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# Monday, December 28, 2015
A Year's Worth of Photos: 2015
Posted by Maureen

This was another amazing year of photo columns.  Thank you for sharing your family pictures and for re-posting your favorite photo detective blog posts on social media. Can't wait to see what 2016 will bring!

Here's a month by month overview of your favorites. Please click links to see the full stories.

Imagine moving and leaving photographs behind. It happens more often than you'd think possible. January's first post featured a portrait of a man found in a house. He's still a mystery.

February's post on photo jewelry explained how you can read the clues both in the photos and the settings to discover when a piece of jewelry containing a picture was made and/or worn.  Sometimes pictures were replaced in jewelry settings.

Comparing faces whether you do it using software or just using your eyes can be tricky. Family resemblances can lead to misidentified pictures. Here's what you need to know to sort out the twenty plus points in a person's face. 

In April a Gold Rush town picture yielded clues for one family. If you had family living in Shaw's Flats, California, you might spot a relative in this group picture.

DNA is this year's most talked about genealogical topic but inherited traits can show up in pictures too.  A six-fingered ancestor in one family collection was full of identification clues. 

June brought clues to help you spot a blue-eyed ancestor in a picture.  Try these tips with your photos.

It took Michael Boyce to make the right connections to solve his family photo mystery. Here's how he did it.

One of the most challenging clues in a picture are military uniforms. There were no standardized uniforms in the nineteenth century, but August's column lays out three techniques to sort through the evidence. 

The clues in September's graveside photo fit together to tell a story of one family's funeral, just not the one the family was expecting. Read all about it.

Our ancestors dressed like their favorite popular icons from politicians to performers. See how this one young woman dressed like Annie Oakley and see if you can spot these clues in your own collection.

November focused on facial hair. Imagine writing today's Presidential candidates to influence their facial hair fashions. That's exactly what one little girl did. The true story of Abraham Lincoln's beard is noteworthy.

Nineteenth century brides didn't usually wear white. They wore nice clothes and so did their grooms which means that wedding pictures are often overlooked in family collections. In Wedding Clues: 1855 Peter Whitmer and his bride Lucy Jane McDonald dressed to the nines for their nuptials.


1840s photos | 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Abraham Lincoln | Annie Oakley | beards | daguerreotype | facial resemblances | Gold Rush | group photos | jewelry | men | Military photos | mourning photos | photo jewelry | photo-research tips | wedding | women
Monday, December 28, 2015 5:00:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Sunday, November 08, 2015
The True Story of Abraham Lincoln's Beard
Posted by Maureen


Abraham Lincoln, 1858, Library of Congress

The story of Abraham Lincoln's beard is a sweet one. In 1860, a young girl named Grace Bedell wrote to the then-presidential candidate, advising him to grow a beard to aid his campaign and his appearance.

"I am a little girl only 11 years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have yet got four brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. "

Lincoln responded that he wouldn't make any promises yet a few months later he's photographed with the beginnings of his trademark facial hair.
 

1860, Library of Congress


Lincoln was the first President to have a beard. 


1863 at Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner's studio, Library of Congress.

It's a remarkable tale of how a preteen may have influenced a political candidate's appearance (and perhaps his career). Lincoln's beard made his a fashion icon of the 19th century and led many men to follow his lead. You can see more male fashion trendsetters in Hairstyles 1840-1900.

Many books are written about Lincoln, but two of my favorites focus on photographs of him:
  • Lincoln Photographs: A Complete Album by Lloyd Ostendorf (Rockwood Press, 1998)
  • Lincoln Life-Size by Philip B. Kunhardt III, Peter W. Kunhardt and Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009). 
Online sources of pictures of Lincoln include the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division and the Allen County Public Library's Lincoln Collection.


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 | Abraham Lincoln | beards | cased images | children
    Sunday, November 08, 2015 4:09:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, November 01, 2015
    Beards and Mustaches: 5 Styles in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    It's November so expect to see a lot of facial hair on the men you meet.  Growing mustaches is part of Movember, a fundraising and awareness effort for men's health and cancers.

    Our ancestors proudly sported fashionable beards and mustaches, too.   When they went to the barber they could choose styles based on charts like this one:

    c.1884 Library of Congress

    Since each of these facial hair types has a name, I thought it would be fun to spot them in some old photos:


    In the 1880s, James Wilkins chose a mustache known as the Pennant. In the 20th century, artist Salvador Dalí was famous for an exaggerated version of this style. Library of Congress


    This unidentified man in the 1880s wears the beard but not the mustache for the Imperial style. I've also seen this beard referred to as the Spade.

