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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, April 07, 2014
Next Steps After Solving a Photo Mystery
Posted by Maureen

What do you do after solving an old-photo mystery? I'm hoping you label the picture on the back using a soft graphite pencil. I'm also hoping you let that photograph take you to a new level of genealogy research.

While the group portrait featured in last week's blog didn't end up being Yvette LaGonterie's relatives, she used the identification of the Reverend Miller's family to circle back to her own family research.

Yvonne2.jpg

She used Google to locate information on the house her ancestors lived in at 86 Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn. It's a fun research twist to use real estate sites to learn more about the places your ancestors lived. The house was new when Anna and Edward Powers raised their family. Today it's worth nearly $1.5 million.

Real estate sites can provide:
  • current value of an ancestral home
  • the date of construction
  • photographs of the building

Once I have an address for an ancestor, I often use sites like Zillow  and Google Maps to locate places where my family lived.

annapowers1921edit.jpg

Yvette also sent along a photograph of her grandmother, posed to show off her oversize coat, taken in 1921. It's a great fashion 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

  • 1920s photos | african american | house/building photos | women
    Monday, April 07, 2014 3:19:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, March 31, 2014
    Photo Success Story: Reverend George Miller
    Posted by Diane

    Last week I wrote about Yvette LaGonterie's mystery photo and the possible link to the Underground Railroad. The clues dated this photo to circa 1900.

    Yvonne2.jpg

    I wondered if the man's collar was actually a clue to his profession. Could that be a clerical collar?

    Rev Miller.jpg

    That one little question led to an identification. This family has a name!
    Yvette's ancestors Anna and Edward Powers lived in Brooklyn by the 1890s and were active in St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, when the pastor was the Rev. George Frazier Miller. During his time at the church (1896-1943), four generations of Yvette's family knew this man. The relationship extended from her great-great-grandparents to her mother. 

    Yvette found a photo of him on the University of Massachusetts website. It confirmed the identity. Rev. Miller was one of the founding members of the Niagara Movement, the predecessor of the NAACP. 

    He was a important person in the community and obviously someone the Powers knew quite well. That's why this family picture was in with their photos.

    Next week, I'll be back with more on Yvette's family and this photo.


    1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | african american
    Monday, March 31, 2014 3:23:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, March 24, 2014
    A Photographic Link to the Underground Railroad?
    Posted by Maureen

    YvonneMystery Family.jpg

    The condition of this photo isn't unusual. The heavy acidic cardboard mount is very fragile. It's rare to find a photo of this type in perfect condition. Store a photo like this in an acid- and lignin-free folder made of heavyweight cardstock, so it's supported.

    If you've ever found a box of photographs in a relative's home, then you understand Yvette LaGonterie's excitement when she located several photo albums in the back of a closet at her grandparents' house. The albums contained images dating as early as 1918. 

    The big mystery is this photo. It was loose in the box, not mounted in an album. She showed it to her mother, who said, "it looks like my maternal grandmother's family."

    Yvonne2.jpg

    Unfortunately, the facts don't line up exactly.

    LaGonterie's great-grandmother Ella Estelle Powers was born in Philadelphia circa 1878. Ella's parents were Anna Elizabeth White Foreman (circa 1852 - 1925) and Edward Francis Powers (circa 1857-1911). Anna's family was prominent in Philadelphia. She was the niece of Jacob Clement White, Sr., secretary of the Philadelphia Vigilance Association, a group active in the Underground Railroad.

    Anna and Edward had three daughters, so this family doesn't match their family. Did Anna or Edward have any siblings?  This could depict their family. These are some photo facts to consider:
    • The little boy's play suit is a item available from the mid-1890s into the 20th century.
    • Mom's hairstyle with the topknot on the crown of her head was common around 1900. That date also fits with her dress style.
    • Dad's suit is very interesting. While upturned collars were commonly available, it's the style of the jacket that's fascinating. It features cloth-covered buttons and doesn't have a traditional jacket opening. This jacket extends to the neckline.

    It's an intriguing photo due to the connection to prominent Philadelphia residents involved in the Underground Railroad, and because of that suit. Yvette is looking for a family with a son and a daughter that had a connection to her relatives.


