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<2017 June>

by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 18 September 2016
Wavy Hair in Your Family Photos
Posted by Maureen

Last week, I wrote about how "radium perms" gave our ancestors' hair smooth curls. Two readers sent me pictures of their female ancestors with wavy hair. Whether permed or created with a curling iron, these female ancestors ended up with lovely 'dos.

Sharon Haskin Galitz sent in a 1928 graduation picture of her mother.

Laura Powell's grandmother Ruth Myers posed for this picture around 1930, about age 16.

I've written about clues in curls before. See if you can use the pictures in this post and those linked below for comparison with your family photos.  Can you spot the details?
  • Clues in Curls: Some women wore long curls in their youth. This woman's hair steals the attention in this picture.
  • Four Times the Mystery: A set of four photo booth images act as a timeline of one woman's life. Her hair is part of the solution.

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 | 1920s photos | 1930s photos | hairstyles
    Sunday, 18 September 2016 18:06:41 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 11 September 2016
    Toxic Hairstyles in Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    What's the weirdest thing you've ever done to your hair? 

    Bad hair happens to everyone unless your hair is too short to go astray. You know what I'm talking about.

    Generations of women (and men) have spent money on preparations to make their hair conform to the latest style. But some of those lotions and shampoos made problems worse: They could burn the scalp and make people lose their locks.

    There was another trend that actually made people sick! Look closely at your 20th-century snapshots for evidence of a permanent wave. 

    The combination of heat and chemicals made hair behave. Permanent waved hair was very popular in the 1920s, but the process dates back to the 1870s. You can learn more about the history of the "perm" on Wikipedia.  

    Here's another woman with a similar 'do from the 1920s.


    It's a lovely 1923 portrait from my collection of research images.  

    So how did these women attain their gorgeous curled looks?

    Radium—the radioactive, cancer-causing substance associated with Marie Curie. Supposedly it also gave you hair that others would envy.

    The full advertisement for the product advertised with this image, copyrighted in 1924 by H.W. Cherry, actually mentions the word "radium."  You could get a permanent for $5.

    There are no statistics on how many women used this process or how many became ill because of it. Do you have a picture of an ancestor with a permanent wave?  I'd love to see it.

    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 | hairstyles | women
    Sunday, 11 September 2016 21:48:37 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 23 August 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, 23 August 2015 15:23:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 19 July 2015
    Old Mystery-Photo Success Story: Six Years Later
    Posted by Maureen

    So how long does it take to identify an old mystery photo? Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes not. It all depends on how many facts you have about a photo and if you can rule out possible subjects. In Michael Boyce's case, it took six years.

    He's determined to bring together Boice/Boyce genealogy with family photos. In 2009, I wrote about this image from his collection in a post called "Family Tall Tales:"

    He initially submitted the photo of the man with a partial missing finger to try to sort out stories in the family  Name changes, migration to the West Coast and a message board contact eventually helped sort out the Boice/Boyce family connections. But what about the man?

    Who was he? John Boice (born 1794) had three brothers, Eli, Jacob and William. Michael Boyce tracked down images of two of the other brothers and was able to rule them out. Last week, he wrote to me and said he'd found a photo of William:

    Comparing two images of the same person requires studying the facts of his life and the clues in the image. It helps to put them in a timeline too. The same is true for comparing images of family members. Sometimes there is a striking familial resemblance.

    In the first image, taken in the 1860s, the man is balding. He has a full face. In this new image William is older and has a lot more hair.  Men wore their hair combed front in the late 1860s to early 1870s.

    Can you spot the family features? They both have blue eyes, prominent eyebrows and a down turned mouth. They also share an intense expression.

    Now that Michael's found pictures of all the other brothers he's pretty convinced that the man in the 2009 column is his ancestor John Boice. Through process of elimination and photo comparison it looks like Michael can finally put a name with a face. 

    You can check out all of Michael's Boyce family research on his new family history website.

    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 | hairstyles | men
    Sunday, 19 July 2015 15:16:48 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 26 April 2015
    Wavy Hair in Old Photos: Spot the Right Decade
    Posted by Maureen

    The next time you curl your hair, think about the success of 19th-century hairdresser Marcel Grateau. In 1872, he turned hair tongs upside down when styling a stage star's hair, and created a trend that remained popular for more than 50 years!

    Last week I discussed Jim DeVogt's funeral card for a woman named Jane Early. He'd like to know if this photo shows Jane Early. 

    Right away her hairstyle stood out. It's the Marcel Wave. In this circa 1878-1880 image, this fashionable young woman not only shows off the latest hair fashion, but also a very trendy collar.

    Religious motif jewelry also was worn in the 1870s. Her choice of accessories could be fashion or faith.

    Jane (Darcy) Early, born in Ireland in 1828, died in Wabasha County, Minn., in 1891. Is this Jane? The big question is, how old do you think this woman is? If this photo was taken in 1878, Jane would be 50. I think this woman looks too young, but everyone ages at different rates.

    Provenance could be key. This photo is from Jim's aunt, who inherited it from her mother, who had been married to Hugh Darcy. There are multiple marriages between the Darcy and Early families. The aunt thought that the photo album in which this image appeared had once belonged to the Early family, but the last member of that family died in 1906.

