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<2017 June>

by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 31 January 2016
World War I Uniforms for Little Boys
Posted by Maureen

A few months ago I featured a picture of a little boy in a German style military uniform and discussed how boys could dress like the servicemen in their family.

Paul Daraghy sent in three photos of his father wearing a miniature World War I uniform complete with belt and insignia on the cap.

Albert Daraghy poses in this 1919 school photo taken at the Grant Elementary School in Dumont, NJ. He holds a hand-colored red, white and blue shield, something he likely created in class. On the photo mat, an eagle holds the U.S. flag.

These two patriotic symbols were commonly seen during World War I and for several years afterward.

Here he stands on a roof top in full "uniform." This type of attire was sold through the Sears Catalog and other mail-order or department stores. Similar style uniforms sold in the fall 1919 Sears catalog cost $6.95. At a time when fathers, brothers and uncles were serving overseas, their sons and little brothers could play the part.

In approximately 1917-18, Albert and his brother Charles posed in identical uniforms in Dumont, NJ.  A handwritten note on the back says, "two little soldiers."

The United States entered the war on April 6, 1917 and remained involved until the end on November 11, 1918.

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

  • children | Military photos | World War I
    Sunday, 31 January 2016 20:42:47 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # 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, 14 December 2015
    Little Boys in Military Dress in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Patsy Ellinger's picture of 3-year-old Paul Robert Engemann and his older brother Karl Engemann, age 5, is a charming portrayal of two little boys playing dress up. It was taken circa 1902. Both boys wear miniature military uniforms, copying those likely worn by soldiers in Silesia, Prussia.  This is nothing new.

    During the U.S. Civil War, mothers could make their son's Zouave outfits like those worn on the battlefield.

    Godey's Lady's Book January 1862

    Dress-up was more than play-time activity. Children often wore costumes for community events. The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario,  currently has an exhibit Mirrors with Memory: Daguerreotypes in Canada. One of the images on display shows a group of boys dressed in historical costumes taken in 1855. You can see it here.

    To relive your childhood dress-up kits look no further than the Sears Catalog. You can browse your childhood holiday wish list using the catalogs on

    The photo of the Engemann boys captured them in one of their last moments in Prussia. Their widowed mother brought the two boys to the United States in 1903. Karl served as an American soldier and died in 1918 during World War I.

    If you have photos of your ancestors dressed-up as children, I'd love to feature them. Here's how you can submit them.

    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

  • 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1910s photos | children | Military photos | World War I
    Monday, 14 December 2015 14:19:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 09 August 2015
    Three Techniques for Solving a Military Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    You know the expression, "There's something about a man in uniform." Well I can finish that phrase with "that's so mysterious."  One of the most difficult photo mysteries to solve is a person in a uniform.

    There are a few reasons why that's true. First there were no standardized military uniforms in the nineteenth century. Plus there were uniforms worn at military schools as well. Variables in head to toe attire and gear can make identifying the uniform in a military image a real challenge. You can learn more about solving these types of mysteries in the Family Photo Detective.

    Rebecca Cook owns this photo of her great-grandfather Montgomery Grant Hunter. Not only does she know who's in this picture, she knows how old he is here.

    On the back appears a caption: "age 18."  Since he was born in 1864 in Virginia, that information dates the picture to circa 1882.  He lived in the Virginia-Maryland-District of Columbia area.  Family thinks he was named after two Union generals.

    Research the Photographer
    The photographer was Rice.  That name is barely visible on the dark card stock. There were two photographers named Rice in Washington, D.C. who were uncle and nephew.  Moses Parker Rice and his nephew George W. Rice operated studios in the nation's capital. George left the area in 1881 to join an ill-fated Arctic expedition. The Rice family originally hailed from Nova Scotia and several generations became photographers. The photographer's imprint places Montgomery in Washington, D.C. for this portrait.

    Study Family Information
    I wonder if there are any stories passed amongst his descendants that address his military service. A quick search of revealed a gravestone for him without any military symbols on it on Find a Grave and information on his medical school training in the Directory of Deceased American Physicians directory. He attended the George Washington Medical School. Creating a timeline of his life before and just after this photograph could offer clues to the uniform.

    Identify the Uniform
    This is the really hard part. There were military schools in Virginia and Maryland. It's a two phase identification problem. First identify which of those schools were founded before 1882 (and had graduating classes) then try to locate pictures of graduates in uniforms.  Given his age, this could be a graduation photo OR an image of him as a freshman in college.  OR he may have enlisted.  The fact that he was in uniform and the photo was taken in DC suggests he was in that area at that time.