    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 | african american | children | women
    Monday, March 24, 2014 7:34:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, July 14, 2013
    A Multi-Mystery Historical Baby Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Jim Moses recently found himself with a perplexing family photo mystery. When going through a trunk from his great-grandfather Luther Abner Moses (1860-1905) , he found an intriguing photo.

    WBryanfront.jpg

    It's a wonderful photo of a baby laughing. Everything in the trunk is related to Abner, but this photo is a puzzle. As far as Jim knows, there are no family links to this child.

    On the front it says "W. Bryan (4 months old) January 1893)."  The back is even more confusing.

    WBryanback.jpg

    Along the top edge (to the right—I've turned the image on its side) is "E.R. Pitt."  And in different script, "Compliments of Frank to Earle. Taken by J. Pilbeam (?) with Gen. Miles."

    Underneath that is "Made in Arkansas May 18 (13), 1891." Also written on the card is "Red Cloud and Little Big Horn."

    So many mysteries:
    • Who is W.Bryan?
    • Why is E.R. Pitt written on the back?
    • Who are Pilbeam and Gen. Miles?
    • Who are Frank and Earle?
    • Where was this taken?
    • Why was it in the trunk? 
    • Was the photo taken in 1893 (as on the front of the card), 1891 (as on the back), or neither?

    A search of the 1900 US census on HeritageQuest for W. Bryan resulted in a William Bryan in Arkansas, who was 10 at the time. You can't always trust ages in the census. Could this be the boy depicted in the photo?  Or does the "Arkansas" notation on the back refer to something else?

    The "E.R Pitt" notation could refer to the Earle who received the card from Frank.

    There are no Pilbeams in Arkansas in the 1900 census, but it's not an uncommon name in Michigan, which is where Luther Abner (in whose trunk this photo was found) lived. 

    Gen. Nelson Appleton Miles, whose name appears on the back, served in the Civil War and in the Spanish-American War. He spent two decades fighting on the American frontier and he drove Sitting Bull into Canada after the Battle of Little Big Horn. The names Little Big Horn and Red Cloud appear on the card.

    Could these be notes for something else? I've seen the backs of cabinet card photos used as scratch paper filled with math problems or handwriting samples, but in this case, some of the information seems more significant. 

    It's a picture mystery with lots of different threads to follow. There's one other thing to consider: Our ancestors collected interesting images. Perhaps this was an image bought because it's unusual. In an age when most people posed with serious expressions, the image of a baby laughing was an anomaly.

    In the meantime, I'll keep digging. These multi-layered mysteries are frustrating but fascinating. 


    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

  • 1890s photos | african american | children | unusual photos
    Sunday, July 14, 2013 4:39:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, April 29, 2013
    Further Clues in the Connecticut Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I introduced a photo mystery from the Derby (CT) Public Library with links to archaeological excavations. The big question is: "Who's in this photo?"

    Let's look at some of the evidence in the picture.
    • The shed is of unknown use. A higher-resolution image might reveal what's inside the door. There appears to be items piled up. I'll wait for a clearer image to share that with you.
    • An elderly woman stands in the front yard. The front door is to her left.

      Freemanclose-upt.jpg
    • Nancy Freeman lived in the house from the time of her marriage until her death in 1895. She has a cane in her right hand and a hat in her left. She wears an apron over her dress.
    freemanhouseedit.jpg
    • A ladder against the house suggests that she's having shingles replaced. The workman left his coat and hat draped over a pole. 
    FreemanHousephotographer(2).jpg
    • Do you see the shadow on the grass?  This is the photographer. I'm working on verifying a caption on a copy of this picture. It contains the name of the photographer.

    The Freeman house is built on a hill. Behind the house the land drops off. Archaeologists found some of the foundation for the shed, but not enough to be able to determine its function or size. They found poultry wire on the site, which confirms stories about Nancy raising turkeys to support herself.

    I'll keep digging for new data.  


