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# Sunday, September 25, 2016
Colorful Old Photos: Tintypes
Posted by Maureen



This photo takes your breath away. It's a gorgeous painted tintype. This woman in the blue dress stares into the camera with such intensity, you wonder what she was thinking. 

Tintypes, patented in 1856 in the United States, were available in other countries. This is a particularly nice painted tintype. Photo studies often hired artists to enhance their pictures.

Look at the detail in her earring.



You actually get a sense of the filigree design.

Part of the stunning quality of this image is the delicate treatment of her eyes.



Delicate brush strokes define the shape and of her eyebrows and there is no doubt about the color of her eyes, blue.

So who is she? That's what Karen Krumbach wants to know. This is the only tintype in her collection. Let's see what can be deduced from the picture and Karen's family information.
  • The portrait was expensive. This expert painting wasn't cheap.
  • Karen's great-grandmother immigrated from Sweden in 1872, and then married here.
  • Her dress has a v-neck, rather than a rounded collar. She wears her hair down. The combination of these clues suggest a date in the early 1870s.
  • Karen's Swedish ancestors had reddish brown to darker brown hair and some had blue eyes.

Could this be Karen's great-grandmother's wedding portrait?  If she fits the description, it's possible. Karen should answer these questions:

  • Is she the right age?
  • Did this great-grandmother have blue eyes?
  • When did she get married?

Photos of immigrants document the family before and after they left home. Some pictures remained with relatives in their homeland, while others came to America.

This is a very special family photo. It was taken for a reason. The look in this woman's eyes makes me want to know more about her life, too.


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


  • 1870s photos | Tintypes | unusual photos | wedding
    Sunday, September 25, 2016 6:48:22 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, March 06, 2016
    Adding Up the Clues in 3 Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Wanda Allison inherited photos of the McIntosh/Pearson families. Last week we looked at a tintype of this man, wearing Masonic regalia and posed with his wife. Relatives thought the couple could be John McIntosh (1810-1898) and Isabella Rutherford (1806-1894).



    The problem is the couple in this 1860s image is a lot younger than John and Isabella would be in this time frame.

    Notice the pink cheeks, a common way for photographers to add life to a portrait.

    Wanda has two other images that weigh into this puzzle:



    Here's a family-identified picture of John and Isabella in the 1880s.




    And a card photo of Isabella in the 1860s. This woman is not the same person as the one in the 1860s tintype at the beginning of this post. Their noses are different.  


    The nose of the young woman on the left is very different from the woman in the middle.

    So who's in the 1860s tintype? That's the big question.

    Last week I mentioned how her arm resting on his shoulder suggested a close relationship. It's possible that the pair isn't husband and wife, but brother and sister.

    John and Isabella had nine children:
    • John, 03 Apr 1833 - 24 Aug 1896
    • William, 07 Jun 1836 - 23 Jan 1913
    • Christina, 30 Jan 1839 - 04 Apr 1918
    • James R., 03 Oct 1840 - 21 Jun 1924
    • Catharine, 25 Feb 1846 - 05 May 1919
    • Jessie, 25 Feb 1848 - 18 Oct 1928
    • Isabella, 21 Dec 1849 - 19 Dec 1895
    • Jane (Jeannie), 02 Jul 1851 - 02 Mar 1888
    • Elizabeth Bruce, 27 Sep 1854 - 09 May 1930
    Let's estimate that the woman in the tintype is in her 20s, and that the picture was taken in 1864. That means she was born about 1844. This birth date rules out several of the daughters born too late to be the age of the young woman in the 1860s tintype. Any of the brothers could be in the tintype—John, William or James. Certainly the man and woman in the tintype bear a resemblance to John and Isabella, something that could lead descendants to believe them to actually be the older couple.

    Sorting this out involves more research and more photo comparisons. 
    • When do the older children marry?
    • Are there pictures of their spouses?
    • Are there pictures of the children?

    Figuring out who's who is all about finding more pictures. There is a picture of Christina with her younger siblings taken in the late 1880s, but it's the older siblings that will help identify that tintype. 