    Using Google Images didn't work. That can be a quick shortcut. You upload an image and let the web do the work, but results showed other cabinet cards of men and no matches for the uniform.

    It's going to take time to search each school and then contact their archives/special collections department for examples of the uniforms worn by students in the 1880s. 

    It only takes one match to make this a photo success story.

    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

  • 1880s photos | Military photos | photo-research tips
    Sunday, 09 August 2015 17:34:27 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 25 May 2015
    A Memorial Day Tribute
    Posted by Maureen

    Today we equate Memorial Day with the start of summer, but it's important to recognize it as a somber occasion as well.

    A few years ago I wrote about the roots of the holiday in Decoration Day  1868.

    First Decoration Day.jpg

    This stereograph from the Library of Congress shows the first Decoration Day, held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868.

    Create A Memorial Day Tribute
    One of my favorite parts of the website in their Honor Wall. It's a simple concept with a powerful impact. Upload a photo of an ancestor who served then add a biography of the person, records that mention them, stories about them and personal details. You've created an online memorial for your men or women in uniform. Click the green button at the bottom of the screen to link the profile you've created to

    Before starting a new memorial search the site to make sure someone hasn't already created one for your ancestor.  Search by name or narrow by war/conflict first.

    Search for Photos
    My family has been lucky. A number of our ancestors served in the military from the Civil War to today, but they all came home safely. I have images of the men in my family that served from World War II to the present, but lack pictures from earlier conflicts. Here's a few strategies I use to try to find those missing pics.
    • Know where my ancestor was living at the time he (or she) served. This allows me to check local and state archives for documents and records.

    • Find proof of service. Whether it's a book that lists Civil War soldiers or a pension record, knowing the name of the regiment in which they served is helpful.

    • Search. Service details provide specific detail that allow you to search on Google for images taken of that regiment/unit, search auction catalogs online or find re-enactment groups. Amazing items turn up at auction including an album of every member of a Maine regiment.  (Still wonder who bought THAT!)  Members of re-enactment groups often research the men that served in the group they are recreating. This can lead to new information and perhaps a photo.  

    • If at first you don't succeed try again...  About once a year I run all the names of the people I'm looking for through databases like, do another Google search and try local historical societies again. Why?  New material turns up everyday so it's worth a second look.

    I'm still hoping to find a picture of the red haired ancestor described in a pension record who served in the Civil War. 

    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

  • Civil War | Military photos
    Monday, 25 May 2015 16:42:19 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 09 March 2014
    Stories in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    Three Women  Man on Fallen Treeedit.jpg

    Way back in grade school, I learned that the building blocks of a good story are who, what, where, when and how. Those elements plus a little family history lore add up to tell a tale.

    In the case of this photo, here's how it breaks down:

    Who: There are lot of "might"s in Jane Bonny's email but here's who she thinks might be in the photo. The woman on the far left might be her grandmother Grace Wickline (born 1891).
    crop1Three Women  Man on Fallen Tree.jpg

    According to Jane, the woman on the far right bears a bit of a resemblance to Grace's sister Bella, but Bella never lived near her sister.

    The woman in the center could be Grace's mother-in-law, Henrietta Gardner, but it all depends on the date of the photo. Grace married in 1923.

    Where: From 1910 to about 1923, Grace lived in Hidalgo County, Texas. She met her future husband, Francis Cooper Anderson, there. 

    Hidalgo County was a base for the US Army beginning in 1916, when American soldiers invaded Mexico in search of Pancho Villa. You can read more about it here.

    What: Exactly what's happening here is a bit of a mystery. It looks like a group on an outing.  Who's behind the camera is unknown.  It's important to think about who took a snapshot, because there's a relationship of some sort between that individual and the folks in a candid image.

    When: Now we are at the key piece of evidence. A date or time frame can help to confirm or refute an identification.

    On the woman who might be Grace, the deep crowned hat with a small brim is interesting. There were hats like this in the late 1910s and in the early 1920s, but hats in the late teens had brims that tilted down, not up like in the 1920s. 

    Bangs start to become fashionable again circa 1920 and if women didn't crop their hair they found ways to pin it up to look shorter. That's what this woman has done.

     crop3Three Women  Man on Fallen Tree.jpg

    These clues plus the dress styles suggest this photo was taken circa 1920. So Grace would be 29 in this photo.

    crop 2Three Women  Man on Fallen Tree.jpg

    Jane doesn't recognize the young man on the far left. He doesn't resemble Grace's husband, Francis.

