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<2017 June>

by Maureen A. Taylor

More Links

# Sunday, 12 March 2017
How to Learn About Working Women in Old Family Photos
Posted by Maureen

March is known as Women's History Month. It's a good time to celebrate our female ancestors. Did your ancestral mother's work outside the home either before or after marriage?  Many did. 

Michael Albrecht sent in series of family photos. In the pile were two very interesting images of a tailor shop in Baltimore, Md.  He labeled the images with the name of the tailor: Boleslaw Cwalina.

Before you think "what an uncommon name," try searching for men named Boleslaw in Baltimore. There are a lot of them.

Look closely at this image. The clues are in the fashion plates hung over the head of the clerk.

The fashions in these plates suggest a date of late 1910s to circa 1920. Those large feathers in the women's hats and the narrow skirts are clues.

The second image shows women at work.

It's not very often that you see a picture with an exact date stamped into it's surface.  This one says "Feb. 15, 1935.  Model Coat Makers. Baltimore, Md."

So the women in this photo appear to be making coats for customers to try on.   I'm hoping that Michael knows the story behind these two photos. I'd love to know who's behind the counter in the first one and if any of the women in the second are his relatives working in the family business.

To learn more about the occupations of the women in your family:
  • Look at the category that states a woman's work in a census, then see if the name of the company that employed her appears on the same line.
  • City directories sometimes list unmarried working women separately with the place of employment. Married women are generally mentioned in parentheses next to their husbands.

Do you have an image of a woman in your family at work?  I'd love to see it.

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

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

  • 1920s photos | 1930s photos | occupational | women
    Sunday, 12 March 2017 14:57:37 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Sunday, 18 September 2016
    Wavy Hair in Your Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1870s photos | 1920s photos | 1930s photos | hairstyles
    Sunday, 18 September 2016 18:06:41 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 31 July 2016
    4 Tips to Identify Faces in Old Group Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Joseph Martin has a great photo, a big group portrait. You guessed the problem: figuring out who's who. He knows the identity of three of these individuals, but the rest he's not sure about.

    Here are four tips you can apply to group portraits in your family collection.

    1. Estimate time and place.
    Once you know these things, you can figure out who in your family was around at the time.

    The place in this case isn't a problem. The group posed in front of the Belle Isle Conservatory. The Conservatory is part of Belle Island Park, a popular 982-acre island park in the middle of the Detroit River, Mich.

    Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

    Joseph thinks they posed about 1930. The cloche hats and dropped waist dresses look more like the late 1920s, but then again, not everyone wore the latest styles the moment the new looks were in the stores.

    2. Match faces.

    Joseph knows the woman in the black hat is Marcyanna Skibinski Kaptur and the man behind her is her husband, Nicholas Kaptur.

    To their left in a light-colored hat is their daughter Emily Kaptur.

    But who are the rest of the folks?  By looking at facial features, he thinks they could be a mix of Skibinski and Kaptur relatives, but isn't sure.

    So who's in Detroit in this time period and what's are their age? Those details can solve this mystery.

    3. Make a chart!

    When faced with a problem like this, create a chart and a collage of faces to make studying single faces easier.

    Identify those who could be possibly be in this picture and using a word processing table or Excel, create a chart of how old they would be in 1930. For example: Person's name, birth year, age in 1930. 

    Next, use a free photo editor like create a collage. Digitally crop each of the faces out of the picture using the adjustment feature, and put them in separate boxes in the collage. You also can use this technique to do a side-by-side comparison of faces you think look alike as well.

    Now armed with the table, the collage and the big picture, study the faces.
    Who are relatives of the husband or wife and who's an in-law?

    Start with the youngest and oldest individuals. Look at the group portrait to see if there are husbands and wives as well as clusters of their children. Family members tend to stand together in household groupings. 

    Doing this will accomplish two things: First, you'll be able to narrow the time frame for the picture based on the ages of the children and the others. It might be 1927 or 1930, for instance, and the children will help you pinpoint when. There are several children in the 4-7 age bracket. Identify them first. Their parents are probably in the picture.

    4. Look for other pictures.
    Joseph didn't say if this is the only picture of the Kapur/Skibinskis in his collection. If he has others, those pictures give more chances to match faces to the group portrait. If he doesn't, it's time to try to find other pictures of the people in this scene. Searching genealogy databases for photos is one avenue. Many people attach photographs to their online trees.

