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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, August 17, 2014
The Well-Dressed Couple Again and Solving a Group Photo Mystery
Posted by Maureen

Last week I showed you a picture of an unknown well-dressed couple circa 1905.

Where there's one unidentified photo there are usually more. That's true for Amir Evenchik's collection of images. He owns several other pictures of the same couple taken a few years later. Unfortunately, no one can identify them.



This one has a caption on it, "Henrik with Feige (a nickname for bird in Hebrew) taken in Baden-Baden." Henrik's gained a few pounds since the first image. The woman's suit and hat date this photo closer to 1910. Having a first name for the husband is a great clue, but it doesn't bring Amir any closer to figuring out their identity.  

Since most of his ancestors lived in Poland or Belarus, then why are they in Baden-Baden, Germany? It was a popular tourist location, so perhaps the couple is on vacation, or they may be visiting relatives.

His other unidentified photograph is a group portrait without a single person named.



Figuring out who's in a big portrait can unlock other photo mysteries in the family. It's likely that there are other images of these 13 people taken later on. This image dates from the early 1900s. 



  • The matriarch of the family is front and center. She's an elderly woman. She wears an older style dress.

  • Are the two men flanking her her sons, or did the photographer place them on either side of her? At least one of them is likely her son, but it's possible that both of them are.

  • Working with that assumption, then the women sitting next to those men would be their wives.
  • Are the three women in the back row her daughters? If so, then there are five of her children in this portrait, two men and three women. The woman standing in the center is dressed very fashionably for the circa 1906 period.

  • The children in the picture are the matriarch's grandchildren.

Solving a picture mystery like this is about breaking the image down into family groups (which children go with which parents), coming up with a series of assumptions, then testing them by looking at your family tree for possibilities. For instance, the youngest grandson sits on the left.  He's likely 8 to 10 years of age. If this picture was taken in 1906, then he was born in approximately 1896 to 1898. 

There are plenty of variables in dating fashion from economic status to where the image was taken. The assumptions give you place to start.


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

  • group photos | hats | Jewish | men
    Sunday, August 17, 2014 5:23:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 10, 2014
    A Well-Dressed Couple
    Posted by Maureen



    Old pictures have a tendency to turn up unexpectedly. For Amir Evenchik, this photo was recently found at his parent's house. It's the usual story:  No one knows the identity of the couple or where they posed for this lovely formal portrait.

    Dating this photo is the easy part. Determining where an image was taken is a matter of matching up image clues with family history. Below are four clues (I've used Pixlr.com to create a numbered collage of the evidence):



    • Photos 1 and 3: In the early years of the 20th century, women wore their hair swept up in an exaggerated puff in front of the head. The goal was the S-shaped head-to-toe curve that was popular circa 1905. Undergarments helped women achieve this curve.

    Mid-decade, women wore little jackets over their dresses. This is a very fashionably dressed woman, whose outfit is complete with long gloves and a fan.


    • Photo 2: The woman's companion wears his mustache in the style of the late 1890s, when waxing facial hair created extreme twirls. It's a fad that remained common into the 20th century. Notice how the front of his hair has a wave. This was typical at the turn of the century.

    • Photo 4: Looking at a background can help you place a photo. This could be a unique, hand-painted design. The photographer probably used the same backdrop in many portraits. Locating other images taken in the same area with the same background could help determine where the couple is from. 


    Other factors to consider in identifying this image:
    • Does the couple look like any other family members?
    • Based on their appearance, this is a couple of financial means. 
    • Evenchik should estimate the couple's ages, then find couples on his family tree of the right ages around the time this photo was taken. 



    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | hairstyles | Jewish | men
    Sunday, August 10, 2014 1:54:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 12, 2011
    Painted Woods Update
    Posted by Maureen

    PaintedWoods2.jpg

    Richard Levine has taken on this mystery photo, which he originally thought was taken in Painted Woods, ND.  We've emailed back and forth about his progress and I thought it was time to update all of you about what he's been up to. This is the photo featured in two of the November columns of this blog; check out Part 2.

    After this installment appeared online, Richard wrote to say that he now thought the photo was a wedding. He thinks that it could be his grandmother Rose Confeld (b. 1885) and her husband Samuel Levine (b.1883). They were married Aug. 15, 1905, at Kistler's Hall in Minneapolis, Minn. The hall appears in city directories and in newspapers.  His next step was to try to locate a photo of it from the Minnesota Historical Society.

    He's also compiled a list of second and third cousins to mail them a letter and a copy of this picture. He's determined to figure out the significance of this photo!