     
    Here's another version of the Imperial from the same period.



    A young Teddy Roosevelt chose the Burnsides Short style for this 1882 portrait. Library of Congress


    Orville Wright wears the Pennant style in 1905, 20 years after the publication of that beard trimming chart.  Library of Congress

    Beards and mustaches sometimes stayed in style for decades, so it's important not to jump to conclusions when you see an 1880s style on your ancestor. In addition, not all men chose to wear facial hair.

    Can you spot any of these mustaches and beards in pictures of your ancestors? Use the the chart depicted in this article and the examples in Hairstyles 1840-1900 for comparison.

    I'd love to feature your pictures here. Click the How to Submit Your Photo link on the left for details on how to email your pictures.



    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


  • beards | men
    Sunday, November 01, 2015 2:13:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, October 18, 2015
    Teasing the Clues Out of An Old Photo
    Posted by Maureen



    Larry Calhoun thinks this is a gathering of either the Benfield or the Calhoun family in western North Carolina. Last week, I discussed how Annie Oakley influenced frontier dress for women. This week, let's study the other clues in the same image and see if they help Larry figure out who's who.

    A big group portrait generates a LOT of questions and this image is no different. My eye roams over the family members trying to see patterns. I like to start with simple questions and see if those answers lead up to the big question of why the group posed for the image:

    When was the photo taken?
    The clothing worn by the young women in this picture can help provide a time frame.



    The neck scarves on the young women above suggest a date of the mid- to late 1880s.

    Who's the oldest person?
    In this case it's a woman. Generally the oldest person is someone important like a mother, grandmother or even great-grandmother. Look to see who sits next to that person. It's usually his or her children.

    The oldest woman is seated in the middle of the group. Estimating an age for her can help Larry fit her into either the Calhouns' or the Benfields' genealogy. Let's say she's 75 and this picture was taken in 1885. That suggests a birth date for her of circa 1810. There doesn't appear to be a man about the same age in this photo, so it's possible her husband has died.

    Who's the youngest person?
    See the baby in the front row leaning against a middle-aged woman?   There's also a baby in the arms of the woman in the back. The birth dates of those two children can pinpoint an exact year for this gathering.



    Think about the last time you posed for a family group portrait. Spouses and older children stand near each other, while younger children are allowed to sit in front of all the adults. In this image, study the men and women standing next to each other. There are a few couples in the back row. Matching them up with all those children is going to be a challenge.  But Larry can use his family history research to create a two-column table of names and ages of the Calhoun and Benfield family members about 1885. It will give him a quick overview of the family to compare to the picture.  

    The next step is to compare any other related family photos taken around the same time to this picture. If those aren't available, he can try locating photographs of Benfields and Calhouns in the hands of his cousins. This is a great picture to post on social media to see if anyone else in the family recognizes anyone. I'd also reach out to historical and genealogical societies in the area of North Carolina where these folks lived.  

    The big unknown in this picture is why it was taken. Is it a family reunion or does it document a family gathering for an event like a death or marriage?

    Identifying one or two people in this picture may reveal the answer and lead to a lot of other folks being identified as well.

    Knowing when all of these family members posed for this picture is the first step in the long process of identifying who's who. 


    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 | beards | group photos | women
    Sunday, October 18, 2015 5:15:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, February 02, 2014
    Card Photo Clues
    Posted by Maureen

    What's a card photo? If you've heard the term you're probably wondering. A card photo is an image mounted on cardstock. The earliest ones are called carte de visite and are approximately 2.5x4.5 inches (although the sizes can vary a bit). Late 19th-century cabinet cards are larger and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from round ones of the 1880s to long thin ones.

    Dating a card photo relies on its size, the format of the image, the photographer's work dates, clothing clues and family history information.

    Jim TeVogt found this photo in an old album that belonged to a member of the McBride family of Minnesota, who was directly related to the McBrides of Sarpy County, Neb. 

    mcbride unknown.jpg

    I don't have the dimensions of this image, but the photographic format and the clothes hold plentiful clues.

    Images set into an oval were common in the 1860s and beyond. In the 1860s, images in oval settings usually featured pseudo frames or patriotic symbols. By the 1870s, the photographic image included the picture of the person and decorative elements such as the marble pattern surrounding the picture.

    This man's wide lapels on his jacket and his loose tie are common in the mid-1870s. The clues add up to suggest he sat for a portrait in the mid- to late 1870s.