    Group portraits take time to solve. Go slow. Consider all the possibilities. Put the puzzle down for a bit and then go back to the problem. You might see something you missed the first time around.

    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

  • 1920s photos | 1930s photos | facial resemblances | group photos | hats | summer
    Sunday, 31 July 2016 21:50:32 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 16 November 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, 16 November 2015 17:23:03 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 26 April 2015
    Wavy Hair in Old Photos: Spot the Right Decade
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1930s photos | hairstyles
    Sunday, 26 April 2015 21:24:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 05 October 2014
    Mind-Bending Mystery Photo Revisted
    Posted by Maureen

    Over a year ago I wrote about this headache-causing mystery photo owned by a husband and wife, Art and Pam Crawford, who claimed the couple pictured as relatives. The problem was that Art and Pam each identified this couple as different people. Are they members of the Jones family or are they Crawfords?


    You can read about in the two installment story, Mind Bending Mystery and
    Mind Bending Mystery part 2.

    In the second post, I dug further into the story and the picture, eliminating Thomas Jefferson Jones and Mary Jane Williams as possibilities.

    Now another Crawford family member has come forward to claim the pair. Agnes Crawford is pretty certain that this photo depicts Nathaniel Crawford and Lois Viola Henley. Nathaniel died in 1937. 

    Agnes has a snapshot of the couple:

    This picture has been in her family for years.  I'm hoping for more information. Both Art and Agnes say Nathaniel and Lois are their grandparents.

    This is a good example of how photos spread through family connections. Photos trickle down in families based on which family members remain close. I'm hoping to introduce Art to his cousin.  Maybe she has more family photos!

    Another mystery remains: How did Pam's family come to have a copy and think that this couple were members of their clan?

    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

  • 1930s photos | unusual photos
    Sunday, 05 October 2014 17:00:55 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Sunday, 28 September 2014
    One More Photo of Ancestors Goofing Around
    Posted by Maureen

    A big thank you to Carol Jacobs Norwood! She sent me this 1937 photo of her father at age 16, clowning for the camera in a playpen, wearing a baby bonnet and holding a baby bottle.

    Carol thinks this picture was taken at her father's home in Gardenville, Bucks County, Pa.

    My question to Carol is whose playpen was it? Did her dad have a baby sibling or was a baby visiting? Or perhaps the family was cleaning out the attic?

    Ever wonder if people ever smiled in photos? Go to the Library of Congress online Prints and Photographs catalog and search using the word smiling.  It's actually a picture subject heading.  

    Got a funny picture you'd like to share?  Please submit it and I'll share 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

  • 1930s photos | snapshots | unusual photos
    Sunday, 28 September 2014 21:59:58 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 08 September 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, 08 September 2013 17:19:56 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 09 June 2013
    Four Times the Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    There is so much to love in this photo collage--the smiling face, the cute baby, and the timeless shot of a mother and child. The problem is that Michael Thompson has no idea who she is.
    Thompson editUnknown002.jpg

    Each image is tiny, only about an inch in size. They were all glued to a single square photo mount. It's definitely a photo collage. So who is she?

    He's not sure, but instead of letting this image gather dust in a box of other unidentified photos, he's created a family website using Joomla. He's added a plug-in called Joaktree that takes a GEDCOM file and extracts it.  The end result...well take a look at Thompson's site and see what you think. I thought it was pretty neat.  

    There are ways to determine her identity.
    • First date the picture.  Her hairstyle is twentieth century.  It's known as the Wavy Shingle.  It was popular with women who had a permanent wave put in their hair or those who curled it in the Marcel style. Those waves are a key identifier of a Marcel wave. This hairstyle was particularly popular circa 1929. The top two pictures depict her in short wavy hair. In the bottom left image, she's let her hair grow out and it's smooth rather than wavy.  That adorable baby would specifically date this picture.
    • Determine ownership. Who owned this picture? His grand-uncle owns this picture but he can't remember who's in the picture.  It could be a friend of the family and not a relative.
    • Make a few assumptions.
      • Suppose this young woman was about twenty years of age in 1929? Then she would be born circa 1909.
      • Suppose the baby was born circa 1930?

    Take these two assumptions and test them by fitting that information into the birth date of the grand uncle. He may have known her as an older woman or his parent's knew her. 

