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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, September 22, 2014
Photos of Our Ancestors Goofing Around
Posted by Maureen

Amateur cameras made it possible for our ancestors to relax in front of the lens. Goofy pictures abound in photo albums after 1900. Take this one, for instance:



Laura Kettner sent in this picture of two women with their backs to the camera. They've put their coats on backward for this image. Why? We have no idea but this isn't the first photographic costume joke I've seen. There seemed to be a trend of goofing around in snapshots in the early years of the 20th century. 

At a recent conference someone showed me two pictures. The first was a group picture of family members. In the second, the men were in the women's clothing and the women were wearing the men's clothing.

At another event, a picture showed men and women wearing each others hats.

Laura's aunt identifies the woman on the right as her great-grandmother Mabel Rheaume (born 1891). She has the same hair as Mabel in other images. On the left could be her future sister-in-law Audrey Kettner. Unfortunately, no one has an image of them facing front taken at the same time.

The clothing dates the image to early in the second decade of the 20th century, between 1910 and 1917.  You can find short and long coats of this style in Sears Catalogs (searchable on Ancestry.com).

In that time frame, Mabel was engaged to a man who died in 1917. She later married Joseph Earl Kettner (born 1899). If the woman on the left is Kettner's sister, then Mabel knew her long before she married him.

Do you have a humorous photo in your family collection?  Email it to me. I'll feature it here.


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

  • 1910s photos | candid photos | women | World War I
    Monday, September 22, 2014 4:33:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, June 29, 2014
    World War I Women
    Posted by Maureen

    June 28 is recognized as the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, which triggered beginning of World War I a month later. The United States didn't formally enter the war until April 6, 1917.

    womens land army.jpg

    When men enlisted in the service and left their jobs, women stepped in to take their places.

    The Women's Land Army formed in 1917 so that women could fill the agricultural jobs vacated by men. This poster was for a training school that prepared women for work as farmerettes. It shows women wearing shawl- collared dresses with pants underneath.  On their legs and feet are leggings and footwear similar to what their menfolk wore in uniform.

    Women participated in the war by serving in the Red Cross overseas, by filling clerical positions, working in the fields and acting as recruiters. In family photo collections are black paper photo albums that document these women's lives. 

    I've seen images of women in the Red Cross but not these farmerettes.  If you have one, I'd love to see it—click here to email me. I did a Google Image search and found great photos of women and girls being farmers including this one of Girl Scouts harvesting crops.

    The Women's Land Army lasted until 1921 and was re-established during World War II.

    According to Wikipedia, women who participated lived primarily in the West and Northeast, and many were college educated, because their colleges and universities formed groups. Many of these women also supported the suffrage movement.

    The fashion effects of World War I were felt in the United States long before the Americans went to Europe and changed the way men and women dressed.
    • military-styled clothing became fashionable.
    • large oversize coats like those worn by soldiers were commonly seen.
    • sailor-style and shawl-collared dresses and shirts for women can date a photo to this time frame. 
    • By the end of the war, women began cutting their hair shorter causing angst among the male population. 

    This centennial of the start of World War I is a great time to research your WWI ancestors. See our WWI research guides for soldiers and women in the July/August 2014 Family Tree Magazine.
     


    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 | World War I
    Sunday, June 29, 2014 5:22:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 17, 2013
    Old Family Photos on Postcards
    Posted by Maureen

    Frieda Tata submitted this lovely photo of two women and a girl for some advice. She knows the young woman on the right is her grandmother Mae Davis (born 1888 in Brownwood, Mo.). 

    This is a photo postcard.
     
    threewomen.jpg

    One of the most common questions about family photos is, "My ancestor had their photograph taken and it's a postcard. What does that mean?"

    I love real-photo postcards (RPPC) because there are several ways to date them. 
    • Real photo postcards debuted about 1900. That immediately gives you a beginning time frame for the image.

    • While the photo here was taken in a studio, it is possible your ancestor took their postcard photo themselves. Kodak's No. 3A camera, introduced in 1903, let amateur photographers take images and have them printed on postcard stock.

    • Flip the card over. Does it have a divided back for the address and correspondence, or is there just space for the address? This little detail can further refine the time frame. On March 1, 1907, federal legislation finally let postcard senders write messages on the back of the cards they sent. 
    •  Take a good look at the stamp box. The designs of those boxes can help date your image as well. They identify the paper manufacturer. For instance, AZO is a popular manufacturer.  Compare your designs to those described on the Playle website.

    • If the postcard was mailed, look at the stamp design and the postmark for a specific date.

    Mae's birth year suggests that this photo was taken circa 1908. I'd love an image of the back to see what clues it holds.

    Last week I wrote about women in World War I and featured photos of  Dora Rodriques. Thank you to Wendy Schnur for telling me more about the Holland-born actress who supposedly walked across the United States to promote recruitment.


    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | photo postcards | women | World War I
    Sunday, November 17, 2013 4:13:54 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 10, 2013
    Women in World War I
    Posted by Maureen

    What did your WWI-era female ancestors do in World War I? On Veterans Day, we typically honor the men and women who served in the military. But what about all the women who didn't serve, but supported the war effort?

    The theme of Who Do You Think You Are Live in London next year is World War I. Next year is the centennial of the start of the war in Europe (the United States got involved in 1917).