    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


  • 1860s photos | men | Tintypes | women
    Sunday, March 06, 2016 3:15:42 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, February 28, 2016
    Fraternal Clues (and more) in an Old Tintype Photo
    Posted by Maureen




    There is so much to love about this old tintype photo: 
    • The pose and the people are a story waiting to be told. She sits with her arm on his shoulder in a comfortable and personal way. It states that he's her husband.

    • Look at the way his hair sticks out from the sides of his head.


            He wore a hat at some point. Yup! That's 19th-century hat hair.
    • Their direct gaze makes the viewer connect with them. It's like they are here with us.

    • The sash he wears signifies a fraternal membership. Which one? He could be a Mason, but he lacks the traditional apron. Did you notice the slight yellow coloring present in the sash? Lovely!
    So who are they? That's the question. This tintype image dates from the 1860s.

    Could they be John McIntosh (1810-1898), born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and his wife Isabella Rutherford (1806-1894), born in Arngask, Fife, Scotland? Both are members of the photo submitter's family.

    I don't think so. For one simple reason:

    They aren't old enough. In the early 1860s, both husband and wife would be in their 50s. This couple is too young. 

    Next week, I'll compare some other folks in the family and see if the facts add up.


    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


  • 1860s photos | Civil War | fraternal | Tintypes
    Sunday, February 28, 2016 3:39:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, February 14, 2016
    Three Clues that Identify an Old Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    The clues add up differently in every photo. It's never just one thing that helps put a name with a face. In Pat Eiler's tintype the three clues are age, fashion and another picture.

    There is no mystery as to the identity of these three people. Pat knows they are Mary Seigrist Forster (1870-1946), her mother, Mary Heffner Seigrist Schumacher (1845-1922) and George Bean.  Based on the age of George, she estimates the picture taken circa 1920.

    It's this tintype that's causing the problem. Which woman is in this picture? The mother or the daughter?


      Tintypes, patented in 1856, stayed popular until the twentieth century and are still being made today. The lovely bonnet dates this picture.  Peaked straw bonnets decorated with botanical elements and ribbons gave the wearer extra height and balanced off the bustled dresses.   The photo studio added a bit of paint to the decoration to make it visible to the viewer. 

    The shape and style of this bonnet date the picture to the late 1880s, specifically circa 1889.

    So who's in the picture.  Mary Schumacher born in 1845 was 44 in 1889. Her daughter Mary Forster was 19 in that year.

    I find it easier to compare faces by looking at them side by side. With a little help from Pixlr.com we can do that.

    Both women have wide noses, wavy lips and a similar shaped face.  But look closely.  There are no age lines in this face. One woman has straight eyebrows while the other woman has brows that frame the eyes.

    I think it's the daughter.  A twenty-something wearing her first grown-up bonnet.  That occasion is more than enough reason to go to the photo studio but I wonder if there was a special family event in the circa 1889 period.  

    There is one other detail.  People usually pose with similar expressions when posing for a photographer. 

    To look at more Victorian hats and bonnets consult, Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900.



    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 | facial resemblances | Tintypes | women
    Sunday, February 14, 2016 4:30:35 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 24, 2014
    An Identification True or False
    Posted by Maureen

    Since I'm packing for the FGS conference in San Antonio, I thought I'd select a image from Texas for this week's old photo mystery.

    Suzanne Wood owns two mystery photos. An elderly uncle identified this pictures as Elenor South (1839-1924), but Suzanne isn't sure if she trusts his memory. Could he have gotten it wrong and it's really Elenor's mother depicted? Elenor's mother was Maradyann Bascom South (1810-1859).



    This tintype has had a hard life. There are rust spots and abrasions on the surface. You also can see the outline of an oval: A mat once covered this image. It suggests that this particular photo was once in a case. 

    The fullness of the skirt suggests that this woman is wearing a lot of petticoats. It's an early 1860s portrait.

    The big question is how old is the woman in this picture? In 1862, Elenor would be 23, and her mother, 52. When her mother was in her 20s, photography wasn't available.

    Further evidence for the identification is a second photograph of Elenor and her first husband. 



    A side by side comparison of the two faces is helpful.



    The woman on the right appears to match—same nose, small mouth, deep set eyes and full face.  Both of these images could depict Elenor (or a sister).

    Here's a photo of a sister Harriet South Reynolds, with her two children taken circa 1875:
     
    wood1874 Harriet Ann South Reymolds-2 (2).jpg

    Hope to see you at FGS! 