    Showing the grand-uncle a list of all family members born circa 1930 might trigger his memory.

    I'll be looking at the unknown images on Thompson's website to see if there are any matches.  Another identified picture of her might exist in his family collection. A positive ID could result from comparing her round face and smile to other images.

    The final ID will come from testing the facts and comparing pictures.

    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

  • 1920s photos | 1930s photos | children | hairstyles | women
    Sunday, 09 June 2013 15:49:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 07 April 2013
    Mind-Bending Photo Mystery: Part 2
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about Pam and Art Crawford's family photo dilemma. With both the Crawford and Jones families claiming this couple as their relatives, it's a pixel puzzle.

    This week I'm tackling the costume clues in the image.


    Men's ties and collars can help pinpoint a date. This man wears an all-over patterned tie. The design has a slight diagonal pattern, which suggests it's from about 1930. The points in the collar look longer than a middle-pointed shape, which suggests it might be a 1930s style called the "California Collar." Clark Gable popularized it.


    Lace collars were very popular in the 1930s. Around the woman's neck are pearls. Simulated pearls could be bought from the Sears catalog for approximately 95 cents. It's very difficult to see due to the shadows in this picture, but her dress has a soft flouncy sleeve. 


    Both husband and wife wear round glasses. Round shapes were common in the 1920s, but thin metal frames were also still available in the 1930s. Since they probably didn't change glasses very often, it's likely these are from the late 1920s.

    The circa-1930s date eliminates Thomas Jefferson Jones and Mary Jane Williams from consideration. Mary Jane died in 1916.

    When comparing their faces, I noticed that the husband looks older and more frail than his wife.

    This couple could be Art's grandparent's Nathaniel Crawford and Lois Viola Henley. Nathaniel died in 1937.

    The big questions remain: How did Pam's grandmother come to own a copy of this image, and why did she identify the couple as Thomas and Mary Jones?

    Extensive family research by the Crawfords has yet to reveal an answer.

    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

  • 1930s photos | men | women
    Sunday, 07 April 2013 17:19:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 28 November 2011
    Winter Holidays in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    The holiday season has begun! It doesn't matter that stores decorated months ago. Thanksgiving is the beginning of all the winter holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. In the last week of December I'd like to run a column that features historical photos from your ancestral family album that capture the season. You can email them to me.

    They can be pictures of folks in front of their Christmas trees or family gathered around a table for a holiday meal. It can even be a snapshot of historical decorations on a Christmas tree. 

    I have a small collection of unidentified images of people that are not my ancestors. Here's one.


    This unidentified couple chose a picture of themselves tuning their new radio for their Christmas card. 

    Photo greeting cards date back to at least the 1880s. I own a New Year's card of a woman; she sent it to her friends.

    Can't wait to see what you send me!

    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

  • 1930s photos | Photo fun
    Monday, 28 November 2011 19:59:25 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 29 August 2011
    Hurricane of 1938: Before and After
    Posted by Maureen


    I grew up on the Rhode Island shore and spent summers on the beach. In Rhode Island (and New England), we measure storms like this weekend's hurricane/tropical storm against the grandaddy of all New England hurricanes: the Hurricane of 1938.  

    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the shores of Narragansett Bay were dotted with resorts and beach houses. In this circa-1930s photo of Watch Hill, RI, groups of bathers and sun worshipers cluster under umbrellas in all modes of beach attire. It was a typical summer scene until Sept. 21, 1938.

    Watch Hill was famous for its beaches, which stretched seven miles to the west to a lovely place known as Napatree Point. The 1938 hurricane changed the Rhode Island shoreline and washed away many of those summertime places. 

    On Napatree Point, 39 cottages, their owners' cars and the road all disappeared and 15 people died, swept out to sea or into Watch Hill Harbor. Today, Napatree Point is a nature conservation area.


    Here's a view of part of the Watch Hill shoreline after the storm. 

    You can see other scenes of the 1938 damage to Rhode Island on the Rhode Island State Archives Virtual Archives. You can use the search box on the home screen to search for hurricane or place names.  If you want to read about that storm, I suggest, R.A. Scotti's Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 (Back Bay Books, 2004).

    The Rhode Island State Archives has one of my favorite picture collections, so don't stop with hurricane pictures. There is a lot more to look at in their virtual exhibits. 

