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<September 2015>

by Maureen A. Taylor

More Links

# Sunday, August 23, 2015
Proud Mamas in Old Photos: Finding the Clues
Posted by Maureen

What's the first thing you see when you look at this picture?  My eye immediately gravitates to the woman and her slight smile.  She's one proud Mama seated with her two children and her husband. 

Your eye might be drawn to the wicker chairs, the animal skin rug or Dad's crooked tie.  When we look at a family photo our eyes become focused on one detail and then dart all over the image. 

Clues. There are many types of evidence in an image from props to people but it's the sum total of them that often results in an identification. In this picture the following details provide a time frame.
  • The wicker chairs.  They were popular props in the 1890s and in the early 20th century.

  • Animal skin rugs. Also common in pictures in the 1890s and persist into the early 20th century and beyond. We have pictures of endless bare-bottomed babies in our family photographed on animal skinned rugs in the mid-20th century.

  • Clothing clues:

In the 1890s men wore their hair short, their mustaches trimmed and waxed and their collars up.  In the first decade of the 20th century, the majority of young men were clean-shaven.
Mom's puffy sleeves date from the late 1890s. Her pompadour style puffy hair looks more like the circa 1905 period but this could be a personal preference rather than the current style.  Additional genealogical information is needed to narrowly date this image.
  • The photo imprint. J.W. Sires of Tidioute, Pennsylvania took this picture. Unfortunately, he's not listed in this location in Directory of Pennsylvania Photographers, 1839-1900 by Linda A. Ries and Jay W. Ruby (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1999). He appears only as of 1890-91, and in a different location.
Donna Bowman thinks that the father in this photograph is one of her great-grandfather's brothers, but isn't sure. There's one way to narrow down the possibilities: Find the family in the 1900 census. Let's hope her great-grandfather didn't have 12 brothers! 

The ages of the children in the census would pinpoint a more-specific year for the picture. The babies in this image are 1 to 3 years old. 

I can't wait to hear back from Donna!

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

  • 1890s photos | children | group photos | hairstyles | men | women
    Sunday, August 23, 2015 3:23:14 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, June 22, 2015
    Twentieth-Century Childhood Fashion
    Posted by Maureen

    Kyndahl Carlson's aunt is writing down all the family stories she can remember. A family photo album in a cousin's collection may contain key details to add to those tales.

    The album may have belonged to the cousin's grandmother, Ruth Scrivner Laughter. The photos are laid out with the elders first, followed by images of Kyndahl's grandmother and Ruth's children and grandchildren.

    The context of the way all the images in an album are presented can tell you about who's important to the person who created the album, and can yield identification clues based on which photos are on which pages. I haven't seen the whole album, but I can add a few details about the individual images.

    This timeless photo of three children lacks any information about the photographer, but the clothing clues and chair help date the picture.

    The boys wear suits popular from about 1899 to World War I. There were subtle variations in the design of these suits over time, including ties, belts and different insignia. The insignia here is an abstract flower-like design, but I've also seen nautical anchors stitched into the placket of these sailor-collared outfits.

    This style was also popular for girls' dresses. The Sears Roebuck's catalog (searchable on sold suits similar to these for approximately $2. 

    Because these suits were common for more than a decade, it's hard to pinpoint a more-specific year without extensive research. 

    Wicker chairs as studio props first appear in the 1890s and continue in use for several decades. I own a wedding portrait from 1916 of my maternal grandfather leaning on a wicker chair.

    Posing three children together suggests a close relationship between them. I think this photo shows siblings, though I've also seen cousins posed together. Add up the family facts first before jumping to conclusions.

    Kyndahl can look at her family tree for a family with two brothers and a sister (or a brother) born close together. In the 19th century, girls wore center parts and boys wore side parts, but that's not so clear for the 20th century. All three children in this image part their hair in the center.

    The oldest boy could be about 5 years of age, the younger light-haired boy close to 3, and the baby could be 1 or 2. 

    Photo albums are collections of close family pictures, as well as images from friends and other relatives. There is no guarantee that these three are on the family tree. Fingers crossed!

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children
    Monday, June 22, 2015 1:34:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, February 16, 2015
    Old-Time Baby Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    Social media today is full of pictures of children and grandchildren, but posting historical, black-and-white baby pictures hasn't really caught on yet.

    Babies born 100 years ago are just as cute as the darlings posted today.  Take this image for instance: Maria Baker submitted it and wants to know more about it. 

    She found it in her grandmother's things. Maria owns pictures of her grandmother (b. 1901) as a baby, and she knows this isn't her.

    In the late 1890s, it was common to pose children on animal skins like the one depicted here. The wide yoke on the dress suggests that it was taken circa 1900 (either a few years earlier or later). This child is likely belted around the waist to hold him or her in the wicker posing chair.

    The gender of the child isn't clear. Boys wore dresses until they started to become mobile. If this isn't Maria's grandmother, could it be one of her siblings or a picture of her husband? 

    If you look at an image taken overseas, the same basic information of photographer's name and location appears on the card photographs just like the ones taken in the United States. Wien stands for Vienna. Maria knows that her grandmother's family lived in that area. Etzelsdorfer is the name of the photographer.

    I hope having a date for the image helps her identify this adorable baby. I'd estimate the child is between 6 months to 1 year old.  From the warm hat on its head to the expression on the baby's face, this picture is a treasure.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children
    Monday, February 16, 2015 8:32:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 12, 2015
    Dating an Old Tintype & DNA Clues to American Indian Ancestry
    Posted by Maureen

    I love the slight, Mona Lisa smile on the woman in this picture. She's comfortable and relaxed in this image, and so is the happy baby chewing on its fist. Rex Maggert thought he knew the identities of the woman and the baby, but now he's wondering if his initial ID is correct.

    Could this be Almira Helmer Funderburg (born Feb. 11, 1813) and her son Solomon Mosier Helmer Funderburg (born Feb. 6, 1842)? If this was the case, the image would've been taken in the early 1840s.

    Rex knows that an early 1840s date would make the original a daguerreotype. The problem, though, is that you can see the scratches typical for a tintype, a process not patented until 1856.

    He's right to doubt the identity and focus on the photographic method. Those scratches clearly indicate that this was a tintype. He owns the original, which is approximately 2x4 inches, a popular tintype size known as a bon ton.

    Rex asked, "Could it be a tintype copy of a daguerreotype?" That's a possibility, but only when the other clues in the photo support that hypothesis. In this instance, clothing and other clues suggest a later date.

    The woman wears a cotton or wool challis dress in a bold pattern. The loose fit of the dress is common for the early 1860s. Her sleeves have drop shoulders and full gathers at the wrist. Big bows worn under collars also are typical of the early 1860s. It's likely this woman made this everyday dress.

    In the 1840s, on the other hand, women's dresses were close-fitting and the sleeves were tight on the arms.

    If this isn't Almira and Solomon, who's depicted?  Whoever she is, this woman is married. There is a wedding ring on her left hand.

    Rex's grandmother Alice Maggert told her descendants they had Native American roots. Other family researchers were told the same thing. Rex's DNA results show a zero chance of that ancestry, but test results can vary depending on the test taken, who in the family is tested, and how distant an American Indian ancestor might be. Family Tree Magazine's on-demand webinar Using DNA to Solve Family Mysteries, presented by Blaine Bettinger, can help you make sure you have the right test—and test-taker—to answer your family history question.

    Unfortunately, photographic evidence can't be relied upon to prove ancestral ethic identities. I have the same problem in my maternal ancestry. Documents and DNA are the best indicators.  

    The best chance for proving his family's American Indian roots lies with either a paper trail (Almira appears in the census as "white," but that enumeration may not be correct) or by having other close relatives genetically tested to see if their results are different.

    I'm hoping that Rex can name both the woman and the baby in this picture. It's the first step to solving a family history mystery.

    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 | children | women
    Monday, January 12, 2015 6:53:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 08, 2014
    Holiday Generosity and Christmas Clues in an Old Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    This little gem of a holiday picture comes from the Library of Congress collection. Researching the clues in this picture took a little time and involved studying the caption, the history of the image and the clues in photo. It's a lot more than a holiday-themed image. This one picture tells the story of a family's charity in a very wealthy community. It's the perfect Christmas story.

    This picture is half of a stereograph: two nearly identical photographs mounted side-by-side on cardstock. Viewing it through a stereopticon makes the image appear three-dimensional.

    The best place to start untangling the clues was the caption: "LYNDHURST—A Happy Christmas at "Woody Crest," December 1905. Copyright 1906 by Underwood & Underwood."

    Ben Underwood and his older brother Elmer were just 18 and 20 years old when they established their stereo view company, Underwood and Underwood, in 1880. Within a few years they had offices in Baltimore and Liverpool, England. According to Stereo Views by William Culp Darrah (Times and News Publishing), by 1901 the pair produced more than 7 million cards per year. They revolutionized the sale of cards by producing them in sets.

    A quick Google search for Lyndhurst led me to a page about the house of that name in Tarrytown, NY. You can see gorgeous images of this Gothic Revival style estate and read about it's history. 

    The Library of Congress cataloging record said the image was taken at the Lyndhurst School. There was no mention of the school on the site for the estate, so further research was necessary.

    Only three families owned the house before it was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1961. "Lyndhurst" was likely a keyword chosen by the Underwoods to draw attention to the image. The public was fascinated by the lives of these incredibly wealthy individuals. 

    In 1905, Miss Helen Miller Gould owned Lyndhurst.  Her father was Jay Gould, a railroad entrepreneur who had a reputation as a robber baron profiting off the less fortunate. He made millions. His daughter, one of six children, was a very wealthy young woman. Helen briefly attended law school but decided against a public life. Instead, she focused on philanthropy.

    Helen cared for and educated poor crippled children from the inner city at Woody Crest, a home at Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. She had a reputation as a caring and intelligent woman. Volume 25 of Munsey's Magazine (April to September 1901) featured a story on her charitable pursuits.

    Every year at Christmas she provided a turkey dinner for Woody Crest residents. Dec. 25, 1905, the children turned the tables on their hostess and cooked her a dinner from food produced on the estate. They gave her a gift of a holly and evergreen wreath. You can see her presents to the boys in this picture.

    She gave each of the 16 boys at Woody Crest a chest of "tools," a miniature store, books, and Indian and police costumes. A Dec. 26, 1905, article in the Baltimore American reported details of the event in "Helen Gould's Boys." The writer compared her generosity to that of John D. Rockefeller. While he gave telephone and telegraph operators in Tarrytown $5 each, Gould gave them $10 each.

    The center image shows off the paper bell hanging from the chandelier, the glass ornaments and trimmings on the tree.

    Even Helen Gould's millions had limits. In 1908, she had to decide which projects to continue. According to the Grand Forks Daily Herald, April 5, 1908, in "Helen Retrenches," it was reported that she was going to stop summer outings for poor children at Woody Crest.

    In 1913 at 45, Helen Miller Gould married Finley Johnson Shepard. The couple adopted three children, one of whom was a baby abandoned on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, and had one foster child. 

    It's a heartwarming story just in time for the holidays. 

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | adoption | children | Christmas
    Monday, December 08, 2014 4:06:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 09, 2014
    Religious Clues in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    A single photo tells a story of a person, place or event, but an album often tells the tale of an entire family. Katy Krause inherited a photo album. It all started with single question.

    Katy asked her father-in-law about his family history and said, "I wish I had a picture." That statement triggered his memory, and he brought her an album full of pictures. They appear to be of his grandmother Stella's family. He was able to identify his own father, his uncles and his aunt Irene. Katy thinks that Irene put the album together.

    The album includes several photos of Stella. Here are two:

    Stella, her mother and an unidentified woman, 1916.

    Stella and her children, 1922.

    Then there's this mystery image:

    Is this Stella in front? It's a First Communion photo. The little girl's dress and the white arm bows worn by the boys identify the occasion. The oldest boy holds a small bible and rosary beads.  The cross hangs down.

    The back is a postcard format. The stamp box identifies the symbol for Cyko (a producer of photo paper). 

    According to Playle, this particular design dates from 1907 into the 1920s.  You can use this site to match up the stamp boxes on your photo postcard images, too.

    So who's in the mystery photo? Is it Stella or Irene with two brothers? The children in that family were born as follows: Stella (1900), Jane (1902), Theodore (1906), Irene (1908) and Henry (1919). 

    Those knicker-style pants for boys were in style from the WWI era through the 1920s. The WWI-era styles featured a belted coat. These suits don't have that feature.

    If Stella made her First Communion at age 7, then this isn't her. The dress style is wrong for the first decade of the 20th century. But if that's Irene making her First Communion in our mystery photo, then the ages of the boys are wrong to be her brothers.

    Those children also could be other relatives—or Stella's offspring. In the photo shown above, she had a girl and two boys of the same age range as the children in the mystery picture. The mystery children bear a resemblance to the tots in the picture with their mother. I think they're Stella's children.

    A photo like this is a genealogical document. It's picture proof of a family event. I wonder if there is a church record that supports the evidence in the picture? A record of the children's First Communion could support the tentative identification.

    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

  • 1920s photos | children | First Communion
    Sunday, November 09, 2014 7:15:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, November 02, 2014
    Old Family Photos: Mystery Child, Part 2
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I shared Jacqueline Curry's 1910s mystery photo of a woman and a young child. The family identification didn't hold up.

    Several people commented that the tot could be a boy. I'm waiting for a bit more family information from Jacqueline to help answer that question, but it certainly is possible. In the early 20th century, little boys wore dresses until about the age of 5. 

    Jacqueline's great-great-grandmother Harriet, born in 1862 in Sussex, England, would be about the right age to be the mother. In this photo, she's facing away from the camera so that it's difficult to see her face. 

    From Jacqueline's family tree, here are two candidates for the woman and child in our mystery photo:
    • Harriet Day, born 1862
    • Her daughter Elsie, born in 1902. (Another daughter, Dorothy, born in 1891, is definitely not in the photo.)

    Here are a other photos of these folks for comparison:


    A lovely day at the beach in the 1930s for Harriet and her granddaughter Jeanne. Jeanne is Elsie's daughter, born in 1931.

    Elsie and her future husband Thomas at the time of their engagement.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | facial resemblances | women
    Sunday, November 02, 2014 3:52:48 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, October 26, 2014
    Old Family Photos: Mystery Child From Across the Pond
    Posted by Maureen

    This week's mystery comes from a woman in the UK.  I love the way the web connects us all.

    Jacqueline Curry found this photo in her grandmother's photo album:

    Look at the curls on that child! The woman is trying to get the child's attention and elicit a smile by tugging on the skirt.

    You guessed it—no one knows who's in this picture. Jacqueline thinks the child bears a resemblance to her grandmother. However, her grandmother thinks it could be a sister of her grandmother, Jacqueline's great-great-grandmother. 

    Here's the problem. Jacqueline's great-great-grandmother Harriet was born in 1862 in Sussex, England. Her only sisters were Ann (b. 1864) and Rhoda Matilda (b. 1871).  That's not even close to a birth date for the child.  This is a 20th-century photo.

    It's possible that the older woman with the child could be one of those women born in the 19th century. Based on the clothing clues in the woman's dress, I'd place this picture to circa 1910.

    When working with a photo from an album ask these questions:
    • Where is this photo in the album?  Since there's usually an order to the photos in a album (such as chronological or by family), placement could help solve the mystery.
    • Who else is in the album?  Is it Jacqueline's grandmother's family or another branch of the clan?
    • Who owned the album before her grandmother?

    There's a photographer's imprint on the image in the lower right hand corner.

    It looks like Bates and Son, 187 Maple Rd, Penge. Penge is a suburb in South East London in the borough of Bromley. Bates and Son operated a studio there from about 1902 to at least 1913. I'm still tracking down information on them. Stay tuned!

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | photo albums | women
    Sunday, October 26, 2014 3:38:33 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Sunday, October 19, 2014
    The Ring Brothers: Triplets in the 1850s
    Posted by Maureen

    Multiple births aren't uncommon today, but they were rarer in the 19th century. Four years ago I wrote about Judy Linnebach's photo of an unidentified set of triplets. This week, it's the adorable Ring brothers.

    Image copyright: David Levy. Not to be used without permission

    Meet Charles, Eleazer and Millard Ring! David Levy bought this lovely daguerreotype. A daguerreotype is an image on a highly reflective, silver-coated copper plate, a photographic method introduced to the United States in 1839. This image dates from the early 1850s.  

    A quick search of the 1860 census found the three 11-year-olds living with their mother, a sibling, and possibly their grandmother in Lubec, Washington County, Maine. Beside their names, the enumerator wrote "of one birth."

    A source for the Linnebach article, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George Milby Gould and Walter Lytle Pyle (published in 1904 and available on Google Books) states that most multiple births in the 19th century were to women in the age range of 30 to 34, and heredity was a factor.

    Their mother Margaret gave birth to her daughter Lucy at age 23, and then two years later in 1849, to the boys. The Rings weren't the only multiple birth in town: Just a page earlier in the census, Job and Almira Goodwin had a set of fraternal twins, Otis and Emily.

    Charles, Eleazer and Millard were obviously doted upon by their mother. The identical tunics and broad-brimmed, decorated hats in this photo attest to that. Because of the fancy hats, David initially believed he'd bought an image of three girls.