    I'd love to see your pictures featuring the Marcel Wave. Send in your pictures of women from the 1870s through the 1930s wearing the Wave through the ages using this blog's How to Submit guidelines.

    You can learn more about using hair to date your old family photos from my book Hairstyles 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

  • 1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1930s photos | hairstyles
    Sunday, 26 April 2015 21:24:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 04 January 2015
    First Photo Mystery of 2015
    Posted by Maureen

    Diana Luellen and her father found this old photo at his sister's house almost 20 years ago. A lot of the aunt's pictures were identified, but the portrait of this man and several others were not.

    Diana emailed me that "this is the one I keep on my computer desk, willing him to tell me who he is each day." It's no wonder. The quality of this portrait shows us this man's expressive face and light-colored eyes.

    At one time this oval portrait was in a frame. The solemn, formal portrait makes me wonder if this man held a position of importance in his community. Nineteenth-century local histories feature men dressed in this fashion. It could've been taken for inclusion in a town history.

    The clothing is conservative. Wide lapels with deep notches and a silk stock around his neck over an upturned shirt collar date to the mid- to late 1860s. His tie style is more appropriate to the late 1850s or early 1860s. However, the style stayed in fashion for men in business and politics long after that period. His side whiskers don't appear to continue under the chin.

    If this man were approximately in his mid-60s when photographed, and this photograph was taken about 1867, then he was born circa 1800. Judging age is difficult, of course, because it relies on various factors including occupation, health and genetics. The man also could be in his early 70s.

    Diana has one clue. The man looks like the paternal side of her family, which lived in Luzerne/Susquehanna Co., Pa.

    My advice to her is to reexamine her family history for men born near the turn of the 19th century and still living during the 1860s. I'd then consider their occupational history, searching for someone who may have been a community leader or well-known business person.

    I'd also use the Internet Archive or Heritage Quest (a ProQuest database available through libraries) to look for local histories for the towns in which her ancestors lived.

    In this picture mystery, age, dress and local history are clues that could identify this man.

    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 | hairstyles | men
    Sunday, 04 January 2015 16:53:02 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 10 August 2014
    A Well-Dressed Couple
    Posted by Maureen

    Old pictures have a tendency to turn up unexpectedly. For Amir Evenchik, this photo was recently found at his parent's house. It's the usual story:  No one knows the identity of the couple or where they posed for this lovely formal portrait.

    Dating this photo is the easy part. Determining where an image was taken is a matter of matching up image clues with family history. Below are four clues (I've used to create a numbered collage of the evidence):

    • Photos 1 and 3: In the early years of the 20th century, women wore their hair swept up in an exaggerated puff in front of the head. The goal was the S-shaped head-to-toe curve that was popular circa 1905. Undergarments helped women achieve this curve.

    Mid-decade, women wore little jackets over their dresses. This is a very fashionably dressed woman, whose outfit is complete with long gloves and a fan.

    • Photo 2: The woman's companion wears his mustache in the style of the late 1890s, when waxing facial hair created extreme twirls. It's a fad that remained common into the 20th century. Notice how the front of his hair has a wave. This was typical at the turn of the century.

    • Photo 4: Looking at a background can help you place a photo. This could be a unique, hand-painted design. The photographer probably used the same backdrop in many portraits. Locating other images taken in the same area with the same background could help determine where the couple is from. 

    Other factors to consider in identifying this image:
    • Does the couple look like any other family members?
    • Based on their appearance, this is a couple of financial means. 
    • Evenchik should estimate the couple's ages, then find couples on his family tree of the right ages around the time this photo 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
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1900-1910 photos | hairstyles | Jewish | men
    Sunday, 10 August 2014 13:54:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 22 June 2014
    Solving Old Photo Mysteries: Clues in Curls
    Posted by Maureen

    Eunice Amelia Paulk[4].jpg
    Eunice Amelia Paulk (1842-1913)

    Jana Last knows a lot about her ancestor Eunice. She was born in Ohio, lived in Washington, Iowa, and eventually moved to California.  At 19, she was a teacher in common school, a job she likely held until she married in 1876. You can read more about Eunice on Jana's Genealogy and Family History Blog. 

    What drew my attention to this photo of Eunice is her curls. There are a lot of photo-identification clues in a simple cluster of curls.

    The light-eyed Eunice knew the current hair fashions. Using, I created a collage of the whole photo and then pulled out some details to take a closer look.

    eunice collage.jpg

    Top right:  Eunice has very fine hair. She's curled it into wisps that frame her face. A narrow ribbon accessorizes her hair.

    Middle: The long curl is fascinating.  Is it a hairpiece or her actual hair?  Hair pieces (braids, bangs and long curls) were available to women of all economic situations. They were available in various lengths and colors. If a woman couldn't afford a human hair piece, she could get substitutes such as horse hair and yak hair.

    In the late 1860s to the early 1870s, a single long curl draped over the shoulder was very fashionable for young women. Eunice knows the hair fashions of her day.

    Bottom:  While her hair is up-to-date, her clothing is conservative and fitting for a schoolteacher. Narrow, round collars accessorized with a pin first became popular during the Civil War.  She posed for this photograph in either the late 1860s or early 1870s.  By 1870, a new style of collar was paired with those long curls: It was a stand-up collar with an open neck and a ruffle.

