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<May 2015>

by Maureen A. Taylor

More Links

# Monday, January 26, 2015
Civil War Photo Clues Revisited
Posted by Maureen

Last week's mystery photo featured a mother and daughter. Winston Cochrane owns the image and wanted to know if it depicts the daughter's wedding.

I tentatively dated the image to circa 1868 until more details became available. The back of a card photo can reveal other facts. The presence of a revenue stamp indicates a specific time frame of Aug. 1, 1864, to Aug. 1, 1866. A photographer's name and address can be researched in city directories, census records and online. A caption can confirm or refute the supposed identity of the sitter.

Here's the back of this image:

A quick search of the Louisville City Directories on confirms Winston's details about the photographer. Samuel Jennings operated a studio from circa 1864 to 1866.

He ran an advertisement in the 1864 Louisville Directory on page 132:

Kentucky was a border state during the war and eventually sided with the Union. The lack of a revenue stamp on this image is puzzling. Jennings was in business throughout the years when those tax stamps were used, so the image was taken prior to August 1864 or after August 1866.

A comment on last week's post suggested a circa 1865 date based on the width of the hoop and the style of the sleeve. The frogging on the bodice also was popular during the Civil War. 

The lack of the stamp suggests it was taken after August 1866. If Mary Meaux and daughter Nannie posed in late 1866, then the daughter would be 17. 

A date for this image answers Winston's question about whether it was taken at her wedding in 1870.

You can learn more about Civil War photographs in my book, Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album.

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 | Civil War | women
    Monday, January 26, 2015 3:22:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, January 18, 2015
    Clues in a Civil War Era Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Winston Cochrane sent in this adorable photo of a mother and daughter. Mary Meaux and her daughter Nannie M. Cochrane posed for this image, which shows the close connection between the two. Winston would like to know if the daughter is wearing a wedding dress. She married in Louiseville, Ky., in July 1870, at age 21. At the time her mother was 51.

    Before examining those clues, I played with an online site called to add details to the image.  Here are a few things I immediately saw when looking at the picture for the first time.

    • They both have slight smiles on their faces.
    • They are holding hands!
    • On the mother's dress, you can see the hoop line on her skirt.

    Clues to Date the Image

    • The size and shape of the card photograph identifies it as a carte de visite, a type of photograph first introduced to the United States in 1859.
    • The double blue line on the card was popular throughout the 1860s.
    • By the 1860s to early 1870s, round, cornered cards on thick cardstock were common.
    • In the mid-1860s, fanciful trim appeared on dresses. I love how the zigzag stitch on the mother's skirt appears in a tighter pattern on the daughter's bodice. The daughter's dress features plackets of different colored fabric at the shoulder seam and along the bottom of the dress. It's more than an everyday dress. The mother's sleeves feature ruffled trim at the wrists, a common trim in the mid to late 1860s.
    • How old are they? This is the big question. Does the daughter look 21? What do you think?
    • One detail I don't have is the back of the card. A revenue stamp on the back would narrow the time frame, as would the design of the photographer's imprint.

    So when was it taken? 

    I'll rule out the early 1860s.The daughter wears a lovely dress with plenty of details that suggest it's worn for a special occasion. It's a light colored dress in an indeterminate color. Wedding dresses ranged from white to darker colors.  Most brides in this period wore a very nice dress, not necessary white.

    Her hat dates from the mid-late 1860s, when narrow-brimmed hats with trim became commonplace. 

    Until I see the back, I'll place this image in the circa 1868 time frame. Dating clothing is not always an exact science. Sometimes people wore older clothing styles, comfortable with what they've been wearing, rather than newer styles. 

    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 | Civil War | women
    Sunday, January 18, 2015 4:19:45 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, December 23, 2013
    A Look Back at Photo Detecting in 2013
    Posted by Maureen

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Civil War | group photos | hats | men | Military photos | occupational | photo albums
    Monday, December 23, 2013 3:25:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, September 29, 2013
    A Photo Identification Home Run
    Posted by Diane

    The little girl in last week's column has a name! She's Lydia Rock.

    Girl Rock  002.jpg

    It only took a few hours of research by Dan Gwinn. I'd suggested that he look for a child born in the early 1860s. He began by re-examining his Rock family history. I was thrilled to get an email that started, "I think I may have found something." His third-great-grandmother Mary Ann Cooper Hornberger was the originator of the album. In it, she collected pictures of her aunts and uncles. Her uncle Allen and his wife Mary had a daughter Lydia, born in 1861.

