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# Sunday, 19 March 2017
Comparing Faces in Old Family Photos
Posted by Maureen



Here they are again. I'm enamored of this photo; it's a layered puzzle with many clues.

In my first post about it I examined the clothing details and asked for additional information. In the second post, we considered the other couples in the family that married in the 1880s.

William Davis supplied background for the couples and their families. 

Henry Wille, married in approximately 1886 in St. Louis, was a probable match for the couple. His parents, John Henry Wille and Bertha Emilie Heitmann, were Catholics from Oldenburg, Germany. German weddings are very formal and brides (and grooms) often wore gloves. John Henry Wille ran a tavern and later helped his son open a grocery.

Henry's bride Elizabeth Theresa Boedeker also had German roots.

Let's step back and examine who owned this photo:

William's cousin remembered this picture hanging in his grandmother Wille's house, suggesting that this could be someone in either the Wille or the Carrigan family. The Carrigans were Irish. Hanging on the same wall was a beautiful needlepoint tapestry sewn by great-grandmother Theresa.

So does this photo show Henry Wille and Elizabeth Boedecker, or William Isaac Carrigan and Sarah Ann Hutton? For more on the second couple, see 3 Clues to Identify Family In Old Wedding Photos.

Compare the faces:
When presented with a case like this, it would be great to have the photographer's information (we don't) or other pictures for comparison.   William sent several to see if we could match up the family resemblance.

Here's a photo of John Wille, son of Henry and Elizabeth, and his wife.



I thought the wife's nose looked familiar. Here's a comparison of their faces with the bridal couple. What do you think?



I'm not going to share the detail that confounds the whole thing even further until next time.  :)



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

  • Save
    1880s photos | facial resemblances | wedding | women
    Sunday, 19 March 2017 15:36:12 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 14 August 2016
    3 Next Steps in Photo Identification
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week's How to Tell Men's Faces Apart in Old Photos examined two photos thought to be the same man. Two branches of the family identified him as Patrick Sheridan, but the facial clues didn't add up.



    When looking at pictures, it's important to examine other family history details as well. Here are three:

    Family Stories
    According to family members, one of Patrick's granddaughters remembered seeing him when she was young. The feature she recalled was his curly white hair.

    Another story circulates among his Fayette County, Ohio, descendants. Passed down from generation to generation, it claims that he was a stowaway on a ship that arrived in New Orleans.

    A transcription of an obit (the original hasn't been located) states that on his deathbed he mentioned a brother he hadn't seen in 20 years. The family is working on proving this.

    Family Data
    Photos can become a stumbling block even for genealogists who know every detail of an ancestor's life. Pat Dwyer has accumulated a lot of material on Patrick. This is an overview of what she learned:
    • Patrick's naturalization papers from Mason County, Ky., state that he was under 18 when his arrived. He was naturalized April 11, 1853. He must have been in the U.S. by 1848. No age is mentioned in these papers.
    • He lived in Maysville, Mason County, Ky. He was from Cavan County, Ireland.
    • He was either 60 or 70 when he died in Clinton County, Ohio, in 1888. The obit says one and his headstone, the other.
    • In the 1860 census for Maysville, a Patrick Sherdon is a wagoner. If his age is correct, then he was born in 1828. That fact then helps determine his age at immigration (15) and death (60). More census data and other records could dispute or confirm that exact year.

    Family Connections
    The notes on the back of the older man's photo says Wes' grandfather. Wesley, was the son of William. When someone bought Wesley's farm, the new owners found a box of photos in the barn and brought it to the one man in town with the Sheridan surname. 

    Last year, Pat Dwyer visited this Ohio branch of the family and is still overwhelmed by all the documents and information she collected.

    Patrick Sheridan had 12 children. It's possible that the descendants of each one of them have details about his life. Tracking down those individuals could tie all the stories together, plus give Pat even more photos and documents. She's descended from Patrick's son, George. As she reaches out to cousins, she discovers that many of them also have copies of the picture of Patrick as an older man. The younger man is still a mystery.