    There is a great family history nugget relating to Grace. She told her family that she had a boyfriend in the Army, but that she didn't continue seeing him because she judged him to be without character.

    This man is not wearing a military uniform, but Jane wonders if this could be the boyfriend. Could they be holding hands? It's unclear. 

    The how in this photo involves trying to figure out his identity. First I'd compare his photo to other images of Francis. Perhaps he's related to the woman on the far right. 

    If he's not Francis, then who are the other two women?  Perhaps other relatives came to visit Grace in Texas. Posting this image online and in social media might help.

    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

  • 1910s photos | 1920s photos | men | Military photos
    Sunday, 09 March 2014 22:48:27 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 23 December 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, 23 December 2013 15:25:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 04 August 2013
    Foreign Photos in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    This week I'm at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Conference. It's a huge event with folks attending from all over the globe. I love the international atmosphere and especially like looking at photographs taken around the world.

    Photos taken in foreign lands can be particularly challenging. Instead of showing you this week's photo immediately, I'm first going to break it down into clues. The image is one I purchase for my personal photo collection.


    The style of this woman's hair and the square-necked bodice and the fit of the dress identify a time frame of the early 20th century. Women who followed the current Parisian fashions and who lived in urban areas generally adopted western style dress. Even fashion-conscious women in rural areas might follow trends while others adopted the local cultural dress.


    Her hat rests on a chair. This additional detail narrows the time frame. Hats about 1910 featured wide brims and tall crowns with lots of trim.


    Men didn't always wear western dress. The style of this man's coat and even his mustache suggest a photo taken abroad (or one showing an immigrant in the United States). The insignia on his lapels are military.


    I could use a little help with the imprint. The photographer's information on a photo usually includes a name and address. Is there anyone who can read the Cyrillic on this image? 


    Here's the whole photo. The couple to the right are very fashionable folks for the second decade of the 20th century. The man on the far left and the young man in front draw attention because of their different clothing.  Photo studio props and backdrops vary around the world, but they usually include some basic similarities: a chair, something on the floor (in this case it's hay) and a painted backdrop.


    At their feet are the hats worn by members of this party. Two straw hats with wide bands and one military cap. That likely belongs to the man on the far left (see enlargement above). 

    Photos taken in foreign lands need careful study of every detail. You'll find more help in my book Family Photo Detective.

    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

  • 1910s photos | hats | Military photos | women | World War I
    Sunday, 04 August 2013 19:07:06 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, 13 May 2013
    Part 2 of an Italian Photo Mystery
    Posted by Diane

    Last week I introduced Eileen Poulin's mysterious photos on tin and showed you one of the two images of her Italian relatives.

    Frank LoRusso with a Martinelliedit.jpg

    Poulin's mother left her the pair with a note regarding the identity of the individuals in the photos—but the details are confusing: On the paper with the above image, a confirmation photo, Eileen's mother wrote: "Frank (my grandfather) with a Martinelli boy." The Martinellis are related to Eileen through her great grandmother on her grandmother's side of the family.

    The note stored with the second image, below, read, "brother of above." 

    The family is confused. Is the man in uniform Frank's brother, or the brother of the boy?

    I emailed Eileen for more information about when the family immigrated to the United States and how the Martinelli family was related to them. She called a relative, who identified the boy as her brother Frank Martinelli.

    Eileen's grandfather immigrated in 1916. You can view Francesco Antonio LoRusso's passenger details (or search for your own ancestor) on the Ellis Island website or click this link.

    The boy's suit and the style of the confirmation photo suggest it was taken around the year of immigration. One relative thinks it was in Italy, but Martinelli's sister thinks her brother was born in the United States. 

    The final factors about where the image was taken are the answers to two questions: Where was the Martinelli boy born? When did that family immigrate?

    The military photo was definitely taken in Italy. It depicts a man in an Italian military uniform from the WWI period.  I love that his headgear resembles women's hats of the early 20th century. 

    Military images are full of head-to-toe clues. The headgear, uniform style, insignia and even the leg wraps are evidence. The man may be a Bersaglieri, a corporal in the Italian army. For more information on Italian military uniforms see Italian Armies of World War I by David Nicolle and Raffaele Ruggeri in the Men in Arms series (Osprey, 2003). 

    Now that Eileen has a time period and additional family information, it's possible another relative can identify the soldier.