    In the back of the album was a labeled picture of Lydia from circa 1880. Take a close look at her smile and features.They match the little girl in the fringed chair! Don't you love the marcel wave in her hair?

    Lydia Rock1.jpg

    The little girl, whom we now know as Lydia, and the older woman had their picture taken in the same studio. Allen's wife, Mary, was born in 1839. The older woman is quite possibly her.


    Dan's third-great-grandmother arranged the photos in the album. On the first page is an unidentified man. In the second and third spots are Mary (the woman above) and Lydia. Could the man be Allen?  It's very possible.  The revenue stamp on the back of this photo dates it to between Aug. 1, 1864, and Aug. 1, 1866. This man is the right age to be Allen. Generally, family members are kept together in an album's arrangement.

    CDV Allen Rock (2).jpg

    The first person in an album is someone that an album's arranger knew very well. There was a close family relationship between Allen and his niece (Dan's third-great-grandmother). She admired him enough to name one of her own children after him.

    Dan wonders if the little girl's boots are prominently displayed to show off her father's wares. Uncle Allen Rock was an well-known boot and shoe store owner in Lancaster City, Pa.


    The clues led Dan to identify not one, but three family photos. It's equivalent to a home run hit.

    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 | 1880s photos | children | Civil War | photo albums | women
    Sunday, September 29, 2013 9:35:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, July 22, 2013
    A Southern Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Cornelius Webbedit.jpg

    The story of a photograph is so much more than its simple details. This is a carte de visite (CDV) image. The mounted size of a CDV is 2.125 x 3.5 inches.  The slight oval shadow on this picture signifies it was once in an album.

    When confronted with a photographic album, read it front to back, studying the placement of the images. Who's in the first position?  That's the most important person to the individual who created the album.

    In this case, the photo is out of the context of the album.

    The photographer's studio is typical for the 1860s. There's a patterned oilcloth on the floor, a plain backdrop, a single drape and a paisley table covering. The studio has given the image a slight tint and added a bit of color to the man's cheeks.

    He wears a sack coat, a shawl-collared vest, a long necktie and loose trousers than narrow at the ankle.  At his feet is either the base of the table or a photographer's posing device. The facial hair is typical for the late 1860s.

    Stephen Taylor owns this image. He's hoping it depicts his great-great-grandfather Cornelius Webb.  Born in Philadelphia in 1836 to unidentified parents, Cornelius married an Irish immigrant, Mary M. Kennedy, in Charleston, SC in 1859.

    The 1860 Federal Census for Charleston lists the young couple living in a boarding house in the third ward (Heritage Quest Online, National Archives film M653, roll 1216, page 252, line 9). He was a tin smith and his personal estate was worth $500. 

    Most tin smiths served an apprenticeship of four to six years, then started their own business. It is unclear whether Cornelius actually manufactured goods or just sold them. The term tin smith referred to either. There were merchants in Charleston with the last name of Webb, but more research is needed to determine if Cornelius was one of them.

    According to the Frederick Ford's Census of the City of Charleston, 1861 (Charleston, 1861), Cornelius lives in a brick house at 123 Church Street, in the third ward. The Charleston Gaslight Co. owned the building. A quick search on Google maps shows that the house (as long as street numbering didn't change) no longer stands. Looking at the street view provides an indication of what it might have resembled.

    Could this be Cornelius Webb?  It seems pretty likely.  He died in 1869 at 33 years of age, leaving behind five small children, including one born that year.

    He would have posed for this image between his arrival in the city circa 1859 and his death a decade later. Harvey Teal's book, Partners with the Sun: South Carolina Photographers 1840 -1940 (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2001) documents five photographers who operated studios in Charleston prior to the Civil War. During the conflict, the Confederate government's Tax Act, levied a tax of $50 a year on anyone operating as a photographer (Charleston Mercury, May 9, 1863, page 1). After the war, several new studios opened. Most operated studios on King Street.

    The presence of a photographer's imprint on this portrait would help narrow the time frame. Teal's book lists specific dates for photographers.