    During World War I, women:
    • worked in factories so men could enlist (and to support their families while the men were away)
    • volunteered for the Red Cross
    • worked as Army and Navy nurses
    • served the military in clerical positions
    • knit socks for the troops
    • participated in Victory Bond fundraising
    • marched in Preparedness Day parades to encourage U.S. involvement
    Women also acted as recruiters to encourage men to join the service.
    Young, attractive women often stood alongside male recruiters in uniform

    Dora Rodriguez was one of those recruiters. At the Library of Congress, there are three images of her in uniform taken by the National Photo Company. I'm sure the sight of a woman in pants and a uniform drew a lot of attention.

    dora rodriques 28170v.jpg

    dora 2 28171r.jpg

    dora 3 28172r.jpg

    Some who served overseas as nurses and Red Cross volunteers took cameras with them. Many women kept photo albums during the war.

    At the time of the 1910 census, most individuals with the surname of Rodrigues lived in Puerto Rico. A quick search of Ancestry didn't turn up any immediate hits for her. I suspect her birth name is something other than Dora.


    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 | unusual clothing | women | World War I
    Sunday, November 10, 2013 5:27:30 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, August 25, 2013
    The Marsteller Old-Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I outlined the mystery of the Ralph Marsteller photo.  This week I'm back with more details.
    StaffordFamily photo Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller_edited-1.jpg
    Let's start with some basics.

    What are they wearing?
    Clothing clues can be very helpful, BUT it's important to remember that there were lots of different styles every season and people didn't automatically wear the most current fashion. I look for details that help create a time frame. In this image, the most fashionably dressed woman is standing in the back on the far left.

    Staffordhat.jpg

    Fashion research suggests that this woman posed for this picture in 1918.  The lightweight fabric worn by everyone in the picture suggests a warm weather month. These little details could help pinpoint when Ralph Marsteller met his family or friends.

    In 1918, broad-brimmed hats with an upturned edge returned. You could buy a similar hat in the Sears Catalog for that year. Widespread collars were very popular on dresses in this period as well.

    stafford boy.jpg

    These lightweight suits for little boys appeared in mail-order catalogs circa 1914 and were still popular four years later. They were recommended for boys 2 to 6 years of age and cost approximately 70 cents. So this boy's attire places him in an age group.

    Who's Not in the Picture?
    Patti Stafford knows that Ralph's wife Eva isn't in the photo, and it doesn't look like their teenage son is here either—none of the children are the right age to be him. Nor is their daughter Arlene in this picture; these girls look too young.

    Who's Who?
    If this picture was taken about 1918, then Ralph's son Ralph could be the little boy in the military style suit. He'd be 5 years old.

    It's also possible that Ralph's sister is in the picture along with her husband and their children. More research into this angle could result in an identification.

    The older woman is not Ralph's mother. She was deceased by this time, but this woman could be an aunt who resembles some of the people in the photo.

    stafford older woman.jpg

    Ralph's mother Dianna Jane Rumfeld/Rumfield had sisters with small children at the time of this picture. This could be a gathering of the Rumfeld/Rumfields, rather than the Marstellers.

    Ralph's brother Henry is still living, so Patti's next step is to show him this photo to see if he can identify anyone in it.

    Research often turns up overlooked information. When Ralph's father William died, a Mr. Snyder was appointed guardian for him. While going through all the family paperwork looking for a connection, Patti found an interesting detail. Dianna Jane's marriage certificate states that her last name was Rumfeld/Rumfield. Her death certificate states that Dianna's mother was Louisa Snyder. This detail suggests that Snyder was a family member.

    I'm hopeful that Henry can put names with the rest of faces, but for now it looks like Patti has a picture of her grandfather and his father taken in about 1918.


    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 | group photos | men | snapshots | women | World War I
    Sunday, August 25, 2013 4:30:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 04, 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.

    foreign1.jpg

    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.

    foreign4.jpg

    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.

    foreign2.jpg

    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.

    foreign6.jpg

    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? 

    foreign3.jpg

    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.

     foreign7.jpg

    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, August 04, 2013 7:07:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, May 20, 2013
    The World War I Era in Color
    Posted by Maureen

    May is the month of gardens and Memorial Day, so I thought I'd take a peek into gardens of the past. On the Library of Congress website, I discovered this gorgeous color image that depicts an important moment in the history of 20th-century gardening.

    editworld war 1 garden.jpg

    While commercially successful color photography was still a few decades away, early 20th century photographers relied on artistic mediums to add color to their images. Even early daguerreotypists colored their photographs.

    During the WWI period, hand-colored glass slides made everyday scenes come to life. In this lantern slide, two boys (one wearing roller skates) and a man read the notices for a garden.

    editworld war 1 gardencloseup.jpg

    They stand in Bryant Park, at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue in New York City, in August 1918.

    Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) photographed this scene for us to illustrate a lecture to women's gardening clubs. She was a famous female photographer who took portraits of well-known figures throughout her career. She was also a proponent of historic preservation.  Sam Watters featured lantern slides by Johnston in his book Gardens for a Beautiful America, 1895-1935 (Acanthus Press, 2012).

    The garden in this photo was part of the National War Garden Commission of 1918. While Victory Gardens are usually associated with World War II, they were also popular during World War I. People planted gardens in public places and at home. There were even rooftop gardens.

    You can read more about these gardens and their history in Gena Philbert-Ortega's From The Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes.

    Charles Lathrop Pack established The National War Garden Commission in August 1917. The war effected food production and he thought American's could boost output by creating small gardens. It's estimated that there were more than 5 million of these gardens during the war.

    You can view other WWI-era color images on the Library of Congress website. Browse the Frances Benjamin Johnston collection to see other examples of her work.

    If you have a photo of an ancestral garden, please submit it to me and I'll post it here.


    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 | World War I
    Monday, May 20, 2013 1:23:43 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]