    Only a few days left to enter Family Tree Magazine's National Photo Month giveaway. The deadline is May 20th.

    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

  • 1910s photos | hats | men | Military photos
    Monday, 13 May 2013 15:46:29 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 11 November 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, 11 November 2012 15:46:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 04 November 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, 04 November 2012 18:32:11 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 16 July 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, 16 July 2012 01:21:47 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [10]
    # Monday, 02 May 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, 02 May 2011 14:56:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 18 April 2011
    Help a Fellow Genealogist (Civil War-Style)
    Posted by Maureen

    Two weeks ago, I attended the New England Regional Genealogical Conference in Springfield, Mass. A lot of folks stopped by my booth to talk about Civil War images in their family. Several told me about locating images of their Civil War soldiers in unlikely places. If you have a story to share, please e-mail it to me or add your thoughts in the Comments section below.

    One woman said she found her ancestor’s picture in a town hall. The entire unit died in battle and someone in that town collected photographs of those men from each family. The end result—a framed memorial with portraits of every man in that unit. You can look for photos of Civil War ancestors by following the tips offered in my column, Drum Roll For the Civil War

    A few months ago, I featured photos submitted by readers in Civil War Roll Call and in Civil War Roll Call Part 2

    One of those photographs was found on eBay and matched an image already owned by the family. You’ll have to look to find out which one though .

    If you have a photo of your Civil War ancestor you might find my column, Deciphering A Photo, Civil War Style, helpful to learn more about the image. 

    I’m still trying to solve the cold case file for the pictures posted some time ago of the two men in embroidered shirts and I’m hopeful that with all things Civil War related in the news, that someone can answer the questions posed by the images in the columns Two Texas Mysteries and Texas Twosome Revisted

    Want to know more about your family's Civil War photos? Maureen A. Taylor's book Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album is available from

    Military photos
    Monday, 18 April 2011 14:59:42 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 17 January 2011
    In Honor of Martin Luther King Day
    Posted by Maureen

    I realized today that I don't spend enough time on Flickr. If you're not familiar with it, try it today. It's a wonderful free resource. You can upload picture files, invite comments and share your pictorial heritage.  If you want unlimited uploads and storage, user statistics and more then upload to a Pro account. It's only $24.95 a year.

    So who's on Flickr?  Lots of folks including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. Smaller public libraries and archives also use Flickr to showcase the images in their collection.

    In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Day, I searched for image collections appropriate to the occasion.

    Black History Album
    A lovely group of images including one of Martin Luther King and his wife.

    Black History Group
    Members of this group share photos and videos and join in discussions

    African American Baseball Team courtesy of the Library of Congress
    Here's one of the images in the Library of Congress.

    Medal of Honor Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter, Jr. courtesy of the U.S. Army
    Even the U.S. Army has a Flickr page!

    Next week: Preservation Pointers.

    Get ideas for taking, preserving, sharing and analyzing family photos from our Family Photo Essentials CD (now on sale at

    1900-1910 photos | african american | men | Military photos | Photo-sharing sites
    Monday, 17 January 2011 16:04:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 25 October 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, 25 October 2010 19:29:51 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 18 October 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, 18 October 2010 19:44:58 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 11 October 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, 11 October 2010 16:19:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 04 October 2010
    Drum Roll for the Civil War
    Posted by Maureen

    I'm deep into research and writing for Family Tree Magazine's forthcoming new book on Life in Civil War America.

    I'm busy working on the Afterword on Civil War photography.  I love having a project I can immerse myself in.

    Last week The Genealogy Insider wrote a post about the "hand-in-jacket" pose favored by so many military men.

    If you've ever wondered whether or not your Civil War soldier posed for a picture, then here's a statistic for you: According to the 1860 census, there were at least 1,500 individuals who operated as photographers just prior to the war. This number only includes those who claimed it as their primary business and doesn't include individuals who had side businesses snapping pictures. That's a lot of photographers. 
    civil war.jpg
    Private Frank A. Remington and two other unidentified Union soldiers

    According to William C. Davis, editor of Touched By Fire: A National Historical Society Photographic Portrait of the Civil War (Black Dog & Levanthal Publishers, available used), these photographers took an estimated one million pictures, but only several thousand still exist.

    Maybe my Civil War ancestor really did take time to pose for a picture—many soldiers did. I feel inspired to look. Right now, all I have is a pension file description of a man with red (!) hair and blue eyes. No 20th century family member has or had that color hair. I'm intrigued.