    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

  • african american | props in photos | women
    Monday, April 29, 2013 10:05:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, April 22, 2013
    A Piece of Connecticut History
    Posted by Maureen

    FreemanHouselibrary(2).jpg
    Photo courtesy of Derby (CT) Public Library

    Could this woman be Nancy Freeman, widow of  Roswell Freeman, who was one of Connecticut's "Black Governors"? That's the big question, and this query has a lot of pieces.

    Janet Woodruff, an archaeologist with the Archaeology Laboratory for African & African Diaspora Studies at Central Connecticut State University, sent me this photo for analysis. Dr. Warren Perry, Prof. Gerald Sawyer, Woodruff, and students and volunteers have been conducting archaeological excavations at this homesite since 2010.

    Photographs lie at the intersection of history, genealogy, family history and even archaeology.

    The tradition of the Black Governors dates back to Colonial Connecticut. These individuals were elected by members of their communities. The Connecticut State Library has an interesting online article and bibliography.

    Roswell and his father Quash were both Black Governors. This property may have been willed to Roswell when his father died. Roswell married Nancy (possibly Thompson) in 1826 and they had 13 children, although records have been found for only nine.

    The elderly woman pictured stands in her front yard (the front door is next to the ladder). Behind her is a shed. Archaeologists aren't sure of the purpose of that building. 

    I'm trying to answer several questions about this image. Next week, we'll look at a few of the details. There is more research to be done, so watch for updates to this 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

  • african american | house/building photos | unusual photos | women
    Monday, April 22, 2013 9:40:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, January 28, 2013
    Confirming Identities in Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    I'm working on a photo mystery that is making my eyes hurt and my brain spin. With any luck I'll be able to present it here next week. 

    In the meantime, Milah Goler Pasto contacted me through Facebook to ask about a couple of her family photos. She was hoping for confirmation that the mother and the child in this picture were who she was told they were.

    margaretmahoneysullivanedit.jpg

    Their dress styles, the wicker chair and the painted backdrop all suggest a date of circa 1900. In that period, women's sleeves could have a slight fullness at the shoulder and bodices were pouched and full at the waist. Wicker chairs were a popular studio accessory in the 1890s and in the early 20th century. While painted backdrops were common throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, at the turn of the century they often featured household scenes.

    So who's in this lovely picture?  Irish immigrant Margaret (Mahoney) Sullivan (born 1873) and her daughter Margaret (born 1892).

    John Nathan Sullivan (born 1848), a "free person of color" married Margaret Mahoney and they had two daughters. He was a coachman for Dr. Hubbard of Taunton, Mass., and according to Milah, his obituary said "he was well and favorably known throughout the vicinity."


    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | african american | children | Immigrant Photos | women
    Monday, January 28, 2013 4:50:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, April 11, 2011
    Bad Hair Day Winner!
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you for voting in the Bad Hair Day Contest and for sending in all those great hair photos. There is a winner!

    Here's how the votes stacked up.

    83.7 % of the voters selected this photo. Congratulations go to Pat Daughtery for winning the contest and a copy of Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900.

    editdaugherty0157.jpg

    The runner up is ...
    editSophie Bentley.jpg
    71 % voted for this photo.

    I promised a few more photos this week so here goes.

    editpeirceHunterCWhite9andHalfYearsOld.jpg




    Rachel Peirce sent in this before-and-after picture of her ancestor Hunter Carson White at 9-1/2 years old during the Civil War. She owns a picture of the boy's father with his hair standing up on his head and wonders whether the second photo was taken to make the boy look more like his father.

    editchaseimg501.jpg

    Photo collector David Chase sent me this photo. It proves that man's best friend also can have bad hair. <smile>.

    Last weekend I was at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference. I met Janine Penfield who showed me this unusual photo in her family album.

    SCAN0136.jpg

    It depicts a female performer known as Illavaro at age 14. She was photographed at several different times by Charles Eisenman of New York City. She would have been very comfortable in the late 1960s when this hairstyle was a fashion statement.

    Hope you've enjoyed this look back at 19th-century hairstyles!


    1860s photos | 1870s photos | 1880s photos | african american | children | Civil War | hairstyles | unusual photos
    Monday, April 11, 2011 5:08:38 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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]