instead, Alvilla Whitford Stanford (1848-1908) raised Eva, but according to family lore, the two never really bonded.

    Could one of these women be Eva? Christine really wanted one of the women to be Louisa, but the clothing style with the short skirts, combined with their young ages, rules out a woman born in 1847. Both wear calf-length summer dresses with tiered skirts and ruffled bodices. Their pointy shoes, dresses and short hair all suggest a date in the late 1910s to early 1920s. Eva would have been 30 in 1920. If she's in this photo, then she's a young-looking woman, but perhaps there is another answer.

    The identical dresses suggest an occasion or a relationship. I think the two girls look a bit alike. Similar mouths, and same-shaped face. Perhaps they're sisters. One of Louisa's daughters, Maude Hannay Sollitt (died in 1936) had three daughters born in 1898, 1902 and 1908. As for the occasion, that's still a mystery.  

    Our webinar download, Photo Retouching: How to Bring Old Family Pictures Back to Life, shows you on how to fix tears, spots and rips in your family photos using low-cost or free photo-editing software. The webinar download is available from

    1910s photos | 1920s photos | women
    Monday, November 01, 2010 4:15:09 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, September 07, 2010
    Summertime Farewell
    Posted by Maureen

    I don't know about you, but I'm having a difficult time saying good-bye to summer. This weekend I took a short field trip to historic Concord, Mass., and ended up in an antique shop. I couldn't resist the piles of unidentified photos. Picked up some of fantastic hairstyles and hats, but also these two beach scenes:

    In case you guessed...this wasn't taken in the United States. According to the postcard publishing information on the back, it was taken in Rugen, Germany. This lovely multi-generational family went to the beach. I love the beach hut that shades the two older women and the little girl. Mom and Dad sat in the sand. Can you imagine dressing for the beach in a full suit and dress shoes? The image was taken by A. Haase, circa 1910. Haase may have traveled up and down the beach taking pictures of folks on vacation.

    If you want to learn more about this seaside resort, there is a website, but it's in German.

    The other image I bought is a snapshot. It's clear from the woman's pose and expression that she is having a good time at the shore. I have no idea where it was taken.

    It's a great shot of a young woman in a late 1920s bathing costume. She's the epitome of the late 20s, from the wrap on her head to her glasses and the belted waist.  The 1920s saw the evolution of women's swimsuits from blousy, long skirted suits to form-fitting tanks.

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

    1910s photos | 1920s photos | women
    Tuesday, September 07, 2010 4:21:38 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, August 30, 2010
    Hand-Me-Down Family
    Posted by Maureen

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

    Powell Unknown 1 (2).JPG

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

    Powell Unknown 2.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

    1890s photos | 1910s photos | photo backgrounds | Tintypes | Vehicles in photos
    Monday, August 30, 2010 4:07:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 23, 2010
    Studio Backdrops
    Posted by Maureen

    At last weekend's FGS conference in Knoxville, I did a little shopping. Picked up a couple of interesting books and this lovely trio of photos. I just love the backdrops. This photographer spared no expense.

    While in the 19th century most backdrops looked like the outdoors or living rooms, in the 20th century the backdrop often sets the scene into a historical context. 

    In December 1903, the Wright Brothers lifted off the ground in the first flight. Mass transit by airplane was decades away, but that didn't keep folks from simulating flight. Here, a group of friends are posing in a painted backdrop that looks like an early aircraft, with the skyline at their feet.  Their clothing and the design of the airplane dates from circa 1912.  You can view early airplanes on the web at Early Historic Aircraft.

    In the next postcard, the same woman seated at top right in the first photo takes another picture in the same studio. This time, you can see the airplane set to her left while she sits on a fake racehorse. She wears the same suit and hat so it's possible it was taken on the same day.


    In the same batch of photos I found another image of her standing near a painted wall with "Pennsylvania Pullman" on it. George Pullman manufactured train cars, trolley buses and streetcars. You can read more about him on Wikipedia. I think this is a train car, but I'm still trying to find a reference to the words on the side.

    I may not know the name of this woman, but it appears that in the early early 1910s she liked to frequent photo studios with creative backdrops.

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

    1910s photos | photo backgrounds | props in photos | unusual photos | Vehicles in photos | women
    Monday, August 23, 2010 5:17:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, May 10, 2010
    Sorting Truth From Fiction: Picture Tales
    Posted by Maureen


    Behind every picture is a story. Some are simple tales of why someone went to have their portrait taken. In other cases, a picture tells the story of a lifetime.

    Carmen Camoros sent this soft-focus photo of two young women. She's hoping one of them is her grandmother.  

    Carmen's mother always told her that her grandmother had died giving birth to her in 1911 in Puerto Rico. She never talked about her.  After Carmen's mother died in 1979, Carmen packed up her belongings and put them away.