    Kracaw's Fine Art Gallery took this portrait. According to Carl Mautz, Biographies of Western Photographers (Carl Mautz Publishing, 1997) Kracaw's Fine Art Gallery was in business in Washington, Iowa, from 1868-1875.


    You can learn more about old photo clues in all sorts of curls, as well as bangs, beards and buns, in my newly revised and expanded, all color-edition of Hairstyles, 1840-1900. It's currently on sale.

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

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

  • 1860s photos | 1870s photos | hairstyles | women
    Sunday, 22 June 2014 19:08:56 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 06 October 2013
    Spotting a Copy
    Posted by Maureen

    Here's a pretty typical family scenario: Mom and Dad have their picture taken in the early 1850s. Years later each of their five children wants a copy, so someone takes the original picture to the photo studio to have paper prints made. Each of those children pass that paper copy down to their children and so on until today. What happened to the original?  Generally the answer is, "Who knows?"

    Shirley Dunkle showed me this photo at a recent meeting of the Falmouth (Mass.) Genealogical Society. Shirley is a descendant of the woman in this photo.

    Dunkle2- Moores family - About 1860.jpg
    I knew immediately that this paper print is a copy of an earlier image. The woman is wearing a dress and hairstyle that was very fashionable for 1856-58:
    • Pagoda sleeves that bell out at the elbow with white undersleeves.
    • Straight trim on the sleeves and bodice.
    • Wide fringed bretelles that meet in a point at the waist.
    • Ribbons in her hair that show behind her collar.
    • She wears her hair behind her ears with small drop earrings.

    Dunkle 3- Moores family - About 1860.jpg

    I personally love the hand-crocheted lace collar at her neck, accessorized with a brooch. A necklace of shell or glass beads also accents her neck.

    Shirley's unknown ancestor is a young woman, likely less than 20 years of age. Estimating an age can narrow down the possibilities on her family tree.

    While the clothing definitely points to the 1850s, it was the context of the photo that identified it as a copy of an earlier photo.

    Dunkle - Moores family - About 1860.jpg

    Heavy gray cardstock wasn't available in photo studios of the 1850s. It's a copy likely made around 1900.  

    I'll tackle this triple mystery next week:

    • Who made the copy?
    • Who's the young woman?
    • What type of photo was the original?

    Unfortunately, Shirley doesn't know who owns the original picture.

    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

  • 1850s photos | hairstyles | jewelry | women
    Sunday, 06 October 2013 18:47:01 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 28 July 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, 28 July 2013 19:57:28 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 09 June 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, 09 June 2013 15:49:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 17 February 2013
    Clues in Old Photo Postcards, Part 2
    Posted by Diane

    Jennifer Bryan sent me a photo-postcard mystery and I featured part one in last week's post.

    This week I'll share what I learned about the recipient of the postcard, Miss Flossie Howell of Baker City, Ore.


    Flossie's friend Desca wrote:
    Hello. Rec'd letter other day ans soon. What are you doing? Still working in store? Its snowing here today and is quite cold. I am feeling pretty good but can't stand much work. Lee is at work. Will come home soon. Do you like the pictures? Lo Desca. 
    I'd estimated the date for this card as circa 1910 based on the attire, so I used to search the census for that year. I started my search by thinking that Flossie was a nickname for Florence and didn't find any good matches. I should have taken the direct approach. I immediately found a match for Flossie Howell in Baker City. The enumerator appears to have written her last name as "Hawell" rather than Howell.


    She's living with Nathaniel B. Starbird, a janitor in a bank, and his wife Ada. Flossie works as a bookkeeper in a grocery store. She was 20 at the time of the census, suggesting a birth year of 1890. You can find this census record using the following link.

    Flossie was born in Kansas, but she didn't know the birthplaces of her parents. The Starbirds were originally from Maine.

    Flossie lived in Baker City from circa 1908. She appears in the Baker City, Ore., City Directory for that year, working as a domestic. You can view the city directory on

    I'm still working on the identity of Desca, Hazel and Mabel. Desca turns out to have been a somewhat common name. 

    This week I'm at Who Do You Think You Are Live in London!  Each year I share images from the event.  I'm taking a few extra days in London, so watch for my images in two weeks.

    Next week I'll write about how I'm helping to identify images from a photo album in a historical society. My new book, The Family Photo Detective, has a whole chapter on unraveling clues in photo albums. It's one of my favorite types of mysteries.


    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 | hairstyles | photo postcards | women
    Sunday, 17 February 2013 19:09:52 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 07 January 2013
    "Downton Abbey" and Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    I can't resist the pull of a period piece be it a television series or a movie, so it's no surprise that last night I sat down to watch the first episode of Season 3 of PBS' "Downton Abbey." There were a lot of moments relevant to both family history and photography.

    The 1920s were a time of transition. Women's hairstyles changed and dresses became less form-fitting. Compare the styles worn by the Dowager Countess of Grantham and the attire of the American Martha Levinson for instance. You can view their attire on the PBS Character Hub.