    I suggested trying to find a Sanborn Insurance atlas of the area around Kistler's. These maps have construction details which would verify that the building was wood and also tell you something about the neighborhood.  This photo appears to have been taken in a rural area. 

    Richard found a picture of Kistler's from 1914.  It shows how rural the area was. He also located a hand-drawn map from the 1920s that identifies a four-story Kistler building on the same street as the Kistler's Hall. The hall is no longer at the junction of 6th Avenue N. and Lyndale Ave.; the area now has a freeway intersection.

    He retraced his steps and went back to his family history. Now he's investigating land his great-grandfather Joseph Confeld owned in Anoka County, Minn. 

    I'll be back with the next update. Every week Richard gets closer to solving this mystery.


    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | Jewish
    Monday, December 12, 2011 3:05:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, November 15, 2011
    Painted Woods Mystery: Part Two
    Posted by Maureen

    Yesterday morning, I called Richard Levine to discuss his photograph of a family group possibly posed at Painted Woods, ND.


    I featured the photo and the mystery in last week’s column.

    Levine has known about this photo for only a few months. His cousin Sally showed it to him and told him that her mother said it was taken at Painted Woods. There are a few inconsistencies in this identification, though.

    Richard’s ancestors, Joseph and Anna Confeld, immigrated from Kishinev, Bessarabia in 1885, and settled in Painted Woods.

    Another set of Richard’s ancestors, Barouk and Hannah Dorfman, also lived in Painted Woods. The Dorfmans were among the first settlers to the area in 1882.

    Both families lived there only for a few years and then moved to Minnesota.

    Richard and Sally thought that since family said the picture was taken in Painted Woods, it must date from the 1880s. Last week, I looked at the clothing details and determined the original image dates to circa 1900. This generates some questions.

    The photo might not be of the Painted Woods community. In fact, by 1900, most of the Jewish settlers had moved elsewhere. The 1900 federal census for the community enumerates a number of Scandinavian families living in the area. 

    If this picture was taken in Painted Woods, Richard needs to determine why the family would return to the area. Could it be a family reunion, a wedding, or a funeral?

    One of the big problems is a lack of comparison photographs. I suggested comparing the faces in the group portrait with other photographs in the family. Unfortunately, Richard lacks images of family members. He’s hoping that someone will read this column and either have photographs of Painted Woods or of the Confelds or Dorfmans.

    Richard’s research turned up a first-person account of life in the community. Joseph Steinman (related to the Dorfmans) wrote about the hardships of life on the North Dakota frontier. It’s at the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest.

    Another resource worth investigating is William Sherman’s Jewish Settlement in North Dakota Collection at the Institute for Regional Studies & University Archives at the North Dakota State University Libraries. (Click here to download a PDF finding aid for the collection.) 

    If anyone is interested in reading about daily life on the northern frontier, I suggest Rachel Calof’s Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains (Indiana State University, 1995). It’s an amazing true story.


    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | group photos | Jewish
    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 2:03:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 07, 2011
    Is this Painted Woods, North Dakota?
    Posted by Maureen

    Photographs and history go hand in hand. Take this photo for instance. It likely represents a bit of North Dakota history.

    PaintedWoodsNorthDakota (2).JPG

    Richard Levine's cousin Sally sent him this photo. Her mother had given it to her. The mother always thought it depicted a group at the Painted Woods settlement in North Dakota. 

    Levine's Jewish ancestors (Joseph and Anna Confeld) immigrated in 1885 from Kishinev, Bessarabia (now Moldova or Romania), which was a Russian territory. His grandmother Rose was born in North Dakota near Bismarck and lived in Painted Woods.  The harsh living conditions led many settlers to move elsewhere. In fact, Richard's family ended up in Minneapolis, Minn. 

    The big question in the family is about this photo. Does it depict a gathering at Painted Woods? And when was it taken?

    Richard reached out to the Jewish community through the JewishGen website and posted the photo there.

    The scalloped edge of this snapshot, as well as its size and format, identify this as a copy of an earlier picture. It was definitely photographed in the first half of the 20th century. In the lower left-hand corner you can see that the original photo had a tear.

    Let's look at the clothing clues.
    PaintedWoods2.jpg

    Richard thought it might be from the 1880s, but look closely at the women's dress sleeves.

     PaintedWoods3.jpg 

    The shape and style of the sleeve dates this photo to circa 1900.  The children's play clothes are also consistent with this date.

    I'll be back next week with another installment of this story.


    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

  • 1920s photos | group photos | Jewish
    Monday, November 07, 2011 3:17:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]