    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



  • 1860s photos | Tintypes | women
    Sunday, August 24, 2014 8:18:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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]
    # Sunday, July 07, 2013
    Clues, Cousins and Contacts: Three Ways to Solve a Photo Mystery
    Posted by Diane

    What does it take to solve a picture mystery? In this case it's clues, cousins and contacts.

    ThomazinTintype Tintededit.jpg

    June Thomazin is determined to solve this tintype mystery! I featured it in my Photo Detective column in the September 2010 Family Tree Magazine (you can get a download of that Photo Detective column or the full issue at ShopFamilyTree.com).

    She was hoping someone would come forward with more information, but no one did. Here's how the story evolved.

    Clues
    Back in 2010, June submitted two painted tintypes. I studied them and suggested they were taken in the late 1860s. Tintypes, patented in 1856, remained popular until the mid-20th century. The wide lapels on the man's jacket and the woman's belted dress fit the period.

    Cousins
    In June's tireless search for an answer, she discovered three other copies of this picture owned by various cousins. At some point, a descendant of this couple took the image to a studio to be copied and had different versions of it made. Of the four existing images, two are tintypes and two are crayon portraits (photos enhanced with charcoal and artist's materials).

    One cousin owns the tintype above. His mother wrote on the back "Grandma Dunaway's parents." June and her cousin thought this meant Wesley and Elizabeth (Close) Newman.

    In another cousin's collection is this tintype:

    Thomazin2TinType painted (5).jpg

    In the 1860s, photographers had reversal lens. Some tintypes are reversed images, while others are corrected. Two of the cousins' four images have the husband seated on the viewer's right; in the other two, he's seated on the viewer's left.

    The other two versions of the photo are paper prints.

    This four-fold mystery raises a lot of questions:
    • Who had the copies made?
    • Is one an original, or is the original image missing?
    • Are there other copies?

    Three of the four images are owned by cousins who descended from James William "Harvey" Dunaway (1829-1880) and his wife Treasy Humphress Bateman (1820-1901). Could this be the link that June's been hoping to find? 

    June created this graphic to illustrate who owns what.

    ThomazinMystery-Coupleedit.jpg


    Contacts
    In May 2010, I'd posted about June's detective work trying to identify a cabinet card. That post disproved a caption identifying the couple.

    NEWMANs.jpg

    A distant relative saw that blog post and sent June a copy of the exact cabinet card. This couple turned out to be the Newmans. The tintypes above show some other couple. It was an online Family Tree photo reunion

    She had such good luck with the last photo posted here, that she's crossing her fingers that a Dunaway descendant will be able to figure out who is in the tintypes. 

    I hope so too!  I'd love to write another reunion story.


    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

  • 1860s photos | enhanced images | Tintypes
    Sunday, July 07, 2013 8:30:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, March 18, 2013
    Intinerant Tintype Artists and Your Family
    Posted by Maureen

    Jim Cat found this photo when his grandmother died. It's one of those family photo mysteries—Jim doesn't know who these women are.

    Cat2.jpg

    I love the way the photographer captured four young women sitting on their front stairs.

    Jim labeled it a daguerreotype, but it's actually a tintype. The spontaneous pose reminds the viewer of a paper snapshot. In fact, tintype "snapshots" were available long before George Eastman invented his amateur negative camera. The word snapshot refers to taking an "instantaneous" image using a handheld camera. It generally means an amateur was taking the picture, but there were professional photographers who specialized in capturing these fleeting moments.

    Itinerant tintypists traveled from town to town in wagons loaded with chemicals, plates and darkroom equipment. Tintype photographers also walked the streets of major cities enticing customers to memorialize their visit with a photo. 

    The tintype was usually presented to a customer in a paper sleeve. I've seen sleeves in bright pink, red, blue and just about every other shade. Some have embossed designs like this one, while others have printed decorations.

    What they all have in common is a tendency to deteriorate. If you own one of these early 20th-century tintypes in a paper sleeve, you should scan it at a high resolution—at least 600 dpi—to preserve the content.

    From the dress styles and the hair, the date of Jim's picture is circa 1910.  The short sleeves and lightweight fabric suggest a warm weather month.