    A decade later, she decided to look at them. In it was her mother's empty wallet with this picture inside.  The original is only 2 x 2 inches. Carmen's convinced the woman on the left looks just like her Mom. She's sure that the woman is her grandmother. 

    There's a twist in this story. Carmen began researching her family and discovered that her grandmother didn't die in childbirth. She died of dysentery at 28 years of age, when Carmen's mother was 9.  For 5 years, her mother lived with her maternal grandparents until her father's remarriage.

    Carmen's right. This photo could very well be her grandmother. The long, flowing dresses are from the first decade of the 20th century, but their hair clinches the date. Both young women wear decorative bands and trims popular from 1911 to about 1915. The large coils on her grandmother's head were one variation on the full styles of that decade.

    The chair in the photo is in the Egyptian Revival style of the late 19th century. It was bowed legs and a curved, slatted back. 

    It appears the grandmother has flowers pinned to the front of her dress.  The significance of this picture and those flowers is a still a mystery—at least for now.

    1910s photos | women
    Monday, May 10, 2010 3:16:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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, February 22, 2010
    A Success Story: A Graduation Class Identified
    Posted by Maureen

    Months ago, I wrote a Photo Detective column for the March 2010 issue of Family Tree Magazine called "The Graduates." It was about the chance discovery of a photograph stuck behind the lath in a bathroom wall in Sandi Alex's house in Camas, Washington.   This story has a happy ending!
    Mott Camas WA Pic (2).jpg
    Sandi told an elderly neighbor who'd lived on their street her whole life about the photo. That neighbor thought maybe the picture once belonged to the Mott Family who'd built Sandi's house.

    Being a genealogist, Sandi wanted to reunite the picture with a member of that family so she posted a query on genealogy message boards including the Mott surname forum on Judy Strong saw that posting and contacted Sandi. Judy's paternal relatives were the Mott's. They'd lived in that house until 1959.

    I knew from their attire, props and pose that it was a graduation picture and I worked with Sandi and Judy to try to figure out the names of the students and the teacher.  We also tried to discover why the image was in the house since it didn't appear to feature any of the Mott's. We had a couple of ideas, but nothing definite.

    The final identification came from a Family Tree Magazine subscriber. Janet Cosgrove of Yamhill, Oregon wrote to the editors. "Today I received the March 2010 issue in the mail and was flipping thru the pages, when I saw "The Graduates" picture and was shocked to see my maternal grandmother in it."  We were equally surprised. 

    Janet not only knew her grandmother, she had a date and the names of the people in the image. Amazing! Her great-uncle had listed all their names on the back of a copy of the original picture.

    From left to right are Harold Peterson, Esther Jones, Marie Schrohe, Mabel Nielsen, and Edith Anderson (the teacher).  Janet's maternal grandmother taught this small class at the Constance School in Green Valley, Waupaca, Wisconsin. This is the graduating class of 1915.

    It's so interesting when photos are suddenly identified. I wonder if the family living in the house ever missed the picture. It didn't depict any of the Mott's but Janet thought that perhaps Esther Jones was the daughter of the widow Sarah Rodwell Jones that I mentioned in the magazine article. She was related to Mrs. Emma Mott.

    This photo is a great story--it's about youth, young love and family. Turns out that the teacher ended up teaching for only two years. She married the older brother of her student Harold Peterson.

    Case Closed!

    1910s photos | children | group photos
    Monday, February 22, 2010 7:09:43 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, January 25, 2010
    Photo Fun with Friends
    Posted by Maureen

    Way back in August, I asked for photos of people smiling. In response to that request Teri Colglazier sent me this photo.

    ColglazierHOBO 8 1880 a (2).jpg
    The woman in the back left has a toothy grin, probably because this group of friends has decided to have fun in front of the camera. No costumes were necessary—instead, a hand-painted board on the feet of the men proclaims: "The Hobo 8."  (There are eight young people in this photo.)

    Teri thought that underneath the word hobo was a number 80. I'm not sure. It looks like it could be Ho with Bo beneath it. If it's a number, it's not a year.

    While older folks often posed for pictures in their Sunday best, it wasn't unusual for young people to go to the studio dressed in casual clothes. The two men on the right wear big sweaters that could be worn today. In the back row, all four young women wear white blouses paired with dark skirts, belted at the waist. The little details in this photo provide a time frame:
    • The straw hat worn by one of the young men. It has a narrow brim and and wide ribbon.  The shape and style of hat brims and ribbons change from decade to decade in the early 20th century. He could work in an office.
    • The fellow on the far right has a flat-topped cap—all the rage in the second decade of the 20th century

    • The other two men wear a type of sports cap and a fedora style hat also in style in that period.

    • The smiling woman arranged her hair so that it forms a ridge on the top of her head. The woman next to her has her hair pulled back casually in a bow.

    • The woman on the far right is the most conservatively dressed with a Gibson girl-style high-neck blouse and full hairstyle.
    The detail that clinches the date is the mob cap worn by the woman second from the right. I've seen photos of this type of hat on women working around the house in the period just prior to World War I. 