    Little boys in this period typically wore caps or broad-brimmed hats with wide hat bands. In this case, what looks like flowers could be a cluster of feathers—not an unusual hat decoration for a set of very well-dressed boys. The photo studio enhanced their buttons with gold paint.

    Lubec, the easternmost town in the United States, sits on the border of Maine and New Brunswick. In the 1850s, it was an economically stable community of farmers and fishermen. According to Wikipedia, in 1859, the town had a tannery, a gristmill and nine sawmills. While I didn't see a photographer listed in the 1860 census for the town, it's possible that this thriving town had a daguerreotypist in 1850s.

    Thank you to David for pointing out that another daguerreotype of the Ring triplets is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. You can view 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

  • 1850s photos | children | daguerreotype | unusual photos
    Sunday, October 19, 2014 4:26:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, October 12, 2014
    Boyish Charm in an Old, Unidentified Family Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Can a photograph help connect two families?  Erin Garcia received this picture from a distant cousin. She thinks they're related through her great-great-grandmother Martha Ann (Robertson) Potterfield Murphy (born about 1835). 

    Garcia hopes that these three boys are the children from Martha's second marriage to Nicholas J. Murphy. Unfortunately for Erin, the answer is no.

    Their combed hair and clean overalls indicate that these three urchins have been cleaned up for this portrait.

    Only the oldest child has shoes; the younger ones go barefoot. It's not unusual to see shoeless children in photographs taken in rural areas. Likely their parents didn't have the financial means to purchase shoes for all three. They hold identical hats, though.

    These tykes were likely born in the 1890s. The gray cardstock mat suggests an early 1900s time frame for the image. Erin should look for brothers born within a couple of years of each other, but not in the 1860s or early 1870s, as the Murphy boys would've been. 

    The lack of a photographer's name makes it difficult to narrow down a location. That's a detail that could help her identify them.

    One thing is certain. These three adorable boys are nervous in front of the camera.  You can tell from their serious expression. 

    I'd ask her distant cousin to look through his photographs of 20th-century relatives to see if he has other images of these three at an older age. The little boy on the right has a downturned mouth that might help pinpoint him in other images.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children
    Sunday, October 12, 2014 8:34:31 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, September 02, 2014
    North of the Border Old-Photo Mystery
    Posted by Diane

    Jane Smith owns this lovely photo of a young girl  and an older man. She hopes it depicts her great-grandfather Patrick Hughes, born in 1836 in County Down, Ireland. He died in 1899 in Toronto, Canada, after a successful career as a merchant.

    The picture was found in a box of other photographs of the same family. The box also includes an earlier image of Patrick and a photograph of his house. Location and provenance (history of ownership) are just two of the clues that help identify photos.

    In this case, the girl's clothing is significant. Here's how the head-to-toe clues add up.

    Broad-brimmed hats and spread collars appear in the World War I period, but not at the turn of the century, during Patrick Hughes' lifetime. Around 1910, hat brims drooped down over the forehead. They remained fashionable until the early 1920s. 

    Another big detail in the girl's dress is the dropped waist. That particular detail didn't become fashionable until circa 1912, and it lasted until the early 1920s—a likely time frame for this photo. Waistlines dropped to the hips in the 1920s. I'm leaning toward a more-specific date of the late 1910s for this picture. 

    A possible identity for the girl will help narrow the time frame even further.

    Knee socks were common in warmer weather, usually paired with short boots or even flat shoes. In this photo, the tops of the girl's boots would be visible if she were wearing them.

    Unfortunately, this date means the man isn't Jane's great-grandfather.  Now she has two mysteries to solve instead of one. 


    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 | 1920s photos | children | hats | men
    Tuesday, September 02, 2014 11:33:00 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.


    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 | | Tintypes | unusual clothing | unusual photos | women
    Monday, July 21, 2014 3:39:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, April 21, 2014
    Foreign Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    This damaged image depicts one family line of Julie Townsend Gontarek's husband. Julie knows the image shows relatives in Poland, but not their identities. There are three possibilities: The Gontareks, Klamsky and Otrasek families all lived there.

    Before she can delve deeper, Julie wants to know when the picture was taken.

    It's a really interesting image. When I view pictures, my eyes dart over all the clues from sleeves to doorways.

    Look at the detail in this exterior doorway. It's lovely: 


    This young woman's sleeves suggest a date of the late 1890s, when there was fullness on the upper arm. The addition of plackets of contrasting fabric on the bodice and the cuffs shows off the skill of the person who made the dress.  I think she's pregnant: The longer bodice shows off what appears to be a baby bump.


    Mom wears a head scarf commonly seen on women in rural regions of Poland and other European countries. Her dress has detailing on the upper arm as well. Her long bodice is a little out of date for the late 1890s.

    Her little girl's clothing is typical for children: hair bows and short sleeves, which suggests warmer weather. I've seen a variety of clothes worn in rural regions both in the United States and overseas. Sometimes women would make clothes using older patterns, reusing older clothes and updating their fashions by adding sleeves or collars.  All the clothing worn here looks to be in excellent condition. 

    Both the mother and the girl shown above photo wear necklaces bearing crosses, which indicates their faith.

    The clothing clues in this image were confusing until I took a closer look at the men. Their collars date this image: Those starched, high-necked collars were popular about 1905. In particular, the man on the left wears a rounded-edge collar, common from about 1905 to at least 1915. 

    Men wore a wide variety of ties in the early 20th century, from long, thin knit ties to wide silk ties, as well as bow ties.

    This photo is full of family history clues:
    • The young girl leaning toward her mother appears to be around five years of age. If the picture dates between 1905 and 1915, then she was born between 1900 and 1910. I'm leaning toward the earlier end of this time frame.

    • The young pregnant bride looks like she'll be having a baby within a few months.

    • All of the individuals depicted could be relatives, but they also could be a collection of friends and family.

    • Who's not depicted?  Did someone in the family own a camera or did a professional take this image?
    I'd love to know the occasion for this photo.  Everyone is dressed up for a special event.  I'm hoping that these details help Julie figure out who's who and a reason this image was taken. 

    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 | children | Immigrant Photos | men | unusual clothing | women
    Monday, April 21, 2014 7:08:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # 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."


    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, March 02, 2014
    Sweden to the U.S. and Back Again
    Posted by Maureen

    Do you have photographs in your collection that were taken overseas? That's Maria Benini's problem. Only she lives in Stockholm, Sweden. and her mystery photo was taken in Illinois. 

    Benini found this boy's picture in a little brown box that her mother had in her family home in southern Sweden.

     mariabeniniJohn Doe Swedish boy.jpg
    mariabenini backohn Doe Swedish boy.jpg
    This little lad sat for his photo about 1870.  This date is based on the shape and style of the card photograph, the style of his suit and tie as well as the presence of the chair.

    Edgar Codding was a successful photographer in Knoxville, Illinois.
    1870 census codding.jpg
    1870 Federal Census record from National Archive microfilm M593, roll 241, p.87 digitized image from Heritage Quest, a Proquest database.

    In 1888, Maria's great-grandfather, Anders Nilsson, immigrated to Sioux City, Iowa. He wrote letters home about his time in the United States and stayed until 1933 to 1935. He signed his letters from America with the name Andrew.

    Benini thinks this photo might be proof that other family members also immigrated. A quick search of the census shows 38 Nilsons living in Illinois in 1870. The name could be a variant spelling of Nilsson.

    This information is a start. I'll post an update if Benini has any new information.

    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

  • 1870s photos | children | Immigrant Photos
    Sunday, March 02, 2014 5:30:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, February 23, 2014
    Old Family Photos: Boys in Dresses
    Posted by Diane


    Anna Swinney's question doesn't have to do with the identity of the people in this picture. She knows who they are. She submitted it because of what the youngest child is wearing: a dress.


    Amanda Perryman Collins (1860-1930) and her husband Albert Buell Collins (1862-1942) posed with their three children (left to right): Arthur (1887-1908), Carlos (1891-1985) and Ray (1889-1984).  The absence of their fourth child helps date the picture to circa 1892.

    There are some interesting details in the picture.
    • Mom still wears a popular 1880s hairstyle of curly bangs with her hair pulled back and a wide lace collar. 
    • Notched edges cabinet cards were in style in the 1880s to circa 1900.

    • Dad wears his tie under his collar.

    In the 1890s, Highland-style suits were popular for boys. These consisted of a short jacket and a kilt.

    Since this family still retains remnants of the 1880s in this early 1890s photo, let's look at boys' clothing from that decade: The general rule for both boys' and girls' attire was long dresses until they could walk, then shorter dresses to allow movement. Boys wore skirts until about age 5. Often, boys skirts' were paired with short pants underneath.

    Toddler boys also wore skirts and dresses in the 1860s and 1870s. In the 1860s, there was a type of loose-fitting "French dress" that was worn loosely belted at the waist. 

    It's also not unusual to see boys with "love-locks," or long sausage curls in family photos. If you're having a hard time telling little boys form little girls, here's a rule of thumb: Boys wore their hair parted on the side, while girls sported center parts.

    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 | children
    Sunday, February 23, 2014 5:05:37 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, September 29, 2013
    A Photo Identification Home Run
    Posted by Diane

    The little girl in last week's column has a name! She's Lydia Rock.

    Girl Rock  002.jpg

    It only took a few hours of research by Dan Gwinn. I'd suggested that he look for a child born in the early 1860s. He began by re-examining his Rock family history. I was thrilled to get an email that started, "I think I may have found something." His third-great-grandmother Mary Ann Cooper Hornberger was the originator of the album. In it, she collected pictures of her aunts and uncles. Her uncle Allen and his wife Mary had a daughter Lydia, born in 1861.

    In the back of the album was a labeled picture of Lydia from circa 1880. Take a close look at her smile and features.They match the little girl in the fringed chair! Don't you love the marcel wave in her hair?

    Lydia Rock1.jpg

    The little girl, whom we now know as Lydia, and the older woman had their picture taken in the same studio. Allen's wife, Mary, was born in 1839. The older woman is quite possibly her.


    Dan's third-great-grandmother arranged the photos in the album. On the first page is an unidentified man. In the second and third spots are Mary (the woman above) and Lydia. Could the man be Allen?  It's very possible.  The revenue stamp on the back of this photo dates it to between Aug. 1, 1864, and Aug. 1, 1866. This man is the right age to be Allen. Generally, family members are kept together in an album's arrangement.

    CDV Allen Rock (2).jpg

    The first person in an album is someone that an album's arranger knew very well. There was a close family relationship between Allen and his niece (Dan's third-great-grandmother). She admired him enough to name one of her own children after him.

    Dan wonders if the little girl's boots are prominently displayed to show off her father's wares. Uncle Allen Rock was an well-known boot and shoe store owner in Lancaster City, Pa.


    The clues led Dan to identify not one, but three family photos. It's equivalent to a home run hit.

    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 | 1880s photos | children | Civil War | photo albums | women
    Sunday, September 29, 2013 9:35:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, September 22, 2013
    "Reading" a Family Photo Album
    Posted by Maureen

    I love a good story, don't you? Every photo album tells one if you know where to look. The arrangement of the images is a key part of unraveling the threads of the tale.

    If you're like Daniel Gwinn, you probably inherited a family photo album with few (if any) identified photos. Here's how to approach this very common photographic brick wall.
    • Start with provenance. Who owned the album before you? Who owned it before them? The ownership of the album can help you determine from which branch of the family it descends.

    • Who's on the first page? OK, so you might not immediately know the answer to this question, but this person can unlock the whole album. The person in the number one spot is a very important person to the creator of the album. It could be a mother, a father, a husband, a child or in a few instances, it's the creator of the album. Place this photo in a time frame by studying photographic format, clothing and any other clues that are in the image.
    • Who's next? The individuals closest to the front are also very important to the person who laid out the album. Generally, husbands and wives are grouped together on adjacent pages.

    • Not everyone in the album is necessarily family. Nineteenth-century individuals collected photographs of family, friends, neighbors and even famous persons. Your album might be a mix of these.

    Each album starts with good intentions. The person placing the photos in the book likely had a plan for at least the first half of it. I've seen a lot of family photo albums and they have those good intentions in common—but by the end of the album, images are usually jumbled.

    Like any good book, it's best to begin at the beginning. Don't jump around or rush to the ending. Each page needs to be studied and placed in a time frame and a place. Photographer's imprints can help you place an image geographically. Every little detail can assist in the identification.

    In Daniel's case, the album came to him through his great aunt Elsie Hornberger. It belonged to her grandmother. He knows that most of the individuals in it are members of the Rock family, with origins in Lancaster County, Pa. He's submitted two tintypes that are complete mysteries. 

    Tintypes were patented in 1856 and remained common until the 1930s.


    A few details in this picture place it in a time frame:

    • The fringed velvet chair. This is a photographer's prop. Chairs like it appear in photographs taken all over the United States.  I've never seen it in a photo taken before the late 1860s.

    • The woman wears a bodice called a polanaise with long ends that drape down over the skirt. In many cases, the skirt has ruffles and ruching. This woman's skirt is plain.

    • This photo dates from approximately 1869 to 1875.

    • Dan thinks the woman could be Caroline Rock Cooper, born in 1828. That would make this woman's age in her 40s

    I love the little book on her lap. It appears to have a plush cover and a round medallion on it.

    rock book.jpg

    There's something else that's interesting. Did you notice that the picture is reversed? Unless a photographer used a reversal lens, early images are mirrored. Here's the book with the reversal fixed.

    book reversed.jpg

    Here's the whole image with the reversal fixed.


    She holds the book with her right hand and her left arm rests on the chair.

    Dan's second photo show a little girl smiling for the photographer sitting in the same chair.

    Girl Rock  002.jpg

    It's obviously the same studio because it's an identical rug and chair. The hat is great! It has a wide brim, mid-size crown and features feathers and a velvet ribbon and bow. In the late 1860s, little girls wore dresses similar to those worn by their mothers. The yoked bodice and small ruffled collar point to this image being taken around the same time as the first picture, of the woman. The big question is, "Who is she?"

    • She's probably around 10 years of age.

    • She's not Caroline's daughter, Mary Ann, who was born in 1852. Mary Ann would be 18 in 1870

    While the older woman could be Caroline Rock Cooper, it also could be someone else in the family. It's unlikely that the girl is Caroline's daughter. 

    In order to solve this mystery, Dan needs to examine his family tree for a girl born in approximately 1860. These two photos could be mother and daughter, so locating a girl born in that year could solve both of his photo mysteries.

    For more information on solving family photo album puzzles, see my book Family Photo Detective.

    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

  • 1870s photos | children | hats | women
    Sunday, September 22, 2013 4:17:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, September 01, 2013
    Ancestral Occupations
    Posted by Maureen

    Do you know what your ancestors did for work? My paternal grandfather painted houses and so did his father. My maternal grandmother worked in a cotton mill alongside the rest of her family. Their stories were passed down in the family and evidence in documents like city directories and census records added more details.

    Throughout the centuries, men, women and even children labored to support their families. You may think you know the whole story behind your ancestral work history, but there could be missing pieces.

    Women often worked outside the home before marriage, then afterwards stayed home to raise children. However, many of these women also had jobs or juggled multiple volunteer positions. During World War II, women returned to the workforce to fill jobs once held by men. One of my aunts found employment in a ship-building factory. 

    In this picture a woman welds pieces of a cooling system at the Washtenaw County, Mich., Willow Run Bomber Plant in July 1942. A woman photographer, Ann Rosener, took the picture.  You can view more of these WWII photos at the Library of Congress website.


    Child labor laws are a 20th century phenomena. Many of our grandparents (and earlier generations) worked in fields and factories.

    In support of child labor laws, photographer Lewis Hine documented children working in mills in the early 20th century. His captions sometimes include partial names and identifying details.

    Joe Manning fills in the rest. His Lewis Hine project is amazing! He takes those bits and pieces from the Hine captions, does some research, and then contacts relatives to tell them that he's found a picture of a family member working as a child.  In most cases, they have no idea that their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents worked as children.

    Photographs of our ancestors at work are not very common. Studio portraits rarely capture individuals in work attire.  I wish I had a picture of my grandfather painting or of my grandmother in a factory, but  I don't. If you have occupational photographs I'd love to see them. Follow the "how to submit your photo" guidelines. 

    This week, take a few minutes to interview family members about their work history. You might have a few surprises in store.

    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

  • 1940s photos | children | men | occupational
    Sunday, September 01, 2013 2:30:12 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 19, 2013
    Looking for a Pennsylvania Connection
    Posted by Diane

    Every week I search the submissions for this column looking for a mystery photo. Each photo is accompanied by some basic information and usually a story. My next steps are to contact the person who sent in the photo either by phone or email, then start digging for more information. This picture is very intriguing. 

    Only one person in Patti Stafford's group portrait is identified. It's her great grandfather Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller (born 1887 in Center Valley, Pa.). The rest of the people are unknown.

    But even having one name is a start. Patti hopes to find other Marsteller or Reinhard relatives who recognize people in this picture.

    StaffordFamily photo Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller_edited-1.jpg

    Ralph's father William Hillegass Marsteller died suddenly at age 40 in 1896, Allentown, Pa, without a will. T he courts appointed a Mr. Snyder as Ralph's guardian. Patti believes the 9-year-old and his sister, Estella, continued to live with their mother. It's possible that court records hold additional details.

