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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, July 21, 2014
Solving Old-Photo Mysteries: Clues in Tintypes
Posted by Maureen

Our ancestors didn't document every second of their lives with photography. Instead, they saved their pennies and visited the studio for a variety of special milestones.

Humphreyedit.jpg

At 3-1/2 X 2-1/4 inches, this tintype is a popular size called a "bon-ton." It was buried in a family trunk with other unidentified, undated images. Leona Humphrey knows it's up to her to figure it out. As she wrote in her email, "Except for one cousin of my dad's, I'm pretty much the only living person with any idea of the possible family." 

I've felt this way about a family mystery and I'm sure that many of you have as well.

Here's how the photo clues and family history details line up:
 
humphry collage2.jpg

I've created a collage of the picture and some interesting details in this photo of a mother and her four children. Where's Dad? For some reason, he's not in this image.
  1. The fichu collar on the mom's dress was popular in the circa-1880 period.
  2. Painted backdrops in the 1880s often looked like living rooms. In this case, the large piece of "furniture" angles towards the group, looking like it's going to fall on them.
  3. Both girls wear pinafores and wide collars. The wide collars were also popular in the late 1870s to early 1880s.  Pinafores stayed in fashion for decades. Flip through any 19th-century women's magazine and you'll find instructions on how to make a pinafore.



Mom's hair is a variation of the frizzy bangs of the 1880s. She's arranged her bangs in oiled curls on her forehead. This particular look appeared in the early 1880s. View more examples of hairstyles for men and women in my book Hairstyles, 1840-1900.

Leona wonders if this could be her great-grandmother Guro Sannes and her four children. Guro (born 1845) had Jergen (born 1866), Arne (born 1869), Tilda (born 1874 and Leona's grandmother) and Gunhild (born in 1882). All the children except for Gunhild were born in Valle, Norway. The family immigrated in 1882, and Guro gave birth to Gunhild in Grand Forks County, ND. 

It's clear that this image could have been taken in the early 1880s, a time frame that coincides with immigration data.  The biggest problem is that the ages of the children don't match the other details. 

It's possible that Guro continued to dress in older-style clothes in the late 1880s, but even rural women followed fashion trends and adjusted some of their attire.

If this picture were taken in 1882, Jergen would be 16; Arne, 13; and Tilda, 8; Gunhild wasn't born yet. The oldest boy in this picture is definitely not in his mid teens.  If the photo was taken later to include the fourth sibling, the other children would be much older.  The four siblings in this image are fairly close in age.
  • Could this tintype represent other family in Norway?
  • Is it possible that this woman was a close friend of Guro's and wanted her to have a memento before she moved to America?

I'd start by looking at family history data for collateral lines to see if there is a family with four children close in age.

It's also possible that this photo is someone Humphrey's relatives knew. It wasn't unusual to have multiple tintypes made of the same image to give copies to both friends and family. 

The backdrop in this image could be a clue to where it was taken.  I'd also contact historical societies in the Grand Forks area to see if they have a photo collection and have images by a photographer that used that backdrop. Start with the Grand Forks Historical Society.  

If Leona is on social media, it's definitely worth posting this photograph online, too.



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

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

  • 1880s photos | children | ShopFamilyTree.com | Tintypes | unusual clothing | unusual photos | women
    Monday, July 21, 2014 3:39:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, December 31, 2012
    Twelve Months of the Photo Detective
    Posted by Maureen

    It's time to look back at the year. Every week I write a Photo Detective blog post—that's 52 columns in 12 months. It's a lot of free photographic advice and tips. Here are my month-by-month 2012 favorites.

    January
    Last New Year's I offered advice on sharing images online, tackled a photo mystery about the identity of the mother in a picture, and discussed a Scottish picture.

    February
    I got into the planning for my trip to WDYTYA Live in London by comparing British and American fashion. 

    March
    Hat's off to spring! Last March I featured toppers for men, graduation caps, and talked about the relationships between hairstyles and hat design. If you want to learn more about hats or hair, my books, Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900 and Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900, will help.

    April
    The whole month of April focused on identifying photographs of children. Study the clues to add names to those pictures of tykes.