    The man in this image appears prosperous. He's posing clasping his coat at the lapels, a sign of pride. This man appears older than his early 20s, so if this is Webb, it's likely he posed after the Civil War when he was in his late 20s or early 30s.

    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 | beards | Civil War
    Monday, July 22, 2013 3:23:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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]
    # Sunday, May 26, 2013
    Decoration Day, 1868
    Posted by Maureen

    History intersects at ironic moments that make the past very interesting. Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day, is one of those moments.

    All over the United States on this day, towns hold parades and locals decorate veterans' graves. This stereo image from the Library of Congress depicts the first Decoration Day, held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868.

    First Decoration Day.jpg

    A who's who of national figures gathered to pay their respects to the Union soldiers buried on the property of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. That land also has a connection to the American Revolution.

    It originally belonged to George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington and the adopted son of George Washington.


    When he died, the land was owned by his daughter, the wife of Robert E. Lee. During the Civil War, the property was used for military purposes. The US government bought it at a tax sale and dedicated 200 acres for a national cemetery. Approximately 16,000 Civil War soldiers are buried there.

    The reviewing stand featured flags, bunting and touches of black. Two future presidents were in the stand that day.

    decoration daycropped.jpg

    Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. James A. Garfield are in this photo. Grant served as President from 1869 to 1877; Garfield served only 200 days before his assassination in 1881.

    Garfield, who was a member of Congress, delivered the oration. He began with the following:
    "I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden it must be here beside the graves of 15,000 men, whose lives were more significant than speech and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung." (The New York Herald, May 31, 1868, page 10)
    There is debate over which city held the very first Decoration Day. In 1868, May 30th was selected because it didn't commemorate any battles and because flowers are in bloom. The last Monday in May didn't officially become Memorial Day until 1971.

    Take a look at your family photo collections and see if you have photos of any veterans in your family. I'm going to post my pictures of those individuals on my social media pages to honor them.

    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 | Civil War | Revolutionary War
    Sunday, May 26, 2013 4:29:21 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 21, 2013
    Lincoln's Inauguration and Your Family
    Posted by Maureen

    From movies to today's inauguration, all things Lincoln are in the spotlight. On March 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln participated in his second inauguration. Thousands of individuals came to Washington, DC, to witness it. The news media of the time were present, reporting on the events of the day.

    Photographs of inaugurals usually focus on the President, but in 1865, at least one photographer captured the crowds. This rainy inaugural photo is from the Library of Congress collection and captures Washington, DC, at a key moment. The Civil War was drawing to a close, and Lincoln spoke to that in his address:

    "With malice toward none, with charity for all ... let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds ..."


    A reporter for the Sunday Mercury published in Philadelphia on March 5, 1865, wrote about the weather:

    "Rain had been falling all yesterday and last night, making the proverbially filthy streets of the political metropolis filthier and more unpleasant than ever. (page 3)"

    If you look closely at this photo you'll see people dressed for inclement weather, wearing heavy overcoats and hats, standing in deep puddles. There are a few children in the foreground. Somewhere in this group are African-American troops who marched in the Inaugural Parade.


    A crowd scene like this allows a peek into the past. There is a wide variety of clothing, from wool coats to hoop skirts, worn by these individuals. Take a close look at the hats worn by the men in the crowd. Only one man is wearing a stovepipe hat; the rest are in smaller hats and caps. The man in the tall hat is dressed formally for the occasion. Men of means or who had significant jobs usually dressed the part. In the 1860s, the hat a man wore could tell you a lot about their occupation or fashion habits. For more information on men's hats, see Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900.


    Do you know about the political leanings of your ancestors?

    • There may be images of women bearing suffragette banners or men wearing political memorabilia such as pins.
    • Even if your ancestor wasn't politically active, study the history of your ancestors' lives to see how political decisions influenced their everyday experiences.
    • Take a close look at the pictures in your family, set them in a time frame and investigate the history in your genealogy. There may be images relating to immigration, military service and even social events—all a result of the political situation of the country in which they lived. 

    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 | Civil War | group photos | hats | men
    Monday, January 21, 2013 3:26:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # 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]
    # Sunday, November 11, 2012
    A Veterans Day Salute
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

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

    Civil War

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

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

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

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

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

    Next week I'll tackle two multigenerational family photos.