    I'm working with Patti to piece together the story of this image.
    • Could the little boy on the left be her grandfather Ralph George Marsteller?
    • Could the older woman in the front be her great-great aunt?
    • Why is her great-grandfather in this picture, but not her great- grandmother and their other son?

    Patti's taking another look at her family history to see if she can find a family with several girls. There are three girls in the picture as well as the little boy in the sailor suit on the left. The gender of the child being held by the man in the back row isn't clear. 

    So how do the clues add up?  I'll be back next week with the rest of the story. I love a good mystery—don't you?

    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 | children | hats | men
    Monday, August 19, 2013 2:00:17 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, July 28, 2013
    A Family Portrait Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Lauren Hamilton submitted this photo with a few questions, but as soon as I saw it I thought, "uh oh, this might not be who Lauren and her cousin think it is."


    The cousins' great-great-grandfather John McCauley was a Mennonite minister in Ontario, and later an Evangelical minister in Iowa. Born about 1840 in Dunfermline, Scotland, he and his family immigrated to Markham, Ontario approximately two years later. 

    McCauley moved to Iowa in 1872 and died there in 1899.

    Lauren's first question was about the approximate date of this photo.

    Women wore dress styles like this in the late 1880s. This woman's dress has a bodice that ends at the hip and a skirt with straight pleats. She wears her hair in a simple bun.

    Her husband wears a typical suit for the period. It consists of a slightly fitted jacket, likely with a vest underneath, and a tie with a wide knot at the neck. Lauren wondered if this man wearing a minister's collar, but he's not; rather, he's wearing a patterned silk tie. His trimmed mustache and neat hair cut also suggest this photo was taken very late in the 1880s.


    This date conflicts with family information on McCauley. In the 1880 Census for Montgomery County, Iowa, the 40 year old McCauley has seven children aged six months to 16. The two youngest children are girls.

    Lauren also wanted to know if the child standing in the skirt is a boy. That could be. In the 1880s, boys up to age 5 wore skirts, sometimes with pants underneath. Plaid was a popular patterned fabric throughout the decade. Lauren thought that child might be a McCauley son born in 1864, but the 1880s date rules out that identification.


    Lauren really wants to know if the photo was taken in Ontario or Iowa. Unfortunately, this 3.5x5-inch photograph appears trimmed, instead of mounted on cardstock, as for most 19th century images. Such mounts often provide the photographer's name and location, a valuable clues for identifying a picture. That and the color of the cardstock, also a telling clue, are missing in this instance.

    The photographic backdrop might help in identifying who took the image. In order to look for studios that match this setup, Lauren needs to know a location.

    So who's in the picture?  McCauley would be close to 50 years old in the late 1880s, and his youngest child would be 7 or 8. This husband and wife look younger. 

    Instead of confirming Lauren's identification, I've deepened the mystery. Hopefully this new information will match someone on her 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

  • 1880s photos | children | hairstyles | men | women
    Sunday, July 28, 2013 7:57:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  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.


    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.


    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]
    # Sunday, June 23, 2013
    Fathers and Sons from Readers
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about two famous fathers and asked you to submit photos of fathers and sons in your family album.  Thank you very much for sending in your photos!

    fatherHans C  S  Hegstededit.jpg
    Geraldine Rudloff emailed this photograph of her immigrant ancestor Hans Christian S. Hegsted holding one of his children. She's not sure if this is the first born son who died in Denmark at age 3 or one born later on. Hans immigrated in 1865. 

    fatherDalton Evan Alma  Stutz Bearcat-edit.jpg

    Proud Papa Dalton Godfrey posed seated on the running board of his 1918 Stutz Bearcat with his two youngest children, Evan and Alma. When this picture was taken in 1922 the family lived in Joplin, Missouri.  Gwen Prichard thinks her 16 year old father took the photo of his father and siblings.

    father1904Pauledit02 (2).jpg

    Carol Jacobs Norwood sent in two pictures. This one and the one below. Both were taken in Germany.

    In this 1904 photo her 4 year old grandfather Paul Emil Helmuth Drömer poses with his 43 year old father Theodor Albert Gustav Drömer.  She believes it was taken in Potsdam, Germany.


    This casual portrait captures Carol's great-grandfather Dr. Hermann Theodor Simon with his youngest son, Gerhard Hermann Simon (born 1903).  It was likely taken in 1904 at their family home in Göttingen, Germany. Gerhard's life took an unpleasant turn during World War II. While serving in the war, he was taken prisoner later starved to death in 1946 in a Russian POW camp.

    Over the years Carol Norwood and Gwen Prichard have shared many of her family pictures in this blog. If you'd like to see others type Gwen or Carol's names into the search box in the left hand column below the "categories" links.

    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 | 1900-1910 photos | children | men
    Sunday, June 23, 2013 6:06:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, June 16, 2013
    Famous Fathers: Happy Father's Day
    Posted by Maureen

    Father's Day wasn't official until 1966, when President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation making it the third Sunday in June. President Richard Nixon made it a permanent holiday in 1972. 

    Other presidents wanted to designate a day to honor fathers. President's Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge both tried. In Wilson's case, Congress wasn't in full support because members feared the day would become commercialized. Coolidge suggested that the United States observe the day but never issued a proclamation.

    At least two men who occupied the Oval Office were fathers of young children at the time. They lived a century apart: Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. As we know, they shared a tragic fate as well, both being assassinated while in office.

    lincoln and son.jpg

    On February 9, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad visited the Mathew Brady Gallery in Washington, D.C.  In this photo, they're looking at an early photo album. There's additional information on the history of the first photo albums in Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album.


    Almost 100 years later Photographer Cecil Stoughon took this picture of President Kennedy and family in Hyannis Port, Mass., on Aug. 4, 1962.

    Image credits for the images are contained in the web links.

    While it's common to see 19th century images of women posed with children, I've not found very many pictures of men posed just with their offspring.  If you have one, please share it with me. You can email it or submit it using the "how to submit your photo" link.

    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 | 1960s photos | children | men
    Sunday, June 16, 2013 5:54:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, June 09, 2013
    Four Times the Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    There is so much to love in this photo collage--the smiling face, the cute baby, and the timeless shot of a mother and child. The problem is that Michael Thompson has no idea who she is.
    Thompson editUnknown002.jpg

    Each image is tiny, only about an inch in size. They were all glued to a single square photo mount. It's definitely a photo collage. So who is she?

    He's not sure, but instead of letting this image gather dust in a box of other unidentified photos, he's created a family website using Joomla. He's added a plug-in called Joaktree that takes a GEDCOM file and extracts it.  The end result...well take a look at Thompson's site and see what you think. I thought it was pretty neat.  

    There are ways to determine her identity.
    • First date the picture.  Her hairstyle is twentieth century.  It's known as the Wavy Shingle.  It was popular with women who had a permanent wave put in their hair or those who curled it in the Marcel style. Those waves are a key identifier of a Marcel wave. This hairstyle was particularly popular circa 1929. The top two pictures depict her in short wavy hair. In the bottom left image, she's let her hair grow out and it's smooth rather than wavy.  That adorable baby would specifically date this picture.
    • Determine ownership. Who owned this picture? His grand-uncle owns this picture but he can't remember who's in the picture.  It could be a friend of the family and not a relative.
    • Make a few assumptions.
      • Suppose this young woman was about twenty years of age in 1929? Then she would be born circa 1909.
      • Suppose the baby was born circa 1930?

    Take these two assumptions and test them by fitting that information into the birth date of the grand uncle. He may have known her as an older woman or his parent's knew her. 

    Showing the grand-uncle a list of all family members born circa 1930 might trigger his memory.

    I'll be looking at the unknown images on Thompson's website to see if there are any matches.  Another identified picture of her might exist in his family collection. A positive ID could result from comparing her round face and smile to other images.

    The final ID will come from testing the facts and comparing pictures.

    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 | 1930s photos | children | hairstyles | women
    Sunday, June 09, 2013 3:49:30 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, May 06, 2013
    A Two-Part Italian Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    How many of us have found a note in a box of family photos? I suspect that it's pretty common. Unfortunately, the person who left the note probably didn't realize that it could cause confusion about who's who.

    Eileen Poulin has a double mystery based on a set of notes and two images. On one note, Eileen's mother wrote "Frank (my grandfather) with a Martinelli boy."

    Frank LoRusso with a Martinelliedit.jpg

    The image is on a piece of enameled tin. Usually these images have a device on the back to allow the owner to prop up the picture. This type of picture was very popular in the early 20th century.

    The white arm band on the boy represents the sacrament of Confirmation. Frank was probably the boy's sponsor. Confirmation sponsors had to be a certain age, be a member of good standing in the church and could be a child's godparent. A church document would confirm the relationship between Frank and the Martinelli family.

    Belted suits in the style worn by this boy first became fashionable in the 1910s.

    martinelli boy.jpg

    Eileen's great-grandfather Francesco Antonio LoRusso was the son of Isabella Maria Nardozza (1875-1952) and Vincenzo LoRusso (1866-1959). Both of his parents were born in Avigliano, Potenza, Italy, and died in Waterbury, Conn.

    The second image in this mystery (not shown here) is a military photo identified as "brother of above." Eileen doesn't know if by "above," her mother meant Frank or the Martinelli boy. 

    I have a lot of questions to ask Eileen about the family and more research to do on the uniform. See you next week—and don't forget to enter Family Tree Magazine's National Photo Month Sweepstakes before May 20.

    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 | children | Religous Events
    Monday, May 06, 2013 1:40:23 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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.


    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, January 14, 2013
    Turn-of-the-Century Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Terry Graham's mother showed him a few unidentified photographs and now he's using the power of the web to try to identify them. He's posted them on his family tree so that family members can comment on them.  He thinks the mother's maiden name could be Turgeon.

    It's the little girl in this picture that captures our attention. The photographer posed her with head turned and eyes on the lens. It's a lovely picture of a turn-of-the-century family.

    Women's Clothing
    Women's fashion began to change circa 1900.
    • More women were employed, and clothing in washable fabrics became a necessity. This woman wears her "Sunday best" dress for this formal family portrait.
    • Wide high-necked lace collars were very popular before 1905. Skirts were worn approximately 2 inches off the floor.  
    • Hairstyles puffed out from the face. Extreme hairstyles were often caricatured in magazines, but this woman has chosen wisely. Her hair frames her face. A large wide-brimmed hat would accessorize the outfit.

    Men's Clothing
    Styles varied from casual dress worn by laborers to suits. The man in the family portrait wears his best suit. Collars worn standing up with a variety of silk ties were fashionable in the period. Men's mustaches were trimmed and waxed in the 1890s; in this turn-of-the-century portrait, he's retained his full mustache.

    Children's Clothing
    Play clothes for children were introduced in the early 20th century, but this little girl wears a light-colored dress that mimics some of the design elements of her mother's dress, i.e. the wide collar.

    Photo Details
    Watch for the spontaneous moments in a family picture. The little girl looks like Mom has just brushed her hair for the portrait, but both parents have little wisps of hair sticking out from their heads: Look at the left side of Dad's head and the hair above the neckline of the mother's dress.

    About the Photographer
    Alfred Adt of Waterbury, Connecticut, took this photo. According to city directories of Waterbury found on and details in census records, Adt was born in approximately 1863 and was a photographer in Waterbury from at least 1894 to 1909.  

    Use the comment field below to tell me how you came to own your family photos. Which relative gave them to you?  

    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 | children | men | women
    Monday, January 14, 2013 4:15:39 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, December 31, 2012
    Twelve Months of the Photo Detective
    Posted by Maureen

    It's time to look back at the year. Every week I write a Photo Detective blog post—that's 52 columns in 12 months. It's a lot of free photographic advice and tips. Here are my month-by-month 2012 favorites.

    Last New Year's I offered advice on sharing images online, tackled a photo mystery about the identity of the mother in a picture, and discussed a Scottish picture.

    I got into the planning for my trip to WDYTYA Live in London by comparing British and American fashion. 

    Hat's off to spring! Last March I featured toppers for men, graduation caps, and talked about the relationships between hairstyles and hat design. If you want to learn more about hats or hair, my books, Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900 and Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900, will help.

    The whole month of April focused on identifying photographs of children. Study the clues to add names to those pictures of tykes.

    A trip to the National Genealogical Society inspired a series of columns on the Jeffers Family photo.

    You can view the entries in the Family Tree Magazine photo contest, study a photo of ancestral blue jeans or be awed by the images of wheat threshing.

    With the world watching the Olympics, I deciphered the clues in a picture from the 1908 Olympics.

    I revealed the winner of the Family Tree Magazine Photo Contest. That photo mystery now appears in my new book, The Family Photo Detective. It's now available in the store.

    Have you considered the relationship between photography and genealogy? I took a look at the types of records that help solve a picture mystery.

    This month was all about preservation. A badly damaged image encouraged me to talk about ways to save family pictures. There is more information on storage and labeling images in Preserving Your Family Photographs.

    A picture of a giant mechanical grasshopper appeared in my Photo Detective column in Family Tree Magazine, and some readers stepped forward to tell the story of their ancestors' fascination with creating these creatures.

    I shared the story of a woman who found a family picture after three decades and explained how old-time photographers could alter pictures long before the development of Photoshop.

    Have you ever posed for a multi-generation photo? It's not a new phenomena. Our ancestors did, too. Mary Lutz sent me several images of her family. It turned into a series on identifying who's who in a group picture.

    I love snapshots! They are spontaneous and often capture bits of everyday life. Follow this series on a picture of a man standing in his backyard.

    Thank you for reading this column and for submitting your family photos. If you'd like to participate, there is a link, "How to Submit Your Photo," in the left-hand margin. I can't wait to see your pictures!

    Happy New Year!

    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

  • 1860s photos | 1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | 1920s photos | candid photos | cased images | children | Civil War | group photos | hairstyles | hats | holiday | house/building photos | photo backgrounds | preserving photos | props in photos |
    Monday, December 31, 2012 4:07:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 26, 2012
    Multi-Generation Portraits, Redux
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I featured a multi-generation picture submitted by Mary Lutz. We've been communicating about this photo via email, and I have a few more details to share.

    The original post mentioned that the baby is Mary Ruth Talbott Godwin. There is one problem with that identification. She was born in 1892. The clues in this picture (hairstyles and bodice styles) don't add up to that timeline. Instead, it's an early 20th century picture.

    Thank goodness Mary also recognized the discrepancy. She provided an alternative identification for these women, one that makes sense based on the photo clues.

    The baby is Ruth Waterstradt (born 1909). The mother is Pearl Godwin Waterstradt (born 1885). The grandmother in the center is Jennie Witten Godwin (born 1864) and on the left is great-grandmother Mary Brown Witten (born 1834). The baby is likely less than a year old which dates this image to circa 1910. 

    In addition to the four-generation picture, Mary sent in another group portrait. The two individuals in the center are Mary Brown Witten and her husband Samuel. The picture was taken in Grundy County, Mo.


    The woman in the center is the same woman who appears on the left in the four-generation image.

    This photo also dates from the early 20th century. Since Mary knows the identity of the two people in the center, the rest of the pieces should fall into place.

    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 | children | men | women
    Monday, November 26, 2012 4:04:45 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 19, 2012
    Multi-Generation Portraits
    Posted by Maureen

    It's Thanksgiving! If you're planning a family gathering and are wondering how to keep folks occupied until the meal is ready, try getting them to chat about family photos. It doesn't matter if they are identified images or a group of mystery pics. I'll be taking out a box of snapshots, setting up my digital tape recorder and hopefully capturing some "new" memories.  Images can trigger all types of memories relating to the people depicted, not just the story of that photographic moment. Try it and see.

    Mary Lutz Govertsen sent in a complicated multi-generational photo of several generations of her family. She's hoping that I can compare it to another of her images and identify the date and the people. Isn't it lovely?


    On the back it says "4 generations: Granny [Mary Ruth Godwin, the baby], her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother." In the photo are the two Brown sisters who, due to marriage and disparate ages, are Mary Govertsen's grandmother's grandmother and great-grandmother.

    Family trees are full of twists and turns. Mary's family is a little more complicated. Her family moved from Tazewell, Va., to Missouri; due to multiple re-marriages and inter-marriages everyone is related. This is a family tree that I can't wait to see.

    It's a beautiful family photo that's sure to inspire some great family stories. I'll be back next week with more details on the group and the other image. If you have a multi-generational photo, I'd love to see it and feature it in this blog. The How to Submit Your Photo link provides details on how to send me your picture.

    Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    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 | children | unusual photos | women
    Monday, November 19, 2012 1:50:16 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, June 25, 2012
    Photo Contest Submissions
    Posted by Maureen

    A big thank you to everyone that submitted photos to our contest.  The deadline has now passed and I'm gradually working my way through all the images to pick the winning image. The winner will receive a copy of my book, The Family Photo Detective, and the image may even be featured inside. Watch this space for news!

    Here are three of the pictures folks uploaded to the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page. 

    Jen Baldwin.jpg

    Jen Baldwin uploaded this cute pair of siblings—William W. and his sister Bessie Brown. It was taken in Colfax County, Neb., circa 1880. Don't you just love her pantalettes and his long curls.