    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

  • 1930s photos | candid photos | men | women
    Monday, 29 August 2011 15:22:32 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 28 March 2011
    Uniforms in the Family
    Posted by Maureen

    It's not too late to enter your ancestral bad hair photos in my blog contest. See details in last week's post. I can't wait until you see what folks sent in! 

    In the meantime, it's time for another photo mystery. This one is a 20th century challenge.

    Nancy Yates sent in a few pictures of her father, taken when he was about 15 years old, between 1930 to 1932. In the first one, he's standing alone wearing a uniform with plain sleeves.


    In the second he's wearing a different uniform with hash marks on the sleeve indicating his rank of corporal. He's standing with his sister.


    The mystery is the uniform. It doesn't look like a Boy Scout uniform. It's too bad I can't read the pin on his hat or the badge on his other sleeve. 

    Nancy knows her Dad once served in the Civilian Conservation Corp as an adult. Men had to be at least 17 years old to serve in the CCC.

    So what uniform is it? I'm not sure. There were several groups for teens in the 1930s. The 4-H Club, the Future Farmers of America and the Junior Birdmen of America are a few prominent groups, but this uniform doesn't represent any of those organizations. A great book on the period is William H. Young and Nancy K. Young's The 1930s (Greenwood Press, $25.00).

    One lead is a group sponsored by the American Legion. They formed the Air Cadets in 1933, to train young men as pilots in case of war.

    Do you have any ideas? I'm still looking.

    1930s photos | children | unusual clothing
    Monday, 28 March 2011 19:12:50 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [12]
    # Monday, 02 August 2010
    Your Mourning Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

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

    davison headstone2 (3).jpg

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

    edit1907 Hulse family reunion Greenville TX (2).jpg

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


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

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

    1890s photos | 1930s photos | mourning photos
    Monday, 02 August 2010 16:25:55 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Tuesday, 15 June 2010
    Jamboree Mystery Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    I'm back from the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree. Over 1,700 folks attended the three-day event. I met many readers of this column. Thank you for stopping by and saying hello! 

    As usual, I held individual photo consultations. This is one of my favorite part of going to conferences because I get to look at photos and chat face-to-face with their owners. I hear a lot of interesting family stories and see some amazing photos. This week, I'm sharing one of them with you:

    Young Bob (2).jpg
    Kris Robinson and her sister visited me at Jamboree to try to answer a question. They know the man in the middle of this picture is their father, Robert Robinson (born in 1917), but they wonder if one of the women could be his mother, whom the Robinson ladies never knew. This casual snapshot of three smiling people has a bit of a dark side.

    Lola Cloos Robinson was born in 1894 in Illinois. Her father abandoned the family when she was young. By 16, she was on her own working as a domestic in Unity, Ill. Kris isn't sure how her grandparents met, but they appear with their two boys in the 1920 Mason City, Iowa, census. One died at 4 years of age. In 1927, the family moved to California; they lived in Los Angeles and Huntington Park from 1928 to 1932, when they disappear from the city directories. 

    Robert Robinson never discussed his family history or mentioned any other relatives. He had an unhappy childhood. However, Kris' mother told her that her father Robert had come home from school one day to find his mother gone. Lola had been institutionalized at a local hospital for unknown reasons. Kris is trying to gain access to those records.

    Kris and her sister have spent a lot of time discovering the details of this woman's life. Just recently, they learned that Lola had two aunts and two cousins living in Los Angeles in 1931 and that those individuals had children.

    Could one of the women that linked arms with Robert be his mother? The clothing styles reflect the styles of the early 1930s especially the sailor collared shirt worn by the woman on the left; the women's calf length skirts; Robert's suit with the bold tie; and the sweater worn by the woman on the left. You can find similar outfits in Sears Catalogs of the period. This dates the photo to the early 1930s, when Robert was in his mid-teens.

    This photo raises so many questions.
    • It's an amateur snapshot, probably part of a series of images. Who's the photographer?
    •  Where's the rest of the roll and who owns it?

    •  If Robert's mother was institutionalized when he was young, when was she released? This information would help determine if onf of the women in the picture could be her.
    Young Bob edit(2).jpg
    • If one of the women is her, I vote for this woman. She's older than the teen on Robert's other arm. She's also wearing lipstick, which young teens in the period generally didn't wear.  
    I hope Kris and her sister can solve the information riddle surrounding this woman's life. Perhaps someone will see this column and recognize Robert and the women in the photo. Anyone have the rest of the roll?

