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<June 2016>

by Maureen A. Taylor

More Links

# Sunday, November 22, 2015
Thanksgiving Shopping in Old Photos
Posted by Maureen

1919, Library of Congress

This little girl is delighted with her Thanksgiving turkey but I'm not sure how I would have felt about carrying home a turkey complete with feet and head. Shudder!  A lot has changed in our Thanksgiving prep.

The 1918 Fannie Farmer cookbook came with instructions on how to prepare poultry.  My grandmother's likely bought birds like this and did everything from cutting off the heads to cleaning out the cavity.  As a child I watched my father's mother singe off any remaining feathers from chicken whether they were present or not. It was a long ingrained habit and likely a cooking skill she developed early. 

In addition to the turkey in this picture are a lot of clothing clues for the period. Take a good look at the girl's legs.  She's wearing long leggings beneath her dress to keep her legs warm.  In the background the woman looking at the action wears a plush (perhaps fur jacket) and wool hat decorated with botanicals (berries and branches).  Her dress is a little long for 1919, but it fashion sense due to the cold weather.

1919, Library of Congress

This young boy holds a thin but enormous turkey.  He's worn jacket and pants suggest that he could be working at the market rather than buying something for his mother.

Neither child wears gloves! Wonder if either child got ill from handling raw poultry. They are unnamed in these photographs so researching their lives isn't possible.

As you get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, ask older relatives about their roles in meal preparation and their childhood traditions. Download the free Storycorps app to your phone and join in the #TheGreatListen2015. Documenting our contemporary family history starts with a story.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

  • 1910s photos | children | holiday | thanksgiving | World War I | storycorps
    Sunday, November 22, 2015 6:11:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Thanksgiving Day Masquerade
    Posted by Maureen

    It's easy to be confused by this photo from the Library of Congress.  It's a group of children dressed in costume, but the photographer labeled it "Thanksgiving." The signage in the window advertising a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, sweet potatos and cranberry sauce (for 40 cents!) supports the caption.

    So what's going on?

    According to Greg Young, author of the Bowery Boys: New York City History blog and podcast, this dress-up once was part of a Thanksgiving event. He wrote about it last week in a Huffington Post column.  

    There were plenty of street urchins in ragged clothes in New York City in the circa-1900 period. Young states that children dressed like impoverished youth was part satire and part of the history of "mumming." The latter term is associated with men who'd dress in costume and go door to door asking for food and money. In return they'd play music. 

    Long before Macy's began its Thanksgiving parade tradition, groups of New Yorkers in costume would march down the streets. You can read more about the traditions behind this photo combining Halloween-type dress and Thanksgiving in Young's article. If your ancestors lived in New York, perhaps they passed down a story or two about going door to door on Thanksgiving.

    If you want to see more images like the one above, there's a slide show on The Weather Channel site.

    I love how photographs and history intersect.  This week's photo is a perfect example of that.

    I'm thankful for all the readers that check out this weekly blog column! 

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    1900-1910 photos | Halloween | holiday | thanksgiving
    Sunday, November 23, 2014 8:58:04 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, December 01, 2013
    Holiday Crafts: Photo Ornaments
    Posted by Maureen

    Are you feeling crafty? It's time for some photo-related holiday crafts.

    Margaret Cole used copies of her family photos as Christmas ornaments:
    ColeFamily Tree2 (2).jpg

    Here's how she did it:

    Each photo is 3x4 inches. She printed each image on matte photo paper and to make it sturdy, used photo-safe glue to mount it onto heavy art paper from a 9x12 inch pad cut into 3x4 inch pieces.


    There's more! On the back of each ornament is family tree information—birth, death and marriage data.

    cole closeup.jpg

    Margaret printed the information from her family tree using the "publish" format.  She used either the "Person Report-Individual Report" or "Relationship Report-Family Group Sheet." She adjusted the print size to 3x4 inch format and glued it on.

    She added a narrow ribbon to frame each photo and make a loop for hanging.

    Thank you Margaret!

    If you want to see more photo crafts check out my past columns, Photo Crafts From Our Readers and Photo Craft Directions, as well as Family Tree Magazine's Family History Crafts and Gifts Pinterest board.

    You can also order some pretty neat photo-related gifts at Ancestry Games and sites like

    I'd love to hear about your photo crafts. You can email me and tell me all about it.

    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

  • holiday | Photo fun
    Sunday, December 01, 2013 6:30:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, November 24, 2013
    Photo Storytelling on the Holidays
    Posted by Maureen

    This week I took another look at all my family photos and was suddenly struck by a realization. My family takes pictures in the spring and summer. There are few images of autumn and fewer still of winter snow.  We're warm weather photographers. 