    It seems that every picture solution opens another avenue worth exploring. Pat Dwyer is going to be busy for years to come.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1880s photos | facial resemblances
    Sunday, 14 August 2016 23:24:16 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 07 August 2016
    How to Tell Men's Faces Apart in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Pat Dwyer reached out through Facebook to ask a question about some confusing family photos. This post is the first of two.

    Pat owns a photograph of Patrick Sheridan, and her cousin thinks he does too.


    Patrick Sheridan



    Unknown man thought to be Patrick Sheridan

    When comparing two pictures of men, look closely at their facial features— especially ears, eyes and mouth. Examining pictures of men also involves comparing their facial hair growth patterns and hairlines.

    Establish a Time Frame
    The second photo of the unknown man likely dates from the late 1870s. The wide lapels and the style of the card the photo is printed on make this clear. It was more common to see men with small ties with loose ends under their collars, but a necktie was an option.

    Here's a photo of Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady wearing similar neckwear.


    Mathew Brady, 1875, Wikipedia.com

    Pat's photo of the older man standing with his hand on a fake column also dates from the 1870s.

    Look at Facial Features


    What do you see?

    Here are the differences that I immediately notice:
    • Hairlines are different
    • One man has curly hair and the other straight, but the man on the right has greased hair.
    • On the right, the tops of the man's ears tilt away from his head. The other man's ears are larger.
    • The beard is fuller on the man on the left.

    Here are some traits in common:

    • Shape of the nose
    • The brow line close to the eyes
    • A narrow chin

    While these two images don't depict the same man in my estimation, these could be a father and son. I'm hoping Pat has more information on the Sheridans.



    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


  • 1870s photos | facial resemblances | men
    Sunday, 07 August 2016 20:22:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 31 July 2016
    4 Tips to Identify Faces in Old Group Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Joseph Martin has a great photo, a big group portrait. You guessed the problem: figuring out who's who. He knows the identity of three of these individuals, but the rest he's not sure about.

    Here are four tips you can apply to group portraits in your family collection.



    1. Estimate time and place.
    Once you know these things, you can figure out who in your family was around at the time.

    The place in this case isn't a problem. The group posed in front of the Belle Isle Conservatory. The Conservatory is part of Belle Island Park, a popular 982-acre island park in the middle of the Detroit River, Mich.


    Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

    Joseph thinks they posed about 1930. The cloche hats and dropped waist dresses look more like the late 1920s, but then again, not everyone wore the latest styles the moment the new looks were in the stores.

    2. Match faces.

    Joseph knows the woman in the black hat is Marcyanna Skibinski Kaptur and the man behind her is her husband, Nicholas Kaptur.



    To their left in a light-colored hat is their daughter Emily Kaptur.



    But who are the rest of the folks?  By looking at facial features, he thinks they could be a mix of Skibinski and Kaptur relatives, but isn't sure.

    So who's in Detroit in this time period and what's are their age? Those details can solve this mystery.

    3. Make a chart!

    When faced with a problem like this, create a chart and a collage of faces to make studying single faces easier.

    Identify those who could be possibly be in this picture and using a word processing table or Excel, create a chart of how old they would be in 1930. For example: Person's name, birth year, age in 1930. 

    Next, use a free photo editor like Pixlr.com create a collage. Digitally crop each of the faces out of the picture using the adjustment feature, and put them in separate boxes in the collage. You also can use this technique to do a side-by-side comparison of faces you think look alike as well.

    Now armed with the table, the collage and the big picture, study the faces.
    Who are relatives of the husband or wife and who's an in-law?

    Start with the youngest and oldest individuals. Look at the group portrait to see if there are husbands and wives as well as clusters of their children. Family members tend to stand together in household groupings. 

    Doing this will accomplish two things: First, you'll be able to narrow the time frame for the picture based on the ages of the children and the others. It might be 1927 or 1930, for instance, and the children will help you pinpoint when. There are several children in the 4-7 age bracket. Identify them first. Their parents are probably in the picture.