    The Dowager Countess is conservative and clings to tradition. Her dress and hair support that; she wears dresses from the early 20th century and her hair pulled back. The hourglass figure is the shape attained with corsets and fitted dresses. 

    Martha Levinson is all about being modern. She dresses like a contemporary woman of 1920 with her waved colored hair and shorter, loose dresses. The opening sequence of her appearance says it all. She steps out to greet the staff in a wide-collared brocade coat and a rakish hat with a plume.

    If these women were members of your family and you had a photo of them taken individually against a simple background, then dating the photo based on the Countess' clothing could be misleading. Her appearance suggests a date earlier than 1920.

    Both women's fashion choices also reveal their personalities. I'll be watching to see if the Dowager Countess changes her style as the series progresses or if she remains tied to her long dresses.

    Personally, I love checking out their hats—wide-brimmed summer hats for the wedding of Matthew and Mary, as well as the everyday ones worn by staff and family. You can learn more about women's hats in Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900. I've included several English photos of women "in the service." It's a reference to their occupation of working for families.

    Photo identification and dating an image relies on information. What a person wears is helpful, but not the whole story. Pictorial context is important--where was it taken, who took the image and what else is visible. Adding up the clues can solve the mystery, date the image and identify the person.

    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 | 1920s photos | hairstyles | hats
    Monday, 07 January 2013 16:21:56 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 31 December 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, 31 December 2012 16:07:01 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 24 September 2012
    Family Resemblances in Old Photos: Who Is This Man?
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I discussed how to care for a badly damaged photograph, and showed an image Lois O'Malley photographed back in 2005. Lois wrote: "As soon as I saw the man in the photo he minded me of my grandfather, William Alexander Simmons (1873-1934)." He's seen here:

    Wm  Alex Simmons edit.jpg

    Her Dad's family all had blue eyes like the unknown man in the damaged picture:

    unknown  Simmons edit.jpg

    Now Lois is wondering if this mystery man is her great-grandfather, Hiram Simmons (1833-1911). 

    Facial comparison relies on looking at approximately 80 different points in a face, including eyes, noses, mouths, ears and the spacing between them.

    Photo identification is about adding up all the facts and coming up with a hypothesis. Here's what I'm looking at in this case:
    • Provenance: Though this man looks like Louis' grandfather, she thinks it might be her great-grandfather because the photo is owned by her dad's eldest sister's son. The process of inheriting photos is complicated. Lois thinks that this cousin ended up with the photo because their grandmother lived with her eldest daughter. However, it is also possible that the image depicts Lois's grandfather.
    • Format:  This is a crayon portrait. It's a photo outlined and colored in with artist materials. This type of picture was very popular in the late 19th century. The problem with crayon portraits is that an artist/photographer's assistant drew in the details. There could be a little artistic embellishment here.
    • Clothing: Due to the condition of this picture, it's difficult to see all the clothing details, but it appears the man wears a wide tie and a jacket with a narrow collar and a wide notch in the lapel. His hair is very short.
    Men wore a variety of ties in the late 19th century. There were wide ties in the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s. In the 1890s, men's neckware usually had a pattern. In the 1880s, lapels were narrow and short.

    In the 1870s, men wore their hair longer and not as neatly combed as this fellow.
    • Facial clues: The man in the portrait has a wider jaw than Lois' grandfather, but they have similar ears, eyes and even the same wide forehead. 
    Does anyone want to try cleaning up the deteriorated picture in a photo editing software? You can email me the results or post them on the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page. Please include details about the program you used and what tools you used in the software.

    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 | 1890s photos | enhanced images | hairstyles | men
    Monday, 24 September 2012 02:02:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 20 August 2012
    Genealogy Fashions: Is Your Ancestor's Hat Back in Style?
    Posted by Maureen

    Fashion is looking back not merely to the 1970s, but all the way to the 1920s and even 1880s, at least as far as hats are concerned.

    Last Sunday's New York Times fashion supplement featured advertisements showing old-fashioned-looking hats by designers Louis Vuitton and Donna Karan. Even the Bloomingdale's ad featured a model in a vintage style hat.

    I can't show you the Louis Vuitton ad, but I can show you hats that resemble the ones worn by the models in the New York Times ads. It was a fashion spread for handbags, but the head wear looked liked these workmen's hats from the 1850s. I'm serious! Vuitton added a grosgrain band above the brim, but the shape is very similar.

    Donna Karan's ad is online. The hat on the woman in the video strongly resembles those worn in the 1880s. In fact, I featured a similar looking hat in Photo Contest Submissions: Shirley Jenks Jacobs submitted this photo of a woman in a rolled brimmed hat with trim and a high crown.

    Shirley Jenks Jacobs2.jpg

    One more blast from the past was the Bloomingdale's ad of a young model wearing a plush hat with a very wide brim and a plume of animal fur. It looked something like this image I own of a wedding from circa 1920.  Don't you love his hair? It helps date this image.


    So which hat style will you wear this season? I'll be looking through the photos in my Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900 for more matches.

    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

  • 1850s photos | 1880s photos | 1920s photos | hairstyles | hats | | unusual photos
    Monday, 20 August 2012 15:55:13 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 14 May 2012
    What I Saw at the National Genealogical Society Conference
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you to everyone who stopped by my booth at the National Genealogical Society Conference last week! I looked at a lot of photos and many people promised to send in submissions for this column.