    The facts add up to the photo being taken between 1910 and 1916.

    Teri now has to figure out who's in the picture. In her e-mail, she mentioned that her family kept every photo ever taken or given to them by family and friends. She thinks the man third from the left could be a family member, but she's not positive.

    Anyone out there recognize these people, photographed in McLean County, Ill.?

    1910s photos | group photos | hairstyles
    Monday, January 25, 2010 11:08:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, August 11, 2009
    Pictures Without Provenance
    Posted by Maureen

    Hilda Barton sent me this lovely photo of a young girl with the subject line: "No Idea Who This is..." It's a picture without provenance.

    unknown girl.jpg

    I've written about provenance before. It's the history of ownership of a photograph or other object. It's easy to underestimate the value of knowing the previous owner of a picture, but this is actually one of the keys to figuring out who's in an unidentified picture.

    Start by asking the following questions:
    • Who owned the picture before me? 
    • Did the photograph hang on the wall in relative's house? 
    • Was it loose in an album or on a page with other relatives?
    These questions can determine which branch of the family owned the image and bring you one step closer to putting a name with face. But remember, the photo could show a friend's child—not a relative at all. Facial similarities to people in identified photos may help.

    Then answer the next set of questions:
    • Where was it taken? Look for a photographer's name and address on the image. Then consult your family history to see who lived in the area.
    • How old is the person?  In this case, it's a young girl, probably less than 5 years old.
    • When was it taken? In 1916, The Ladies Home Journal published a short photo essay on "Arranging Your Little Girl's Hair." Younger children wore narrow bows, like this youngster. Her short bobbed hair was popular around 1919.
    If Hilda can answer these questions, she can consult her family tree and make a short list of who's the right age to be in this picture.

    On a side note, a fascinating new book by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo is called Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art (Penquin Press, $26.95). It's amazing how one man could dupe the art world with falsified documentation. I couldn't put it down.

    1910s photos | children
    Tuesday, August 11, 2009 12:11:47 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, June 15, 2009
    The Trouble With Captions on Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen


    Barbara DeCrease found a photo in her grandmother's belongings with a one-word caption on the back: Grandfather. The trouble with captions like this is the lack of other identifying information. She doesn't know who wrote it, so she's puzzled. 

    Her grandmother's grandfather was William James Elmore Jr., born circa 1860 in Panola County, Miss. The family has no record of him after 1910. This Elmore's father was also William James Elmore, born circa 1842 in South Carolina. No record of this man exists after 1880.

    This is a wonderful picture of a hard-working man. Note the dusty work-boots. So which man is he? Barbara is fairly certain it's Elmore Jr., but does the proof add up?

    Let's look at the caption again.

    This is a postcard. The first photographic postcards were introduced in 1900, so it's clear this image dates from after that year.

    The "when" is also simple: The stamp box in the upper right corner is an AZO design with triangles in the corners. This particular design was first introduced in 1910 and remained common until 1930. If you have a photo postcard in your collection, try matching up the stamp boxes with the one's on the Playle Web site

    On the front of the image, someone wrote William Elmore and then erased it. It's barely visible even when I enlarge the photo on my computer, so I'm not going to zoom in here. The erased writing didn't indicate which Elmore this is.

    In the 1890s and the early part of the20th century, photographers often used wicker chairs as props. This is another detail that helps firmly set this image in the 20th century.

    I agree with Barbara that this is likely William Elmore Jr. in his middle years, about 1910.  Elmore Sr. would have to be older than 70 to be in this picture.

    Labeling images is tricky business. Identifying this photo would've been a cinch, if the person who wrote grandfather had added a bit more information. I'm beginning to believe that when you caption your photos with the name, date, etc., you should include your name as the person who added the information. 

    If you're looking for tips on how to label digital images for the Web to maximize their search potential, the Footnote Maven's Search Engines Can't Read Your Mind or Your Images is mandatory reading.

    1910s photos | men
    Monday, June 15, 2009 4:08:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, February 23, 2009
    Two-Sided Mystery: On the Flip Side
    Posted by Maureen

    I love a good mystery. Last week I analyzed a group portrait and provided a time frame of the early 20th century. It was on one side of a sheet of pink paper. Before I divulge the family information behind this image, let's look at the other side. It's a two-sided mystery.

    Over the years, I've seen photographs used for doing math homework, writing grocery lists and even sketching embroidery patterns. In this instance, the two photographs and the pink sheet of paper form a single scrapbook page.


    In the upper left hand corner of the flip side of the page is a picture of a young man dressed for work on a ranch--cowboy hat, tall boots, heavy gloves and riding pants that are wide at the upper legs and hips and narrow at the lower leg.

    To the right of this image is a valentine.
    cohen 2.jpg

    The lower half of the sheet is a child's drawing of a flower with one of the petals ripped off.