    So here's how I'm going to look:
    • Check with relatives
    • Post a query online (haven't decided where yet)
    • Search reunion site such as and
    • Try searching the United States Army Heritage & Education Center. It has thousands of images and an online database. Not everything is online, but it's worth a look. Since I think it's unlikely I'll find an identified photo, I'll also try searching for the companies in which my ancestor served. 
    • Contact local and state historical societies to see if they have relevant images. I know that to search these collections might require hiring a researcher. If so, I'll find a local researcher using the Association of Professional Genealogists.
    The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs division has a lot of Civil War images. Look in their catalog, but also check the American Memory project. has searchable database of 1,200 photos. A good resource for information on Civil War photography is the non-profit Center for Civil War Photography.

    If you have a picture of a Civil War soldier in uniform, e-mail it to me. I'd love to see it. Please use "Civil War photo" in the subject line.

    Now you can pre-order Family Tree Magazine's 2011 Civil War Desk Calendar, which features historical photos of people and scenes from the war, plus facts about the era from Life in Civil War America.

    Military photos | photo-research tips
    Monday, 04 October 2010 14:12:41 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, 17 May 2010
    Research Rewards
    Posted by Maureen

    When June Thomazin submitted this photo of an elderly couple she also sent me an extensive account of her research.  I'm so impressed by her efforts that I thought it would make a good topic for this column.


    June's dedicated months to her search for data.  Here's a summary:
    In the fall of 2009 June received the above photo from a cousin. It was labeled W.C. Dunaway's parents. According to her research this would mean that the subjects are James William Harvey Dunaway (1829-1880) and his wife Treacy Humphress Bateman (1820-1901). 

    She's not sure this is correct, and actually thinks this photo depicts William Calvin Dunaway's in-laws, Wesley (1821-1899) and Elizabeth Close Newman (1826-1919).  Her goal was to determine a date for this photo. Since James Dunaway died in 1880 she's hoping to prove it dates from later than that.

    On Nov.18, 2009, June began researching the photographer. She contacted the Kansas State Historical Society, Fort Scott Public Library, the State Library of Kansas, and the Old Fort Genealogical Society. No luck. No one has any information on a photographer named Letton.
    A John F. Letton appeared in the Masonic Directories for 1881, 1884, 1885 and 1898.  He doesn't appear in any of the Fort Scott City Directories in the collection of the Old Fort Scott Genealogical Society. No listing in 1865-66, 1871-72, 1875, 1879, 1883, 1888, 1889-90, 1891-92, 1893, 1896, and 1898.

    In those city directories is a record of Wesley and Elizabeth. They lived in Fort Scott; James lived a few miles away. His widow, Treacy, moved to Fort Scott after his death in 1880.

    On the same day, June learns of another picture (below) in another relative's collection. It was taken circa 1888 and depicts William Calvin Dunaway and his family.  It has the same background!


    June also included notes in her timeline about sources she still needed to check. 

    In addition to contacting the facilities named above, June spent time researching the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) ribbon worn by the husband in the first photo (we'll take a closer look at this next week). The ribbon, dating from after 1876, identifies him as a member of the GAR, a veterans group. Wesley served during the Civil War.

    Sanborn fire insurance maps for Fort Scott for 1884, 1888, 1893 and 1899 didn't show any evidence of photo studio. Fire insurance maps often reveal details about the occupants of buildings in addition to construction materials.

    Nor does Letton appear in Carl Mautz, Biographies of Western Photographers (Carl Mautz Publishing).

    In January 2010, June spends more time trying to determine if any of the Lettons mentioned in census records for surrounding states could be the photographer who ends up in Fort Scott. There's a Caleb Letton in the 1870 and 1880 federal census for Jacksonville, Ill.

    Additional research on the style of the image, black cardstock with gold trim, suggests it dates from the late 1880s to early 1890s.

    In early 2010 June sends the photo to me. She's right about the cardstock. Black was one of the popular colors for cardstock in the mid-1880s. 

    The clothing worn by the wife also suggests that the picture dates from the mid-1880s. Her long bodice extends way past her hips and features an opening in the front.  A lace color at the neckline was worn by women from the late 1870s into the mid 1880s.

    It appears this couple was misidentified by whoever wrote the caption: "W.C. Dunaway's parents—my great grandparents."  Photo labels are often incorrect, especially when written by someone who didn't actually know the individuals in the image.