    Larae Schraeder showed me two photos. Here's one of them (I'm still working on the other):


    It's a portrait of the Jeffers Family of Missouri. There is so much to like about this picture.

    It was taken circa 1890, based on the women's peaked shoulder seams.


    This was the style for a few years from 1889 to 1892.

    The whole family dressed up for this group portrait, likely taken by an itinerant photographer. Look closely at these two details:
    • You can see the temporary wall set up and the edge of the backdrop.
    • In the second closeup, you can see that the backdrop stands on legs and the grass beneath the family's feet.

    The family took their excursion to the photographer very seriously by dressing up for the portrait and posing with solemn expressions.

    This photo from the Ralph M. and Nettie Finley Jeffers collection is a family history treasure.

    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

  • 1890s photos | group photos | hairstyles | unusual photos
    Monday, 14 May 2012 15:45:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 10 October 2011
    Mother and Daughters
    Posted by Diane

    Family photographs are endlessly fascinating. There is the life story of the individuals in a picture and then there is the story of the person who took the image. I've looked a thousands of photographs over the years so I can spot a talented studio photographer just by looking at their pictures.

    The unidentified studio photographer that took this picture knew what he/she was doing. It's beautiful.  Each person in the image is posed so that she stands out. The girl on the left looks off to the side with a tilted head. The girl on the right looks slightly off to the right while the woman in the center looks directly into the lens. This type of pose, an older woman flanked by two younger women, generally suggests that the woman in the center is older and the mother (or an older sibling). This whole identification mystery hinges on who's in the middle.

    Tom Keith knows that his great-grandmother Josetta (b. 1879) is the woman on the right, but he's not sure of the identity of the other women. Josetta had two sisters, Emma (b. 1862) and Carrie (b. 1880). Their mother Susan was born in 1844. So who's in the picture?

    Emma died in childbirth in 1893. If she's in the picture then the image is from the early 1890s, but if that's the case, then Josetta is only 13 here and Carrie, 12.

    Two clues in this picture pinpoint the time frame. Notice the topknot on Josetta's head? This particular style of hair was commonplace in the mid to late 1890s. Josetta and the woman in the center wear wide-collared dresses with large sleeves. This style first becomes stylish circa 1893. The sister on the left dresses like a schoolgirl with a big bow in her hair and a tailored jacket and shirt.

    I don't believe this portrait was taken prior to Emma's death, because both young women look older than their early teens, plus the fashion clues don't add up.

    If this picture was taken circa 1895, then Josetta would be 16, Carrie, 15, and their mother Susan would be 51. Do you think the woman in the center is old enough to be about 50 years of age?

    I'm looking for more evidence.  Do you want to add your opinion?  Please add your comment below.

    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

  • 1890s photos | hairstyles | women
    Monday, 10 October 2011 20:19:45 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [13]
    # Monday, 01 August 2011
    A Possible Identity for the Lady
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about Jay Kruizenga's photo of a woman with long hair.


    He read the column and quickly wrote back to say thank you. It appears that the lovely woman with the long locks has a name!

    He believe that this picture was taken 1883-85 because the cardstock and other details match another photo in his family collection. The other image depicts Jacob Derk Kruizenga's only living son, Derek Jacobs, who was born in 1879. 

    Jay then wondered "who was living with Jacob Derk Kruizenga (1830-1906) and his wife Jennie (1837-1905) in the same time frame?"

    According to the 1880 federal census, the couple had two daughters living at home—Nettie (born 1861) and Frances (born in 1866). Jay doesn't think Nettie is the woman in this photo because she married and moved away from home around the time of the census. 

    Could this photo be Frances? Perhaps. She was the only living daughter of Jacob and his second wife Gezina Rotmans VanBraak. She didn't marry until 1885, so she would still be single in this photo.

    Now all Jay has to do is find another photo of Frances for comparison. She was well known in Michigan. Frances was elected President of the Michigan Chapter for the Independent Order of Foresters, a fraternal organization, and gave speeches at conventions. 

    Jay wrote to the Foresters but the person who replied said that all their historical information is boxed and unorganized, thus making it difficult to find anything. 

    I'm hopeful that someone has a photo of Frances in her capacity of president of that organization.

    Thank you to the person who commented on last week's story. If you've ever wondered why all these young women posed with their long hair down, there is a simple answer: They wanted to look like the famous Barnum and Bailey Circus act, the Seven Sutherland sisters. The sisters concluded their musical performance by letting down their hair for the audience. It was sensational!

    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 | hairstyles | photo-research tips
    Monday, 01 August 2011 14:57:09 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 25 July 2011
    Mysterious Woman with Wavy Hair
    Posted by Maureen

    Jay Kruizenga of sent in this photo of his family's mystery woman. Her long, flowing hair definitely makes an impression. She has really long full hair that must have created an enormous braid when pinned up.


    The photo was given to Jay by the daughter of his grandfather's brother. Now the family wants to know who's in the picture. Is she Jacob Derk Kruizenga's third wife, Jennie? Jennie was born Dec. 1, 1836 and married Jacob in 1876. This was her third wedding.