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

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

  • 1890s photos | Civil War | Military photos
    Sunday, November 11, 2012 3:46:31 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 04, 2012
    Historical Fact or Fiction?
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

    First the composite.
    The three images are as follows.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Civil War | men | Military photos | unusual photos
    Sunday, November 04, 2012 6:32:11 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, July 16, 2012
    Which War is It?
    Posted by Maureen

    Mike Empting found this photo in a box with other cabinet cards. Only two men in his family served in the military:

    Unknown Soldieredit.jpg

    • his great-grandfather, who at age 35 enlisted for the Mexican American War. He was a bugler. The time frame for this war, 1846 to 1848, coincides with the daguerreotype era. The photos of this war are amazing to look at. Here's a website with several Mexican-American War images.

    • his great-grandfather's wife's brother enlisted in the Civil War in an artillery unit for two tours.

    The problem with this photo is that Empting isn't sure which man is depicted. Adding to the confusion are details on the photographer. According to the Minnesota Historical Society, J.J. Fritz aka the Fritz Studio operated in Saint Cloud from 1892 to 1909. Those work dates don't align with either war.

    The style of this cabinet card suggests the 1890s. At some point during that decade, someone likely had an earlier photograph copied. This was a common practice when multiple family members wanted a copy of a photo. The original photo was a carte de visite, a small card photograph popular during the Civil War.

    In the 1860s, the standard studio pose often included a pedestal on which the subject could lean.

    Since there weren't standard military uniforms during the Civil War, the details in this man's attire may help identify him.

    Mike's not sure this man is an Empting. The woman who gave Mike the images is deceased, but at the time of the gift, she didn't know the name of the soldier.

    National Public Radio recently broadcast a program about identifying a Civil War picture. You can listen to it here.  There's a bit of controversy about whether or not the photo in that story was reversed. It's possible. Reversal lens were available to correct the mirror image inherent in photo technology of the day, but not all photographers used 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

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | men | Military photos
    Monday, July 16, 2012 1:21:47 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [10]
    # Monday, June 11, 2012
    Jean-ealogy: Ancestors in Blue Jeans
    Posted by Diane

    When I was working on my book Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album, I spent a lot of time looking for all sorts of clothing examples.

    As one of the photo shows, I found this picture of a man wearing what looks like blue jeans. Today jeans are an American export, possibly our most popular clothing style overseas.

    The ancestor of the jeans we wear today dates back to 1873. Levi Strauss, an 1840s German immigrant, immigrant is responsible for our blue jean obsession. He sold canvas pants reinforced with copper rivets, which were strong enough to withstand the rigors of mining. You can learn more about the history of these pants online.

    During the Civil War, there was a cotton twill called jean cloth. The man in this late-1860s image wears an overcoat and trousers that look like they are the predecessors of the canvas jeans. 

    In his right hand, the man holds what I think is a divining rod for looking for water.

    Got a picture of an ancestral family member in blue jeans? I'll feature it here in a timeline of the pants in family photos. Email me your picture with a brief description.

    1860s photos | Civil War | hats | men | occupational | props in photos | unusual clothing
    Monday, June 11, 2012 6:23:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 21, 2012
    NGS Photo Spotlight
    Posted by Maureen

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

  • 1890s photos | Civil War | group photos
    Monday, May 21, 2012 1:52:46 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, August 08, 2011
    Godfrey Family Picture Puzzle
    Posted by Maureen

    Gwen Prichard and her cousin Libby Claypool have quite the family photo mystery. The image is a composite of what appears to be several generations worth of Godfreys.


    Several years ago I saw something similar, but that woman didn't have a clue about the identity of the people in the collage. In Gwen's case, there are some identifications written on the back. 


    She has no idea who wrote the caption, but that detail could be the key to figuring out the identity of the folks depicted.


    According to the caption, the first three women in the top row (left to right) are Fannie Godfrey, Sarah Ostick Dalton and "Aunt Godfrey." 

    This photo generates a lot of questions. It's going to take some time to figure this out. 

    According to Gwen, photographer Peter Godfrey appears in the 1870 and 1880 census, but she's been unable to find him in the 1860 federal census. He was born in 1841. I found a Peter Godfrey living in Ohio in the 1860 census working as a farm laborer. His age is 23. Could this be the photographer?