    He definitely resembles the McBrides. This second picture is John McBride, Jr. (born May 12, 1865): 

     John McBride Jr  - Dec  15 1902.jpg

    His father was John McBride, who married in 1861. Here's John McBride, Sr.'s picture:
     
    John McBride Sr - About 1861.jpg

    The man in the 1861 image has a wider nose and wider jaw than the unknown man in the top image.

    Photo albums are a usually a mix of close family, distant cousins and friends. While the unknown man closely resembles John McBride, Jr., there are big discrepancies in the appearance of John McBride, Sr., and the unknown man.


    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 | 1870s photos | beards | men
    Sunday, February 02, 2014 5:44:35 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 09, 2013
    The Old Man
    Posted by Maureen

    Two years ago, Ben Naylor discovered this photograph of a older gent. Ben is stumped about the man's identity. 

    naylor2The Old Man (2).jpg

    Every photo tells a story and this one is no different. Ben's great-great-grandfather, Irish immigrant George Gleasure (1858-1921), had five children and raised them in Natick, Mass. 

    Frank was the oldest child (born in 1882). In 1896, George's wife suffered a fall and died. George immediately moved his whole family back to Kerry County, Ireland. Frank stayed in Ireland for five years until he was 18, and moved back to Natick in about 1900.

    For the next 60 years, Frank exchanged letters and photographs with his family in Listowel, Kerry County, Ireland. Ben's family didn't know about the letters and images until they were discovered in a trunk when his mother's uncle passed away. You can read these letters on Ben's blog The Gleasure Letters.

    Now back to the photo mystery: There were other images in the trunk including this one captioned "My brother George."

    naylorMy Brother George (2).jpg

    The appearance of the two photos leads me to believe that one of young George's siblings owned a camera.  Both are candid images on roughly cut photo paper glued to heavy paper. Fingerprints are visible on the prints. Perhaps this sibling had a darkroom.

    naylorMy Brother George fingerprint (2).jpg

    The younger George was Frank's younger brother (born 1894).  If he was approximately 10 to 12 years old in the above candid photo, it would've been taken between 1904 and 1906.  There's also a photo of Annie Gleasure, Frank and George's sister (born 1884), taken at about the same time.

    So who's the older man? If the photographer was one of Frank's siblings, the man could be their father, the Irish immigrant George Gleasure. In 1906, he would have been 58. Or it could be Ben's third-great-grandfather Francis Gleasure (1825-1911). In 1906, he was 81. 

    I don't think the man in the first photograph is old enough to be 81, suggesting the image is George Gleasure born 1858. 

    Love his muttonchops! This type of facial hair was very common in the 1880s. Men tended to retain the facial hair of their younger years.

    Ben's family has left him quite a legacy of letters and images to reveal the lives of the people on his family tree.
     


    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 | beards | Immigrant Photos
    Monday, December 09, 2013 5:27:13 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, July 22, 2013
    A Southern Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Cornelius Webbedit.jpg

    The story of a photograph is so much more than its simple details. This is a carte de visite (CDV) image. The mounted size of a CDV is 2.125 x 3.5 inches.  The slight oval shadow on this picture signifies it was once in an album.

    When confronted with a photographic album, read it front to back, studying the placement of the images. Who's in the first position?  That's the most important person to the individual who created the album.

    In this case, the photo is out of the context of the album.

    The photographer's studio is typical for the 1860s. There's a patterned oilcloth on the floor, a plain backdrop, a single drape and a paisley table covering. The studio has given the image a slight tint and added a bit of color to the man's cheeks.

    He wears a sack coat, a shawl-collared vest, a long necktie and loose trousers than narrow at the ankle.  At his feet is either the base of the table or a photographer's posing device. The facial hair is typical for the late 1860s.

    Stephen Taylor owns this image. He's hoping it depicts his great-great-grandfather Cornelius Webb.  Born in Philadelphia in 1836 to unidentified parents, Cornelius married an Irish immigrant, Mary M. Kennedy, in Charleston, SC in 1859.

    The 1860 Federal Census for Charleston lists the young couple living in a boarding house in the third ward (Heritage Quest Online, National Archives film M653, roll 1216, page 252, line 9). He was a tin smith and his personal estate was worth $500. 

    Most tin smiths served an apprenticeship of four to six years, then started their own business. It is unclear whether Cornelius actually manufactured goods or just sold them. The term tin smith referred to either. There were merchants in Charleston with the last name of Webb, but more research is needed to determine if Cornelius was one of them.