    There are several problems with that identification.
    • The studio arrangement of rug, chair and drapery dates from the 1880s.
    • The long pleats in her skirt, accessorized by what appears to be a very full overskirt in the same fabric as the rest of the dress, and the high collar and large buttons are characteristic of the 1880s.
    • This woman is much younger than Jennie would be in the mid-1880s. Born in 1836, Jennie would be 50 by 1886. I estimate that this young woman is only in her late teens or her 20s. She has a very young face, plus it's rare to see an older woman posed with her hair down.
    Tracking down the identity of this woman starts with the ownership of the image. It once belonged to Jay's grandfather's brother. Jay has a family history website. It's lovely with lots of information, stories and pictures.   

    So the question is: Who's the right age to be the young woman in this picture? If she's 20 here and the picture was taken circa 1886 then she was born in the 1860s. While she's not Jacob's third wife, might she be one of his children, or a friend of the family?

    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 | hairstyles | Immigrant Photos
    Monday, 25 July 2011 19:05:52 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 18 July 2011
    Wacky Hair or Fashionable Foible?
    Posted by Maureen

    I can't help it.  I love the hairstyles and facial hair in photographs so much I'm actually thinking about a second volume of my Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900 book. The curls and whorls of nineteenth century styles definitely provide insights into your ancestor's fashion sense and their personality.  This week I'm sharing three images from my growing collection of purchased images of women's tresses and men in beards. 

    In this 1860s carte de visite, a middle aged woman wears her hair in the style of her youth.  Women wore their hair looped over their ears in the 1840s and early 1850s. Both her attire and her hair are conservative.

     Look closely at her hair.

    There is a lack of gray hair. One of my colleagues who's also a Civil War reenactor is looking for pictures of Civil War era women with gray hair.  Did they color their hair or is our prevalent gray hair a result of modern living?  Hair dye was available, but a fashion historian told me that women who ate a lot of seafood didn't go gray.   Hmmm.

    Here's a very fashionable woman from the 1880s with her oiled curls and large bow.  Her hair is neatly coiffed.

    Let's not leave the men out of it. <smile>

    It's the 1870s look with a bit of the past mixed in.  In a beard style chart from the nineteenth century, his is called the "Burnside, short."  The full Burnside look featured much longer sideburns. My favorite part of this man's hair is the wave on the top of his head.


    Hope you're having a nice summer!

    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • hairstyles | men | women | beards
    Monday, 18 July 2011 14:34:24 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Tuesday, 12 July 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, 12 July 2011 15:49:53 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, 31 May 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, 31 May 2011 16:17:08 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 11 April 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, 11 April 2011 17:08:38 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 04 April 2011
    Vote for Your Favorite Bad Hair Day
    Posted by Maureen

    It's time to vote! My inbox is full of photos from readers and and Facebook followers. So which photo will win? You decide. I've create a survey form on Click here to see the photos I selected for the survey and to vote for your favorite. The person who submitted the winning photo will receive a signed copy of my Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900. Photos 1 and 2 are from the 1870s, 3 and 4 from the 1880s and photo 5 dates from 1900.

    Drum roll please...the finalists are:

    editSanders Sylvia (pix found in album of DHSaunders).jpg
    Linda Greff submitted this photo of Sylvia Sanders sporting a combination of extremely curly hair and the full hair styles of the 1870s, making an extreme fashion statement. 

    editSophie Bentley.jpg
    Another 1870s full head of hair. Sophie Bentley was born Dec. 6, 1849. Thank you to Katherine Maddox for sending in this image.

    Oh, those flat greased hairstyles of the 1880s were a dramatic contrast to the previous decade's look. Molly (Mary) E. Banning Ross (born 1867) was an older teenager in this photo, submitted by Pat Daugherty.

    Carol Jacobs Norwood sent in this unidentified family photo. It's a variation of that earlier 1880s picture.

    editdavisonMinnie  Everell Dutton Smith.jpg

    It's not the woman in this picture that has the hair problem. It's her companion. His natural wave and longish hair combine to make the style standout from the top and sides of his head. This circa 1900 image is lovely. He was a teacher in Kansas. The couple is Anne Davison's great grand aunt and uncle.

    O.K...Please vote for your favorite here.

    Next week I'll be back with some other photos -- a before and after hairstyle and proof that not just humans can have a bad hair day.

    1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1890s photos | hairstyles
    Monday, 04 April 2011 21:27:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 21 March 2011
    Hair in the Family: A Contest
    Posted by Maureen

    At a recent lecture, an attendee told me about an ancestral photo that scared him as a child. The woman had a curl that stood up straight on the top of her head. (He's promised to send me a scan, and as soon as I have it you'll see it here. Can't wait!)

    His comments made me think about hairstyles in the family. On page 83 of Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900 there is a picture of a woman wearing a hair piece. It's not unusual for a 19th century woman to add false hair to create a fashionable hairdo, and in this photo I doubt it's real hair. Women could buy expensive human hairpieces or fake ones made from horsehair or even yak hair.

    Her natural hair is very fine and curly, and the loops on her head are an entirely different texture. You can also see long hair trailing down behind her head.