    June feels this older woman looks like Catherine Newman Dunaway, the daughter of Wesley and Elizabeth.  

    One more detail clinches the identification. You'll see two tintypes in the September issue of Family Tree Magazine.  I'll blog about the facial feature that is an identification clue. 

    June's research paid off.  She spent at least two long days following up on clues, consulted her family history and then contacted experts to help her. 

    Excellent job!!

    men | Military photos
    Monday, 17 May 2010 19:52:59 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 22 March 2010
    A Women's History Month Salute: Spanish American War Style
    Posted by Maureen

    Surrounded by recuperating soldiers and orderlies is Deb Wilson's great-aunt Mary L. Keeler, also known as Molly.  She served as nurse during the Spanish American War (1898-99) at Fort Monroe, Va., as well as in Cuba and Puerto Rico. 

    Deb knows this is her aunt, but the names of all the soldiers and other staff are unknown, as is the identity of the photographer.

    Spanish American War (2).jpg

    Molly appears to be the only woman in the image. On the left is a small table with an American flag, a vase of flowers and other small items.

    I never really know where some of these picture stories are going to take me. Now that I've started researching this image, I wonder about the purpose behind it. An article on "Women Nurses in the Spanish-American War" in Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military by Mercedes H. Graf (article date March 22, 2001, available on revealed that female nurses were a controversial topic during the war. Molly's decision to use her nursing skills was a ground-breaking one.

    Traditionally, since the end of the Civil War, men had done the nursing in the military. However, during the Spanish American War, Surgeon General George M. Stemberg knew that women nurses would be needed to help care for injured troops and those ill from yellow fever, malaria and typhoid. According to the article, shortly after the start of the war, the military added 100 women nurses. Was Molly one of those women? Or could she have been among the 32 nurses who'd already had yellow fever and were sent to Cuba to help with the epidemic? There's a bigger story in this photo than just the names of the men. This picture makes me want to know more about Molly and her service.

    From the article, I learned that in 1898 the average nurse earned $30 a month plus a daily ration. By 1899, nursing applicants had to sign a one- year contract, and they received $40 a month for stateside service and an extra $10 per month for service outside the United States. Between April 25, 1898, and July 1, 1899, only 1,563 nurses served the more than 250,000 troops.

    Tent hospitals such as the ward depicted here were commonplace. On the Nebraska GenWeb site is a list of Spanish American War Camps compiled by Fred Greguras.

    Discovering the names of the men in the picture is a tough challenge. Spread the word about this picture, and let's try to put names to their faces. Finding out more about Molly's military service may provide a few leads.

    Does an image in your family photos depict an important piece of American history?  Take a closer look and find the Molly in your family.

    1890s photos | Military photos | women
    Monday, 22 March 2010 17:25:32 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, 15 March 2010
    London Report Part 2
    Posted by Maureen

    On the last day of the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! family history show in London, I spent time in the military pavilion. The booths in the event are grouped by type of vendor. That means all the Irish vendors are in one area, Scottish in another, and all the general larger vendors are in the center of the hall.

    This year the military booths were all upstairs on the balcony. There were specific experts there to look at military memorabilia—badges, uniforms, and swords for instance. This is an interesting concept.  I'd love to see more military groups involved at US genealogy conferences.

    First stop was the Royal British Legion which had a display of poppies. This group has a travel group, Poppy Travel. They coordinate tours of military sites. Folks show them pictures taken during a war and they can put together a tour based on the locations in the images. I had a nice chat with Frank Baldwin of Poppy Travel standing next to the man constructed out of poppies.

    Next, I spent time in The War Graves Photographic Project speaking with Project coordinator Steve Rogers (below). If you have an ancestor who died in an overseas conflict and was buried there, this is a website worth a second glance. They are photographing all the non-US military graves. The website explains:
    The aim of The War Graves Photographic Project is to photograph every war grave, individual memorial, MoD grave, and family memorial of serving military personnel from WWI to the present day and make these available within a searchable database. 
    It's an ambitious project with the goal of documenting 1.75 million graves!

    The Royal Air Force Museum also had a booth. I collected information that may solve a friend's research dilemma.

    The Western Front Association booth drew my attention because of a large poster of the Missing Men of the Somme. It's a collection of pictures of men missing in action from World War I.

    This booth also had an online database of World War I cemeteries.

    I spent the rest of my trip visiting friends who took me to Windsor Castle and the area around Stonehenge. They've been recently bitten by the genealogy bug (gasp!). It's turning into a one-name study of their last name—Chun. Turns out there were only 40-something people with that surname in the 1881 British census. If you're researching anyone with the Chun surname, e-mail me.