    4. Look for other pictures.
    Joseph didn't say if this is the only picture of the Kapur/Skibinskis in his collection. If he has others, those pictures give more chances to match faces to the group portrait. If he doesn't, it's time to try to find other pictures of the people in this scene. Searching genealogy databases for photos is one avenue. Many people attach photographs to their online trees.

    Group portraits take time to solve. Go slow. Consider all the possibilities. Put the puzzle down for a bit and then go back to the problem. You might see something you missed the first time around.


    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


  • 1920s photos | 1930s photos | facial resemblances | group photos | hats | summer
    Sunday, 31 July 2016 21:50:32 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 17 July 2016
    The Love Family Revisted
    Posted by Maureen



    In the July/August 2016 issue of Family Tree Magazine, the Photo Detective column, "An Afternoon Outside" focused on this photo. It's from the collection of Bradley Richardson. His mother inherited the photo and knew it was from either the Love or Allan sides of her family. 

    Bradley shared his exhaustive family research (which included Excel spreadsheets of analysis) with me, as well as another photo.

    One of the clues in this picture is the house number "1204."  The 1901 and 1902 city directories for Kansas City, Mo., list William Allan at 1204 West 25th St. in those years. Allan, his wife Alta E. Love and two children lived here. By 1903, they'd moved to another area. His father lived with the family and Alta's sisters often visited. The 1905 Kansas state census enumerated the family along with Allan's father and two of Alta's siblings, Lois and Laura.

    Photo identification is a process based on genealogical research and picture details. It seemed to fit that the women standing behind the rocker were Lois and Laura, but maybe not. Take a close look at the woman in the blouse.

    Is the opening in the bottom of her shirt due to her pulling it slightly open by putting her hands behind her back, which also puffs out the front of her skirt? Or could she be pregnant?  In the early part of the 20th century, pregnant women generally avoided the camera, especially unmarried pregnant women. This woman looks young. In 1902, Laura was 16.



    Here's Bradley's other picture for comparison



    In this picture, taken circa 1910, are as follows: Front row: George Harmon Love (1845-1926); Mary Cook Love (1850-1946); Harold George Love (1877-1922). Back row from left: Lois Love (1881-?); Laura Love (1886-1913); Iva Love (1874-1954); Alta Ella Love (1872-1940); and Mamie Love (1878-1910).

    One sister is missing from the photo: Esther (1890-1958).

    Bradley and I thought maybe the young woman in back of the first picture could be Mamie or Laura. Here's a comparison of the mystery woman to Mamie and Laura. 



    Look closely at their noses, lips and eyebrows.  It appears the mystery woman has a bit of a "lazy eye."

    OR she could be Esther Love.



    Bradley is still researching the sisters. He's making a trip in September to try to track down more details on the family and their descendants.  It's a lovely 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


  • 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | facial resemblances | women
    Sunday, 17 July 2016 19:19:10 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, 10 April 2016
    Round Three: Clues in a Nineteenth Century Family Gathering
    Posted by Maureen

    Heidi Thibodeau is determined to identify the folks in that July group portrait. It's a key to other unidentified photos she may find.

    thibodeau.jpg

    It can take time to solve a photo mystery. The clues stack up, but making that right match often involves re-examining photos in your collection or asking cousins to look for pictures as well. DNA matches are good for picture clues too. The individuals you're genetically related to may have photos relating to your picture mystery.

    Two previous blog posts explore the identity of these individuals in particular the man in the center of the image. He's a person that whole family posed around, an elder member of that clan.

    The first post looked at the general evidence of clothing and props to support the 1890 date on the image.

    The second post explored whether or not Bessie Hodgdon was in the image. She could be one of these two girls. Bessie once owned the original.



    Heidi was able to rule out Noah Lord, the girls maternal grandfather, as this man, and wonders if he could be the girls' paternal grandfather William Hodgdon (1821-1902), but there are no pictures of him.

