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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, October 28, 2013
Photo Reunions after Hurricane Sandy
Posted by Maureen

A year ago, Hurricane Sandy stormed into the East Coast of the United States destroying property and taking lives. Generations of family photographs were blown or washed out of destroyed and damaged houses. In the midst of the aftermath and chaos, one woman began focusing on images she found scattered along the shoreline and roads of her community of Union Beach, NJ.

Jeannette von Houten found thousands of images scattered all over the place covered in mud and mold. This rescue effort took time and money. Personal historian Mary Danielsen pitched in to help and the Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner Co. provided scanners.

A conservator colleague of mine suggested the team wear gloves for handling the very dirty images and masks to prevent them from inhaling chemicals and mold. Instead of distilled water, cold tap water sufficed to wash the images. This is a delicate task. Immersion in water could destroy the pictures, but with the damage they'd already experienced due to exposure to the elements and water-borne debris, it was worth the risk. Do not attempt this type of rescue without professional advice.

Today, Jeannette and her cousin Joseph Larnaitis continue the task. Out of the approximately 25,000 images found, about 5,000 have been saved. Anyone who lost pictures during the storm should consult the project website, Union Beach Memories.

union beach.jpg

Not all of the photos are online. The Union Beach Library has 60 binders of images waiting to be claimed.

According to Jeannette, many families are just finding out about this photo rescue. Let's help her reconnect families with their photos by spreading the word.

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

  • Hurricane Sandy | Photo-sharing sites | preserving photos | Reunions
    Monday, October 28, 2013 2:43:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, February 04, 2013
    Reuniting Orphan Photos With Family
    Posted by Maureen

    Have you ever walked into an antique store and found a photo with a name on it? This is known as an orphan photo. 

    At some point in its photographic lifespan, it became separated from its family. Photos are rarely mentioned in probate records, their inheritance often a matter of serendipity. When family members die and no one steps forward to claim pictures, they end up in tag sales, antique shops and on eBay.

    The next time you see one of these pictures, consider purchasing it. Using your genealogical research skills, you might be able to reunite it with family members that "lost" a piece of the past. They'll be glad you found it.

    I'm working on two such images, but haven't solved the ownership mystery yet. Here's what I've done to research the images.

    1) Date the Image
    Unless the name on the image is unusual, it's necessary to have a time frame. Photographer's work dates, clothing details, props and photographic format can place the image within a range of dates. Next, I estimate the age of the person in the image.

    2) Consult the Census
    Using information in the photographer's imprint, such as geographic location, can help narrow down the search parameters. I start by searching the census using full names. Since the name on the image might be a nickname, also try wildcard searching. If the photo was taken in a small town, it's sometimes useful to browse through the census for that area to locate others with a similar surname.

    3) Use City Directories
    Ancestry.com, Fold3.com and local libraries and historical societies often have city directories. Search for the photographer and for the surname of the person pictured.

    4) Survey the News
    Since it was common for family to visit photo studios when they were on vacation or visiting relatives, it's a good idea to see if there are any newspaper stories about special events or advertisements for the photographer. Each resource provides you with an opportunity to verify the information in the caption.

    5) Check Genealogical Databases
    Search a variety of genealogical databases such as Ancestry.com and Geni.com. On Ancestry, click the box "Family Trees" at the bottom of the search screen to search for matches. On Geni.com, use the Search People box on the top right.

    In addition to these tips, I also analyze the handwriting to determine if someone living within the lifetime of the person depicted wrote the caption, or a descendant did it later. For instance, ballpoint pen is a 20th-century invention.

    Sometimes success is just a few clicks away, while other times the answer seems out of reach.

    This month, I'll also blog about other ways to reconnect with your "missing" 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

  • Photo fun | photo-research tips | Photo-sharing sites | Reunions
    Monday, February 04, 2013 8:13:50 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 06, 2012
    It's a Family Reunion
    Posted by Maureen

    Have you ever been to a family reunion? I'm writing this from my husband's reunion. It's an every-other-year event that's been held since the mid-20th century. There's a lot of debate about when the first one was held. 