    What a trip! I looked at lots of picture, gave a lecture, finally got to see Windsor Castle and learned a lot of new things.  I also bought new images to use in my lectures and articles. <smile> 

    I'll be back next week with a picture submitted by one of you.

    Genealogy events | Military photos | organizations | photo news
    Monday, 15 March 2010 12:41:12 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 17 August 2009
    Spotlight: Denver Public Library Picture Collection
    Posted by Maureen

    It's over 90 degrees in my town today. The heat and humidity make me start thinking about winter.

    With months to go before the snow, I did the next best thing. I looked at pictures of cooler temperatures I found on the Denver Public Library Web site.

    All right. Not all of the images depict winter scenes, but if you have any family in the Denver area, this is one collection you have to consult. The library has about a 100,000 images online and that's just the tip of their very large collection.

    The National Endowment for the Humanities gave the Denver Public Library a grant in 1997, and since then, the library has been quickly adding material to this gorgeous digital archive. To bring the "chill" of winter into my office, I began by browsing through images of the 10th Mountain Division, then wandered over to the picture galleries of children and scenes of the Denver area. It's armchair traveling at it's best.

    While you're exploring the site, check out the links to the electronic finding aids. They're fully searchable.

    The Denver Public Library isn't the only library with such collections. Public libraries all over the country usually have picture and manuscript collections. Their librarians are custodians of local history. I strongly advise you to ask about the holdings of your local library.

    I'd also like to send a big thank you to James Jeffreys of the Western History and Genealogy Department of the Denver Public Library for his help with an Photo Detective article slated for the December 2009 Family Tree Magazine.

    children | house/building photos | Military photos | photo-research tips
    Monday, 17 August 2009 19:38:42 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 02 June 2008
    Unknown Soldiers
    Posted by Maureen

    I owe a big thank-you to readers who sent pictures of the military men in their family. My in box has quite of few images of men in mystery uniforms, so I thought focusing on military pictures for another week was warranted.

    editUnknow soldiers WW1.jpg

    Pay attention to the details such as these in a uniform, to help identify when it was worn.

    • During the Civil War, belt buckles often bore state abbreviations or CSA for the Confederate States of America. 
    • Hats are key. The shape and design of the hat can specify a time frame while insignia can help you identify the unit in which the soldier served.
    • Cloth chevrons on the sleeves and shoulders of a uniform and insignia on the collar or headgear signified rank.
    • Not all uniforms are military in origin. Fraternal groups costumes and occupational  attire is often confused with military uniforms.

    Unfortunately, there's no single source that shows all the uniforms worn by soldiers or sailors. In the 19th century, there was quite a diversity of uniforms, with each unit having its own. Colorful attire such as the Turkish pants worn by the Zouaves were just one recognizable variation.

    If you don't know who's depicted in photograph of a soldier or a sailor, try finding evidence of military service in documents—pension records, enlistment papers and other genealogical materials. 

    Keep in mind that not all the military photos in your photo collection depict relatives—they could be friends of the family. One of the emails I received was from Connie L. Huntling. Her grandmother worked at a Veterans Administration hospital in Plattsburg, NY, during World War I.  In her papers were many photographs of men who were patients at the hospital. Connie sent me the two in this post two with the hope that someone will recognize these men.

    Please take a look at and click Comment below to tell me if you have any ideas about who the men might be. I'm going to ask Huntling to post the pictures to the photo-reunion site DeadFred as well.

    men | Military photos | photo-research tips
    Monday, 02 June 2008 20:14:07 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Monday, 26 May 2008
    Military Memories
    Posted by Maureen

    In honor of Memorial Day, I'll mention two items appropriate for the occasion. First, if you enjoyed the books Dating Old Photographs and More Dating Old Photographs (Moorshead Magazines), then you're going to love the new one in the series. Dating Military Photographs will let you compare all your mysterious military images to those other people have submitted.

    If you'd like to contribute a few pictures, you can read more about the project on the Family Chronicle Web site. The editors are looking for images of miltary personnel from the Mexican War up to and including World War I. The editors have asked for a little information about each picture, such as when the person served.