    Shirley Jenks Jacobs2.jpg 
    Shirley Jenks Jacobs uploaded this photo of her great-grandmother. I love the hat. In the 1880s, hats had tall crowns and lots of trim on the front. You can't see it, but women in this period also wore large bustles. 

    Suzanne Whetzel2.jpg

    Suzanne Whetzel submitted this family portrait of her maternal great-grandparents Mary Ethel (Wade) and Henry Clark Yost with their son (Suzanne's grandfather) James Meryl Yost. James was born in 1908 and this toddler helps date the photo to about 1910.

    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

  • 1870s photos | 1880s photos | children | group photos | hats
    Monday, June 25, 2012 3:18:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 07, 2012
    More Family Photos of Ancestral Children
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I showcased your photos of ancestral children and this week it's a second installment.


    This little guy is Sandra Jerome's grandfather, Ralph Frederick Jerome. He was born September 7, 1894 in Jordan, Scott County, Minnesota.   He's wearing attire approximate for boys less than 5--a skirt.  It's paired with a short jacket and a wide collared shirt. A cute hat sits on his head.  He doesn't seem old enough to be able to ride the photographer's tricycle prop.  It was likely taken circa 1899. 

    Jennie Youngedit.jpg

    Can you spot the school photos in your family album?  They usually look something like this.  This 1899 photo depicts 11 year old Jennie Young. She's Bonnie Bolster's great aunt. 

    The boy in the front row holds a sign--Coral School District no. 1 May 27, 1898.  The children wear a wide array of styles popular in that period. The flags in the background are likely for Memorial Day.

    Thank you for sharing pictures of your ancestors as children!  I'm off to NGS in Cincinnati, Ohio. Please stop by my booth 712 and say hello.

    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 | children | school photos
    Monday, May 07, 2012 5:58:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]
    # Monday, April 30, 2012
    Ancestor Mystery Photos: Unidentified Kids
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you for all the pictures of your ancestors' cute kids!

    prichard21-A- Josie Powell  Nannie Wilsonedit.jpg
    These little girls are named Josie Powell and Nannie Wilson. Don't you love their identical outfits? They are in a photo album owned by Gwen Prichard. She's trying to establish a relationship between them. Perhaps their mothers were friends? The two girls are even the same height.


    Candace Buchanan emailed this lovely trio dressed for winter. The boy in the middle wears attire from his family's cultural background. Buchanan bought the image at an auction and only knows that it was taken in Waynesburg, Pa. Is the dog real or a stuffed prop? It looks a bit unnatural to me.


    This unhappy little fellow (look at that expression) posed with hat in hand in the 1860s. Bonnie Bybee-Bolster isn't sure if he from her Young or her Brown family line. The families lived in Baraboo/Delton, Wis.

    Another 1860s pose.  You can see the brace at this girl's feet. I love the fact that she holds a parasol. Rachel Pierce bought this image because of the little girl's shoes. Unfortunately, the photo is completely unidentified.

    cute kids1edit.jpg
    Shelley Baumeister isn't sure who the child is wearing an oversized collar in this photo. She thinks the child is a girl. I think she's right because of the center part in her hairstyle. This photo was passed down through Shelley's maternal line. This child posed in 1887 in Dubuque, Iowa.

    I'll be back next week with more photos of children. My inbox is full of gorgeous images.

    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

  • 1860s photos | 1880s photos | children
    Monday, April 30, 2012 3:16:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, April 23, 2012
    Identifying Old Photos of Children
    Posted by Diane

    Genealogists need a sense of humor. You never know what you're going to find. Loretta Gillespie, author of the blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree, submitted this photo of two children. Last week I dated it to the mid to late 1880s.


    To try to solve this mystery, Loretta sent me a link to her family tree. Her ancestor Isabelle Pierce Wright had 11 children. Loretta is hoping this tintype depicts the two youngest children, Charles Pearl Marion Wright (b. 1877) and Geneva "Neb" Wright (b. 1880). Loretta sees the "Wright ears and weak chin."

    This is a possible identification. Having other photos of the children taken later in their lives would help verify it.

    Loretta's great-grandfather (and Neb's nephew) William Gillespie wrote a poem about Neb:
    Aunt Neb was the youngest, about 16 years old. Her learning was slight, if not zero.
    She'd chew her tobacco and fight for her share,
    And woe to the hombre that got in her hair.
    She could swim like a seahorse and dive like bear,
    And frighten the fish as she came up for air!"
    Next week is all about cute kids. Thank you for submitting all those pictures! (And if you have one to submit, click the "How to Submit Your Photo" link on the left.)

    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

  • 1880s photos | children
    Monday, April 23, 2012 2:58:47 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, April 16, 2012
    Sorting Out Children's Clothing
    Posted by Maureen

    It's been awhile since I've put out a call for photos from your collections. If you have a photo of a child wearing interesting clothing, please send it to me. I'd love to run a series on what kinds of clothing children wore, and when.

    This week's photo came from Loretta Gillespie. She asks, "With men's clothing being more difficult to date and [this girl's] clothing being a little unconventional, how do I narrow down the time frame?" Great question.

    Studying clothing clues is all about the details—collars, cuffs, sleeves, trim and accessories.  


    In this case, the clothing suggests that this tintype was taken in the mid-to-late 1880s. 


    The horizontal bands with prominent buttons combined with horizontal contrasting fabric was a key feature of girl's clothing during the mid-1880s. Her dress was likely made at home. It's a printed cotton fabric.

    The high collar with the slight ruffle and the cuffs also help date the photo.

    Joan Severa's Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans & Fashion (Kent State University Press, 1995) is wonderful resource for clothing styles.

    I'll be back next week with another installment of this photo mystery. 

    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

  • 1880s photos | children | men
    Monday, April 16, 2012 1:27:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, April 09, 2012
    A Double Mystery: Twins in the Family
    Posted by Maureen


    This cute-as-a-button toddler duo is a big family history problem for Laura Cook. Who are they?

    The cabinet card was once owned by her paternal grandmother—a trail of ownership that at least eliminates her mother's family from consideration.

    Laura asked her father if he could remember any twins in his family, and he didn't. However, in his confirmation Bible appeared a mention to his cousins Catherine and Dorothy Scheuerman.

    Laura asked me, "Could this photograph depict the Scheuerman girls, born in 1918?" Here's how the evidence stacks up.

    Dark-colored cabinet card mats—brown and green—were usually common in the 1880s, not in the early 20th century. In the circa-1920 period, photographs usually appear in an enclosure. 

    Props can also help date an image. In this case, the grass on the floor and the faux wall that the children are posed with could be from the 1880s as well.

    The style of the interlocking initials of this photographer's imprint also suggests a time frame. The presence of gold stamped letters on an image can place the picture in the late 1880s to early 1890s.


    Laura can use city directories and census records to research the business dates for the photographer, who according to this imprint, was based in Baltimore, Md. She also can type the name of the photographer and the city into Google to see if any hits pop up. An alternative would be to see if the Baltimore Public Library has a directory of photographers.

    The identically dressed pair are likely twins, but sometimes cousins would dress their similarly aged children alike and pose them for a picture. 

    There is a lot more research to be done. I'd start with the photographer's work dates and then focus on children born in the family at the time, likely during the 1880s. 

    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

  • 1880s photos | children
    Monday, April 09, 2012 7:02:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Monday, January 23, 2012
    Which Mother is It?
    Posted by Maureen


    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, December 19, 2011
    Holiday Photos from Your Family Albums
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you to Kim Dawson, Carol Norwood and Fran Jensen for sending in holiday photos from their family albums. 


    Kim Dawson sent me this lovely photo of a family with their Christmas tree.  The child is Elsie Marion Quakenbush (born 1908). She's posed with her mother Ella Baird Quakenbush and her father, Alfred Garfield Quakenbush.  On the back it says "To Grandma with love from us all don't fail to see Elsie's baby doll it looks just like a baby."  I enlarged the picture to look at the doll.

    It is pretty life-like.  It looks like Elsie also received a book "Sing a Song of Sixpence" and a tea set.  Her parent's are proudly posed with a new Victrola so perhaps that was their Christmas present.  Elsie looks about  6 or 7.

    Kim thinks that Alfred's brother George Willis Quackenbush took the photo. He was a photographer in Oxford, New York.

    Carol Norwood submitted an image of her parent's Bill and Cita Jacobs. They are sitting under the tree at Cita's parents home in Hartford, Connecticut. The Jacobs were still newlyweds.  They were married three months prior to Christmas.


    Fran Jensen emailed me this charming studio shot of four children.  Her grandfather, John Roy Tolve Johansen is on the right. His sister Alma sits next to him. She's hugging a china faced doll. The other boy and girl are the Bough's who were the photographer's children. It was taken in Ringsted, Iowa.

    Here's one more picture.  This is one from my non-family collection.
    I don't know the identify of these two boys, but on the back it says "Christmas 1898."  Don't you just love their modified Little Lord Fauntleroy suits.

    Happy Holidays!  If you want to see more Christmas trees, I have a short video on my Vimeo channel.

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | candid photos | children | holiday | men | women
    Monday, December 19, 2011 2:32:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, October 31, 2011
    Trick or Treat in Your Family Album
    Posted by Maureen


    It's Halloween and time for trick or treat.  You might have images of this holiday in your family album.  These two young girls, c. 1920 are dressed in the style popular for the period. On the right the dots on this girl's outfit suggest she's a harlequin.  On the left, her companion is in a short dress with the dots. 

    Department stores advertised that customers could purchase their costumes in the store, then return to have their picture taken in the outfit. Most major stores had a photo studio.  You can submit images of your ancestors in costume by using the "How to Submit Your Photo" tips in the left hand column.

    I've spent the last few years trying to locate images of historic costumes and information on how Halloween was celebrated in the past.  This one is from my small collection.

    I enjoy browsing the pages of's Historic Catalog of the Sears, Roebuck and Co. for costumes. Pick a year and the season and start browsing or use "halloween" as a keyword.

    If you want to learn more about Halloween in a particular year, try reading the newspaper using In the advanced searching tab, enter "Halloween" as a word you want to include and then the date.  I suggest using a span of days, since not all papers ran holiday related items on October 31st.  Most of the advertisements are in the week before that. 

    Have fun exploring the past using the printed materials that were part of ancestral lives. It's like time traveling using your computer.

    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

  • children | holiday | Photo fun | photo postcards
    Monday, October 31, 2011 6:50:39 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, July 12, 2011
    Who's That Girl?
    Posted by Maureen

    Do you want a chance to win a trip for two to Belgium and a $1000 shopping trip to fashion icon Diane Von Furstenberg's boutique? 

    All you have to do is register on the Red Star Line blog and solve a mystery. Anyone know the identity of this girl?

    Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Canada

    The online photo caption is "Young Galician immigrant holding envelope labelled 'Red Star Line.' Saint John, NB. May, 1905."

    Journalist Gretchen Kelly recently interviewed me for the Red Star Line blog, which focuses on this picture. Each week she investigates another angle to the story. By reading her blog, you'll learn about Galician immigration to Canada, the history of the Red Star Line and how Gretchen is trying to solve this picture puzzle.

    She asked how I'd go about determining this girl's identity. As you might expect, I have a few ideas. I'll write a follow-up account once I've tracked down the leads. However, the rules of photo identification are clear whether they're applied to this photo or to your unidentified family image:
    • Never assume:  I haven't seen the original photo, so I can't determine the truthfulness of the caption. The first rule of photo identification combines "never assume" and "don't jump to conclusions."

    • Who wrote the caption? So who wrote this caption and when?  Was it the original photographer or an archivist years later? Believe it or not, handwriting will help you place a caption in a time frame.  Handwriting can vary from generation to generation. What type of pencil or pen was used to write the caption?  If it's in ballpoint, then this caption was probably written after this style of pen became widely available in 1945.

    • Is the date correct? The clues in the caption will help determine if the date could be correct. Read handwriting carefully; it's easy to misinterpret numbers. In this case, there were no Red Star Line ships leaving for New Brunswick in May, 1905, so something is wrong. Is the month wrong or the year incorrect? Or perhaps the whole scene is a promotional setup—the girl came in on a different ship and the photographer gave her a Red Star Line ticket to hold. That's a provocative theory (gasp!).

    • Why was the photograph taken? Photographs were taken of recent immigrants to New Brunswick to promote immigration to western Canada. There's another story behind this picture—the reason for the portrait.

    • Who is she? In addition to this photograph documenting one girl's journey to America, she's someone's relative. Until the picture proof adds up, I wonder about the truthfulness of the whole caption. Could she be an immigrant from a different part of Europe?
    • Where was the picture taken? There isn't much information in the background to place this photo, however there's another photo online of a group arriving in New Brunswick:
    group red
    Notice the wall behind them in this photo from the National Archives of Canada. It's the same as in the first photo. Both images are identified as having been taken in New Brunswick.
    OK, so now you know that I'm the type of person who has to see the proof. However, there are clear clues in the image. The background helps verify where it was taken. 

    The little girl is probably around 6 to 10 years old. Her face still has a very young appearance. She wears her hair back in a neat braid. On the seat beside her is a packet of clothes.

    She has a tidy appearance. Her dress and coat are appropriate for the early 20th century. She has a pinafore over the top of her dress, stockings and well-polished boots. It's an interesting appearance for a young immigrant. 

    Other questions come to mind. Did she immigrate alone? It wasn't that unusual an occurrence. Or did she come with family and the photographer singled her out from the group?

    Genealogists all over the world are hunting for her identity trying to find her in passenger lists. The contest is open to all. 

    I'll let you know what happens and if I discover any new clues. 

    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

  • children | group photos | hairstyles | Immigrant Photos | unusual photos
    Tuesday, July 12, 2011 3:49:53 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, May 31, 2011
    And the Winner Is? And a Runner-up
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you to everyone that contributed pictures to the Family Tree Magazine Photo Contest.   So many great was a tough decision.  I'll be featuring many of your pictures in future columns.

    The winner is (drum roll please):
    contest winneredit.jpg
    Congratulations to J. Hansen!  I'll write more about this picture as soon as I have more details. Here's what I know.  It was found covered in dust in a storage area in her father's company that dates back to 1886.  Can't wait to unravel this one!

    In the meantime, here's another photo submitted for the contest.
    Patricia Manwell thinks that this lovely girl depicts someone in her Gawne family.  They immigrated from the Isle of Man to Australia.   A date for this picture would help Patricia figure out who she is.

    • Reddish brown card stock was extremely popular in the 1880s.
    • The design of her dress is a clue. All those vertical pleats were common in the late 1880s.
    • In the mid-late 1880s, studios invested in props to make settings mimic the outdoors. In this case, fake greenery and a "rock" chair.  
    • This little girl sports short hair.  Perhaps it's a clue to a recent illness. Families often cut off long hair when children were very ill.  Long hair was thought to be physically draining.
    There are family history details that I don't have such as when the family moved to Australia.  This could be very helpful.  I wonder if the photographer Vanheems was related to William Henry Vanheems, who taught optics in Australia. Optics is related to photographic lens. 

    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 | children | hairstyles | Immigrant Photos
    Tuesday, May 31, 2011 4:17:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, May 09, 2011
    A Soldier's Story
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I spent time browsing the Liljenquist Collection on the Library of Congress website. It's a jaw-dropping set of gorgeous Civil War photographs. You can view them online or in person at an exhibit at the Library of Congress.

    Charles Bickford.jpg

    This portrait depicts Charles H. Bickford of Massachusetts as a young boy. As a genealogist, it's difficult for me to see a name on a photograph and not dig a little deeper into a life story.

    The LOC cataloging record provides a few details, while some library research fills in the blanks.
    • It's an ambrotype. The date created field suggests a time frame of 1850-1855, but ambrotypes were patented in 1854.

    • The cataloging record also includes information from a handwritten label in the cased image. It supplies a date of birth (March 1844) and his death date (May 3, 1863).

    • Bickford served with B Company of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. A quick search in a series, Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War compiled by the Adjutant General and published in 1931 (volume 1, page 80), yields even more data. Bickford was a resident of Lowell, Mass., and a machinist when he enlisted at age 20 on May 25, 1861. He died on May 3, 1863, at Chancellorsville, Va. May 3 is considered the bloodiest day of the Battle of Chancellorsville and resulted in the loss of 14,000 Confederate soldiers. General Stonewall Jackson was fatally wounded that day, as well.

    • Searching for vital records for Bickford suggests he was born in New Hampshire. There is a Charles H. Bickford, age 17, living in Strafford County in the 1860 federal census. 
    Telling a soldier's story involves looking at vital records, census records, Civil War material and of course studying the evidence in a family photo.

    In this picture, Bickford is a young boy dressed in a typical suit—buttoned jacket with the collar peeking out, and a large bow at the neck. Born in 1844, it's possible he's about 10-12 years old in this photo. If he were older than that, he'd be wearing a different style of attire. This data suggests the photo was taken between 1854 and 1856.     

    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

  • 1850s photos | children | Civil War
    Monday, May 09, 2011 1:33:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, April 25, 2011
    A Picture Pile-up
    Posted by Maureen

    I love unusual surnames. It's probably because my last name and many of my ancestral surnames often end up on those top 10 lists of popular names.

    Laurie Clement has a great chance to identify the folks in her unidentified image. She thinks this large family group shares the surname of Burkepile.