    Inspired by the photo that scared a child, I've decided it's time for a contest. Send me photos of the most outrageous hairstyles worn by ancestors. You can send in 20th century photos of yourself, but not of living family members. You can email them to me at I'll feature as many as I can in this space and readers can vote for their favorite in the comment section.

    hairstyles | unusual photos
    Monday, 21 March 2011 13:19:50 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 26 April 2010
    Head-to-Toe Fashion Sense
    Posted by Maureen

    Pamela Fisher sent in this gorgeous photo of a confident and determined young woman. Her direct gaze shows she's comfortable in front of the camera. The question is, of course, who is she?

    Pamela owns an old book that had a small collection of photos stuck in the pages. The book and the photos belonged to the Fisher family. Since the provenance (history of ownership) of the items suggested young woman was a member of the Fisher family, Pamela thought this would be an easy ID. She thought it must be Rilla Cooper (b. 1860)who married into the Fisher family and that the photo was taken in Spokane, Wash., circa 1880.  Rilla is a mysterious ancestor her family doesn't know much about.

    Unfortunately, this identification is incorrect. As soon as I saw the image, I knew it wasn't taken in the 1880s, when women's dresses had fitted bodices and large buttons.  From head to toe, this young woman is the epitome of early-20th century fashion.

    When I called Pamela to discuss the picture she wondered, "If not Rilla, then who?" That's the exactly the problem. Let's stack up the clues and see if it's possible to narrow the time frame.

    Hair: In the first decade of the 20th century, women wore their hair full. Creating this hairstyle required a "rat," a device made from your own hair harvested from a hair brush and formed into a sausage roll or (artificial versions existed). Women's magazines such as Ladies Home Journal ridiculed the extreme hairstyles of this period by showing examples of good and bad hair.

    Hat: It's difficult to see, but it appears that this young woman wears a hat. Large hats were the style in the decade from 1900 to 1910. In this case, it looks like a collection of ribbons.

    Dress: In the early years of the 1900- to-1910 period, dresses featured high necklines and lace insets in the yoke; in the latter part of the decade, large buttons added detail to the yoke. Corsets, which women wore beginning in their teens, created narrow waistlines.  

    Late-19th century dress reform advocates changed the way women dressed. In the 20th century many women worked in offices and needed functional, easy-care clothing.  The two-piece outfit—blouse and skirt—was a necessity.

    A quick glance at the 1909 Sears catalog shows blouses, skirts and hairstyles just like the one worn by this girl. You can view them in Joanne Olian's book, Everyday Fashions 1909-1920 as Pictured in the Sears Catalog (Dover Publications). Shirts with buttons and tucks were commonplace from about 1905 on.

    Shoes: Pamela wondered why this girl crossed her legs. It's not uncommon to see women in this time frame posing this way, but most women of the time believed crossing one's legs was not in good taste. 

    Perhaps this girl wanted to show off her boots. They're highly polished leather walking boots laced up the front. It looks like they have a bishop heel that tapers from the heel to the bottom. If that's true, this detail helps date the image. According to Nancy Rexford's Women's Shoes in America, 1795-1930 (Kent State University Press), this type of heel was popular through 1905, then it was replaced by other shapes.

    So who is this stylish young woman? If the photo was taken about 1905, Pamela wonders if she could be Rilla (Cooper) Fisher's daughter Elizabeth who was born between 1883 and 1885. In 1905, Lizzie would be 20 to 22 years of age.  

    1900-1910 photos | hairstyles | women
    Monday, 26 April 2010 15:49:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, 25 January 2010
    Photo Fun with Friends
    Posted by Maureen

    Way back in August, I asked for photos of people smiling. In response to that request Teri Colglazier sent me this photo.

    ColglazierHOBO 8 1880 a (2).jpg
    The woman in the back left has a toothy grin, probably because this group of friends has decided to have fun in front of the camera. No costumes were necessary—instead, a hand-painted board on the feet of the men proclaims: "The Hobo 8."  (There are eight young people in this photo.)

    Teri thought that underneath the word hobo was a number 80. I'm not sure. It looks like it could be Ho with Bo beneath it. If it's a number, it's not a year.

    While older folks often posed for pictures in their Sunday best, it wasn't unusual for young people to go to the studio dressed in casual clothes. The two men on the right wear big sweaters that could be worn today. In the back row, all four young women wear white blouses paired with dark skirts, belted at the waist. The little details in this photo provide a time frame:
    • The straw hat worn by one of the young men. It has a narrow brim and and wide ribbon.  The shape and style of hat brims and ribbons change from decade to decade in the early 20th century. He could work in an office.
    • The fellow on the far right has a flat-topped cap—all the rage in the second decade of the 20th century

    • The other two men wear a type of sports cap and a fedora style hat also in style in that period.

    • The smiling woman arranged her hair so that it forms a ridge on the top of her head. The woman next to her has her hair pulled back casually in a bow.

    • The woman on the far right is the most conservatively dressed with a Gibson girl-style high-neck blouse and full hairstyle.
    The detail that clinches the date is the mob cap worn by the woman second from the right. I've seen photos of this type of hat on women working around the house in the period just prior to World War I. 

    The facts add up to the photo being taken between 1910 and 1916.