    Speaking of World War I, attendees at the National Genealogical Society conference in Kansas City were treated to one of the country's best museums (that's my opinion anyway). Who knew the city housed a museum dedicated to World War I? I didn't. A colleague suggested it was well worth a visit. She was right! The National World War One Museum was a visual experience:
    • Visitors watch two movies about the time period that include actual footage from the era.
    • A recreated trench lets you experience how scary it must have been to fight from those mud-walled pits.
    • There are tanks and uniforms galore as well as a poppy field of honor for those who died during the war.
    The uniform displays alone taught me a few things about military attire during that world war. If you get a chance to visit Kansas City, make sure you include a visit to this museum.

    If you have an image of an ancestor in a World War I uniform, send it to me.  I'll feature it next week.

    Military photos | photo-research tips
    Monday, 26 May 2008 14:50:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 25 February 2008
    Italian Military Picture Part 2
    Posted by Maureen

    Two weeks ago, I promised a second installment of the blog on the Italian soldier photo. Thank you for commenting on the first column. While I puzzled over the v. Fabio Massimo.83, two of you reminded me that v. stands for via, Italian for the road on which the photographer had his studio.

    I'm amazed at the additional material in that postcard and where it led me this week. Gosh! Let's continue reading the evidence.

    • Next to SPQR is an image. Taking a chance, I researched Roman tourist sites. Turns out that columned structure is a monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of unified Italy.  It wasn't inaugurated until 1911, providing another beginning date for this picture.
    • Above the monument is a plume with an interwined EV, which represents the king—either Vittorio Emanuele II or his grandson Vittorio Emanuele III.
    • At the top of the card are portraits of Vittorio Emanuele III (1869-1947) and his wife, Elena (1873-1953), Princess Petrovich of Montenegro. He becamse king July 29, 1900, following the assassination of his father, Umberto. He reigned until he abdicated May 9, 1946. Next to the portraits is the flag of his House of Savoy—red with a white cross.
    • A quick search for secoli fedele made me shout, "I got it!" The phrase "Nei Secoli Fedele" means "always faithful." That phrase on the photo mat identifies the man pictured as a member of the Carabinieri. These men policed both military and civil matters. Follow the link to read more about them and see another picture. 
    Remember the owner of the picture, Justin Piccirillo, thought this man was his relative, Costabile Piccirillo ( 1891-1974). This could be him. Judging by the other clues in the image this picture dates to about 1911, when he'd be 20.

    Case solved!

    PS: I asked a military specialist to take a look at the uniform. I'll report back soon on what he had to say.

    1910s photos | men | Military photos | Photos from abroad
    Monday, 25 February 2008 22:58:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, 12 February 2008
    Overseas Military Uniforms
    Posted by Maureen

    Justin Piccirilli is an extremely patient genealogist. He first contacted me back in 2005 about these images, which he thinks depict his great uncle Costabile Piccirillo in a military uniform.

    This is part one of a two-part photo identification problem that covers both military history and foreign family photos.

    As you probably know from reading past columns, deciphering clues in a military image is a challenge. There were no standard uniforms in the 19th and early 20th century.

    This gorgeous portrait shows a young man in a dress uniform. I know it’s a dress uniform because of the white gloves and shiny epaulets at the shoulders. Each metal piece of his uniform is freshly polished for this important portrait.

    This full-body picture shows this man at attention with some simple props—a vase of flowers and a doily on a table.


    Here, just the man’s head is visible in a picture postcard, framed with illustrated symbols of his native land. The photographer hand-colored the plume red and blue. The photo format gives a beginning time frame for the postcard—photo postcards first became available in 1900.

    It’s an interesting card. Each symbol is there for a reason. Here’s part one of the breakdown:
    • Underneath the oval portrait are the letters SPQR, which stand for the Latin motto of Rome, Senātus Populusque Rōmānus ("The Senate and the People of  Rome").
    • Beneath the motto, the words Ricordo di Roma translate to  “Souvenir of Rome.” You also can see the sons of Rome, Romulus and Remus, nursing from their wolf mother.
    •  At the bottom is the photographer’s name, G. Tibaldi, with the words fotografia artistica. Under his name is V. Fabio Massimo.83. I think the 83 refers to 1883, perhaps the year he opened his studio, but I’m not familiar with this term. Anyone seen this before?

    •  Along the bottom edge are the words fotografo dei RR.CC and Vietata la Riproduzione. The latter is essentially a copyright statement.

    • Four vignettes around the oval depict famous Roman battles and scenes. 
    This identification is a work in progress. I’ll fill you in on more details next time.

    men | Military photos | Photos from abroad
    Tuesday, 12 February 2008 18:55:06 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [5]