    All she needs is a date and she's on her way.


    I think this could be an impromptu itinerant photo studio shot. The whole family is standing in front of a white backdrop that looks suspiciously like a sheet. Mom, Dad and seven children stare directly at the camera. There's a single boy in the back row. Finding this family in the census should be possible. 

    The tight dress sleeves and hairstyles suggest a date of circa 1900.  It's a great picture of a family caught on the cusp of a new century. 

    A quick look at the 1900 federal census using HeritageQuest Online (available through many libraries) found families of Burkepiles living in Kansas, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania.  I didn't find any obvious matches, but Laurie and her distant cousins are working on a solution.

    My fingers are crossed!

    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | children | group photos
    Monday, April 25, 2011 8:39:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  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.


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

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


    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.


    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.


    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, March 28, 2011
    Uniforms in the Family
    Posted by Maureen

    It's not too late to enter your ancestral bad hair photos in my blog contest. See details in last week's post. I can't wait until you see what folks sent in! 

    In the meantime, it's time for another photo mystery. This one is a 20th century challenge.

    Nancy Yates sent in a few pictures of her father, taken when he was about 15 years old, between 1930 to 1932. In the first one, he's standing alone wearing a uniform with plain sleeves.


    In the second he's wearing a different uniform with hash marks on the sleeve indicating his rank of corporal. He's standing with his sister.


    The mystery is the uniform. It doesn't look like a Boy Scout uniform. It's too bad I can't read the pin on his hat or the badge on his other sleeve. 

    Nancy knows her Dad once served in the Civilian Conservation Corp as an adult. Men had to be at least 17 years old to serve in the CCC.

    So what uniform is it? I'm not sure. There were several groups for teens in the 1930s. The 4-H Club, the Future Farmers of America and the Junior Birdmen of America are a few prominent groups, but this uniform doesn't represent any of those organizations. A great book on the period is William H. Young and Nancy K. Young's The 1930s (Greenwood Press, $25.00).

    One lead is a group sponsored by the American Legion. They formed the Air Cadets in 1933, to train young men as pilots in case of war.

    Do you have any ideas? I'm still looking.

    1930s photos | children | unusual clothing
    Monday, March 28, 2011 7:12:50 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [12]
    # Monday, February 07, 2011
    Baby Picture Week
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, Genealogy Insider blogger Diane Haddad, gave birth to a beautiful baby. In honor of this, I'm featuring your ancestral baby photos. Thank you for all the submissions.

    estelle baby2.jpg
    Kim Dolce sent in this picture of her grandmother Estelle Miller Moore, who was born May 12, 1911, in Riverside, N.J. Estelle looks like she's about to topple over. 

    Ben  Adolph babies2.jpg
    Linday Bly Holub emailed me this charming picture of her grandfather Benjamin Bly (on the left), born November 1890, in Moberly, Mo., and his baby brother Adolph Bly, born January 1893, in the same town.

    Carol Norwood submitted several photos of three generations of baby pictures. Here are two.
    This is her maternal grandmother, Agnes Catherine Caroline Simon, born in 1896 in Erlangen, Germany. Don't you love her bare feet!


    This is Carol's maternal grandfather, Helmuth Dromer, born in Potsdam, Germany in 1900. Small children of both sexes wore dresses. Carol actually owns pictures of his two older sisters, who as toddlers also posed in this dress sitting in this basket.

    I've seen many different techniques and devices to photograph babies and small children, but one has to wonder about this basket. Cute, but if you look closely you'll notice the basket is on a pedestal. One false move the this tot is on the floor. 

    1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | children
    Monday, February 07, 2011 2:50:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 03, 2011
    First Communion Mystery
    Posted by Diane

    I can tell that a lot of folks looked at their family photographs last week by the number of emails I received. Scannning, identifying and organizing your photos is a great way to start the new year. Remember to scan at no less than 600 dpi and select Tiff as the format. You can always re-size for various uses.

    Let's ease into the year by discussing a photo with religious overtones.


    Beth Hartley submitted this tintype photo with a question: "Is this my great-grandmother or her mother?" Beth's grandmother told her that she thought it depicted one of these two women with a younger brother, but she wasn't sure about the generation.

    When you think you know who's in the photo, start with family history. In this case, Beth's great-grandmother Ellen McHugh was born in 1885, while Ellen's mother, Bridget Murphy McHugh, was born in 1855.

    Photographic formats often help narrow down the time frame. A tintype is a photograph on a thin sheet of iron; they were popular by the late 1850s. The rounded corners on this image strongly suggest that it once occupied a frame.

    Costume provides clues about the occasion. The girl's white dress and veil clearly indicate it's her First Communion. She's even holding a tiny prayer book. It's traditional in Catholic churches to dress girls in white dresses and veils for this event. First Communion dress styles mimic bridal fashions. The details in the white dress are unclear, but the veil suggests a date circa 1890. In this period, bridal veils hung from a small gathering of fabric or flowers on the top of the head. This information definitely rules out Bridget McHugh.

    The average age for a First Communion is around 7. So if this photo depicts Ellen, then it was taken in the early 1890s. Ellen had an older brother born in 1883 and a younger brother born in 1887. The youngster standing next to her would be 5-year-old William. 

    There are always unanswered questions about photos. In this case, I'd love to know why Ellen's older brother John isn't included in this studio shot.

    For more help analyzing old family photos, use Taylor's guide Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs (now on sale at
    1890s photos | children
    Monday, January 03, 2011 2:49:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, December 13, 2010
    Immigrant Clues and Family Stories
    Posted by Maureen

    Poorescan0002 edit.jpg

    Terri Poore and her cousin have a lot of questions about this photo. Who, what, when and where is just the beginning.

    Unfortunately, the original owner of the picture is currently unknown. Terri's cousin received a copy of it years ago and can't remember who gave him the print.

    Terri and her cousin believe the folks in the picture are Felix Horvat (1884-1952), his first wife Sophie (1890-1918) and their daughter Anna 1909-1997).  I agree with this identification.

    There is a long complicated story about this couple. It's very important to write down the oral history of your family because you never know when all the pieces will link up. This photo is a perfect example of how stories and pictures are a natural match.

    First the facts: Sophie's hat in this picture and her coat date the picture. She is very well-dressed in a heavy wool coat, fur collar and an oversize hat known as a toque. Her hat and clothing combined with the birth date of their daughter date this picture to circa 1910. Toques were all the rage at the end of the first decade of the 20th century.

    Her husband wears ethnic dress that identifies him as a resident of Croatia. The family lived in Ljubljujana, Croatia.

    Now here's where it gets interesting. Family stories relate how this couple met. He was a country boy who worked as a coach driver for a wealthy family—the Bahuneks. Their daughter ran away with the coachman!  Sophie, her husband Felix and their daughter Anna immigrated to the United States in 1911 and lived in West Virginia for a time. The Bahuneks followed their daughter and also immigrated. 

    There is a sad twist to this tale. According to family lore, when Sophie gave birth to Terri's grandfather Nicholas in 1912, Sophie's mother was present for the birth. Her mother and the midwife decided she shouldn't have any more children with that "awful man" so they tried to perform a gynecological procedure to prevent more children. 

    The Horvat family moved to Michigan, but Sophie was so ill after the childbirth procedure that Felix allowed her family to move her back to West Virginia so they could care for her. He retained the children. In 1918, Sophie likely died from complications related to that botched procedure.

    Family stories also relate how immediately following her death, her husband Felix and her father had a knife fight to determine the custody of the children. Felix won. He took the children back to Michigan and eventually married the children's caretaker, also named Sophie.

    This photo is the gateway to an amazing family tale. Present in the image is pictorial evidence of the economic difference between the husband and wife. She's very fashionably dressed while he still wears his native dress. She's the city dweller and he's from the country.

    Now Terri is trying to piece together the family history and try to locate living relatives.

    1900-1910 photos | children | hats | Immigrant Photos
    Monday, December 13, 2010 4:47:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, September 27, 2010
    It's Fall and Back to School
    Posted by Maureen

    This week, I've created a short video of photos from school days in the past. You can watch "School Days" and other video shorts on my Vimeo page.

    While the majority of images in "School Days" are from the nation's picture library, aka The Library of Congress, some of the pictures are from my collection of photographs I've purchased.


    One of my favorites is this little girl and a woman in a dotted shirt that dates from around 1900. Without the caption, you'd immediately think this is a mom and her daughter. Not in this case. It's a little girl and her teacher.

    It's evidence that this little girl attended some sort of school (of course this could be her piano teacher). When you're researching your family it's easy to overlook records relating to ancestral childhoods. School records are a great way to find out just where you got your talent in math or in my case, my poor handwriting <smile>. You can learn more about school records here and don't forget to use the search box at the top right of the Family Tree Magazine site to search our archive of articles.

    Got a mystery photo? Demystify it with help from Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.

    1900-1910 photos | children | women
    Monday, September 27, 2010 9:15:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, April 19, 2010
    Birth and Death in the Family Album: Readers Respond
    Posted by Maureen

    Joy and sadness often go hand in hand in family photo collections.  This week I'll show off some photos that readers sent me.  Be warned....the last two pictures depict disturbing images.


    Susan Roose thinks the photo above depicts William (died November 22, 1877) and Daniel Hunt (died November 30, 1877). They were both just a few months older than one year.  Notice the woman under the cloth. She's holding them still. These two babies look very healthy here.

    twinsC07 Alston girls (3).jpg

    Elizabeth Handler emailed this ambrotype of Marion Helen Alston (1850-1885) and her twin sister Christina. The back of the image states that it was framed by J.J. Gillespie Co. Fine Arts. Gillespie was a famous frame shop in Pittsburgh.

    Violet Olive Victoria  Victor Clements (2).jpg

    Bonnie Bileski of Winnipeg, Manitoba sent this snapshot of Violet Clements, her grandmother Olive Clements (back, right) and the twins, Victor and Victoria (born July 1, 1899).

    Last week I told you I had some sad pictures from Judy Linnebach's family collection. Since so many folks e-mailed me to see them, I'll share them here.

    deformed baby (4).jpg

    Judy thinks that this picture depicts Freida Kohler (Nov. 7, 1907 -July 6, 1924). The cause of death was congenital hydrocephalus.

    dead guy (3).jpg
    Judi has no idea who this man is. All that's certain is that he's deceased and that he was photographed in St. Louis. Jay Ruby's book, Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America (out of print, but available used) is the best guide to this topic.


    Jackie McGuire sent in this picture with a heartbreaking story. A family story relates the tragedy of Elsietta Burns: "She was a much-beloved little girl, they say, but one day she was outside playing under the cherry tree and eating lots of cherries. She didn't know to spit out the pits and they killed her before the family could do anything for her."

    1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | children | men | unusual photos
    Monday, April 19, 2010 3:55:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, April 12, 2010
    Final Words on the Triplets
    Posted by Diane

    For the last two weeks I've written about a photo owned by Judy Linnebach. It depicts a couple and their three triplets. In the first installment, Motherhood Times Three, I discussed multiple births in the 19th century. They were a lot more common than I thought! 

    In last week's installment, Mother Hubbard, I provided information on the family and their attire. I forgot to mention that in the 19th century it was common practice to obtain photos of deceased children. In this instance, the family asked an experienced photographer to take a photo of their babies even though one of them was deceased.

    Additional research on the family added a mystery. There were two surviving infants, but only one lived to be an adult. I wondered what happened to George Boll. Judy was able to send me a funeral card for him.

    Boll Georg death013 (2).jpg
    I don't read German, so if a reader could translate the text and enter it in the comments, I'd really appreciate it.

    If you want to know more about funeral cards, genealogist Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens has an online article on the topic. Geneablogger Dee Welborn has a great blog on these cards, Funeral Cards and Genealogy.  Fascinating stuff!  If you thought they were just death announcements, check out Dee's site. You can learn a lot about your family from these seemingly simple cards. 

    Judy Linnebach also sent me a photo of an unidentified dead ancestor and a picture of a child who died from hydroencephalitis. If you want to see them, leave me a comment and I'll post them.

    In the meantime, please e-mail me photos of multiple births before 1900.

    1880s photos | children | unusual photos
    Monday, April 12, 2010 4:42:14 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]
    # Monday, April 05, 2010
    Mother Hubbard
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I featured Judy Linnebach's picture of a 19th-century couple and their triplets. If you have a photo of a pre-1900 set of triplets, I'd love to post it in this space. Just about everyone who commented mentioned a multiple birth in their family. I can't wait to see the photos—you can e-mail them to me

    Here's the rest of the story about Judy's photo.


    When she wrote to me, she asked if this could be John Basilius Boll, his wife Barbara Platzer Boll and their children. According to her research, the couple married in 1879 and had two children before they had a set of twins in 1883. Is it possible that one of the triplets died and the death went unrecorded? Let's examine the evidence.

    The picture is a card photograph measuring 2.5x4 inches. It's the size of a carte de visite. These small card photos were first introduced into the United States in 1859 and remained popular for decades. The thin red line border was first common in the late 1860s.

    Tobias and Co. took this photo. On the back of the image is the name of the company and key details about their location and practice.

    triplets2 back.jpg

    What I find interesting is the first sentence of the second paragraph: "To Mothers and heads of Families, we wish to call their attention to the frequent trouble of obtaining good and permanent Pictures of Babies." Tobias & Co. had a patented process to guarantee success.

    To locate more information on Tobias, I contacted the St. Louis Public Library and spoke with librarians in both the local history collection and in fine arts. The company appeared in 1878 and later city directories, but by the mid-1880s Henry Tobias was a printer.  It was unclear from census data if this was the same man who ran the photo studio.

    This photo was found in a Bible once owned by Judy's father's maternal grandmother, Lena Wilhelms. Given that it wasn't directly connected to the Boll family, I asked Judy to research all the branches of the family to see if there was another multiple birth. Last week, we learned that multiple births were hereditary, so it's quite possible that this could depict someone else in her family. No luck! 

    There was another possibility though: Lena's daughter Emma was a genealogist and collected information on the Boll family. It's likely that she placed the pictures in the Bible for safe-keeping.

    The clothing clues in this picture are fascinating. The husband wears a simple work shirt (the Bolls were farmers). The wife's dress is barely visible except for a plain neckline and lace-trimmed cuffs. My grandmother always wore a "house dress" when she was home, and I wondered if the same wasn't true in the 1880s. While this woman's dress isn't the current 1880s dress that you see if fashion encyclopedias, there was a wide variety of dresses for women. 

    In the 1880s, a new style of dress became popular for pregnant women. It was called a Mother Hubbard. Loose-fitting and comfortable, these cotton dresses could be made with a pattern available from a catalog. The mother in this photo had likely just given birth—these are very small infants. With three babies to breast-feed, a comfortable dress like a Mother Hubbard would be perfect attire. They often featured trim at the cuffs, just like you see here.

    They were so comfy that many other women wore them belted in summer to stay cool. It was a controversial choice. In the Oct. 26, 1884, New York Times, an article titled, "The Mother Hubbard in Chicago" talked about variations of the dress being worn by women in one neighborhood and how one particular woman had been arrested for it. It ended on a reassuring note: "Ladies who wear Mother Hubbard dresses on the street need not be alarmed. There is no ordinance in Chicago against the wearing of them, although such an ordinance is in vogue in the town of Morris, Ill."

    According to Joan Severa in Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans & Fashion, 1840-1900 (Kent State University Press), these dresses were meant for indoor use. They were house dresses, not to be worn outdoors.

    So could this picture depict the Bolls and their children in 1883?  The evidence is conflicting.
    • In late December 1883, the Bolls had twin boys baptized—Charles and George.
    • In the 1900 census, the family is listed except for George. I have to double-check with Judy on his whereabouts. When asked, Barbara said she'd given birth to six children but that only five were still living. Could this refer to a deceased George? There were five children currently living with the parents. Why not mention another child if one of the triplets died?
    • Could another multiple birth in the family have gone unrecorded? It's possible.
    Right now it appears that this photo documents the Boll family.
    • The mother's dress dates from the 1880s.
    • The photographer could still be taking images in his printing business (if, of course, it's the same man)
    • There are no other documented multiple births in the family. 
    • Judy has one documented multiple birth—the twin boys.
    If this is the Bolls and their babies, then one of these triplets is likely deceased. This was a complicated case.

    It's a haunting image.  Next week I'll be back with some other unusual pictures from Judy's family!

    1880s photos | children | unusual photos | women
    Monday, April 05, 2010 5:40:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, March 29, 2010
    Motherhood Times Three
    Posted by Maureen

    Judy Linnebach sent me this haunting photo of a couple and their three babies. That's right, triplets! I don't have all the answers yet, I'm still working on it. I'll post the second installment next week.

    This image has obviously been enhanced by the photographer—the man's beard, her hair and all their eyes have additional dark ink added to them. The baby on the right has eyes dotted in. Blue or light green eyes tend to appear very light in early photographs so it's not unusual to see this type of enhancement.

    Since I'm still gathering facts about this picture, the family and the photographer, I have some general impressions but no real answers yet. 
    I have, however, learned a lot about multiple births in the 19th century.