    It's the final piece of evidence of this collage that so's interesting. It's a bit of a printed page.


    It turned out to be a piece of a music catalog for Conqueror Records. Carson J. Robison and his trio recorded Moonlight on the Colorado and Oklahoma Charley in 1930.  You can view an online catalog for Conqueror. Just below that listing is another song, My Blue Ridge Mountain Home, a tune that Robison wrote in 1927. If you're interested you can still purchase the sheet music from eCrater.

    Wikipedia has a short biography of Robison with links to sites for more information.  He was very well known as "the granddaddy of the Hillbillies." In the early 1930s he formed his own band and travelled around the U.S. and the British Isles playing country music.  He was posthumously named to the Country Music Hall of Fame.  He died in 1957.

    I have to admit that I couldn't do all this research without listening to his music. You can a recording of Going to the Barn Dance Tonight on YouTube and find a picture of him and a clip of I Don't Wanta Be Rich on It's foot-tapping music.

    The pieces add up to suggest that sometime in the early 1930s, a person (perhaps a little girl) decided to piece together a few of her favorite things--a couple of pictures, a valentine, and a drawing. Maybe she was a country music fan.
    Next week I'll be back with the family details.

    1910s photos | 1930s photos | men
    Monday, February 23, 2009 3:36:15 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 01, 2008
    Photo Clones: Duplicates in the Family
    Posted by Maureen

    Hunter sisters-six of themEMAIL SIZE-circa after 1892.jpg

    This photo's owner Diane Gould Hall knows these six women are the Hunter Sisters. In the back row (left to right) are Grace Hunter (1874-1946), Daisy Hunter (1876-1948), and Ada Emily Hunter (1865-1949). In the front row are Estelle M. Hunter (1867-1947), Florence Hunter (1869-1946), and Myra Hunter (1859-1938). Florence is Diane's great-grandmother.

    Diane knows this was taken after 1892 because another sister died that year, and she's not present. The sisters' beautiful, diaphanous blouses appear in fashion catalogs for the period 1910 to about 1915. If this picture was taken about 1915, the sisters would range in age from 39 to 56.

    In the course of our email correspondence, Diane mentioned two  interesting facts:
    • Grace Hunter's husband Charles Fenner and his brothers owned a photo studio in Lima, Ohio. That's where this picture was taken.

    • When she posted this image on her family tree, a cousin contacted her. Turns out, that cousin owned a picture from this same studio sitting. Diane was amazed. In the second image, the sisters are seated in a different order!
    How often have you considered that a photo in your collection might not be the only copy? Our ancestors went to the photo studio to acquire a picture, but "package deals" offered the opportunity to obtain multiple copies of the same image. Duplicates made it easy to share pictures to relatives. 

    Since professional photographers usually took several different poses to make sure all parties were happy with the final image, the extra prints might be slightly different.

    Diane's discovery is proof that you should ask to see the photo collections in the hands of distant cousins. Who knows what you'll uncover!  You could solve that photo identification mystery or find new pictures.

    The latter happened to me recently. A distant cousin posted online pictures of my great-great grandparents. My mother and I had no idea that these images even existed.

    1910s photos | group photos | photo-research tips | women
    Monday, December 01, 2008 3:14:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, October 27, 2008
    Final Installment: One-Glove Mystery Solved!
    Posted by Maureen

    I'm doing the happy dance right now! I finally contacted Sue Anderson, the owner of the photo of the four men—two wearing one glove each—featured in two blog posts. Turns out she was on vacation and hadn't imagined the fuss being made over this photo. All she wanted to know was the date of the image and why the one glove. 

    In the first post, I dated the image using the postcard back to a time frame of 1904 to 1918. That was the only sure information in the picture.

    In the second installment, I reported readers' theories and focused on the gloves. Well, the pieces have finally fallen into place. You're not going to believe it!

    While Sue's older relatives were sure two of the men were Lance and Elmore Melson, she wasn't positive because these elderly relatives have been wrong before. They said the two men in the front were Melsons and the men in the back were Wingfields.

    Those two in the front are definitely Melsons. Sue sent me several other family photographs that confirm the resemblance. The ears are a giveaway.

    Elmore Melson (b. 1896) had two other brothers: Joel (b.1894) and Bertram (b. 1892). I think Sue's family was partially right. Lance Melson would be too young to be in the group photo, but Joel is old enough. It's actually his presence (right front in the group image and below) and age that specifically date the image and solve the one glove detail!

    Joel Melson.jpg

    Notice the rolled up pants <smile>.