    Here are two observations:

    • The coordinator is an energetic cousin who plans activities and dinners.  She's also become involved with creating a family website. What's interesting is that she doesn't consider herself a genealogist. I disagree: iPad in hand, she's busy interviewing family members about past generations to put the information online. Yup ... you guessed it, she's collecting photos, too. The site isn't live yet, but based on her enthusiasm, it will be soon. Can't wait to see what she's created!
    • Family history is everywhere. Whether it's a wedding that happened two weeks ago or figuring out when everyone first got together, there's a lot of history being collected.  It's also being made everyday.  Another cousin chronicles each reunion. She creates an album for every event with the photographs sent to her afterward. Each album is a time capsule.

    If you've been to a reunion (or are planning one) can you comment below and share with readers ideas for photo-related activities to incorporate? We take a family photo at each reunion and snap lots of pictures. What have you done at your reunion? 

    Reunions magazine has a great website. Click any tab and you'll find suggestions for planning a reunion, activities for young and old, and details on sharing the pictures later. The resort where our event is held has a Pinterest site so guests can share photos they've posted. Reunions magazine also has a Pinterest page with dozens of boards. There are family history related t-shirt ideas, invitations, illustrated family trees and more.

    I'm off to fill biodegradable water balloons for the traditional water balloon fight. Back next week with a family history photo mystery!


    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

  • Want to improve your genealogical skills and connect with other family historians—all from the convenience of home? Check out Family Tree University's Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference, happening Sept. 14-16. Early bird registration ends Friday, Aug. 10 at 11:59 p.m.—enter code FTUVCEARLY at checkout to save $50!


    Photo-sharing sites | preserving photos | Reunions
    Monday, August 06, 2012 3:52:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, July 23, 2012
    Scenes of Moving Day
    Posted by Maureen

    I've been packing boxes for weeks getting ready to move houses. So how did our ancestors move their belongings in the past? They employed wagons and later, vans similar to the ones companies use today.

    Piketruck moving2.jpg

    Sharon Pike sent in this picture of her father-in-law's Greyhound Van Lines Truck that he drove.  It was taken in the 1940s. When he was on the road, Gene sent his wife Marion postcards nearly every day.

    Check out my Moving Day board on Pinterest. If you haven't used this site yet, it's like an online scrapbook of images found on the web. You can organize your Pinterest images in "boards" and see what others have "pinned" on their boards.  When you scroll over one of the images you can post a comment. Can't wait to see what you have to say!

    Enjoy! 


    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

  • 1940s photos | men | occupational | Photo fun | Photo-sharing sites
    Monday, July 23, 2012 6:35:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Wednesday, March 02, 2011
    Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011
    Posted by Maureen

    I'm posting a couple of days later than usual this week because I was in London for Who Do You Think You Are? Live. (Plus, I had a little downtime with my English friends.)

    ftm booth.jpg
    Maureen solves photo mysteries at WDYTYA? Live.

    A series of last minute serendipitous things happened this year. I was able to provide photo consultations as a partnership with a British website What's That Picture? I met that site's creator, James Morley, three years ago at WDYTYA? Live. We've teamed up to take the site to the next step with an interactive timeline of photos supplied by users of the site and powered by Flickr. James is the technical genius behind it. Take a look at the timeline here. It's still in it's infancy, but we have big plans for it. You can add your dated family photos to it.

    This press release appeared on the site and in the WDYTYA? Live newsletter just before I left for London. As soon as the show opened Saturday morning, the line (or queue, as the British call it) started forming. I've lost count of how many photos I actually looked it. Seems like hundreds, and it probably was. It was a fascinating experience to look at family photos from across the Atlantic. 

    I love looking at pictures from all over the world.! There are subtle differences in clothing, especially men's work attire. The historical context of the images also has to be considered. English history has different milestones. I saw a lot of World War I images and some from the Boer War. One of the military pavilions would send folks to me to assign a photographic time frame to a picture, so they could go back to the military booth to find more information. We were sending people back and forth for the whole show!

    I also managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the National Archives in England to meet with their photo specialist. Wish I could spend weeks looking at what they've got there! I was looking for something special, so I just might have to build another visit into my itinerary for next year.


    Photos from abroad | Photo-sharing sites
    Wednesday, March 02, 2011 2:45:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, January 17, 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 ShopFamilyTree.com).


    1900-1910 photos | african american | men | Military photos | Photo-sharing sites
    Monday, January 17, 2011 4:04:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, October 26, 2009
    Photo Sites: Read the Fine Print
    Posted by Maureen

    Yesterday's New York Times featured an article, Guardians Of Their Smiles, on the uses and abuses of photo sites. In it, a woman had posted baby pictures to Flickr without using the privacy settings, and later discovered that someone had used her daughter's pictures on a social networking site in Brazil. 