    A century before fertility treatments made multiple births relatively common, it was unusual to bear more than two babies at once. According to George Milby Gould and Walter Lytle Pyle, authors of Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, published in 1904 (available on Google Books), most multiple births in the 19th century were to women in the age range of 30 to 34, and heredity was a factor. The odds of having a multiple birth varied by country. In Germany, for instance, it was one in 7,910.

    They cite examples of multiple births including a Mrs. Page of Texas, who gave birth to quadruplets in 1890 and was such a sensation that the family toured the following cities: Denver, St. Joseph, Omaha, Nebraska City, and then Boston. She'd already given birth to three sets of twins.  I'd love to see a picture of this family! There were 14 children.

    Judy wrote that she "hoped this photo is enough to pique my interest." Absolutely! It's a complicated story, so bear with me while we sort it out.

    children | unusual photos
    Monday, March 29, 2010 4:01:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [9]
    # Monday, February 22, 2010
    A Success Story: A Graduation Class Identified
    Posted by Maureen

    Months ago, I wrote a Photo Detective column for the March 2010 issue of Family Tree Magazine called "The Graduates." It was about the chance discovery of a photograph stuck behind the lath in a bathroom wall in Sandi Alex's house in Camas, Washington.   This story has a happy ending!
    Mott Camas WA Pic (2).jpg
    Sandi told an elderly neighbor who'd lived on their street her whole life about the photo. That neighbor thought maybe the picture once belonged to the Mott Family who'd built Sandi's house.

    Being a genealogist, Sandi wanted to reunite the picture with a member of that family so she posted a query on genealogy message boards including the Mott surname forum on Judy Strong saw that posting and contacted Sandi. Judy's paternal relatives were the Mott's. They'd lived in that house until 1959.

    I knew from their attire, props and pose that it was a graduation picture and I worked with Sandi and Judy to try to figure out the names of the students and the teacher.  We also tried to discover why the image was in the house since it didn't appear to feature any of the Mott's. We had a couple of ideas, but nothing definite.

    The final identification came from a Family Tree Magazine subscriber. Janet Cosgrove of Yamhill, Oregon wrote to the editors. "Today I received the March 2010 issue in the mail and was flipping thru the pages, when I saw "The Graduates" picture and was shocked to see my maternal grandmother in it."  We were equally surprised. 

    Janet not only knew her grandmother, she had a date and the names of the people in the image. Amazing! Her great-uncle had listed all their names on the back of a copy of the original picture.

    From left to right are Harold Peterson, Esther Jones, Marie Schrohe, Mabel Nielsen, and Edith Anderson (the teacher).  Janet's maternal grandmother taught this small class at the Constance School in Green Valley, Waupaca, Wisconsin. This is the graduating class of 1915.

    It's so interesting when photos are suddenly identified. I wonder if the family living in the house ever missed the picture. It didn't depict any of the Mott's but Janet thought that perhaps Esther Jones was the daughter of the widow Sarah Rodwell Jones that I mentioned in the magazine article. She was related to Mrs. Emma Mott.

    This photo is a great story--it's about youth, young love and family. Turns out that the teacher ended up teaching for only two years. She married the older brother of her student Harold Peterson.

    Case Closed!

    1910s photos | children | group photos
    Monday, February 22, 2010 7:09:43 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, February 15, 2010
    Friends and Neighbors
    Posted by Maureen

    A couple of weeks ago, I presented several lectures at the San Luis Obispo Genealogical Society conference.  I had great time and got to look at some interesting pictures. Roma Miller showed me this snapshot.


    This was in Roma's box of photos from her step-grandfather's family mixed in with other family photos. On the back it says, "Caroline 1927." But who's Caroline and where was it taken?

    Look carefully at this image. See the shadow of the photographer at the bottom? It's a great shot of someone taking a picture of this woman. his or her arms are raised, holding the camera. 

    Next look to the right of Caroline—there is a child. This little kid wears overalls and has his head bowed down. The short pants signify a boy, as does the haircut. This "baby cut" was similar to what we'd call a bowl cut—ear-length on the sides and bangs.

    Caroline wears a simple daytime dress. She's probably busy taking care of the her child and the housework. The style of this dress makes me wonder if she could be pregnant. It's very loose-fitting. Her hair is one of the short cuts popular in the 1920s. I think it looks a lot like either something called the "Senorita" or the "Broadway."

    The house is a two-story dwelling with a bow window in the style of the late 19th century. It's a Victorian-style house with a tall picket fence in the front and a wrought iron gate. In the background, a latticework wall surrounds a doorway with stairs.

    Roma and I talked about ways to identify this woman.
    • Ask the owner: The child is about the right age to be her step-grandfather—could this be him and his mother? Nope. He doesn't recognize the woman.
    • Post it online: I'm helping out by featuring it in this column. Roma has also uploaded the picture to 
    • Contact extended family: Roma sent out a mass e-mail to all her relatives. Success!
    A cousin identified the woman and the location. It was a neighbor of Roma's maternal great-aunt when they lived in Oakdale, Calif. A quick check of the 1930 federal census should result in a last name (as long as Caroline remained in the area). Roma may never know who took this picture, but it could be someone related to her great-aunt.

    On the surface it's such a simple portrait of a young mother, but when you add in the child, the house and the photographer, it's the beginning of a story and evidence of a friendship between neighbors.

    There is one other reason I love this picture. It's a perfect example of how family collections of photos contain more than just blood relatives. There are usually friends and neighbors mixed in as well.

    1920s photos | children | house/building photos | women
    Monday, February 15, 2010 4:03:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, February 08, 2010
    The Search for Annie Moore
    Posted by Maureen

    If you don't know who Annie Moore is, you haven't been following Megan Smolenyak's research on her.  For several years, Megan has been intrigued by her. Annie Moore was the first person to step foot on Ellis Island when it opened Jan. 1, 1892—a pretty significant first. There wasn't much known about her until Megan started digging. 

    You know how research can lead to one thing and another? Well, that's what happened with Annie. Before long, Megan found two of Annie's relatives with images purported to show this mysterious woman. They claimed they had seen a photo of her at Ellis Island.

    It's a long story. I've featured the research done so far on both Annie and the pictures on my own blog last week. Megan and I have been trying to verify the identity of the image of three children and figure out where it was taken.

    There are folks on both sides of this photo problem. Megan and I have to do more research, and we'd love to see the original picture.

    Rather than link to all the research in this column, you can view the image and click through the links provided in my blog. It's a complicated piece of photo research.

    Comments are graciously accepted! 

    1890s photos | children | Immigrant Photos | photo-research tips
    Monday, February 08, 2010 7:01:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, December 21, 2009
    Photos with Santa
    Posted by Diane

    8d23937u santa.jpg

    A simple question from my editor, the Genealogy Insider Diane Haddad, has me scrambling for the answer. She asked, "What's the history of having your picture taken with Santa?" Whoa! These iconic kid pictures are in a lot of family albums, and judging from the lines at mall Santas, having a photo with this Christmas symbol remains popular. 

    But when did the first kid have a picture taken with Santa? It's a good question.

    Out on a gift-buying journey I found a cute little book, A Century of Christmas Memories, 1900-1999 by the editors of the Peter Pauper Press (Peter Pauper Press). In it is a picture of baseball great Babe Ruth playing Santa at a benefit in December 1947. 

    The photo featured above was taken in 1942 at Macy's Department Store in New York, and now is in the collection of the Library of Congress.  Accompanying information mentions there were two Santas, concealed from one another, so that the children wouldn't be upset. Each child got to talk with Santa and received a piece of candy.

    The tradition must be older than that. I turned to Google for help. A quick search turned up a site that mentioned that the first department store Santa was a R.H. Macy's in New York in 1870, but it didn't mention photographs.

    On the History Channel website, there's a history of many things relating to Christmas—including a short article on mall Santas. According to that piece, in 1841, a Philadelphia store featured a life-size Santa model.

    I thought a newspaper search might help. I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, but I did locate an obituary for Charles W. Howard, who was considered the "Nation's No. 1 Santa Claus." According to the obituary in the May 2, 1966, New York Times, Howard began his career as Santa when just a child, and then in 1937, he opened a school for Santas. He taught "psychology, costuming, makeup, whisker grooming, voice-modulation and ho-ho-ho-ing."

    Howard said "You've got to know the character you're playing. It's so real to me sometimes that I can feel the reindeer breathing on my cheek."

    While I don't have a definitive answer yet on Diane's question, I'm still working on it. I have some leads, but need to contact some folks in the know. They haven't returned my calls in this busy season....they must be out shopping.

    Happy Holidays!!

    children | Photo fun
    Monday, December 21, 2009 5:14:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Monday, November 02, 2009
    Family Stories: A Photo at a Time
    Posted by Maureen

    Sharon Pike wrote to me with a question about the clothing on the children in this photo, "Do you think the photographer brought clothing as props for the children?" 

    It's a really common query. In her e-mail, along with her question, was the story of this family. Since I believe every photo tells a story. I couldn't resist sharing this lovely bit of family history.


    Thomas "Tom" Schuler and his wife Matilda "Tilly" Mueller (Miller) sit on the stoop of their Louisville, Ky., house with their first four children. The two children flanking the parents are Leo Thomas Schuler on the left and his twin sister Verena Marie Schuler on the far right. The little boy on Dad's lap is Edward Joseph Schuler, and the baby is Louise Matilda Schuler. The presence of Louise dates the picture to the summer of 1899; she was born May 19 of that year. 

    To answer Sharon's question, I don't think the photographer brought their clothes with him. Photographers often carried props and some accessories, but not a wagon full of clothes.

    The kids and their parents are dressed in typical fashion for the turn of the century. Leo's wide-collared shirt and tie were worn by boys across the United States. None of the children is dressed for play; they're all wearing clothes for a special occasion—the family photo. Dad's the informal one: In this time frame, men wore coats in all types of weather, so it's a bit unusual that he's not wearing a jacket for this formal portrait. It was probably taken on a really hot summer day.

    Each photo also tells the "backstory" of the folks depicted. A picture becomes a symbol to remember these family members. According to Sharon, Tom Schuler was born in Switzerland and immigrated with his family in 1870. As a young man, Tom and all the men in the family went back to Switzerland for a visit. It was a timely event. On the return trip to the United States, a young woman named Tilly Mueller was also en route to America with a work contract for a job as a maid. 

    This shipboard romance has a happy ending. Sharon told me that Tom went to the house where Tilly worked and helped her climb out the window so they could elope. They eventually had seven children.

    Telling the story of a picture and a family requires digging for names and dates, but family history and oral tradition fit together with the visual elements of a picture to tell the tale. Next week I'll be back with some tips on how to write your own photo story.

    Thank you, Sharon, for sharing!

    1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | children | group photos
    Monday, November 02, 2009 4:06:57 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, August 17, 2009
    Spotlight: Denver Public Library Picture Collection
    Posted by Maureen

    It's over 90 degrees in my town today. The heat and humidity make me start thinking about winter.

    With months to go before the snow, I did the next best thing. I looked at pictures of cooler temperatures I found on the Denver Public Library Web site.

    All right. Not all of the images depict winter scenes, but if you have any family in the Denver area, this is one collection you have to consult. The library has about a 100,000 images online and that's just the tip of their very large collection.

    The National Endowment for the Humanities gave the Denver Public Library a grant in 1997, and since then, the library has been quickly adding material to this gorgeous digital archive. To bring the "chill" of winter into my office, I began by browsing through images of the 10th Mountain Division, then wandered over to the picture galleries of children and scenes of the Denver area. It's armchair traveling at it's best.

    While you're exploring the site, check out the links to the electronic finding aids. They're fully searchable.

    The Denver Public Library isn't the only library with such collections. Public libraries all over the country usually have picture and manuscript collections. Their librarians are custodians of local history. I strongly advise you to ask about the holdings of your local library.

    I'd also like to send a big thank you to James Jeffreys of the Western History and Genealogy Department of the Denver Public Library for his help with an Photo Detective article slated for the December 2009 Family Tree Magazine.

    children | house/building photos | Military photos | photo-research tips
    Monday, August 17, 2009 7:38:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, August 11, 2009
    Pictures Without Provenance
    Posted by Maureen

    Hilda Barton sent me this lovely photo of a young girl with the subject line: "No Idea Who This is..." It's a picture without provenance.

    unknown girl.jpg

    I've written about provenance before. It's the history of ownership of a photograph or other object. It's easy to underestimate the value of knowing the previous owner of a picture, but this is actually one of the keys to figuring out who's in an unidentified picture.

    Start by asking the following questions:
    • Who owned the picture before me? 
    • Did the photograph hang on the wall in relative's house? 
    • Was it loose in an album or on a page with other relatives?
    These questions can determine which branch of the family owned the image and bring you one step closer to putting a name with face. But remember, the photo could show a friend's child—not a relative at all. Facial similarities to people in identified photos may help.

    Then answer the next set of questions:
    • Where was it taken? Look for a photographer's name and address on the image. Then consult your family history to see who lived in the area.
    • How old is the person?  In this case, it's a young girl, probably less than 5 years old.
    • When was it taken? In 1916, The Ladies Home Journal published a short photo essay on "Arranging Your Little Girl's Hair." Younger children wore narrow bows, like this youngster. Her short bobbed hair was popular around 1919.
    If Hilda can answer these questions, she can consult her family tree and make a short list of who's the right age to be in this picture.

    On a side note, a fascinating new book by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo is called Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art (Penquin Press, $26.95). It's amazing how one man could dupe the art world with falsified documentation. I couldn't put it down.

    1910s photos | children
    Tuesday, August 11, 2009 12:11:47 AM (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).


    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]
    # Monday, May 04, 2009
    Photographing Children in Our Ancestors' Day
    Posted by Maureen

    In honor of Mother's Day, I'm including a short piece on photographing of children from Rhode Island photographers William Coleman and Orville Remington. They were business partners in their studio from 1867 to 1883. 

    During their first year, the men published a booklet advising potential customers how to dress and pose for their pictures. They also include practical advice for parents on getting pictures of their children. I find some of it quite funny and hope you do, too.
    Many photographers dislike taking children. It is true, they are sometimes troublesome, and the result uncertain; but again, they are so often easy and graceful, and their pure complexions give such delicate half-tones, that some of the finest pictures are those of children, and no artist seeking after excellence would forego, even from choice, the oportunity they afford.

    For very young children, it is necessary to choose a fine day, and the best light, which is usually in the forenoon.

    Avoid giving or mentioning sweets to them. Do not play or fuss too much with them. Generally a child will sit best if left entirely to the operator.
    The last bit of advice is still true today <grin>. Here are some pictures of "hidden mothers" (or photographer's assistants) who often appear—partially—in old pictures of babies.

    Ancestories blogger Miriam Robbin Midkiff sent in this adorable photo (above). She writes:
    Attached is a photo of my husband's maternal grandmother, Leona Mary MARTIN (on left) and her twin, Lee Joseph MARTIN, taken c. 1907 in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. If you look closely at the left side of Leona's gown and the right side of Lee's gown, you'll see evidence that someone (or a couple of someones) are sitting out of sight, holding the children on the sofa.  The twins would have been about a year old (they were born 17 Dec. 1906). The back says "For Grandpa and Grandma". Only their maternal grandparents, Isaac and Rebecca (HEWITT) LUKE were still living by the time they were born. I imagine this photo was a Christmas gift.
    These close-ups show the odd folds in the children's gowns—it looks like they're concealing grown-ups' hands:


    Donna Richmond sent this picture (below) titled "child of L.C. Hataway, Black Creek, La." At teh baby's waist, you can clearly see the hands of a woman hidden under the rug.

    Here's one more picture from my collection of unidentified photos of hidden women. It dates from the late 1860s. Don't you just love the hands holding the baby's head still?

    Happy Mother's Day!

    children | women
    Monday, May 04, 2009 2:35:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, April 06, 2009
    Why the Long Faces in Old Photos?
    Posted by Maureen

    Every so often I bump into a 19th century photo in which the subjects are grinning. It's a rare event. Occasionally, you see a Mona Lisa smile, but it's difficult to locate an image from the 19th century where folks actually showed teeth the way we do today. So, you're probably wondering—why the long face in most pictures?

    In the beginning, I imagine that sitters were nervous in front of the camera. It was new, and having your picture taken was an uncomfortable procedure.

    Look closely at your early photographs and see if you can spot a posing device such as a wooden stand behind the subjects' feet. This device sometimes extended as far up as the head and had clamps around a person's waist or head to keep him still for the long exposure time. Would you feel like smiling?

    In this 1870s tintype, you can see a chair with the adjustable back. This man holds the the chair back, but if you look closely at his feet, you can see a wooden brace stand.


    You can learn more about photographic patents and these tools in Janice G. Schimmelman's American Photographic Patents 1840-1880: The Daguerreotype & Wet Plate Era (Carl Mautz, $25.00). Unfortunately, I don't own a picture of a full clamping device. Anyone got one to share?

    I have a small collection of women and babies I call "hidden mothers." Women hid under blankets and rugs to keep their babies still for the camera.  In this photo, a mother or a photographer's assistant braces the toddler for the picture.


    There were also devices to hold babies that look like medieval instruments of torture.

    Let's not forget another reason individuals didn't smile for the photographer: dental care. Forget cosmetic dentistry—few folks had a full set of pearly whites. In fact, dentistry was a new profession in the mid-19th century. The online Encyclopedia Britannica has a short article on the history of dental care.