    So here goes...
    • Joel dies in 1918 in Oklahoma of pneumonia. The group portrait is likely the last image taken of the 24-year-old. It fits the 1918 period. His brother Elmore would be 22 in that image.
    • Melson and his brothers worked as farmers and weren't very well-off. In Joel's spare time, he also worked as a bronco rider. In the first blog post on this mystery, I suggested the glove was work-related. Since bronco riding isn't something I'm pfamiliar with, I contacted a colleague, Kathy Hinckley (known as the Family Detective), who grew up on a ranch in South Dakota and participated in riding events. She confirmed my theory that bronco riders wear one glove on the dominant hand! Mystery solved.
    The men's ties are very Western in style. Kathy made one other comment about something I pondered: Why dress in suits and wear the riding glove? She thought this picture probably commemorated a special event, such as winning at the rodeo. I have no proof of this detail, but the explanation makes sense.
    • There's one more detail Sue helped with—the rolled pants. In the group picture those rolls look like cuffs, but it turns out Joel wasn't very tall, and instead of having his pants hemmed, just rolled them up.  
    Sue is amazed at the number of comments and emails about her photo. Thank you to everyone who posted remarks or sent comments. I'm glad we can put the artifical hand theory to rest; Joel had both of his hands at the time of his death.

    1910s photos | group photos | men | props in photos
    Monday, October 27, 2008 3:28:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, October 13, 2008
    Postal Clues and a One-Glove Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    In honor of an upcoming article in the print Family Tree Magazine, this week's photo mystery is a postcard.

    In the January 2009 issue, I wrote a piece called Getting the Message on the ways our ancestors communicated and the types of records they left behind. One of the methods highlighted was postcards. (The issue mails to subscribers near the end of October and goes on sale Nov. 11.)

    Sue Stevenson sent me this postcard of four men:

    Lance and Elmore Melson.jpg

    In the front row are supposedly
    (left to right) Lance Melson (1907-1988) and Elmore Melson (1896-1938). It's a real-photo postcard—a photograph with a postcard back.

    Sue's big question doesn't concern the men's identities, but the mysterious single glove on each man in the front row. Before looking at that puzzle, let's backtrack and look at the other clues.

    Let's start with the postcard back. One of my favorite postcard sites is Playle's Auction Site. It has an online directory that details the stamp box designs.

    According to this site, the AZO box with upright triangles in the corners appeared from 1904 to 1918. Uh oh—if Lance Melson was born in 1908, he'd have to be 10 in this photo. That doesn't add up.

    The men's clothing is a bit odd. Are their pants legs rolled up, or do they just have very wide cuffs? Cuffed pants were common on casual clothes in the early 20th century, but the cuffs on these pants are a bit extreme.

    Neckties are the other interesting clothing detail. The man on the right in the front row wears a soft polka dot tie, a pattern that first appeared in the late 19th century. This style may be unique to his area, since it's not the type of tie you'd see in most of the country in the early 20th century.

    Based on a working date for this image between 1904 and 1918, it may depict Lance's and Elmore's fathers, rather than the boys. More family history information would be necessary to verify that conclusion. 

    As to the one glove? It's curious that one man wears a glove on his right hand and the other on his left. This could indicate their dominant hands. I haven't found other images like this, but I suspect these heavy leather gloves were worn for work. Or perhaps the men were just clowning for the camera.

    Sue's right about their ears, though. This facial similarity indicates the men are likely related.

    If anyone else has a photo of men wearing one glove—decades before Michael Jackson made it fashionable—send it along to me.

    1910s photos | group photos | men | photo postcards
    Monday, October 13, 2008 4:44:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]
    # Monday, August 11, 2008
    Sports in the Family
    Posted by Maureen

    Like many of you, I'm glued to the TV and online news sources watching the Olympics. While I don't have any Olympic hopefuls in my house, there are plenty of athletes on the family tree: In one oft-told tale, my husband's grandfather had an opportunity to play for a major league baseball team, but his father made him go to law school instead. 

    Do you have a photo of an ancestral athlete? Send it to me and I'll share it in this space. Got a story to go with it?  I'd love to hear it. 

    I looked through my archive of recent submissions to this column, but couldn't find a mystery family photo that fit the theme of sports. Instead, I've pulled one from the Library of Congress.


    George Grantham Bain took this photo, captioned, "Champion Australian girl swimming team," April 8, 1919. Bain was a news photographer who primarily worked in New York City. Haven't found the associated news story to go with it yet, but I'm still looking. 

    1910s photos
    Monday, August 11, 2008 3:08:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, June 24, 2008
    Loopy Photo Labels
    Posted by Maureen

    A big thank you to Leanne M. Baraban!  She bought this photo to share with me (and you). It's a great example of how good-intentioned labeling can go so very wrong. Below are all the identifications, and the woman who made them added a note: "I numbered these all so you would know who all of them were."


    While it was a great idea to name each person for posterity, the numbers are written on the front of the photo in India ink. Here are the identifications:

    no.1 Is my feller
     "    2 Nans feller
     "    3 Papa
      "   4 Nan
      "    5 me
      "   6 Mamma
      "   7 Mrs. Ashcroft (a neighbor)
      "   8 Miss Smith (the school teacher)
       "   9 is Miss Smiths feller
      "   10 Lucile
      "   11 Pleasant
      "   12 Mabel

    That's all she wrote. I'm sure you've seen other examples of photos identified with arrows or x's, but if you really want future generations to be able to say who's who, follow these three steps.
    1. Never write on the front. On the back is OK if you use a soft lead pencil for cardboard-mounted images, or a special photo-marking pen (such as a Zig marker) for 20th-century resin-coated snapshots. You can tag digital images using photo organizing or editing software.