    May
    A trip to the National Genealogical Society inspired a series of columns on the Jeffers Family photo.

    June
    You can view the entries in the Family Tree Magazine photo contest, study a photo of ancestral blue jeans or be awed by the images of wheat threshing.

    July
    With the world watching the Olympics, I deciphered the clues in a picture from the 1908 Olympics.

    August
    I revealed the winner of the Family Tree Magazine Photo Contest. That photo mystery now appears in my new book, The Family Photo Detective. It's now available in the ShopFamilyTree.com store.

    Have you considered the relationship between photography and genealogy? I took a look at the types of records that help solve a picture mystery.

    September
    This month was all about preservation. A badly damaged image encouraged me to talk about ways to save family pictures. There is more information on storage and labeling images in Preserving Your Family Photographs.

    October
    A picture of a giant mechanical grasshopper appeared in my Photo Detective column in Family Tree Magazine, and some readers stepped forward to tell the story of their ancestors' fascination with creating these creatures.

    I shared the story of a woman who found a family picture after three decades and explained how old-time photographers could alter pictures long before the development of Photoshop.

    November
    Have you ever posed for a multi-generation photo? It's not a new phenomena. Our ancestors did, too. Mary Lutz sent me several images of her family. It turned into a series on identifying who's who in a group picture.

    December
    I love snapshots! They are spontaneous and often capture bits of everyday life. Follow this series on a picture of a man standing in his backyard.

    Thank you for reading this column and for submitting your family photos. If you'd like to participate, there is a link, "How to Submit Your Photo," in the left-hand margin. I can't wait to see your pictures!

    Happy New Year!


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

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

  • 1860s photos | 1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | 1920s photos | candid photos | cased images | children | Civil War | group photos | hairstyles | hats | holiday | house/building photos | photo backgrounds | preserving photos | props in photos | ShopFamilyTree.com
    Monday, December 31, 2012 4:07:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 20, 2012
    Genealogy Fashions: Is Your Ancestor's Hat Back in Style?
    Posted by Maureen

    Fashion is looking back not merely to the 1970s, but all the way to the 1920s and even 1880s, at least as far as hats are concerned.

    Last Sunday's New York Times fashion supplement featured advertisements showing old-fashioned-looking hats by designers Louis Vuitton and Donna Karan. Even the Bloomingdale's ad featured a model in a vintage style hat.

    I can't show you the Louis Vuitton ad, but I can show you hats that resemble the ones worn by the models in the New York Times ads. It was a fashion spread for handbags, but the head wear looked liked these workmen's hats from the 1850s. I'm serious! Vuitton added a grosgrain band above the brim, but the shape is very similar.



    Donna Karan's ad is online. The hat on the woman in the video strongly resembles those worn in the 1880s. In fact, I featured a similar looking hat in Photo Contest Submissions: Shirley Jenks Jacobs submitted this photo of a woman in a rolled brimmed hat with trim and a high crown.

    Shirley Jenks Jacobs2.jpg

    One more blast from the past was the Bloomingdale's ad of a young model wearing a plush hat with a very wide brim and a plume of animal fur. It looked something like this image I own of a wedding from circa 1920.  Don't you love his hair? It helps date this image.

    weddingedit.jpg

    So which hat style will you wear this season? I'll be looking through the photos in my Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900 for more matches.


    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

  • 1850s photos | 1880s photos | 1920s photos | hairstyles | hats | ShopFamilyTree.com | unusual photos
    Monday, August 20, 2012 3:55:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Thursday, December 01, 2011
    The Ultimate Photo Preservation Collection Is Back for a Limited Time!
    Posted by Diane

    Hi! I (Diane) am dropping in briefly to let Photo Detective blog fans know that we're bringing back a limited number of the Ultimate Photo Preservation Collections to ShopFamilyTree.com.

    This kit offers tools to help you ensure your family's memories will be around for future generations to enjoy. It includes Maureen's signed Preserving Your Family Photographs book.

    This deeply discounted collection sold out in less than a day in June. Only 25 are available, so jump on this chance to grab one.


    preserving photos | ShopFamilyTree.com
    Thursday, December 01, 2011 2:18:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]