    Documenting This Year's Thanksgiving/Hanukkah

    This year I aim to turn that tide by taking a few pictures. In documenting the present I'm preserving it for future generations.  While I'll be busy in the kitchen, I'm going to assign a shot list to someone in the family. I'll start with the following:
    •  A picture of family members arriving
    • An image of the kitchen preparations.
    • The family gathered around the turkey and trimmings
    • Pictures of attendees in small groups--parents, children and cousins.

    I'm thinking of buying a prop or two for fun.  How about a Pilgrim style hat or bonnet?  I might be able to encourage everyone to pose wearing it. Then again...maybe not.

    • What are you going to take pictures of this Thanksgiving/Hanukkah? 

    Documenting the Past

    A shared meal is a great time to share stories and photo. Armed with my iPad "Voice Recorder" app, I'm going to record those tales. (Of course, it's possible to do this recording using my phone too, but I like my iPad.)

    I'm thinking of decorating the table with baby or childhood photos of the family in attendance.  This ought to get them talking <smile>. 

    Photo storytelling starts with questions. Back when I was in elementary school, I had an English teacher who drilled into us the five basic questions to use to build a story: who, what, where, when and how.  

    I'll bring out some other old family photos and see what happens.

    • Do you have any tips for getting family members to share family history? 

    I'll let you know what happens.  

    Happy Thanksgiving!  Happy Hanukkah!

    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

  • group photos | holiday | preserving photos
    Sunday, November 24, 2013 7:44:58 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 31, 2012
    Twelve Months of the Photo Detective
    Posted by Maureen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Happy New Year!

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

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

  • 1860s photos | 1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | 1920s photos | candid photos | cased images | children | Civil War | group photos | hairstyles | hats | holiday | house/building photos | photo backgrounds | preserving photos | props in photos |
    Monday, December 31, 2012 4:07:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, July 02, 2012
    Your Farmer Ancestors: Threshing in South Dakota
    Posted by Maureen

    There are a lot of comments on my posting on the threshing photos I saw last month at Jamboree. I learned a lot about the threshing process.  Thank you! 

    Sharon Pike sent in another picture of threshing wheat. It's of her family in South Dakota.

    Pike farming SDedit.jpg

    Being from the East Coast, I'm not used to seeing such a vast expanse of land. It's so beautiful. The large haystack at the horizon draws your eye from the workers in the foreground to where the sky meets the field.

    On the back of Sharon's photo is a note that states that Will Pike is in back of the "header." She's not sure which part of the machinery is the header. Can someone help out and comment below?

    Will's full name was James William Pike (1887-1931), son of James S. Pike and his wife Hattie Weed. Will traveled around with a crew that harvested wheat. He lived in Brookings, SD, and later settled in Wisconsin.

    Happy Fourth of July this week! I've created a couple of short films on my Vimeo channel to honor the occasion:  One is a colorized engraving depicting a veteran in uniform and the other showcases flags in photographs. I hope you enjoy them!

    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 | holiday | men | occupational
    Monday, July 02, 2012 3:44:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Monday, December 19, 2011
    Holiday Photos from Your Family Albums
    Posted by Maureen

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • children | holiday | Photo fun | photo postcards
    Monday, October 31, 2011 6:50:39 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 20, 2010
    Season's Greetings
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you to all the readers of this column for another year of photo mysteries! I have a holiday card for you on my Vimeo channel. You can watch this photo become a colorized greeting.
    The photograph, titled "Caught in the Act", is from the Library of Congress. It was taken in 1900. Santa's bag of presents hasn't changed too much—he's carrying dolls and a sailing ship. But I think he's a pretty scary-looking Santa.

    I have a holiday habit that drives my family crazy—I take photographs of our Christmas tree. It's a picture time capsule. And I have proof that I'm not the only person who does it: The photo of this tree predates my lifetime.
    Christmas 1954.jpg
    December 1954 is written in unfamiliar handwriting underneath the image. I'll be watching for that couch and those curtains in other family pictures.  This color photo is in serious need of some color correction. All the reds have taken over the image. That's a pretty typical problem with mid-1950s images. 

    Cynthia Cox sent me this image from her family collection. It's also dated 1954.
    Christmas Morning 1954.jpg
    She labeled it, "Christmas morning at the Robert and Helen Cox Family Residence, Los Angeles." It was taken on Dec. 25. The doll was her gift and the fire truck was for her brother. Thank you for your submission, Cindy!

    We've been photographing holiday traditions for generations. Last December, I explored the tradition of posing with Santa

    You can use the comment section below to tell me what holiday traditions you photograph.

    Happy Holidays!

    holiday | unusual photos
    Monday, December 20, 2010 4:20:14 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [6]