    2. Use the full name whenever possible. Wouldn't it be great to know who "Nan's feller" was? While this woman knew everyone's name, it's doubtful that identification lasted past her generation.

    3. We'll probably never know why all these folks got together on a summer's day. If there's a special occasion associated with the image, include a short note.
    If you're curious about when this picture was taken, look at the hats on the neighbor (7) and the school teacher (8). Those broad-brimmed, deep-crowned chapeaus were very common in the 1910 era. By the way, this is a postcard, and the design on the back first became available in late 1907.

    1910s photos | photo postcards | preserving photos
    Tuesday, June 24, 2008 2:26:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, April 28, 2008
    Family Portraits: Boy or Girl?
    Posted by Maureen

    Elva Martin sent me this picture to help settle a family reunion disagreement.


    See the child in the second row on the far right? The one with a bow in the hair? Do you think this is a boy or a girl?

    The picture is an example of confusing details even when you know the name of everyone in a photo.

    Martin's clan is clear about this being the Peter Mower family. They even have a date for the picture, 1910.

    It's that troublesome child causing the disagreement. "Petter" Mower, his wife and their nine children appear in the 1910 census for Saugerties, NY. Their oldest, Harry (age 16) stands proudly in the back. Leona (3) sits on her father's lap while baby Marion is with Mom.

    The rest of the boys are Leory (15), Arnold (13), Adelbert (11), Orie (10), Louis (7) and Everett (5). Orie is supposed to be the child with the bow, but did boys wear bows in the their hair and long curls?  The answer is, sometimes!

    I know I've written columns about the ways boys and girls wore their hair parted—boys on the side and girls down the center—but there are always exceptions. Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1886 book, Little Lord Fauntleroy, featured a main character named Cedric whose mother dressed him in a "black velvet suit, with a lace collar, and with love-locks."  You can read the whole text for free on the Project Gutenberg site.  But Burnett didn't start the trend, she only popularized it.

    Throughout the centuries, there have been mothers who couldn't bear to cut the gorgeous curls from their little boys' heads. It appears Orie's mom couldn't either. Of all the children in the portrait, Orie resembles her the most.

    He has her mouth, eyes, nose and even the same-shape face. Perhaps he was her favorite. It's impossible to know, unless there's a family story about Orie's place in his mother's affections.

    Despite the family disagreement about his sex, this child is a boy.

    E-mail me your old pictures of boys in curls and I'll feature them in a future blog. For now, this is another picture puzzle solved.

    1910s photos | children | group photos
    Monday, April 28, 2008 10:51:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, February 25, 2008
    Italian Military Picture Part 2
    Posted by Maureen

    Two weeks ago, I promised a second installment of the blog on the Italian soldier photo. Thank you for commenting on the first column. While I puzzled over the v. Fabio Massimo.83, two of you reminded me that v. stands for via, Italian for the road on which the photographer had his studio.

    I'm amazed at the additional material in that postcard and where it led me this week. Gosh! Let's continue reading the evidence.

    • Next to SPQR is an image. Taking a chance, I researched Roman tourist sites. Turns out that columned structure is a monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of unified Italy.  It wasn't inaugurated until 1911, providing another beginning date for this picture.
    • Above the monument is a plume with an interwined EV, which represents the king—either Vittorio Emanuele II or his grandson Vittorio Emanuele III.
    • At the top of the card are portraits of Vittorio Emanuele III (1869-1947) and his wife, Elena (1873-1953), Princess Petrovich of Montenegro. He becamse king July 29, 1900, following the assassination of his father, Umberto. He reigned until he abdicated May 9, 1946. Next to the portraits is the flag of his House of Savoy—red with a white cross.
    • A quick search for secoli fedele made me shout, "I got it!" The phrase "Nei Secoli Fedele" means "always faithful." That phrase on the photo mat identifies the man pictured as a member of the Carabinieri. These men policed both military and civil matters. Follow the link to read more about them and see another picture. 
    Remember the owner of the picture, Justin Piccirillo, thought this man was his relative, Costabile Piccirillo ( 1891-1974). This could be him. Judging by the other clues in the image this picture dates to about 1911, when he'd be 20.

    Case solved!

    PS: I asked a military specialist to take a look at the uniform. I'll report back soon on what he had to say.

    1910s photos | men | Military photos | Photos from abroad
    Monday, February 25, 2008 10:58:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, January 22, 2008
    Backgrounds in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    In mid-December, I asked readers to submit photos with interesting backgrounds. Thank you for images.