    The history of ownership of an image can offer clues worth following. In this case, Libby Claypool is fairly certain the photo belonged to her great- grandmother, Fannie Williams Sloane, who was Peter Godfrey's niece.   Perhaps she wrote the identifications on the back. If so then Gwen might be able to figure out the first name of "Aunt Godfrey." This aunt is an elderly woman and likely the oldest person in this photo. Did Frannie Sloane have an aunt who lived into the 1860s?

    Date of Photo
    There are a lot of faces in this composite. A quick assessment suggests that most of the images in this collage were taken in the 1860s. This carte de visite card photograph with a double-gold-line border was common in the 1860s. The photographer's name and address is also of a design popular in the Civil War decade.

    It seems quite possible that Peter Godfrey had a photo studio in the 1860s. Did he take all these photographs of family members or just make copy prints and lay them out to form this multi-generational group portrait?

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

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

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | unusual photos
    Monday, August 08, 2011 6:24:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 09, 2011
    A Soldier's Story
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I spent time browsing the Liljenquist Collection on the Library of Congress website. It's a jaw-dropping set of gorgeous Civil War photographs. You can view them online or in person at an exhibit at the Library of Congress.

    Charles Bickford.jpg

    This portrait depicts Charles H. Bickford of Massachusetts as a young boy. As a genealogist, it's difficult for me to see a name on a photograph and not dig a little deeper into a life story.

    The LOC cataloging record provides a few details, while some library research fills in the blanks.
    • It's an ambrotype. The date created field suggests a time frame of 1850-1855, but ambrotypes were patented in 1854.

    • The cataloging record also includes information from a handwritten label in the cased image. It supplies a date of birth (March 1844) and his death date (May 3, 1863).

    • Bickford served with B Company of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. A quick search in a series, Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War compiled by the Adjutant General and published in 1931 (volume 1, page 80), yields even more data. Bickford was a resident of Lowell, Mass., and a machinist when he enlisted at age 20 on May 25, 1861. He died on May 3, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Va. May 3 is considered the bloodiest day of the Battle of Chancellorsville and resulted in the loss of 14,000 Confederate soldiers. General Stonewall Jackson was fatally wounded that day, as well.

    • Searching for vital records for Bickford suggests he was born in New Hampshire. There is a Charles H. Bickford, age 17, living in Strafford County in the 1860 federal census. 
    Telling a soldier's story involves looking at vital records, census records, Civil War material and of course studying the evidence in a family photo.

    In this picture, Bickford is a young boy dressed in a typical suit—buttoned jacket with the collar peeking out, and a large bow at the neck. Born in 1844, it's possible he's about 10-12 years old in this photo. If he were older than that, he'd be wearing a different style of attire. This data suggests the photo was taken between 1854 and 1856.     

    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

  • 1850s photos | children | Civil War
    Monday, May 09, 2011 1:33:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 02, 2011
    Civil War Era Mystery
    Posted by Maureen


    Did you know that you can mail us a copy (no originals please) of your family photos for this column? To find out more about submitting photo click on the How to Submit Your Photo link in the left-hand column. This week's photo mystery was mailed to the editors of Family Tree Magazine, who in turn forwarded it to me.

    Betty Nance's great-grandmother knew the identity of the man in this photo. Sarah Jane Elizabeth (Jennie) Renfro told her daughter (Betty's mother) his name.

    Unfortunately, by the time Betty asked about this photo, her great- grandmother was deceased and all her mother could remember was his first name "Thomas" and that he was a cousin to Sarah Jane.

    There are big questions about this photo. First, which branch of Sarah Jane's family does he represent?

    Sarah Jane was born in 1866, and since this is a Civil War photo of a Confederate soldier posing with a revolver, it's possible that she knew him. Well ... that could be the case if he didn't die during the war. 

    So who is he? I've poked around a bit looking for men with that first name in both the Renfro and Fowler family lines—but no direct hits.

    I've also searched family trees and found one for the Renfro family. Based on the information that Betty sent me, it appears to be the right one, but no Thomas.

    The 1860 US census might hold a clue. I used the census on HeritageQuest Online (available through many public libraries). There are 93 Thomas Fowlers in the census, but only a few in Illinois and Tennessee, where the family lived, and no Thomas Renfros in those states. Of course, he could have a different last name if his mother's maiden name was Renfro or Fowler.

