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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, 28 December 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, 28 December 2015 17:00:44 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 06 April 2015
Finding Gold in Old Family Photos
Posted by Maureen

Family photos can depict a single individual or a large group. While we think of them in terms of our family history, large group portraits might be important to other families as well. Take this photo of a group in Shaws Flats, Calif.



Shaws Flats was a Gold Rush town in the 1850s that has a reputation for being one of the richest gold areas. Sarah G. Dunster's family settled there sometime in the mid- to late-19th century and they stayed until the mid-20th century. Her last relative in Shaws Flats died in 1985. 

She's trying to figure out who's in this image and when it was taken. her grandmother Julia stands on a log holding a child.



Sarah wonders if this image was taken in the 1870s or later. The clothing clues in this image definitely rule out the 1870s. Here's a close-up of the women in the group.



The young woman on the left dates the picture. She's fashionably dressed for this town; the other women are in everyday dresses and the men are in work clothes. I can't help but wonder who she is and why she's so well-dressed. She's also the only woman not wearing a well-worn apron, and she even wears a restrictive corset to cinch her waist. Outfits like this, complete with a tie, were common in the mid-1890s. Given her appearance it's possible she worked in a store or an office.

Since Sarah had relatives living in Shaws Flats in 1900, I'd look at the 1900 census to see if it's possible to identify other people in the image. I'd start with the children and add approximately five years to their estimated ages to see if they appear in the census. Of course, it's possible that some of these people moved out of the area between the time of the photo and the census, but the census is a good place to start.

I'd also post this image on a Facebook page at a low resolution. If there isn't a page/group for Shaws Flats, then this would be a good image to start one. Sarah will be able to connect with other people whose families lived there and maybe collect some local history. She also could edit the image and post the individual faces on the page as an identification puzzle. 

Love these group pictures that show the life of a community and how ordinary folks lived.  Here's one more closeup of men with work tools in hand.




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 | Gold Rush | occupational | women
    Monday, 06 April 2015 17:13:07 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]