    I'm conducting an informal study of the different types of backgrounds in photos—it's a vastly understudied area of photo history. Here's an overview:

    In the 1840s and 1850s daguerreotypists really didn't use backgrounds. Their focus was capturing a likeness of a person, not making the pictures look like they were taken outdoors.

    In the 1860s, suddenly you start seeing the wall behind the sitter. You can see the blank wall and the moulding at the base. At some point in the late 1850s photographers began offering handpainted copies of images with gorgeous backgrounds painted in. Many of you probably have these and wonder if they're photographs or paintings. They're actually both.

    In the late 19th century, photographers began paying artists to create backdrops. You've seen some of them in past columns. The backdrop and the architectural elements create a stage setting for the portrait. In photos taken at tourist resorts, you're likely to see seaside scenes.  In next few weeks I'll share some interesting backgrounds I've purchased as examples.

    One of the photographs I received was from Alissa Booth. These three boys were born in the period from 1911 to 1915. Notice the delicately painted backdrop. It's professionally done and creates a nature scene so the boys look like they posed outdoors.

    Keep sending me the interesting backgrounds

    1910s photos | 1920s photos | children | group photos | photo backgrounds
    Tuesday, January 22, 2008 4:11:07 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 14, 2008
    Photo Mystery Solved!
    Posted by Maureen

    Two weeks ago I wrote about Russell
    Chowning's search for an identity to go with a photo
    (right) in his collection.  I added up the fashion details and estimated the picture was taken about 1919.

    That's all it took for Russell to locate two  snapshots of the same man and put a name with the face: Edward Haskins Brockman (born 1894).

    He lived well into the mid-20th century. Before submitting his portrait to this column, Russell had shown the image to all the older members of his family, but none of them claimed to know the young man's identity.

    It's a mystery why no one recognized someone who lived that recently. Although the young man had a full head of hair, later in life he lost much of it. Perhaps this detail distracted family who may have known him before he died.


    Take a look at the 1919 picture (top). Compare it to these pictures of him in the 1940s (above left) and 1955 (above right), both already identified in Chowning's family collection. This man's distinctive ears and nose are a clear indication all three pictures show the same person.

    It's important to look for the facial details that stay the same as people age: noses (without plastic surgery or injury), ears, and the shape of your ancestor's eyes. Keep this in mind when you're trying to match photographs in your family album.

    Several people sent me interesting background shots. I'll show them off in next week's column. Thank you!

    1910s photos | men
    Monday, January 14, 2008 3:35:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Wednesday, January 02, 2008
    20th-Century Men's Clothing
    Posted by Maureen

    I'm trying something different this week and my fingers are crossed that it's going to work. I've tagged this week's photo so that you can spot the details I'm talking about. If you want to do this to your digitized photographs, you can download a bit of free software from

    Russell Chowning submitted this picture, a perfect example of how it takes many clues to determine a date. Let's add up the head-to-toe details:
    • This man wears a wide brimmed hat set rakishly back on his head. He's relaxed for this portrait.
    • His suit has padded shoulders. That detail alone could date the picture to the 1940s, but additional features of his suit rule out that date.
    • Notice the large pocket on the left side of his suit and the button trim on the sleeves. This suggests this portrait dates from earlier in the 20th century. The sleeve trim is similar to details on suits from the late 1910s.
    • This man has paired his suit with a light-colored, soft-collared shirt and a silk tie, also in a light color.
    • He wears embroidered, light-colored socks. You could buy these through catalogs in the WWI period. In the 1920s, this simple pattern was replaced by brightly colored argyle socks.
    • His shoes are a bit of a mystery. The opening (known as the cuff) comes to the ankle like shoes worn in the period from 1914 to 1920, but I can't find similar shoes in catalogs from that time frame.
    All these facts point to this picture being taken around 1919. The final detail helps determine that date. Notice the narrow pants leg at the ankle. Around 1920, men's pants narrowed at the ankle. In the 1920s, pants got wider.

    (Click on this image to open a bigger version in your Web browser, then click on the bigger version image to magnify it.)


    A couple of weeks ago I asked readers for photos with interesting backgrounds. Here, you see a simple backdrop with few architectural details (stairs, doors and curtains) and no scenery. It was decades old when the portrait was taken—the paint is so old it's crackled. Either this photographer had been in business for a long time, or he purchased the canvas used. 

    1910s photos | men
    Wednesday, January 02, 2008 4:39:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, November 12, 2007
    Ancestral Vacations
    Posted by Maureen

    Two things drew me to this picture. First, the owner sent me wonderful background information to tell the story. Second, it’s proof this blog has an international following: Kathryn Larcher submitted this photo from her home in France.

    There's no mystery about the relative depicted. Kathryn knows the last woman in the middle row is her maternal great-grandmother, “Mom Battle” (Mary Clement Crawford Battle). When Mary’s husband died in September 1909, instead of staying home, she traveled in Europe.