    This is an involved family history project, but one that is solvable. I'd start by looking for Civil War enlistment lists for the states in which the family lived, and hope for a direct match. If not, then Betty would have to find all the collateral lines for her ancestor, Sarah Jane Renfro. With any bit of genealogical luck, she'll find her Thomas.

    One of the problems is that Betty doesn't know what degree of cousin Thomas was. If he's not a first cousin, then even more research is needed.

    Untangling this mess could take a bit of time.  I did a general search for Thomas Fowler, and found a Thomas Jefferson Fowler who died in 1862 during the war. Other research is needed to determine whether that's the connection.

    The young man in this photo isn't very old—I think late teens or early 20s. That will narrow down the number of possible candidates in Betty's family tree.

    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

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | men | Military photos
    Monday, May 02, 2011 2:56:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, April 11, 2011
    Bad Hair Day Winner!
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you for voting in the Bad Hair Day Contest and for sending in all those great hair photos. There is a winner!

    Here's how the votes stacked up.

    83.7 % of the voters selected this photo. Congratulations go to Pat Daughtery for winning the contest and a copy of Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900.


    The runner up is ...
    editSophie Bentley.jpg
    71 % voted for this photo.

    I promised a few more photos this week so here goes.


    Rachel Peirce sent in this before-and-after picture of her ancestor Hunter Carson White at 9-1/2 years old during the Civil War. She owns a picture of the boy's father with his hair standing up on his head and wonders whether the second photo was taken to make the boy look more like his father.


    Photo collector David Chase sent me this photo. It proves that man's best friend also can have bad hair. <smile>.

    Last weekend I was at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference. I met Janine Penfield who showed me this unusual photo in her family album.


    It depicts a female performer known as Illavaro at age 14. She was photographed at several different times by Charles Eisenman of New York City. She would have been very comfortable in the late 1960s when this hairstyle was a fashion statement.

    Hope you've enjoyed this look back at 19th-century hairstyles!

    1860s photos | 1870s photos | 1880s photos | african american | children | Civil War | hairstyles | unusual photos
    Monday, April 11, 2011 5:08:38 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, October 25, 2010
    Deciphering a Photo, Civil War Style
    Posted by Maureen

    GibsonCivil War Photo.jpg

    Nancy Gibson's story will sound similar to many readers. She found this photo in her great-grandmother's album. Initially, she had no idea who the man might be, but now she thinks it might be her great-grandfather, born in 1822.

    This is a fabulous photo! It's a man dressed in uniform posing with his weapons—sword at his side and pistol on the table. At his feet (to the right) you can see the brace that holds him in place:

    GibsonCivil War Photobrace.jpg

    He wears an officer's or enlisted man's nine-button frock coat. These coats were worn by company-grade officers and enlisted men. In this case, I think he's an officer. The sash could be for dress-up for the photo, or it could signify that he's the officer of the day. The symbol on his hat signifies the type of unit:

    GibsonCivil War Photo headress.jpg

    I've called in a military expert to help with that. I'll add the information here as soon as I have it. The type of cap is a kepi. It was worn by thousands of soldiers during the Civil War. A great source for information on uniforms is William K. Emerson's Encyclopedia of United States Army Insignia and Uniforms (University of Oklahoma Press, $135.00). 

    GibsonCivil War Photoeditback.jpg

    On the back of the picture is the photographer's name and a revenue stamp (above). Unfortunately the photographer's imprint is lightly stamped and too faint to see here, but it reads "J.D. Wardwell, Photographer, Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia."

    The US Treasury Department collected revenue from photographs from Aug. 1, 1864 to Aug. 1, 1866. Photographers were required to put their initials and the date on the stamp, but few fully complied. Wardwell wrote his initials on this two cent stamp. It signifies that Gibson's ancestor paid 25 cents or less for this image.

    As for Wardwell ... He was taking pictures at a temporary earthwork fortification built in Alexandria County, Va. You can learn more about it on Wikipedia. Today it is a state park. It's likely Wardwell was one of those photographers who spent his days photographing soldiers so they could send images home to loved ones.

    There are a lot of story angles in this picture. The man and his days in the service during the Civil War, the photographer, or the fort.