    The woman second from the left has rested a hand on her adjacent companions, a clear sign these are close friends or relatives. Cat thinks these women may be family. I'm waiting for additional information to help with that detail.


    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 | candid photos | snapshots | Tintypes | women
    Monday, March 18, 2013 2:12:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 23, 2012
    Which Mother is It?
    Posted by Maureen

    Susannah_Wideman.jpg

    This lovely image depicts either someone's mother or stepmother. The question is, which one? It's a north-of-the-border mystery.

    Chris Rye inherited this photo from his grandfather, who in turn inherited it from his mother. The back of this tintype reads "Enos Mother." Enos Storm is Rye's great-great-great grandfather. 

    Enos' mother was Susannah (born in 1836), who died in childbirth in 1866 when Enos was born. The family lived in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada.

    Susannah also had three daughters, born in 1859, 1861 and 1862. This woman is posed with a toddler on her lap. Notice the size of the toddler, as compared to the mother's diminutive size. She has large hands but a tiny body in contrast to her very hearty child.

    Enos' father remarried a woman named Mary (born about 1847) and she had a daughter in 1879.

    The clothing clues in this picture point to the 1860s.  The mother wears an everyday dress with cap sleeves and a small collar, and wears her hair pulled back. In the late 1870s, women's clothing featured more trim than this, and even everyday dresses had fitted bodices.

    The little girl's dress also dates from the 1860s. 

    This is an entrancing portrait. Susannah looks directly into the camera with a slight smile on her face, while her child sits still for the image. It's a family history treasure!

    This is one of the three daughters, but which one? She could be any one of them depending on a specific year.  The toddler is likely around 3 years of age, meaning the photo was taken in approximately, 1862, 1864 or 1865.  Any photos of the girls taken later on would be useful for comparison.


    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 | children | Tintypes | women
    Monday, January 23, 2012 4:30:55 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Monday, January 31, 2011
    A Double Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    This week I'm researching a very interesting family photo of two men clowning for the camera. Sandy Forest showed me this image at an event over the weekend and I couldn't stop thinking about it. She's pretty sure about the identity of the man on the left, but the man on the right is a mystery. And why is he holding a spike and wearing an interesting hat? The clues really pile up for this photo, so consider this week's post the first installment of a multi-part series.

    sandyforest1.jpg
    These two men are probably celebrating something because they are pouring an alcoholic beverage into a glass. That's just another part of the mystery. What's the occasion?

    On the left is Felix Forest, a man famous in the family for his height. He stood 6 feet 4 inches. He was much taller than the average man in the late 19th century. The soft stovepipe hat on his head must have really made him stand out in any crowd.

    Felix was born in Bonaventure, Quebec, but in the early 1880s, he immigrated to the United States. He moved around a lot. He married in Manchester, N.H., in 1892, spent time in Lewiston, Maine, and then lived in Fall River, Mass., before moving back to Bonaventure.

    While I'm adding up the clues and trying to find facts I'll share my favorite part of the picture—the dog at the base of the column. It appears to be a tin cut-out of a little dog. Finding that dog in another photo could identify the photographer and the location.
    sandyforest3.jpg
    The men meant for this photo to be funny, and the dog is just one more comical addition. It makes me laugh out loud.

    Next week, we'll focus on baby pictures. Diane Haddad, the Genealogy Insider blogger, had a baby last weekend, so I thought she'd enjoy a Photo Detective post of ancestral baby pictures. Email me yours to mtaylor@taylorandstrong.com.


    Tintypes | unusual clothing | unusual photos
    Monday, January 31, 2011 5:07:08 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, August 30, 2010
    Hand-Me-Down Family
    Posted by Maureen

    Years ago, Truli Powell's mother received a box of photos from one of her husband's cousins. Now Truli is trying to date and identify the images. She's hoping that the cousin only gave them images from their specific line.

    Powell Unknown 1 (2).JPG

    In this "like mother, like daughter" tintype, the mother and the woman in the back (I'm assuming grandmother) wear nearly identical dress designs and hats. This 1890s scene depicts three generations on an outing. I love the park bench as a prop.