    Here, she poses for the camera in the Gap of Dunloe, Ireland. This photo comes from a family scrapbook—one probably created by Mom Battle herself. 

    Kathryn would like to know when the picture was taken. The numbers on the lower right side of the picture,, elaborate that detail. I believe the first number is the photographer’s notation for his 51st picture, but the last three digits are clearly the date.

    Using the European method of notation, Mom Battle had her picture taken on the second day of August, 1910. Her black attire, including hat and coat, supports this date. Victorian mourning standards required widows to wear black for the first year after a husband's death.

    Centuries of visitors have marveled over the natural beauty of the Gap. You can read more about it in Black’s Guide to Ireland (1902), available through Google Books.

    A documentary, Trip Through the Gap of Dunloe (1903), probably boosted tourism in the area. A key stop on the immortalized tour was Kate Kearney’s Cottage, with its legendary history of spells cast by Kate herself, followed by food and drink. Visitors could then hire a horse-drawn conveyance to take them through the Gap and back. Today the cottage still offers refreshments and tourists can still take a horse and buggy.

    Kathryn also wondered who else is in this picture. I have a question for her, “Did Mom Battle travel alone or with a companion?” A traveling companion would've been along for this ride. The rest of the folks are just fellow travelers, such as the young honeymoon (perhaps) couple cuddled up in the second row.

    This is a great photo of a woman who decided to enter the next phase of her life with a sense of adventure!

    1910s photos | group photos
    Monday, November 12, 2007 5:00:54 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # 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]
    # Tuesday, July 31, 2007
    Identifying Children in Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    The imprint of photographer S. Adamkiewicz appears on this photo of two towheaded boys, but questions still mount up for owner Annette Gathright and led her to post the photo on the Photo Detective Forum.

    Who are the boys and when did they pose for this darling picture? Gathright’s family lived near Adamkiewicz's studio in Chicago's Polish neighborhood. Her uncle Norbert claims the boys are his uncles. Reading the clues requires a two step approach: Research the photographer and sort out the family facts.

    The photographer is the easy part. I quickly located Adamkiewicz in the 1910 US census using the HeritageQuest Online (free through many public libraries). Stanley Adamkiewicz, then 34, listed his occupation as photographer, his birthplace as Russia/Polish and his immigration year as 1892. I couldn’t find him in the 1900 census, but he appears again in 1920 with a different occupation. That gives this picture a tentative time frame of 1892 to 1920.

    Gathright thinks the photo was taken before her great-grandparents died in 1907. So she examined her tree for two boys born a few years apart, who’d be about age of this pair between 1907 and 1920.

    She’s found at least two candidates who lived in the neighborhood of Adamkiewicz's studio: Stanislaus “Edward” Dittman (born 1893) and his brother Aloysius “Otto” (born 1898) fit the criteria. If the portrait were taken in 1906, Ed would be 8, and Otto, 3.

    The high, starched collars, short pants and high-buttoned boots in this photo fit the time frame. Just to be sure, Gathright should ask her uncle for a few more details. It’s important to ask for specifics when talking about photos: Your relative knows who he or she means by “Grandpa,” but later, when you’re confronted with several possibilities on a family tree, you’ll probably wish you had a name.

    If you have access to Chicago city directories, you can help us find the final fact—check to see if S. Adamkiewciz is listed as a photographer before 1910, then post it in the comment section of this blog.

    1910s photos | children | photographers imprints
    Tuesday, July 31, 2007 8:42:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Thursday, May 10, 2007
    Making Dates
    Posted by Maureen

    Questions from readers of this Identifying Family Photographs column range from "which wife is it?" to the more-general "who is it?" A date for this photo would go a long way to help Kellee Eubanks-Stevenson determine the woman's name. Is it her great-great-grandmother, who lived from 1842 to 1920, or a great-great aunts? Eubanks-Stevenson thinks this photo was taken either in the 1880s or around 1900. Is she right?

    This woman, probably in her 20s, posed simply in a wooden chair with her hands folded in her lap. The backdrop isn't fancy, and neither is the patterned linoleum floor.

    The key pieces of evidence here are the accessories. From 1914 to about 1920, women wore high-top two-tone patent leather shoes just like this young woman's. Dresses at the time fell to just below the calf, showing off shoes but not skin, thus keeping a woman's appearance modest. A wide-brimmed hat adorned with a single ribbon and a flower makes this woman a head-to-toe fashion plate.

    According to our estimated date, this woman isn't the great-grandmother, who'd be close to 80 after 1910. Could it be a daughter born in the 1870s or 80s? The appearance of the young woman, the lack of lines in her face and the time frame for the photo strongly suggest she's a granddaughter.

    Eubanks-Stevenson estimate wasn't too far off. She had the right century, but the wrong generation. By searching her family tree, she should be able to come up with suspects to put a name with this attractive face.

    1910s photos | women
    Thursday, May 10, 2007 8:36:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]