    It's possible that this man is Gibson's great-grandfather. A good way to check would be to determine which units served at the fort during the latter part of the War. She also could check Civil War papers at the National Archives or the Civil War service records or pension records online at

    You can see more Civil War photos in the Family Tree Magazine 2011 Civil War Desk Calendar. If you need help researching your Civil War ancestors, check out the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital download from

    1860s photos | Civil War | Military photos
    Monday, October 25, 2010 7:29:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, October 18, 2010
    Civil War Roll Call, Part 2
    Posted by Diane

    I hope you enjoyed last week's gallery of Civil War soldiers. I have several more to share with you this week.
    Merle Ladd's ancestor Lemuel Ladd (below) lost his life at Blackburn's Ford, near Manassas, Va. on July 18, 1861. He served with the 12th New York.

    Lemuel Ladd1838-18612.jpg

    Roxanne Munns sent in this photograph of George Allen (below). This photo was stored with her Young family pictures. She doesn't know who George is, but she thinks he might be George Allen of Co. G of the 7th Wisconsin. If anyone is related to this man, email me and I'll forward your message to Roxanne.


    Bruce A. Brown's great-great-grandfather John McNown (below) enlisted Oct. 6, 1861, into Company F, 16th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment from Lemonweir Township, Juneau County, Wis.  He lost his life on April 6, 1862.

    John McNown immigrated from the Isle of Man to Canada about 1825, and then to the United States in 1849.


    This picture of John is a copy of the original photo. From its appearance, the original is a tintype or an ambrotype. There are distinctive marks that suggest it was once in a case with a mat framing the image.

    Four children of Oliver and Lucinda (Boodey) Leathers of Maine served in the Civil War.  John served with the Maine cavalry, Alphonso served with a New Hampshire regiment while the other two brothers enlisted with a Minnesota unit. Lynn Kent submitted the photo below and thinks it depicts Charles Leather from the 1st Minnesota regiment.

    Leathers CW perhaps Charles2.jpg

    Look closely at Emvira Smith Fuller's dress (below). She was the wife of Calvin Fuller of Barnard, Maine. She wears his picture in a piece of photographic  jewelry.

    Thank you for all the photos! 

    For a guide to researching your Civil War ancestors, see the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital download from

    1860s photos | Civil War | men | Military photos | women
    Monday, October 18, 2010 7:44:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, October 11, 2010
    Civil War Roll Call
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I posted a call for Civil War many folks answered that request that I have enough material for two columns. I also mentioned some tips on how readers could find images of their Civil War ancestors. In William C. Darrah's Cartes de visite in the Nineteenth Century (out of print), he claims that virtually every soldier posed for at least one image of themselves in uniform. In fact, many sat for multiple images. 

    Rachel Peirce sent in this photograph of Charles C. Baker of North Kingstown, RI. This young man was the first Civil War casualty for the town. He was only 17. He'd served with the 4th Rhode Island Co. H.

    It's possible this image was printed as a memorial piece.  Two months ago, Rachel saw this ambrotype on eBay and bought it.  It appears to be a similar but slightly different image of Baker.

    Donna G. Pilcher sent an image of her great-grandfather George W. Morrison, who fought for the Union as a private in Co. G 54th Indiana Volunteer Infantry from June 9, 1862 to Sept. 13, 1862. He injured his left eye and remained partial deaf in the left ear after his service.

    The original was a reversed image (common in tintypes) and his belt buckle used to say S.U., but someone fixed that.


    Deb Wilson has a bit of a mystery in her photo. On the right is John Thomas Boofter, who served with Company B., 97th Infantry Regiment of Pennsylvania, but the soldier on the left is unidentified. She thinks it might be Boofter's brother Edward, who also served in the war for Maryland. Given the affectionate pose, it's quite possible. 


    Kim Dolce's ancestor, Isaac Sharp Heisler posed in uniform for the 23rd New Jersey Volunteers. He died of typhoid in Virginia on Feb. 15, 1863.

    Heisler civil war.jpg

    Nora Patton Taylor e-mailed me a photo of her great-uncle Marinus King McDowell, who enlisted three times and was wounded at Antietam. This is a copy print of an earlier image. According the Nora, he was supposed to be at the theater on the night Lincoln was shot. He didn't go because his leg bothered him.

    See more Civil War photos in the Family Tree Magazine 2011 Civil War Desk Calendar. For a guide to researching your Civil War ancestors, see the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital download from

    Civil War | men | Military photos
    Monday, October 11, 2010 4:19:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]