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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, December 28, 2015
A Year's Worth of Photos: 2015
Posted by Maureen

This was another amazing year of photo columns.  Thank you for sharing your family pictures and for re-posting your favorite photo detective blog posts on social media. Can't wait to see what 2016 will bring!

Here's a month by month overview of your favorites. Please click links to see the full stories.

Imagine moving and leaving photographs behind. It happens more often than you'd think possible. January's first post featured a portrait of a man found in a house. He's still a mystery.

February's post on photo jewelry explained how you can read the clues both in the photos and the settings to discover when a piece of jewelry containing a picture was made and/or worn.  Sometimes pictures were replaced in jewelry settings.

Comparing faces whether you do it using software or just using your eyes can be tricky. Family resemblances can lead to misidentified pictures. Here's what you need to know to sort out the twenty plus points in a person's face. 

In April a Gold Rush town picture yielded clues for one family. If you had family living in Shaw's Flats, California, you might spot a relative in this group picture.

DNA is this year's most talked about genealogical topic but inherited traits can show up in pictures too.  A six-fingered ancestor in one family collection was full of identification clues. 

June brought clues to help you spot a blue-eyed ancestor in a picture.  Try these tips with your photos.

It took Michael Boyce to make the right connections to solve his family photo mystery. Here's how he did it.

One of the most challenging clues in a picture are military uniforms. There were no standardized uniforms in the nineteenth century, but August's column lays out three techniques to sort through the evidence. 

The clues in September's graveside photo fit together to tell a story of one family's funeral, just not the one the family was expecting. Read all about it.

Our ancestors dressed like their favorite popular icons from politicians to performers. See how this one young woman dressed like Annie Oakley and see if you can spot these clues in your own collection.

November focused on facial hair. Imagine writing today's Presidential candidates to influence their facial hair fashions. That's exactly what one little girl did. The true story of Abraham Lincoln's beard is noteworthy.

Nineteenth century brides didn't usually wear white. They wore nice clothes and so did their grooms which means that wedding pictures are often overlooked in family collections. In Wedding Clues: 1855 Peter Whitmer and his bride Lucy Jane McDonald dressed to the nines for their nuptials.


1840s photos | 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Abraham Lincoln | Annie Oakley | beards | daguerreotype | facial resemblances | Gold Rush | group photos | jewelry | men | Military photos | mourning photos | photo jewelry | photo-research tips | wedding | women
Monday, December 28, 2015 5:00:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Sunday, November 08, 2015
The True Story of Abraham Lincoln's Beard
Posted by Maureen


Abraham Lincoln, 1858, Library of Congress

The story of Abraham Lincoln's beard is a sweet one. In 1860, a young girl named Grace Bedell wrote to the then-presidential candidate, advising him to grow a beard to aid his campaign and his appearance.

"I am a little girl only 11 years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have yet got four brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. "

Lincoln responded that he wouldn't make any promises yet a few months later he's photographed with the beginnings of his trademark facial hair.
 

1860, Library of Congress


Lincoln was the first President to have a beard. 


1863 at Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner's studio, Library of Congress.

It's a remarkable tale of how a preteen may have influenced a political candidate's appearance (and perhaps his career). Lincoln's beard made his a fashion icon of the 19th century and led many men to follow his lead. You can see more male fashion trendsetters in Hairstyles 1840-1900.

Many books are written about Lincoln, but two of my favorites focus on photographs of him:
  • Lincoln Photographs: A Complete Album by Lloyd Ostendorf (Rockwood Press, 1998)
  • Lincoln Life-Size by Philip B. Kunhardt III, Peter W. Kunhardt and Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009). 
Online sources of pictures of Lincoln include the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division and the Allen County Public Library's Lincoln Collection.


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

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


  • 1860s photos | Abraham Lincoln | beards | cased images | children
    Sunday, November 08, 2015 4:09:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, April 21, 2015
    Photo Clues in 19th-Century Funeral Cards
    Posted by Maureen



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

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

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

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

    Thank you to Jim TeVogt for emailing this card!


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

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


  • 1890s photos | Abraham Lincoln | mourning photos
    Tuesday, April 21, 2015 4:58:38 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, June 30, 2013
    John L. Burns: Civil War Sharpshooter at Age 69
    Posted by Maureen

    This week the nation commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. For three days, July 1-3, 1863, Union and Confederate forces fought. When it was over, 50,000 had died. It was the bloodiest battle of the war.

    One of the men who survived the battle wasn't even enlisted—he volunteered on the spot. John L. Burns, a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, tried several times to enlist for the Civil War but was turned away because of his age. He was 69. 

    Instead, he served as a teamster until sent away to his hometown of Gettysburg.

    gettsburg Burns.jpg

    On July 1, Burns left home with his flintlock musket and powder horn in hand, ready to fight for the Union. Accounts mention that he dressed in clothing he'd worn 40 years ago: trousers and a blue "swallow tail" waistcoat with brass buttons and a tall black silk hat. 

    Maj. Thomas Chamberlin of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry and his regimental commander Col. Langhorne Wister allowed Burns to join the fight near the McPherson farm as a sharpshooter. A wounded soldier gave Burns his Enfield rifle. Wounded several times, Burns crawled away and encountered Confederates. He managed to convince them he was trying to find help for his invalid wife. Their doctor bandaged his wounds and Burns found shelter in the cellar of a nearby house, and later, at home.

    Mathew Brady sent one of his photographers, Timothy O'Sullivan, to photograph Burns at his house. That image and the story of his bravery made this senior citizen a national hero.

    In November of that year, President Abraham Lincoln came to Gettysburg to deliver his address at the dedication of the Soldiers National Cemetery.  He requested to meet Burns. After the war,  E. and H.T. Anthony issued sets of stereographs of Brady's Civil War scenes. They included O'Sullivan's image of Burns in "The War of the Union."

    Gettysburg John L. Burns.jpg

    Burns died in 1872.

    There are a few photographs of Abraham Lincoln taken while at Gettysburg.

    In this image, Lincoln lacks his high hat, but his face and beard are clearly visible.

    Gettysburg lincoln at gettysburg.jpg

    This Brady picture was only rediscovered in the National Archives in 1952.

    gettysburg close lincoln at gettysburg.jpg 

    Lincoln spoke for only two minutes, after a two-hour oration by the well-known speaker Edward Everett. At the time, the crowd greeted Lincoln's remarks with slight applause. Yet today, those seconds remain a part of our national heritage. Schoolchildren memorize these words:
    "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
    You can learn more about the Gettysburg Address in Smithsonian Magazine and see more photographs of the battlefield in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.  Use "Gettysburg" as the search term. You can read about Civil War photographs in Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album.

    All the images in this article are from the Library of Congress.


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

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

  • 1860s photos | Abraham Lincoln | Civil War
    Sunday, June 30, 2013 3:55:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]