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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, December 15, 2014
Mystery Photos in an Old Family Album
Posted by Diane

Whenever I see a old photo album, I want to curl up in a cozy chair and read it like a favorite book. That's because every album tells a story based on who put it together, who's included (and who's not!), and when it was laid out.

One of the keys to "reading" a mysterious photo album is to identify the person on the first page and the next two pages. Generally, they were the most important people to the album's owner.

This two-part photo mystery involves an album owned by Jim Te Vogt's family in Minnesota. I don't know the layout of the album, but in this case that's not as important as where these images were taken. Eight of the photos were taken by studios in San Francisco. The only Darcy relatives to live in the area were the family of Edward Darcy. So who's in these photos and why were they taken?



Could this be Hugh Darcy (1858-1902)? Here's how the clues add up:
  • Jim already researched the photography studio, New York Gallery. It operated at 25 Third St. from 1869 to 1887.
  • In the late 1860s and early 1870s, velvet collars and pointed lapels were common for jackets. It's a style that gradually faded out by the latter part of the decade.
  • Beginning in about 1880, men started wearing their hair parted in the center and the era of the full mustache had arrived.
  • There is another clue in this picture. It's the pin on the collar of his vest.

This is the symbol for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows identifying this man as a member of a fraternal organization. Several years ago, I wrote an article about another Odd Fellows image. The group's slogan, "Friendship, Love, Truth" is represented in the three rings.
If this image was taken about 1874, then Hugh Darcy would be 16.  This man looks older than that. Since dating fashion can be flexible based on factors such as where a person lived, perhaps it was taken as late as 1880, when Darcy would be 22. The big question is "how old does this man look?" What do you think?  

Are you looking for family photos? Find tips for locating pictures online and offline in Searching for Family Photos.


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

  • 1870s photos | fraternal | men
    Monday, December 15, 2014 3:26:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, November 30, 2014
    5 Brick Wall Busters for Old Mystery Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Give yourself a present this holiday season by taking time to solve one of your unidentified-photo mysteries. Here are five proven ways to break down that pictorial brick wall:

    1. Broadcast your picture. Take it to family gatherings, post it on your social media pages and share it in Facebook groups related to your family history, such as surname pages or location-specific pages.

    2. Study the clues (again). Try to forget that you've ever seen that picture before. Start with a clean slate and re-examine the clues—the photographer's work dates, clothing clues, props and whatever else is present in the image. Combine it with information from your family history research.

    3. Broaden your search. Photographs don't always go to family. Just because an image was in your great-grandmother's collection, doesn't mean it's a picture of her. It could be a collateral relative or a friend.

    4. Look for family patterns. Think about your family photographs as documents and fit them into a timeline of a person's life. You might be surprised to see how those images line up with historical and genealogical data.

    5. Submit your mystery to this blog. Fifty-two blog posts plus three Photo Detective Family Tree Magazine columns per year means a lot of people are taking advantage of this free way to get expert advice on their pictures. Your photo might be one selected for publication. All you have to do is follow the guidelines for submissions. Can't wait to see what's in your photo shoebox!

    Looking for more tips on solving picture puzzles? Check out my book  Family Photo Detective.


    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

  • fraternal | occupational | unusual photos
    Sunday, November 30, 2014 4:32:34 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, June 01, 2014
    Costumed Old-Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Costumed ancestors in photographs often cause their descendants to wonder about the significance of that head-to-toe attire. Cheryl Jackson has one such mystery.

    jackson2.jpg

    She thinks this man is John Hardy Jackson who lived in the Paragould, Green County, area of Arkansas from approximately 1896 to 1942.

    He's part of a group that posed in American Indian attire in front of a sign for a Webster County Fair. According to Google Maps, Paragould, Ark., is about 200 miles from Webster County, Mo.

    Jackson1.jpg

    While the family thinks they have American Indian heritage, I think these men are dressed up for another reason. They could be members of the Improved Order of Red Men (IORM).

    I wrote about a similarly attired group of men from Cincinnati back in 2011.

    Could Cheryl Jackson's ancestor have been a member of the IORM? It's possible. That might be the root of the family lore relating to American Indian ancestry. A DNA test could help establish whether the family in fact has American Indian heritage.

    It's also possible that these men dressed up for another unspecified event at a fair. The poster in the background could place them in Missouri when the photo was taken, or just be an advertisement for a nearby fair.

    The man in the center with the white headdress and the crossed sticks is the leader of this group. Next week I'll examine another photo of Jackson to see if the two men are the same.


    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

  • fraternal | men | unusual photos
    Sunday, June 01, 2014 6:59:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 11, 2013
    Old Family Photos: Fraternal Organizations
    Posted by Maureen

    Blanch Flanigan owns not one but two images of family in dress that identifies them as members of a fraternal organization. These secret societies were very popular in the 19th century. They offered men brotherhood, work opportunities and a shared mission.

    Symbolism varied. The three interconnecting rings of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows signifies friendship, love and truth. Masonic aprons and compasses are also distinctive.

    These groups were primarily for men, but at least one fraternal organization allowed both male and female members: the Order of the Eastern Star. Boston lawyer and educator Rob Morris established this group in 1850. It was represented by a single star.

    Could these individuals be members of this organization?

    flanigan1edit.jpg

    This couple posed in the 1870s for this portrait. Mary Ellen and Henry Watson wear a fraternal collar with just one star.

    The Watsons were both born in Ontario, but their son was born in Quebec, Canada. It is unknown if this picture was taken in Ontario or Quebec. It's a solemn formal tintype portrait.

    I've seen pictures of men in fraternal regalia, but not a picture of both a man and a woman in this attire from this period.

    flanigan3.jpg

    Members of fraternal organizations were supposed to be respectful of their attire, so the second image is puzzling.

    flanigan2edit.jpg
    The men are clowning for the camera with their legs crossed, collars askew and with cigars in their mouths. The man on the right is Henry Watson. Seated next to him is his son James.

    The son wears a wide brimmed youthful style while his father wears his work cap. I love the hat on the father. I'll be in touch with Blanch to see if she knows more about Henry's occupation.

    There are a few questions relating to this image:
    • Is James a member as well?  Most groups had age requirements. Is he old enough to be a member.
    • Is the son wearing his mother's collar, or vice versa?
    • Why are they clowning for the camera? Could the collars be photographer's props?

    The basic identification facts of this photo are known, but there's a bigger story.

    I'd start by studying the local history of the town in which the family lived. This will help determine which fraternal organizations were in the area in the 1870s. This is a Masonic-related group, but which one?

    This isn't the first time I've written about fraternal groups. Here are three columns on the Independent Order of Odd Fellows:


    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 | fraternal | hats | occupational
    Sunday, August 11, 2013 3:57:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]