    There is a picture of Bessie and Ella's brother Chester. It would be best to find a photo of any of William's siblings for comparison, but there is a resemblance between the man in the group and this man holding a kettle and pan of potatoes. 
     


    To solve this mystery I'd reach out to anyone else related to William in case one of the descendants has a photo. I'd locate these descendants through the mega genealogy sites like Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com and FamilySearch.

    Once Heidi is able to identify the man between the two girls, it's possible the rest of the identities will fall into place. It's a lot like falling dominoes—topple one and the rest fall down.



    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 | 4th of July | facial resemblances | family reunion
    Sunday, 10 April 2016 14:34:42 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 14 February 2016
    Three Clues that Identify an Old Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    The clues add up differently in every photo. It's never just one thing that helps put a name with a face. In Pat Eiler's tintype the three clues are age, fashion and another picture.

    There is no mystery as to the identity of these three people. Pat knows they are Mary Seigrist Forster (1870-1946), her mother, Mary Heffner Seigrist Schumacher (1845-1922) and George Bean.  Based on the age of George, she estimates the picture taken circa 1920.

    It's this tintype that's causing the problem. Which woman is in this picture? The mother or the daughter?


      Tintypes, patented in 1856, stayed popular until the twentieth century and are still being made today. The lovely bonnet dates this picture.  Peaked straw bonnets decorated with botanical elements and ribbons gave the wearer extra height and balanced off the bustled dresses.   The photo studio added a bit of paint to the decoration to make it visible to the viewer. 

    The shape and style of this bonnet date the picture to the late 1880s, specifically circa 1889.

    So who's in the picture.  Mary Schumacher born in 1845 was 44 in 1889. Her daughter Mary Forster was 19 in that year.

    I find it easier to compare faces by looking at them side by side. With a little help from Pixlr.com we can do that.

    Both women have wide noses, wavy lips and a similar shaped face.  But look closely.  There are no age lines in this face. One woman has straight eyebrows while the other woman has brows that frame the eyes.

    I think it's the daughter.  A twenty-something wearing her first grown-up bonnet.  That occasion is more than enough reason to go to the photo studio but I wonder if there was a special family event in the circa 1889 period.  

    There is one other detail.  People usually pose with similar expressions when posing for a photographer. 

    To look at more Victorian hats and bonnets consult, Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900.



    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1880s photos | facial resemblances | Tintypes | women
    Sunday, 14 February 2016 16:30:35 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 28 December 2015
    A Year's Worth of Photos: 2015
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    1840s photos | 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Abraham Lincoln | Annie Oakley | beards | daguerreotype | facial resemblances | Gold Rush | group photos | jewelry | men | Military photos | mourning photos | photo jewelry | photo-research tips | wedding | women
    Monday, 28 December 2015 17:00:44 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 02 November 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, 02 November 2014 15:52:48 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 08 September 2014
    Sisters in Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Two weeks ago I wrote about Suzanne Wood's photo possibly identified as Eleanor South.  It's well-worn tintype. In the article I suggested that comparing this picture to those of Eleanor's sisters might help narrow down the identification.



    The family has a later photo of Eleanor South Fleming and her husband taken in 1869 (below), as well as images of three of her sisters.



    Notice that a nickname for Eleanor was Nelly.

    The first two of the images below were taken in the 1860s. Mary South Plew has the same full face as the woman reported to be Eleanor.



    Philinda South Schmicka had a much narrower jawline.



    The last photo of one of the sisters was taken in 1874. Harriet South Reynolds posed with two of her children.


    Comparing these photos of four sisters raises interesting questions about family resemblances. There are often facial features (noses, mouths, ears) in photographs that relatives immediately associate with a certain branch of their family. 

    I think that the first tintype could be Eleanor a few years before her wedding picture.

    Can you see the sisterly resemblance's between the three women? Comment below and tell me what you see in their faces. Now I want to know if they look like their mother or their father. 

    Who do you look like? I have the Taylor eyebrows, nose and height.


    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

  • 1860s photos | facial resemblances | women
    Monday, 08 September 2014 16:02:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]