    Teri now has to figure out who's in the picture. In her e-mail, she mentioned that her family kept every photo ever taken or given to them by family and friends. She thinks the man third from the left could be a family member, but she's not positive.

    Anyone out there recognize these people, photographed in McLean County, Ill.?

    1910s photos | group photos | hairstyles
    Monday, 25 January 2010 23:08:44 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 09 March 2009
    Posted by Maureen

    A few months ago, I asked for family photos of interesting hairstyles. I was overwhelmed with the response.

    So many photos presented a problem. How could I present them?  A slide show was the answer. I used Picasa, a free photo organizing tool from Google. I included a musical track just for fun.

    Credits are at the bottom of each slide. There's some additional information as well. If a photo was submitted without a date, I tried to add a date to it. Enjoy!

    (Here's a viewing tip: To watch the slideshow in full-screen mode so the captions are easier to read, look at the bottom gray bar of the video screen and click the rectangle button, located on the right side next to the up arrow button.)

    Look for my ancestral hairstyles article in the May 2009 Family Tree Magazine (on sale now!).

    hairstyles | Videos
    Monday, 09 March 2009 00:55:20 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Tuesday, 17 February 2009
    Two-Sided Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    This photo will have to be covered in several installments. It's a complex mystery that involves dating the picture, figuring out where it was taken and deciding who's in it. What's on the back of the image is a whole other story.

    Let's tackle the simple part this week—assigning a date.

    The 15 people in the photo wear everyday clothing. Only one man (on the far right) wears a jacket; the rest are attired in work shirts and pants with wide-brimmed hats to shield their faces from the sun. The little boys wear short pants and wide-collared shirts.

    The outfits on two of the women suggest an initial time frame for this group portrait. The smiling woman on the far left wears a dress with full sleeves, a pouched bodice and a wide double collar. Her skirt has fitted tucks at the hips.

    The woman on the right in the back row wears a loose tie around her neck with a pouched front blouse and full sleeves.

    Their topknot hairstyles clinch the time frame: The group probably posed for this portrait circa 1900 to 1906.

    Next week I'll be back to discuss how the rest of the facts add up.

    BTW, the creases on the image suggest that this image was folded and unfolded multiple times. The paper has actually worn away at the center. The staining you see is due to the glue used to adhere it to the paper.

    1900-1910 photos | group photos | hairstyles
    Tuesday, 17 February 2009 15:16:12 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 02 February 2009
    Summer in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    I live in New England. Winter started early this year and with more snow on the way, it isn't leaving anytime soon. It's one for the record books. 

    The lack of a January thaw has me daydreaming of summer—sunshine filled days and the beach. Obviously, I'm not alone. Derek Sundberg of Essex, in the United Kingdom, sent me this photo. It's part of a series of 14 snapshots that all depict the same people.

    20210young emily 3rd pic.jpg

    The woman in the belted bathing suit on the right is his mother, Emily May. (I'm withholding her last name for privacy purposes.) Derek believes that one of the group members is the photographer. So who are the six other people shown above? He has no idea.

    It's a lovely group snapshot taken at the beach in the late 1920s to about 1930. The girls' bobbed cuts and shapeless bathing suits confirm the time frame. I love the canvas bathing pavilions that surround them. 

    In this picture, Emily (b. 1905) would be in her 20s, but I think some of the women look like younger teenagers. Derek wrote that his mother spent her entire life in Thurrock, Essex, and that she once worked at Thames Board Mills, in Purfleet, Essex. It's possible these folks are her friends from work, friends from town or a couple of younger relatives.

    It's an identification mystery. Here are some suggestions:
    • I'd start by showing the images to relatives to see if anyone recognizes the man and the women. I'd also ask if anyone remembers his mother's friends from her job. Another relative might have other pictures of this group. The unknown photographer likely would''ve taken other pictures that summer.
    • Next, I'd compare their faces to other images in family albums. If these individuals were Emily's friends or family, they'll appear in other pictures.
    If anyone recognizes these young people, send me an email and I'll forward it to Derek. I'm going to link this to my FaceBook page because it's possible one of my FB friends from overseas will know these folks.

    Guess what? Next week I'll be back with more ancestral pet photos. I've found a way to show them all at once. Let's hope it works.

    1920s photos | hairstyles | women
    Monday, 02 February 2009 15:23:13 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Tuesday, 18 November 2008
    Hairstyles and History: A Call for Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Well, I don't know about you, but I'm relieved that the mystery of the One Glove has been solved and a reunion is underway. I'm not going to include links here because instead of the usual one-column post, the glove tale stretched to four whole columns. Scroll down in the blog to read them all.

    This week I'm asking for your help.

    I've been hard at work tracking down all the little details about hair and why our ancestors chose to follow particular styles. It's for an upcoming issue of Family Tree Magazine.

    I don't want to give too much away, but I'll tell you right now...the story behind the puffs, ringlets and bangs on our ancestor's heads is fascinating. I haven't left out the men—facial hair of all sorts will be featured.

    But here's where I could use some help: Do you have a photograph of an ancestor with an interesting hairstyle, beard or mustache? E-mail it to me and you just might see it in the magazine or in this space.

    Can't wait to see what you've got!

    Tuesday, 18 November 2008 22:04:58 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]