    Powell Unknown 2.JPG

    In the second tintype Truli sent, a young man in a suit and coat poses with a painted backdrop that features a house and a wall. The "rock" in the foreground is supposed to create the illusion that he's actually standing outdoors. Since backdrops usually reflect the area where someone lived, I wonder where this was taken.

    Truli wants to know if this could be her great-great-grandfather Peter Floyd Powell (1832-1922). Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to the case. This photo depicts a young man probably in his early 20s. From the neatly greased hair to the polished shoes, this is a young man who's dressed very nicely for the late 1880s.

    She sent another picture and I have to include it. Last week I focused on backdrops.
    Powell Unknown 8 (2).jpg
    Here, two young girls posed behind a backdrop with cutouts for their heads. Their hats and the car date the picture to the early 1910s.  One of the girls would be the right age to be the young girl on the bench in the first photo.

    It's too bad that Truli's father's cousin didn't label the photos in some way, but hopefully the information in this column will help her put names with the faces.

    Need help with your own mystery photos? Look for Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.


    1890s photos | 1910s photos | photo backgrounds | Tintypes | Vehicles in photos
    Monday, August 30, 2010 4:07:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, July 27, 2009
    Adding Up Photo Clues
    Posted by Maureen

    I had trouble deciding the angle for this story. Would I discuss the problem of trying to figure out the photographic method or mention a family brick wall? Then I re-read all the emails from Randy Majors and decided to cover those topics as well as how he identified his picture.




    What is it?
    Electronic files are wonderful for sharing pictures, but nothing compares with looking at the original, especially when you're trying to determine the photographic method. One of the first questions I asked Randy was, "Can you describe the picture?"

    There were two types of metal images in the first 20 years of photography. Daguerreotypes are shiny, highly reflective images that are reversed, but tintypes are on a thin sheet of iron and usually varnished. They aren't really shiny. He said that the image was somewhat shiny, but not mirror-like. 

    So what is it? Without seeing the original, I'd guess a tintype. If you look very closely at the left of the picture you can see a crackled pattern in the photographic emulsion. I've never seen that in a daguerreotype, which is created by chemical salts on a silver plate. 

    Williamcrop 1.jpg

    The other detail that makes me think this is a tintype is the hole in the upper-left corner. I've seen scads of tintypes with this, but never a daguerreotype.

    This lovely picture was once covered by an oval mat, appropriate for either a daguerreotype or a tintype.

    When was it taken?
    Let's look at the subjects' attire from left to right. The boy wears a jacket several sizes too large. The stiff wave of hair atop of his head was particularly popular in the 1850s. His father wears a collarless shirt, a vest and a jacket. His hair is long and combed back. A full under-the chin beard completes his appearance.

    It wasn't unusual for little girls in the 1850s and in the early 1860s to wear dresses with shoulder-bearing necklines and short epaulette sleeves, with strings of beads around their neck. Their attire could be from the late 1850s or even the early 1860s.

    The girl's doll could date the picture. I'm no doll expert, but determining whether this is a rag-style doll or a china doll could help place this image in a time frame. I think it's a china-headed doll. The problem is that the detail is missing from the face. For help with dating dolls in images, consult Dawn Herlocher's 200 Years of Dolls, 3rd edition (KP Books, $29.95).

    crop2.jpg


    Who is it?
    One of the best ways to identify a picture is by swapping with relatives to see if they have similar images. The unidentified picture Randy sent was his great-aunt's. In Rady's collection was an identified picture of William Riley Majors, (1821-1881).

     William Riley Majors (2).jpg
    Notice anything familiar? You guessed it.  It's not only the same man—it's the same picture, only a copy.

    So who's in the first picture with William? His son William Andrew Majors and his daughter Martha Etta Majors. Based on the children's ages, Randy thinks this picture was taken about 1865 in the Madison County, Ill. or St. Louis, Mo., area. He could be right. This late a date also would suggest that the image is indeed a tintype.

    Randy's biggest problem is that no one has been able to find out the lineage of William Riley Majors. He was born in either Alabama or Kentucky, and died in Cowley County, Kan. "He remains my biggest brick wall," Randy wrote.

    Anyone have any research suggestions for Randy?
    1850s photos | 1860s photos | children | men | Tintypes
    Monday, July 27, 2009 8:55:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]