    If you have a picture of a "hidden mother," a smiling ancestor, or a photo that includes a posing device, email it to me and I'll post it in this space. Both of the images above are from my research picture collection.

    1870s photos | children | men | photo backgrounds | women
    Monday, April 06, 2009 5:26:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [7]
    # Tuesday, February 10, 2009
    Pets in the Family on YouTube
    Posted by Maureen

    It's not hard to believe that the three installments of this blog on ancestors' adorable pets were among the most read. After all, it's family history from a different perspective—pets in the family. Since this week is the Westminster Dog Show, I thought I'd try a different presentation method for the photos.

    I've received a few more pictures for this album, but instead of posting them individually, I incorporated them into a video.

    I'm going to tweak it some more and see if I can boost the quality. I produced it in high definition but uploading it to YouTube compressed the files resulting in some blurring.

    Just in case you missed the series: 

    Pets in Pictures

    An Album of Ancestors' Family Pets

    Pet Photos: Our Ancestors Loved Their Dogs, Too!

    I'd like to thank everyone who sent in pictures! 

    (For more genealogy videos, see the Family Tree Magazine YouTube channel.)

    BTW—I have a new e-newsletter that lists my speaking schedule,and contains a link to the Photo Detective video podcast. It's absolutely free. Sign up is on my Web site.

    1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | 1920s photos | candid photos | children | men | Pets | Videos | women
    Tuesday, February 10, 2009 2:13:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 26, 2009
    Pets in Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    For weeks the media have been focused on which breed of dog our new First Family would pick for their family pet. Turns out only two presidents have never had pets in the White House. 

    You can read all about famous presidential pets in this article on the Mental Floss blog, from Calvin Coolidge's pygmy hippo (no joke!) to Franklin Roosevelt's adorable terrier named Fala.

    I'm bringing this series of pet photos to an end with these final three pictures. The two previous installments can be viewed on this blog: An Album of Ancestor's Pets and Pet Photos: Our Ancestor's Loved Their Dogs Too.

    Carol Norwood sent in one of her favorite family pictures. It was taken in Gottingen, Germany in 1892 and shows the Agricola family. Agnes Agricola and Hermann Simon (Carol's great-grandparents) are seated in the center of the front row.

    pet1892Agricolas01 (2).jpg

    Claudia submitted a picture of her mother tending geese. She told me that her mother always said they would chase and bite her. She estimates this picture was taken circa 1933-1935.

    petpicturesbyclaudia 301.jpg

    One other reader sent an image for posting here. It depicts her grandfather's older sister Margaretha Petersen, known to the family as Maggie, with their pet dog. The dog's name wasn't recorded. Maggie was born in 1888.  According to the submission, Maggie was the family "pet" herself, the only daughter until her sister was born in 1899.

    The red discoloration is due to dye transferring from a paper sleeve to the image.


    Anyone have a clue about the breed of this last dog?

    Thank you for sharing all these pictures.

    1890s photos | 1930s photos | children | men | Pets
    Monday, January 26, 2009 7:07:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, January 19, 2009
    An Album of Ancestors' Family Pets
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you to everyone who sent a photo of a pet in the family! This week, I'd like to share what was e-mailed to me. I'm so glad that each picture came with a story, too. This was a lot of fun!

    Jim Musso wrote "First, this is my mom with her family's pet pig, Spud. Mom grew up on a farm in Sheboygan, Wis.; she was born in 1925, so this photo must be from the early 1930s."


    He continued, "according to Mom, Spud would only eat from the hands of family members, and preferred standing on a chair with his front hooves while being fed. She recalls Spud walking under the kitchen table and carrying the table on his back as he walked away. My grandparents, Vincent and Hattie Fee, obviously liked animals.

    In the foreground is the family's dog, Jigs, no doubt waiting for a morsel to fall his way. Jigs preferred travelling in a wheelbarrow, as can be seen in the second photo."


    Bethany Klus wrote that the photo below is "a cabinet card-style photo from an album of photos taken in Alpena, Michigan from the late 1800s. Most of the photos are unlabeled, including the one I'm sending to you. The dog in my photo could be siblings with the one in the blog photo, they look that similar."


    I have to agree that it definitely is a Terrier, possibly a Cairn Terrier although they tend to have darker fur (I'm a veterinarian when I'm not a genealogist!).

    "The second photo," she added, "is my great-grandfather Royal Frederick Flock who was born in 1892 in Edenville, Mich. It was probably taken in the early 1920s when he lived in Detroit. With him is the pet cat."


    Not all the pet pictures submitted show a real, live pet. Kathy Amoroso wrote that the photo below is, "my grandmother and her family. She's the one on the fake pig. They are in Germany in 1913 and this is from one of those postcard photos."


    I'll be back next column with a couple more!

    children | group photos | men | Pets
    Monday, January 19, 2009 4:46:12 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, July 14, 2008
    Finding Family Photos on the Web
    Posted by Maureen

    A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how one genealogist created a short video about her online photo discovery. I was so intrigued by her effort that I decided to try putting together a short piece with images depicting flags.  It's one of my collecting areas—I can't turn down a picture of the personification of flags and other American symbols. You can watch the video on Roots Television. It was only my second attempt at movie-making, so don't be too harsh.

    One of the photos I included came from the Library of Congress and serves as a good example of how family photos can also represent history.  It's a gorgeous stereo view of a young girl dressed as a symbolic figure.


    According to the cataloging record, this image is Fontinelle Weller posed as Columbia, taken on March 13, 1873, by F.G. Weller of Littleton, N.H. 

    The 1870 census provides additional details. The girl's name was actually Fontanella A. Weller and F.G. was her father Frank G., a photographer. (You can find this record using the following citation: 1870 U.S. census. Grafton County, New Hampshire, population schedule, Littleton, p. 567, dwelling 170, family 191, Frank G. Weller citing National Archives microfilm publication M 593, roll 841.)

    I used my Boston Public Library card to find Fontana on the subscription database Heritage Quest, but you can also locate her using

    The depicting of individuals as symbols of America goes back to the founding of this country. Fontanella has a serious expression on her face while holding the flag. Her white Roman-style dress with a crown identifies her as "Columbia, Mother of the Republic."

    In the late 18th and early 19th century, Columbia was a woman, but as seen here, in the mid-to later 19th century, she became younger. You can read more about American symbolism in David Hackett Fischer's Liberty and Freedom: A Visual History of America's Founding Ideas ( Oxford, $50).

    If you haven't searched the Library of Congress catalog of prints and photographs, try it and see if you can find images of the members of your family. Anyone out there related to Fontanella?  According to FamilySearch, she married Henry Fitch on June 13, 1890.

    If you've located family photos on the Library of Congress site, let me know by posting a comment below.

    1870s photos | children | props in photos
    Monday, July 14, 2008 8:39:54 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, June 16, 2008
    Sisters or Mother and Daughter?
    Posted by Maureen

    A reader named Judy sent me a picture mystery that's a lot like choosing the answer to a multiple choice question—a, b or c. This makes my brain and eyes hurt. Here goes:

    • On the back is written Great Grandma Frances Huffman.  Huffman was born in 1838.
    • In a different handwriting on the back someone wrote, Nira. There were two Niras in the family: Frances Huffman's mother, born about 1817, and a sister, born in 1859.
    • Frances Huffman had a daughter in 1856.
    In case you're confused, both Huffman and her mother were giving birth to children in the 1850s. Huffman was 18 when her own daughter was born; her mother was 42 when she had Nira.

    So who's in this picture? That's the quandry. The wide lace collar and beads suggest it was taken in the mid-to-late 1850s. The caption on the back suggests the woman is Huffman, but if it's really her and her about-2-year-old daughter, then it's an odd picture. 

    In 1858, cased images such as daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and even tintypes were available, but paper prints weren't common. Note the gray cardboard used as backing and the circular shape to the portrait—I think this is a copy of an earlier image. The blurring of the portrait suggests the photographer shot the copy through the glass covering the original picture.

    What about the additional caption mentioning Nira? Unless this is a picture of Huffman with her much younger sibling, that's probably a misidentification.

    I'm not sure all the pieces of this puzzle are in place yet. I don't think the mother in this picture looks like she's in her 40s, but genetics and illness are just two factors affecting the aging process. Another picture of either Huffman or her mother wouldhelp  confirm the woman's identification.

    1850s photos | children | women
    Monday, June 16, 2008 10:33:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 05, 2008
    Curly Locks: A Trend Revealed
    Posted by Maureen

    I asked for it. I posted a request for images of curly-headed tots and now I've got several. Thank you!!

    They confirm my hypothesis about boys and hair. It appears that in the early 20th century, there was a trend—little boys with long hair and hair bows. They look just like their sisters. What's a genealogist to do to tell them apart? 

    Family traditions, oral histories and good old-fashioned genealogical research are the only ways to tell the boys from the girls in these cases. Don't jump to conclusions when you see a bow in this period—you might be wrong. Add up the kids in the family, ask older relatives if they know who's who, and try to match up their ages to kids in the photo using census returns and other documents.

    Here's an image Esther Thompson sent me: 

    Her emails says it all "This is a picture of my great-grandparents William and Ida Johnson, and the boy in the front with the curls (and bow in his hair) is my grandfather Andrew Clyde Johnson, born in 1897. I got this picture from my Dad's sister and when I asked her who the little girl was, she said, 'that little girl is your grandfather.' I couldn't believe it."

    Here's a close-up. Enjoy!

    050608 child.jpg

    1900-1910 photos | children | group photos
    Monday, May 05, 2008 4:26:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, April 28, 2008
    Family Portraits: Boy or Girl?
    Posted by Maureen

    Elva Martin sent me this picture to help settle a family reunion disagreement.


    See the child in the second row on the far right? The one with a bow in the hair? Do you think this is a boy or a girl?

    The picture is an example of confusing details even when you know the name of everyone in a photo.

    Martin's clan is clear about this being the Peter Mower family. They even have a date for the picture, 1910.

    It's that troublesome child causing the disagreement. "Petter" Mower, his wife and their nine children appear in the 1910 census for Saugerties, NY. Their oldest, Harry (age 16) stands proudly in the back. Leona (3) sits on her father's lap while baby Marion is with Mom.

    The rest of the boys are Leory (15), Arnold (13), Adelbert (11), Orie (10), Louis (7) and Everett (5). Orie is supposed to be the child with the bow, but did boys wear bows in the their hair and long curls?  The answer is, sometimes!

    I know I've written columns about the ways boys and girls wore their hair parted—boys on the side and girls down the center—but there are always exceptions. Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1886 book, Little Lord Fauntleroy, featured a main character named Cedric whose mother dressed him in a "black velvet suit, with a lace collar, and with love-locks."  You can read the whole text for free on the Project Gutenberg site.  But Burnett didn't start the trend, she only popularized it.

    Throughout the centuries, there have been mothers who couldn't bear to cut the gorgeous curls from their little boys' heads. It appears Orie's mom couldn't either. Of all the children in the portrait, Orie resembles her the most.

    He has her mouth, eyes, nose and even the same-shape face. Perhaps he was her favorite. It's impossible to know, unless there's a family story about Orie's place in his mother's affections.

    Despite the family disagreement about his sex, this child is a boy.

    E-mail me your old pictures of boys in curls and I'll feature them in a future blog. For now, this is another picture puzzle solved.

    1910s photos | children | group photos
    Monday, April 28, 2008 10:51:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, April 15, 2008
    Belieu Babies
    Posted by Maureen

    Within moments of posting last week's column on the pictures of Catherine Denison Belieu and her babies, I received an e-mail from Midge Frazel, Denison family historian. Turns out there's nothing simple about those Belieu kids. Did Catherine have 11, 12 or 13 children? It's still being debated.

    I wrote that the family traveled to Oregon by boat, but another family historian commented that the family could have traveled overland. She's right, but this family took the water route. You can read Midge's note about how the family got to Oregon by clicking Comments below last week's piece. 

    So which babies are depicted in these portraits? Catherine's clothing is a simple dress with a small collar accented by a pin. This helps date the picture to a short time frame, the mid-1860s to at least 1869. After 1869, women's collars changed. Of course there's no guarantee Catherine stopped wearing her older clothing into the early 1870s.

    Catherine and her husband, John Asbury Belieu, had several children in the late 1860s and early 1870s.
    • Sarah Naomi Alice, born Dec. 4, 1864; died June 13, 1867.

    • Jesse Leander, born Oct. 11, 1866.

    • M. Elizabeth Evalin, born Feb. 3, 1869. This Eva is supposed to be Carole Hayden's great-grandmother, but some genealogists claim this child died in 1872.  There's a mistake in here somewhere.

    • James Asbury Elmer, born Jan. 2, 1871
    It's likely the two babies in the photos are two of these children, but it's difficult to assign names. I think that at least one of them is Sarah, who died in 1867. It was a common practice to pose for a picture with a first child.

    The two images show different children. I've come to that conclusion by comparing the shapes of their heads—they're slightly different. Both children wear dresses, but you can't jump to the conclusion they're girls. The mother could be reusing a garment from her first baby.

    Regardless of who's who, these two images are treasures for the Denison/Belieu family. Now here's a challenge to other descendants. Do you own pictures of Catherine with her other children? Send them in and let's really try to settle the question of which baby is which.

    1860s photos | children | women
    Tuesday, April 15, 2008 2:09:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, April 07, 2008
    Family Travels and Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Every family has significant events documented in photographs. For immigrant families, that usually meant taking a group picture before a loved one left home. The immigrant also often sent pictures home to show he'd arrived in one piece and was happy.

    In some families, photographs don't actually document the travels, they become the icon for the retelling of a family story. Carole Hayden owns two images of women with a baby. She found them in a box of newspaper clippings saved by her great-great-grandmother, Catherine Lavinia Denison (born in 1848). 

    When Catherine was a mere 2 years old, her parents took her to Oregon. In those days, that meant boarding a ship and sailing around the tip of South America. Approximately 6,000 other people also made that trip. If you've got an ancestor who decided to settle in Oregon in 1850, you can check his or her name against this online list of pioneers. It's not comprehensive and the Denison family doesn't appear there, but you might get lucky.

    Now Catherine's descendant wants to know the significance of these two tintype images. Do they show the same woman?

    040708Belieu1.jpg     040708Belieu2.jpg    

    Definitely! These images depict the same mother, but is the baby the same?  That depends how many children Catherine Denison had with her husband Asbury Belieu. They married in 1863, and judging from her clothing, these two pictures were taken in the year or two after their marriage. Family history research would provide information on when their children were born and the sex of the babies. The babies in both images appear to be female.

    I need to do a little more research before I can answer the rest of Carole's questions. Back next week with more!

    By the way, thank you to everyone who added comments about last week's column. You'll have to look at the column and the comments to see my response :)

    1860s photos | cased images | children | women
    Monday, April 07, 2008 11:22:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Tuesday, April 01, 2008
    Internet Tag: Happy Baby Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    I love the blogosphere! 

    This week the sharp-eyed Kathryn M. Doyle of the California Genealogical Society sent me a posting she spotted on the Genealogue blog about a baby photo. Chris (the Genealogue) threw out a comment that he'd love to see what I'd say about this smiling, barely dressed tyke.

    The photo shows a toddler in a droopy diaper. I can't copy the photo here, but you can see the original posting on the Swapatorium: A Journey Through Junkland blog. It's an odd picture. The child's stocking are dark; and the diaper, light-colored. He's probably around 2 years old.

    But it's not his lack of attire that grabs the viewer. This kid's an optimist. His diaper is falling down and he's got to be uncomfortable, but he's happy. It's great to see a 19th-century picture of someone with a full grin—doesn't happen very often.

    The wicker chair and animal-fur rug date the picture to as early as the 1890s. Anyone want to help me out by researching the photographer, Bigelow of St. Joseph, Mo.? 

    Why pose him just in a diaper?  There are two reasons: First, the mother is showing off her healthy kid. Second, believe it or not, it was the style in the late-19th century to pose in your undies. I've got one I'll share sometime, a middle-age woman in a chemise.

    Send me pictures of your smiling ancestors and I'll post them in my new SmugMug album. It's fun to see what's in other people's photo collections. SmugMug's security settings let me watermark your images and prevent right-click copying.

    1890s photos | children
    Tuesday, April 01, 2008 9:10:09 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Monday, March 24, 2008
    Baby Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    In honor of Women’s History Month, I’ve decided to run another picture of a woman and baby—but this time only part of the woman appears in the picture.

    I’ve taken to categorizing images like this as “hidden mothers.” There's no way to say for certain the arm extending into the carriage to brace this child belongs to its mother, but it’s either a cautious mother, a nursemaid or a photographer’s assistant. I vote for the mother.

    Before I start dissecting this picture—do you have any images with partial women in them? I’d love to see them and feature them next week. Send them to me.


    So who’s this darling tot? Gwen Prichard doesn’t know. A genealogical Good Samaritan gave her the album it was in after finding it in an antique trunk in California. Several of the people are identified members of the Godfrey and Locke families who, according to the photographer’s imprint, posed for pictures in Jonesburg, Mo. 

    The woman who purchased the trunk wanted family members to have the photo album so she contacted Jonesburg Historical Society who in turn suggested she write to Gwen. It’s one of those odd serendipitous genealogical connections.