    According to the Frederick Ford's Census of the City of Charleston, 1861 (Charleston, 1861), Cornelius lives in a brick house at 123 Church Street, in the third ward. The Charleston Gaslight Co. owned the building. A quick search on Google maps shows that the house (as long as street numbering didn't change) no longer stands. Looking at the street view provides an indication of what it might have resembled.

    Could this be Cornelius Webb?  It seems pretty likely.  He died in 1869 at 33 years of age, leaving behind five small children, including one born that year.

    He would have posed for this image between his arrival in the city circa 1859 and his death a decade later. Harvey Teal's book, Partners with the Sun: South Carolina Photographers 1840 -1940 (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2001) documents five photographers who operated studios in Charleston prior to the Civil War. During the conflict, the Confederate government's Tax Act, levied a tax of $50 a year on anyone operating as a photographer (Charleston Mercury, May 9, 1863, page 1). After the war, several new studios opened. Most operated studios on King Street.

    The presence of a photographer's imprint on this portrait would help narrow the time frame. Teal's book lists specific dates for photographers.

    The man in this image appears prosperous. He's posing clasping his coat at the lapels, a sign of pride. This man appears older than his early 20s, so if this is Webb, it's likely he posed after the Civil War when he was in his late 20s or early 30s.


    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 | beards | Civil War
    Monday, July 22, 2013 3:23:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 12, 2011
    Friendship, Love and Truth in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    Pam Rolland is working her way through family albums in the possession of her aunt. She reports that she's been able to date and identify many of the pictures in them, but still has a few mysteries.  

    This is one of them. It was in an album with members of the Roberts family.

    rolland.jpg

    That particular branch of the family moved from North Carolina to Virginia then to Missouri, Arkansas and finally to Oregon.

    Look closely at the man's accessory.  The clasp holding it on is three interconnecting rings.



    That is a symbol of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a group I've written about in previous columns.  You can see these rings in Fraternal Membership Clues and in Fraternal Insignia. They stand for Friendship, Love and Truth.

    The Odd Fellows are a fraternal organization that believes in charitable pursuits. You can read more about the history of the group and their mission on Wikipedia.

    Photos of men in fraternal symbolism can be difficult to decipher. There is no comprehensive guide to these symbols.  Unless the accessories are easy to identify, tracking down what your ancestor is wearing requires extensive research into their lives. 
    • Obituaries often reveal membership in these "secret" groups. 
    • In the 19th century, a majority of men belonged to a fraternal organization. They were professional networks and offered support for members in need.
    • City directories are a great resource when trying to determine which groups had chapters in the area in which your ancestor lived. There is usually a list of local organizations in directories.
    • Many of these nineteenth century groups still exist so a quick Google search can provide you with contact information. 
    Complicating Rolland's search for this man's identity is the number of places the family lived. In order to narrow down the possibilities she'll have to identify where this man might have lived in the 1880s (based on his attire and the card stock) and who in the family tree might be the right age to be him.


    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

  • 1880s photos | beards | organizations | unusual clothing
    Monday, September 12, 2011 3:03:21 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, July 18, 2011
    Wacky Hair or Fashionable Foible?
    Posted by Maureen

    I can't help it.  I love the hairstyles and facial hair in photographs so much I'm actually thinking about a second volume of my Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900 book. The curls and whorls of nineteenth century styles definitely provide insights into your ancestor's fashion sense and their personality.  This week I'm sharing three images from my growing collection of purchased images of women's tresses and men in beards. 

    women356-French.jpg
    In this 1860s carte de visite, a middle aged woman wears her hair in the style of her youth.  Women wore their hair looped over their ears in the 1840s and early 1850s. Both her attire and her hair are conservative.

     Look closely at her hair.
    women356crop.jpg

    There is a lack of gray hair. One of my colleagues who's also a Civil War reenactor is looking for pictures of Civil War era women with gray hair.  Did they color their hair or is our prevalent gray hair a result of modern living?  Hair dye was available, but a fashion historian told me that women who ate a lot of seafood didn't go gray.   Hmmm.

    women341.jpg
    Here's a very fashionable woman from the 1880s with her oiled curls and large bow.  Her hair is neatly coiffed.

    Let's not leave the men out of it. <smile>
    men216-Wells.jpg

    It's the 1870s look with a bit of the past mixed in.  In a beard style chart from the nineteenth century, his is called the "Burnside, short."  The full Burnside look featured much longer sideburns. My favorite part of this man's hair is the wave on the top of his head.

    men216crop.jpg

    Hope you're having a nice summer!


    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

  • hairstyles | men | women | beards
    Monday, July 18, 2011 2:34:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]