    The article mentioned several other examples, including a father who posted a video of a school play on a video site. Parents of the other kids complained and demanded he take it down.

    So here's the question: "How do you safeguard your online photo identity?"
    • Start by reading the fine print before clicking the "I Agree" box for any website. You might be allowing others to copy and use your family photographs. Sure, sites like the Library of Congress use Flickr to promote their photo collections, but those images are in the public domain.

    • Use privacy settings. You can disable those public features on popular sites by finding their privacy controls and activating them. On YouTube, you can privately share videos or prevent downloading/sharing online.

    • If you want to publish photos of an event, either have folks sign a model release that states how and where you'll publish those images, or don't show faces. A few months ago, I gave a workshop for kids and I really wanted to show off their genealogy artwork in my e-newsletter. Since I didn't want to use their faces, I had the kids hold up their projects in front of their faces. I used the picture, but didn't name the kids. Basically, don't use images without permission.

    • Watch for right-click copying. You can copy all kinds of things on the web by right-clicking with your mouse (control-clicking on a Mac). Should you? No. It's a ethical thing. I use a photo site that allows me to turn off the right-click option. Family members can order prints if they want to, but not copy the images. You also can put a watermark on images to discourage usage. It's an option in many types of photo editing software, that's what many photo stock houses do.

    • Don't put high-resolution images online. For online use, you don't need to use an image at more than 72 dpi. This doesn't prevent online copying, but at that resolution, print quality is awful.
    The New York Times article was a cautionary tale for anyone posting images online.  You can sound off in the comment section below or on the Photo Detective Forum.


    photo news | Photo-sharing sites
    Monday, October 26, 2009 1:47:12 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, July 21, 2009
    Photos on the Web: Copyright Woes
    Posted by Maureen

    If you've ever tried to copy a family photo at a store or photo lab and been denied due to copyright issues, there's an article you might be interested in.

    On July 19, the New York Times published an article about photos on Wikipedia, "Wikipedia May Be a Font of Facts but It's a Desert for Photos."

    If you've used this vast internet archive of user-contributed material, you know the picture quality/quantity is iffy. That's because these are "unofficial" photos anyone can use. According to the article, the site uses a "Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to use an image, for commercial purposes or not, as long as the photographer is credited." It's a bit more complicated, but the article explains it. 

    There are legal and common-sense rules relating to photo usage. Basically, the store with the photo kiosk denied you the right to copy your picture because the photographer holds the reproduction rights for it. Even if the photographer is deceased or you don't know who it was, as for an old family portrait, the store might decide it doesn't want to take the chance.

    A handy guide for when you need formal permission to use an image appears in Sharon DeBartolo Carmack's Carmack's Guide to Copyright & Contracts: A Pricer for Genealogists, Writers & Researchers (GPC, $15.95)

    Here's a common sense rule for internet usage of family photos. If you want to post a photo of a living family member on your Web site or FaceBook page, make sure you have that person's permission, too. It's a common courtesy.


    photo news | Photo-sharing sites
    Tuesday, July 21, 2009 2:55:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, March 29, 2009
    Picture Origins: Overseas or in America
    Posted by Maureen

    In response to last week's column on tinted pictures, Barbara Stone sent in this oversize hand colored photo of a young woman.  It's on canvas and framed in a gorgeous gold setting.  According to Stone is was found in a collection of pictures of her father's Irish relatives who lived in Ansonia, Connecticut. The problem is: Where was it taken and who is it?

    # Monday, October 06, 2008
    Sound Off! Where Do You Post Family Pictures?
    Posted by Maureen

    In honor of October being Family History Month, I'd like to hear from you about your favorite photo sharing sites and where you post your family tree information. I have to admit this is a personal interest.

    If you read the July 2008 issue of Family Tree Magazine then you know I wrote an article, Charmed Life, about how relatives re-connect.  Last weekend I experienced something all the folks quoted in that piece mentioned--finding a lost piece of family history.  Here's the irony.  Not only did I happen across a distant cousin's website with pedigree charts but I also discovered he'd posted a couple of photographs of my great-great grandmother and her siblings as well as her parents. 

