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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, April 10, 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, April 10, 2016 2:34:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, March 27, 2016
    Who's Who in an Old Family Gathering Photo?
    Posted by Maureen



    Last week's column explored some of the identification clues in this family gathering. Heidi Thibodeau thinks it depicts members of the Tibbetts and Hodgson family of Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.

    Bessie Mabel Hodgdon, born in 1877, owned the picture, and it was handed down to her granddaughter (Heidi's first cousin once removed). This photo dates from July 6, 1890. If Bessie were in this picture, she'd be approximately 13 years of age. Only two young women in this picture appear the right age to be Bessie.




    They flank this older man who sits in the center of the group. That's a place of prominence. I wonder if they're his daughters or granddaughters. Bessie had a sister Ella, born 1881, who became Heidi's great-grandmother. Their mother died in 1886. Their father, Albert, born in 1856, would be only 34 at the time of this photo, far too young to be the man shown above.

    The sisters' maternal grandfather, Noah Lord, born in 1830, would be 60 years of age at the time of this picture. Heidi sent me photos of him (from a private source so I can't reproduce them here). The man in this picture doesn't look like Noah Lord.

    Could this man be the sisters' paternal grandfather? Perhaps. I'm going to ask Heidi if she has any photos of him.



    Heidi has another picture of Bessie and Ella from 1905, depicting the Tibbetts Family. Bessie sits on the left in the center row, and her sister Ella Hodgdon Tibbitts is on the right.




    Let's look at the girls and women side by side. The images pixelate when enlarged due to low resolution.



    It looks like the girl with her eyes closed could be either Bessie or Ella. The girl on the lower left is hard to see for comparison purposes.

    Given the history of ownership of this picture, the group on the porch in 1890 could be either the Lord family or the Hodgsons. One of the only ways to determine who's who is to compare other photos of any members of those families alive in 1890 to those faces in the big group picture.  It's a process of elimination.

    This photo mystery isn't solved but with a little time and research the answer may be clearer. I'm hoping Heidi and her cousins have more pictures for another blog post.
       


    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 | 1900-1910 photos | family reunion | group photos
    Sunday, March 27, 2016 6:57:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, March 20, 2016
    Old Mystery Photos: ID Clues in a Family Gathering Picture
    Posted by Maureen

    thibodeau.jpg

    Heidi Thibodeau's cousin found this image in the papers of her grandmother (Heidi's great-grand aunt), Bessie Mabel Hodgdon Hoogerzeil. Bessie was born Jan. 27, 1877. Heidi thinks she might be in this photo.

    A caption on the reverse states the picture was taken by Sprague and Hathaway, July 6, 1890.

    There is evidence to support this date:

    Clothing


    The two women (left and center) in this collage wear the peaked shoulder seams of the circa 1890 period. The children (right) wear striped play clothes popular in this era as well.

    While several women wear dark-looking clothes, they may not have been wearing black. Many bright colors appear dark in 19th century, black-and-white photographs. Popular clothing colors in the 1880s included shades of red, brown and greens.

    Photographic mat
    Chocolate-colored cardstock was commonly available in the 1880s and faded out in favor of light-colored card stock in the 1890s.

    Photographer
    Sprague and Hathaway started their company in 1874 in the Davis Square area of Somerville, Mass. By 1890, the studio was a corporation and they'd moved to West Somerville, Mass. The Smithsonian has trade catalogs relating to these photographers.

    Props
    Look closely at the women in the middle row. They carry fans to help them deal with the hot, humid weather of a New England July. Several individuals look like they're tired of posing for the picture.

    One little girl has her eyes closed.



    If this picture was taken today we'd think she was looking at her phone. In 1890, though, she either fell asleep or blinked. 

    So who's in the picture?  Next week I'll tackle who might be who. 


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

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


  • 1890s photos | 4th of July | family reunion | summer
    Sunday, March 20, 2016 8:40:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, December 06, 2015
    Wedding Wear, 1855
    Posted by Maureen

    Lumber merchant Peter Whitmer (born 1828) and his bride Lucy Jane McDonald (born 1837) had the means to pose for two portraits when they wed in February 1855. In the first, the couple posed alone.

    Peter sits with top hat in one hand and his other gloved hand rests on the shoulder of his bride. Lucy looks contemplative, with her chin resting on one hand.



    In the second wedding portrait, they posed with best man Dr. Charles Parke and bridesmaid Margaret McDonald, Lucy's sister. In the same year, Parke was commissioned a surgeon for the Russian Army during the Crimean War. His diary of the California Gold Rush has been published as Dreams to Dust.

     


    Look closely at both portraits and you'll see the details in this well-dressed couple's wedding attire. Lucy wore a plaid dress with a wide lace collar and an open bonnet with silk interior that framed her face.

    Peter's wide, horizontally tied silk neckwear was very fashionable over an upturned collar. His long frock coat and patterned vest was suitable for a wedding or formal business dealings. His hair and that of his best man reflects the popular style, long and combed into an upward peak on the top of their heads.

    In 1855, most brides married in the home surrounded by family and friends. Clothing for the occasion was similar to everyday attire, but if the couple could afford it, outfits included a few extra touches such as a nicer fabric, silk trim or special lace. 

    While both of these portraits look like paper photographs, the originals would have been shiny reflective daguerreotypes. Candace LaPrade shared other pictures of Peter Whitmer for last week's column.

    Six of Lucy and Peter's seven children lived long lives.  In 1900, their children and grandchildren gathered for a portrait.
     


    The little girl sitting second from the right in the front row is Candace's grandmother. Peter and Lucy are in the center.



    Candace's grandmother wrote down all the names of the individuals in this group portrait and kept that paper in an envelope with the picture.

    Candace is one lucky genealogist! She has multiple pictures of some of her ancestors and information to go with them.


    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


  • 1850s photos | 1900-1910 photos | family reunion
    Sunday, December 06, 2015 8:50:37 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 03, 2014
    Family Reunions
    Posted by Maureen

    It's that time again: The every-other-year gathering of the Miller clan in Vermont. It grew from a gathering of siblings on a family farm in New York state to a cluster of cousins more than 60 years later. My husband's family is dedicated to keeping this tradition alive.

    Summer is the usual time for family reunions. In my husband's family we pose for photos in groups of families descended from the original siblings (all now deceased). Sitting or standing for family photographs is a time-honored part of a reunion experience.

    The photo below, from the collection of the Library of Congress, shows the Pershing family posing in 1923. It's a huge group of people, captured in a large panoramic image—these were quite popular in the early part of the 20th century. Today, panoramic images are usually found rolled up in a photo collection.



    For a better look at the original image, try this link. If you own one of these and no one has marked an X over the head of your grandmother or grandfather, it may take hours to figure out who's who.



    A short cut to start determining identities is to look at the center of the front row. That's usually where the oldest members of the family sit.

    While our reunion features photo albums of every gathering, there's a lot more we could do at the event. The Chart Chick, Janet Hovorka has Five Fabulous Family Reunion Ideas on her blog.

    As I head off for our reunion I have a few questions for you:
    • Have you ever attended or participated in a reunion?
    • What's the largest number of relatives in attendance? We usually have around 50 people with folks flying in from as far away as Australia! 
    • What type of family history activities take place at your family gatherings? The Pershings had an Infantry band on hand to entertain attendees:



    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

  • family reunion | panoramic photos
    Sunday, August 03, 2014 4:46:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]