    Go to for the how-to books and CDs you need to research, preserve and display your family photos.

    1930s photos | men | women
    Tuesday, 15 June 2010 20:33:28 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, 05 October 2009
    Snapshot of the Past: 1937
    Posted by Maureen

    Does a single snapshot tell a story?  I think it does.  Take for instance this glimpse of circa 1937. 

    100509Spencer Brothers 1937 (3).jpg

    Cynthia Wilson sent in this picture of two of her uncles with an unidentified man in overalls. She wants to know if the man in the middle is an actor?

    The two brothers worked as Pullman Porters and sometimes traveled together. Here the brother on the left wears a double-breasted suit with a notched lapel, a silk tie and a high-crowned fedora style hat. In his hand is an ice cold bottle of Coca-Cola recently purchased from the cooler behind him. The brother on the right wears a single breasted suit with a silk tucked into the breast jacket pocket and a high crowned fedora. He looks at the camera while the other man's attention is caught by something in the distance. While I know their names, I won't mention them because the image is a mid-twentieth century photograph.

    Between them stands the man in overalls with the word Atlantic stitched on it. His attire signifies that he works/owns the station, not that he's an actor. It's a coincidence that his rugged appearance resembles movie stars of the 1930s. In the 1930s gas companies supplied service stations with overalls emblazoned with the name of their company and a cap. A clean and neat appearance was the sign of a reputable establishment thus the man's clean white shirt and silk tie.

    These men aren't dressed for a special occasion. This is a snapshot of not just a moment but an era!

    A photography studio name appears on the back of the image along with the date the image was printed, November 9, 1937.  100509Back of Spencer Brothers 1937 (3).jpg

    Also on the back is a stamp for Nutone photo paper and a number, 147. A big thank you to Pam Young of the Virginia Collection at the Roanoke Public Library for researching company names in their phone book collection. She found that the Roanoke Photo Finishing Company, was located at 105 1/2 Campbell Ave., in Roanoke, Virginia. The 147 is a bit of a mystery. It could refer to the number of images processed by the company.

    We tried to locate a Roanoke gas station that sold both Capital and White Flash gasoline, but didn't have any luck. It's quite possible that Cynthia's uncle's had their picture taken elsewhere. Unfortunately the reflection in the window to the right, doesn't offer any clues to location. Atlantic White Flash gasoline and Capitol gasoline were also sold outside of Virginia. 

    The next time you go to "the pumps" compare what you see to this image. You can still buy a soda at most stations, but the appearance of the pumps is different. No more gauges and glass globes advertising the type of gas.  There are a lot of other details in this image from the "contains lead" sign on the White Flash pump to the first aid symbol in the window and the cans of oil stacked in the window. 

    1930s photos
    Monday, 05 October 2009 20:35:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Monday, 14 September 2009
    One More Time: Funny Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    I have another album of funny pictures to share with you. This time, there's even an entry from faraway Chile. Thanks to the Web, this column has readers around the globe.

    Cook6 Jul 1913 Mt  Washington 001.jpg
    Laura Cook sent me several images of her grandmother Marie Schultheis clowning with friends in the summer of 1913. This is my favorite (above). I love the pained expression of the guy on the bottom.

    caponeLadies with dresses pulled up (2).jpg

    Barbara Capone sent in a family mystery. It was taken in Scotland County, Mo., at what she thinks was Minnie and Joseph Cook Walker's house, but she has no idea who these people are. The Walkers were her Capone's grandparents.

    PeelEarlMarionNeil (3).jpg

    Here's a fun snapshot of Faith Peel's father, aunt and uncle. She doesn't know the names of the rest of the folks.

    sebaskyunidmen275 (4).jpg

    Marlys Sebasky thought this picture and the next one looked very similar to the original posting of the card players in Fergus Falls, Minn. What do you think?