    I've been roaming the Internet for years looking for connections with no luck. Imagine my surprise to finally have an "Oh My Gosh" moment.  Now of course I'm wondering if I should create my own family website or just add to his information.  I have a family tree on Ancestry.com for my paternal side, but this cousin is from the maternal side of the family. Since my Mom is interested in genealogy, she's been working on her tree (with a little help from me).

    Ah...the dilemma.  So what's an inquiring genealogist to do?  Ask the readers of this column of course.  I'd really like to hear about your good experiences of sharing research and relics, but also how you'd do things differently.

    It's no news to you that there are lots of sites and many possibilities. While I've been involved in genealogy for decades this is the first time I've been asked to share.  So what do you think?


    Photo-sharing sites
    Monday, October 06, 2008 4:14:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [13]
    # Monday, September 01, 2008
    Orphan Photos and Photo Sharing
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week on the Today Show I mentioned DeadFred.com. It's a fun site for folks trying to reconnect with lost family photos or to post pictures if you want photos to lead the way to a reunion with lost family.  It's a win-win either way.

    There are a couple of other sites I'd like to mention though.  If you've ever lost a camera and thought those pictures (and the camera) are gone forever, think again. There is a blog that tries to link up individuals with their equipment and precious pics.  Found Cameras and Orphan Photos has a Facebook group, a link to success stories and updates every Thursday. What a fun idea!  You'll see wedding images, vacation shots and candid pictures all waiting to be claimed by their rightful owner.  I'll definitely be adding this to my Facebook page.

    Photos aren't the only focus of a site called Ancient Faces. If you want to share and collaborate on family history you can set up a family space. Share stories, pictures and even a recipe or two. Sign up for their e-newsletter to keep up with any new developments.

    Don't forget to check out the PhotoDetective booth (305) at the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Philadelphia this week.  Please stop by and say hello.


    Photo-sharing sites
    Monday, September 01, 2008 2:39:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, June 30, 2008
    Photo Reunion Live!
    Posted by Maureen

    In the July 2008 issue of Family Tree Magazine, I wrote an article, "Charmed Life," about how genealogists connect with lost family—people, history and artifacts. It was a lot of fun to work on.

    Midge Frazel, one of the women featured in the piece, has created a video of her story. You can watch it on her FaceBook page. In it she talks about how a chance discovery on the photo reunion site, Dead Fred, brought back a piece of her photo history. If you're not on FaceBook, don't worry, you can look at it on Flickr.

    If you've never tried FaceBook, I recommend it! My teenagers hate that I have a page, but I'm having a great time connecting with colleagues via that social netwroking venue. By the way, if you decide to sign up, don't forget to become a fan of Family Tree Magazine. All you have to do is click on the cover.

    I'd love to hear what you think of using FaceBook. Use the comment section below. 


    Photo-sharing sites
    Monday, June 30, 2008 2:23:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, February 04, 2008
    Share Photos on Flickr
    Posted by Maureen

    This weekend I finally had time to play with the web photo phenomena known as Flickr. I'm sure some of you have been members for a while and now I know why. It's fun! For those unfamiliar with this very popular way to post, share and create with photos I'll supply the basics. 
    • First—It's free!  You can upgrade to a pro membership for around $24. You create an account using your Yahoo ID and start uploading images. It's that easy.
    • Users choose how public or private they want their albums. Got some you want to share with the world? Pick public. If not, select one of the other options.
    • You can send links to your family and friends so that they can peek at your private albums.
    • Need a photo related present? You can do that to. I suggest taking the Flickr tour to explore what you can do with this site.
    Recently the Library of Congress partnered with Flickr to share images from the country's largest photo collection. To access the images, just type library of congress in the search box in the upper right-hand corner. You'll be stunned at the diversity of images in the nation's library. My personal favorites are all the early color pictures. 

    Don't be shy. Flickr lets you post comments to each picture.

    The response to my call for interesting photo backgrounds is filling my e-mail inbox. I'd like to share more of those images with. I've written to Flickr to see if that's possible and to double-check that creating a group doesn't violate their noncommercial rules. If for some reason Flickr turns down my request, I'll find another way. Keep the pictures coming! 

    Next request—Got some curious props in photos? I'd love to see them.

    Thanks again.


    Photo-sharing sites
    Monday, February 04, 2008 5:25:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]