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<October 2015>

by Maureen A. Taylor

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# 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.


    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. 

    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.

    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.

    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>

    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.


    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]