    Gonzalo A. Luengo O. of Chile sent the image below. It's a postcard sent from Sestri Ponente (near Genoa, Italy) to Luengo's great-great-grandfather Antonio De Filippi Montaldo. It's a bit of a mystery. The banner reads "Premio Beneficenza, 28 febbraio 1903" which translates to "Charity Prize, February 28, 1903."  Does anyone have any information on the tradition shown? E-mail me if you do.
    GonzalesANTONIO DE FILIPPI 1.jpg

    1920s photos | 1930s photos | candid photos | group photos | Photo fun | photo postcards
    Monday, 14 September 2009 16:16:12 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Friday, 17 April 2009
    Cars in Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    I'm taking a break from the house photo this week to give you time to receive copies of the print version of Family Tree Magazine and read about the other clues in that image. I have one more short installment to post.

    In the meantime, I pulled out a different type of photo mystery. It's all about a car. I live with two gear-heads who can talk about engines and car design for hours. It runs in the male line of the family—every one of them has an antique automobile.

    Naturally I was really happy to receive this photo in my inbox:

    Chuck Baker3.jpg

    This is Chuck Baker's dad's family. His question is about the car on the left. Could it help date the image?

    Absolutely. He thought the picture was taken pre-World War II and that's likely. Here's why.

    Chuck Baker2.jpgThe car definitely provides a beginning year for a time frame.  It appears to be a 1938 Dodge touring sedan. According to The Ultimate Auto Album: An Illustrated History of the Automobile by Tad Burness (Krause, $16.95) approximately 73,417 of these vehicles were produced. It sold for $898. 

    The double-rear window is what led me to that identification.  The 1937 Chrysler Airflow also had two windows in the rear, but a different trunk design. There might be more automobiles out there with a double-rear window. If so, please let me know.

    This identification was based on all the details visible in the back of the car. Ah ... if only I could see the front.

    You're probably wondering if the license plate helped. It would have if I could've enhanced the image enough to see it clearly. It's quite blurry when I enlarge the image.

    However, Chuck's family lived in southwest Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania first issued license plates in 1906, and every year a car owner had to get a new set of plates. That practice ended in the 1950s.

    In 1956, license plates became a standard 6x12 inches.  If you want to read more about plates in Pennsylvania and see examples of late 20th-century versions, consult Vehicle Registration Plates of Pennsylvania on Wikipedia.

    As for when this picture was taken, 1938 is the earliest everyone could have posed for this family gathering. The clothing suggests a time frame of late 1930s to early 1940s. Chuck Baker was right—the picture was taken before World War II.

    1930s photos | candid photos | group photos | Vehicles in photos
    Friday, 17 April 2009 19:13:42 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, 23 February 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, 23 February 2009 15:36:15 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 26 January 2009
    Pets in Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

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

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

    pet1892Agricolas01 (2).jpg

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

    petpicturesbyclaudia 301.jpg

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

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


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

    Thank you for sharing all these pictures.

    1890s photos | 1930s photos | children | men | Pets
    Monday, 26 January 2009 19:07:59 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Thursday, 24 May 2007
    Church Clues
    Posted by Maureen

    Jan Oliver thinks this picture of an older man and a younger woman shows her great-grandfather John Henry Smith (born 1861) and his daughter Alice (life dates 1888 to 1962). Oliver knows Smith was alive in 1921, but she can’t find mention of him after that year. Will this photo tell her he lived longer?

    The stone archway behind them, the people around them and the formal clothing with a boutonnière for him indicates this snapshot was taken at a wedding outside a church; perhaps one in which the elder Smith was a participant.  

    Alice’s floral print dress, hat, net gloves and small clutch purse are perfect for a summer wedding. In the mid-1930s, women wore wide-brimmed hats tilted to the side with a single band of trim. No well-dressed woman was seen with a bare head. Social events also called for gloves—leather in the cooler months and net or crocheted styles in spring and summer. Through her choice of accessories, Alice is the epitome of fashion.

    Both individuals look the right ages to be father and daughter. If this photo was taken in 1935, Alice would be 47, and her father, 74. But the wedding image raises other issues:
    • Since Oliver can’t find Smith after 1921, she has to figure out where’s he’s been for 14 years and why he’s dressed as a member of a wedding party. His common first and last name presents a research challenge.
    • Whose wedding is it? Listing who in the family was married in the mid-1930s may give Oliver a date for the photo and help her track down Smith in the intervening years.
    I bet the photographer who snapped this spontaneous shot took others. Oliver can start by circulating this photo to family members who remember Alice and her father. Likely, a relative has a photo of the wedding party with Smith included.

    1930s photos | men | women
    Thursday, 24 May 2007 21:20:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]