    Gwen thinks the album belonged to Olive Cornelia (Locke) Smith (born in 1861) based on the identified images. Now she’s trying to figure out who else is represented. This is one of the mystery pictures. There are four photos on a page—this baby, an older child, a man and a woman. They may be the baby’s parents, but before jumping to conclusions let’s date this picture.

    •  While the baby picture doesn’t have a photographer’s imprint the other three were taken in Moberly, Missouri.
    • The light green card stock of this small (4” x 2 ½”) photo was typical in the mid to late 1870s.
    • The toddler wears a white dress with colored sash and a necklace. This child’s attire is also typical for the early to mid-1870s.

    These last two details date the picture, but it’s the baby carriage that draws our attention. The first carriage that could be pushed was invented in 1848. Before this, baby carriages were drawn by ponies and other small animals. Newer carriages, like this one, enabled mothers, nursemaids and nannies to stroll with their children. This fringed model looks similar to the horse-drawn surrey carriages used by families in the 1870s. The top would protect the child from the sun. Babies faced front to be admired by passersby.

    This particular carriage is well padded with an animal fur lining and a checkerboard knitted blanket. A scalloped edged embroidered cloth decorates the inside. The woman has her hand underneath this cloth supporting the baby allowing us to see the beautiful stitching. You can see other examples of early carriages on the Wisconsin Historical Society website.

    While this is a picture puzzle, the date brings Gwen one step closer to figuring out who it might be. This baby (probably a girl because her thin hair in parted in the middle) was born in the mid-1870s.

    Anyone interested in helping me narrow the time frame? Check patent records to see if you can match up the design of this carriage. I’ll give you a hint: The leading baby carriage designer in this time frame was Adolph Meinecke. Don't forget you can respond in the Comments field below.

    1870s photos | children
    Monday, March 24, 2008 3:04:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, March 10, 2008
    Multi-generational Portraits
    Posted by Maureen

    There's something special about seeing a grandmother and grandchild posed together in a photograph. This little tyke is the spitting image of her grandma.


    Emma Dempster-Greenbaum owns this picture. It's labeled "Grandmother & Sarah Ann."  The photographer was J.C. Cone and Sons of Farmington.

    Emma dated this photo based on family information. At 11 months old, Sarah Ann Jackson immigrated to the United States with her parents in November, 1886.

    The clothing details support this time frame. Sarah wears a typical baby dress while her grandmother's conservative pleated skirt and fitted bodice are from the 1880s. Her dress lacks the bustle typically worn by younger women. Her eye-catching hat accessorizes her outfit—it's tied with a wide ribbon at the chin, and the high crown features what looks like leaves and small berries. She holds a handkerchief, ready for a drooling baby.

    The photographer also fits the time frame. Emma researched J.C. Cone and found he lived in Farmington, Ill. I double-checked and found Joseph C. Cone in both the 1900 census for Farmington and in a biographical encylopedia, Portrait Biographical Album of Fulton County, Illinois (1890).

    There's a bit of bragging in his business name. Cone was 58 in 1900, and his son, 27. When he printed the photographic card bearing this photo, his son was still a teenager just learning his father's business.

    It's the grandmother's presence that confuses the picture evidence. While Emma found an immigration record for Sarah Ann and her parents, she's unable to verify that grandmother Catherine Dempster came with them. Catherine was the baby's only living grandmother in the 1880s.

    Emma wonders if this picture is a copy of one taken in England. That's possible, but it's also likely his is an original.

    So, how old is Sarah Ann in this picture? She's still a baby, based on her short hair and long dress. The length of the dress indicates she's not walking yet—otherwise, the dress would be shorter to accomodate her steps. Since most children's first steps occurring around a year to 15 months of age, Sarah Ann is probably less than a year old here.

    Unfortunately, this data doesn't help determine whether the photo was taken in Illinois shortly after arrival, or in England before she left.

    I'll be back next week with a follow-up.

    1880s photos | children | photographers imprints | women
    Monday, March 10, 2008 9:56:31 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, January 22, 2008
    Backgrounds in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    In mid-December, I asked readers to submit photos with interesting backgrounds. Thank you for images.

    I'm conducting an informal study of the different types of backgrounds in photos—it's a vastly understudied area of photo history. Here's an overview:

    In the 1840s and 1850s daguerreotypists really didn't use backgrounds. Their focus was capturing a likeness of a person, not making the pictures look like they were taken outdoors.

    In the 1860s, suddenly you start seeing the wall behind the sitter. You can see the blank wall and the moulding at the base. At some point in the late 1850s photographers began offering handpainted copies of images with gorgeous backgrounds painted in. Many of you probably have these and wonder if they're photographs or paintings. They're actually both.

    In the late 19th century, photographers began paying artists to create backdrops. You've seen some of them in past columns. The backdrop and the architectural elements create a stage setting for the portrait. In photos taken at tourist resorts, you're likely to see seaside scenes.  In next few weeks I'll share some interesting backgrounds I've purchased as examples.

    One of the photographs I received was from Alissa Booth. These three boys were born in the period from 1911 to 1915. Notice the delicately painted backdrop. It's professionally done and creates a nature scene so the boys look like they posed outdoors.

    Keep sending me the interesting backgrounds

    1910s photos | 1920s photos | children | group photos | photo backgrounds
    Tuesday, January 22, 2008 4:11:07 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 26, 2007
    Mourning Photograph?
    Posted by Maureen

    This week's picture comes from the Photo Detective Forum. This is used by folks who want their pictures analyzed for this column, but you can also post a photo-related question.

    Alissa Booth wrote that someone crossed out the original caption, C.C. Smock's wife and wrote Mother. A little girl stands next to an elderly relative, and Alissa wants to know which is the wife and who's the mother? Is it the older woman or the little girl? Alissa thinks her father changed the label when he was identifying photos to give to his children and now she's confused.

    From researching census records, Alissa knows C.C. Smock's wife, Mary Amalong, was born Oct. 10, 1855, and his mother, Sarah, was born about 1831.

    The key to identifying the women in this photo is the date. The girl's dress with it's ruffled yoke suggests this picture was taken circa 1900. Her grandmother's dress is simply styled without the full sleeves of the late 1890s, and further confirms the time frame.

    If this were C.C. Smock's wife, Mary (born in 1855), the older woman would be approximately 50. If it's Smock's mother, she'd be approximately 70. The latter is a more likely fit for the identity of the woman. She looks much older than 50, with a full head of white hair and knarled hands. Notice her handkerchief tucked into the waistband of her dress.

    She's dressed in black as a sign of respect for a deceased family member. It could be her husband or another close relative.

    The little girl could be her granddaughter, but given the fact that this little girl was born in the 1890s, it's probably her great-grandmother or even great-great grandmother. It all depends on when her parent's birth years and their relationship to the family matriarch.

    Alissa's Dad wrote Mother probably referring to the little girl, but that still leaves her with another mystery—who wrote the original caption?

    P.S. Don't forget to look at the comments for Ancestral Vacations. I've added some new details.

    1900-1910 photos | children | women
    Monday, November 26, 2007 2:39:14 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Wednesday, October 17, 2007
    Crayon-Enhanced Portrait of a Child
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about Carolanne’s portraits of her relatives Laura Gilman and her husband James Wyatt Weed. Here’s a third, unidentified, picture.

    Behind each picture is a story, and Caroleann's three portraits are no different. Photo identification techniques can tell you when a person sat for a picture, but it’s the historical and genealogical research that fills in the details of their lives. In this case, Carolanne knows the birth dates of Laura, James and their four children, Flora (b. 1874), Alvah (b. 1879), Wyatt James (b. 1881) and Addie (1883). The family folklore and her research reveal a tragic tale you’d never guess by looking at their lovely pictures.

    First, let’s identify the baby in this crayon portrait. I’d estimate this child is around 2 years old.  The child is wearing a dress, but the outfit and short hair confirm the sex and dates.  During the 1880s, little boys wore “masculine” dresses like this one, featuring less trim than by girls’ dresses. Wide lace collars were in vogue, too. The short hair could be due the toddler’s age or because his mother cut it short to mimic men’s styles.

    Notice the ball in his right hand. It’s either a photographer’s trick to help him sit still, or a treasured possession.

    The artist or photographer who enhanced the image with charcoal did a good job around the face but didn’t accurately draw the hands and feet. Since the artistic style is similar to that of his parent’s pictures, the work was probably done by the same studio.

    Therefore, if this portrait depicts Alvah, it was created around 1881, and if it’s his brother, it dates from about 1883. Either identification is possible.

    There is also an emotional story to this image. Around 1910, Wyatt moved to California with a friend to “hook up electricity.” The next year, his mother received a telegram that “Wyatt J Weed accidentally killed eighty dollars in bank wire instructions."  

    In a second missive from Wyatt’s friend, his mother learned he died when he “took hold of a drop light in a dark cellar” and that the embalmer wanted seventy-five dollars for a metal-lined box and casket. The friend offered to arrange transportation home. His sister Addie remembered it cost $172 to bring Wyatt back to Maine and that the loss of her son changed Laura forever. Carolanne thinks that's why the grief-stricken mother would’ve kept this portrait of Wyatt, rather than another son, but the clothing clues suggest it could be either boy.

    A picture is sometimes just an icon for the greater tale of your family. Take time to research the life of each person to fit their photograph into their life story. Carolanne has.

    1880s photos | children | enhanced images
    Wednesday, October 17, 2007 5:37:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Wednesday, September 12, 2007
    Identifying People in Two 1890s Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    This week two photos have tentative identifications, but in both cases, the time frame of the image and the life dates for the individuals don’t compute.

    Thomas Wetten suspects the girl in this portrait below is his great-grandmother Margaret Ellen Atkinson, born June 1870 in Durham, England.

    A caption on the back of the second picture (below) states a relationship to the unknown writer, but no name: Grandma—taken in Liverpool. This label makes Barbara Diemer think the simple studio portrait is a relative of hers, who was born in 1820 and died around 1860.

    No photographer’s name appears on either image.

    Unfortunately for Wetten and Diemer, one detail in each picture refutes their conclusions. The wide sleeve on the girl’s blouse and the full upper sleeve on the woman’s dress date these images to the late 1890s. Further proof exists in the girl’s wide collar and striped skirt, and in the woman’s high, collared bodice—both contemporary fashions for the time period.

    Wetten correctly identified the child’s portrait as a tintype (also known as a ferreotype or melainotype) by testing its magnetic qualities. Anyone with any doubt about the type of metal in an old can use a magnet to see if it’s a tintype. Tintypes, first patented in 1856, aren’t actually tin, but iron.

    Wetten has several other suspects on his family tree for the girl. For the photo dates to fit the age of the girl pictured, he should look for a female born in the mid-1890s. (FYI—stone walls and fences were common settings in photographer’s studios of the period.)

    Diemer’s paper print of an elderly woman depicts someone who could've been born in 1820 and lived into her 70s, rather than dying around 1860. Diemer has the right generation, but either the wrong woman or an incorrect death date.

    Click Comment below if you have something to add about either picture.

    1890s photos | children | women
    Wednesday, September 12, 2007 1:50:23 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Tuesday, September 04, 2007
    Photos of Summer
    Posted by Maureen

    Two weeks ago I asked readers to submit their summer photos. I received a wide variety of mystery photos and one that fit my request. Sandi Gill e-mailed this lovely photo of a group of children, one of whom is her mother.

    Even though Gill doesn't know the names of the other children or where this photo was taken, she thought it made a good example for my Labor Day summer album. She's right. All the children wear the bobbed hair of the 1920s and light summer garments. Her mom is one of the smaller children, being only around kindergarten age.

    Gill knows the family lived in Bayside, NY, but isn't sure if this photo was taken in her mother's backyard or elsewhere in the neighborhood. The large lilac hedge is a clue worth researching in other family photos or those of her mother's childhood friends. 

    It's definitely a summertime shot, with the lilacs long past their bloom.

    Thank you, Sandi, for sharing your picture!

    1920s photos | children | group photos
    Tuesday, September 04, 2007 12:50:39 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Tuesday, July 31, 2007
    Identifying Children in Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    The imprint of photographer S. Adamkiewicz appears on this photo of two towheaded boys, but questions still mount up for owner Annette Gathright and led her to post the photo on the Photo Detective Forum.

    Who are the boys and when did they pose for this darling picture? Gathright’s family lived near Adamkiewicz's studio in Chicago's Polish neighborhood. Her uncle Norbert claims the boys are his uncles. Reading the clues requires a two step approach: Research the photographer and sort out the family facts.

    The photographer is the easy part. I quickly located Adamkiewicz in the 1910 US census using the HeritageQuest Online (free through many public libraries). Stanley Adamkiewicz, then 34, listed his occupation as photographer, his birthplace as Russia/Polish and his immigration year as 1892. I couldn’t find him in the 1900 census, but he appears again in 1920 with a different occupation. That gives this picture a tentative time frame of 1892 to 1920.

    Gathright thinks the photo was taken before her great-grandparents died in 1907. So she examined her tree for two boys born a few years apart, who’d be about age of this pair between 1907 and 1920.

    She’s found at least two candidates who lived in the neighborhood of Adamkiewicz's studio: Stanislaus “Edward” Dittman (born 1893) and his brother Aloysius “Otto” (born 1898) fit the criteria. If the portrait were taken in 1906, Ed would be 8, and Otto, 3.

    The high, starched collars, short pants and high-buttoned boots in this photo fit the time frame. Just to be sure, Gathright should ask her uncle for a few more details. It’s important to ask for specifics when talking about photos: Your relative knows who he or she means by “Grandpa,” but later, when you’re confronted with several possibilities on a family tree, you’ll probably wish you had a name.

    If you have access to Chicago city directories, you can help us find the final fact—check to see if S. Adamkiewciz is listed as a photographer before 1910, then post it in the comment section of this blog.

    1910s photos | children | photographers imprints
    Tuesday, July 31, 2007 8:42:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Tuesday, July 17, 2007
    British Schoolboy Uniforms (or, the Bluecoats Are Coming!)
    Posted by Maureen

    It’s only fitting this week’s photo is a British one—after all, the final installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books comes out July 21. Catherine Hamilton submitted this photograph of her grandfather John Porter with his schoolmates and tutor.

    Here's a close-up of Porter; he’s the one in the back row standing sideways with his hand in pocket and no cap.

    Just like the boys and girls at Hogwarts, British students wear distinctive uniforms and caps. You can identify the school by the color and design of its outfit, as well as the badges worn on students’ blazers. Take a look at some of them.

    There’s some minor variation in caps depending on which house (a kind of division) a student belonged to, or which level of school he attended (such as grammar school, or what Americans call high school). That’s right—the competitive houses of the Harry Potter books are based on the real thing. In English private schools, students belong to houses and compete against each other in sports just as Harry, Hermoine and Ron do.

    Hamilton knows that John Porter (1881-1937) attended school in Manchester, England, and she thinks this image was taken at Chetham’s School (now Chetham’s School of Music). This photo was taken in the early 1890s, based on Porter’s age and appearance.

    A search for photos of the school using Google Image Search suggests these boys aren’t students there. Chetham’s is historically a “bluecoat school.” During Porter’s student days, the school's pupils wore long, cassock-like blue uniform coats, a tradition dating back centuries.

    So where did Porter go to school? I’m still looking. If anyone has knowledge of late 19th-century school uniforms in the Manchester area, post a comment here. Maybe we can wrap this up in time to stand in line for J.K. Rowling’s latest opus.

    1890s photos | children | group photos
    Tuesday, July 17, 2007 9:35:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Thursday, March 29, 2007
    You're Kidding
    Posted by Maureen

    Kathy Culbert owns this carte de visite captioned "Dora and Frank" and is having trouble dating it.

    Children's clothing can be confusing. Mothers often dressed boys like girls until they were school age, but you can tell the difference by their hair. Girls had center parts; boys had side parts.

    Here, the boy (on the right) wears knickerbocker-style pants, high laced boots and an upswept hairstyle from the 1860s. The big curl in the center of his head was actually the fashion.

    His sister's dress has a ruffled yoked bodice and bows along the hemline. She also wears high boots. Girls' attire mimicked that of adult women, so compare it to dresses in books such as Dressed for the Photographer by Joan Severa (Kent State University Press, $65).

    A good source for dating kids' clothing is JoAnne Olian's Children's Fashions 1860-1912 (Dover, $12.95). It features fashion plates from the 19th-century magazine La Mode Illustree. Designs similar to these outfits appear in plates from 1867.

    The rest of the details in this image confirm this date. Photos were taxed from Aug. 1, 1864 to Aug. 1, 1866. The lack of a tax stamp on the back of this photo means it was taken earlier or later than those years. The girl's clothing is evidence for post-1866. The double gold-line border dates it to between 1861 and 1869.

    Culbert can verify the identities of Dora and Frank by studying her family tree for children of these names during the late 1860s. I'd estimate their ages here as 6 and 4, based on their attire and face shapes. Frank, especially, still has a round baby face.

    By the way, the kids' stiff stances aren't due to nerves. Look at their feet. Braces, barely visible behind these children, clasp them around their waists. Photographers often used braces to keep fidgety children still.

    children | photo tax stamps
    Thursday, March 29, 2007 7:36:38 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]