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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 04 September 2016
3 Tips to Locate Photos of Ancestors' School Days
Posted by Maureen

For the first three years of grade school, I went to class in a 19th-century building. A big wide staircase and a classroom cloak room stick in my mind. That building is long gone, replaced by a modern school. I've search for a picture of the original structure to see if my memories of it compare to how it actually looked.

Finding images of the schools my family attended is a good beginning to understanding their classroom experience, and it helps flesh out my family story.

Depending on when and where they lived, the school could be a one-room schoolhouse or a massive brick-and-mortar city school.


Nebraska State Historical Society, [Digital ID, e.g., nbhips 12036]

If your ancestor attended school in Nebraska, count yourself lucky. The Nebraska State Historical Society added images to the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress. This one is a sod school, District 62, 2 miles west of Merna, Custer County, Neb., in 1889. 

In this picture, you can see the backwards writing on the bottom edge of the original glass plate.

According to the cataloging record, in 1974, someone identified the teacher in the middle as Elsie Thomas who married a Bidgood. One of the girls in the back row, second to the left of the teacher, is Nettie Hannawald. There is another picture of Nettie online as well.

Tip 1: Look online. Search the Library of Congress for pictures of schools in places your ancestors lived. Choose "Photos, Prints, Drawings" from the dropdown menu at the top, and type search terms such as Merna Nebraska school.

Then expand your search to Google images. A quick search for history of public school architecture Grand Rapids resulted in a lot of hits including an online article and photo essays for Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Tip 2: Check newspapers.
In a town where I once lived, an old schoolhouse is now a bank, but I learned a lot about the building form old newspapers. In the 1930s, some members of the town balked at installing indoor plumbing. The old outhouse was good enough, they said.

Search newspapers looking for school information:
  • You might locate information about the school building.
  • Merit student lists in the paper could mention your relative
  • There might be an engraving or a photograph published

Tip 3: Ask the locals. Public libraries and historical societies often have pictures of old school buildings. Check the library or society website for a collection of digital images. Include school yearbooks in your search.

Let us know what you find!


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

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


  • 1880s photos | children | school photos
    Sunday, 04 September 2016 17:27:43 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 28 August 2016
    School Days in Old Photos
    Posted by Diane

    September means schools are in session for another year of reading, writing and arithmetic. Today's students learn a lot more than the basic three subjects. Topics taught and student life bear little resemblance to your ancestor's school year.

    It's a good thing many families documented school days in pictures. We can compare the pictures of the past with those taken today. There are similarities, of course: A little kid going off to his very first day of grade school has always been a milestone moment.

    You'll find class portraits. Your great-grandfather might sit in the crowd with an x above his head to identify him, leaving you wondering about the names of other students. Those photographs tell the story of your ancestor's education.

    Turns out mystery school pictures aren't that unusual. Here's an assortment of past Photo Detective blog posts featuring students and teachers:



    This group of mystery pics still lacks identification. The College Girls in an Old Mystery Photo sit on a step engraved with "Class of 1910." Anyone recognize the location?

    If you find a picture of a relative posed holding a rolled up document, it might be proof of graduation. Find a list of what to look for to identify graduates in family pictures in Finding Your Ancestors Graduation Photos.



    The post A Yard-Long Old Photo Brick Wall depicts students at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. It was found in a reader's grandfather's collection. He didn't attend Hendrix, so why did he own the picture?




    Did your ancestor attend a technical school during World War II?  I'd love to learn more about these schools from folks who participated in them. You can learn more in the post World War II Victory Corps.




    Fall and Back to School features one of my favorite photos from my own collection. Without the caption, you'd think the young girl posed with her mother, not her teacher.




    British Schoolboy Uniforms Or The Bluecoats are Coming shares a mystery still waiting to be solved. British school uniforms are very specific, but so far no one has come forward to name the location or the school in this picture. Can you help?


    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


  • group photos | school photos | students
    Sunday, 28 August 2016 15:06:46 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 19 June 2016
    College Girls in an Old Mystery Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Did your grandmother, great-grandmother or great-great-grandmother go to college? The proof may be in an old photo album.



    In the early part of the 20th century, young women filled black paper albums and scrapbooks with pictures of their family, friends and college activities. You might have one of those albums tucked away in an old trunk. If you don't know where your female ancestor went to school, study those images for clues. 

    I recently found a series of five photographs of young women at an unidentified school. At least five clues immediately stand out in one of the pictures. These details could add up to identify the school, and then maybe the women.



    1. The fluted column.
    This is a distinctive feature. Columns come in various designs, but the size and shape of this one stands out. It signifies a large building. The wall visible behind the column is brick. Right away those two clues come together: It's a large brick building with fluted columns, likely one on either side of the doorway.

    2. Engraved stairs.
    "Class of 1910" engraved into the riser of the top stair provides a starting time frame for the photo. The clothing clues suggested it was taken circa World War 1, but this clue, combined with the column, adds a more specific piece to the puzzle. 

    3. A plaque.
    These two women sat on the stairs of an important building on campus, one with a commemorative plaque. Unfortunately no amount of tinkering with the image could make it readable. 

    4. Clothing clues
    It's possible the girl on the left is wearing a uniform of some sort. This signifies a school with a dress code perhaps. Her attire and that of the woman next to her place this image in the circa-World War 1 period.

    5. Activity
    The girls are making something.

     
    It looks like luminaria. The woman on the right holds a candle. The two bags on the stair have bases that could be filled with sand and an opening for a candle. These are generally made for special occasion. Neither woman is dressed for cold weather so these could be for a graduation, an induction ceremony, a fall festival or some special school event.

    Brick+column+engraving+plaque =a very recognizable building standing as of likely 1910. The problem is...WHERE?

    Where was it taken?
    Posting on social media as a crowdsourcing experiment didn't help, so it's back to research. A timeline of women's colleges in the United States on Wikipedia works as a checklist. I'm using the process of elimination to try to figure out where these women and the other women were photographed.

    It's a three-step process.
    • Use Google Images to look for pictures of each of the colleges listed on Wikepedia to see if there are any buildings with fluted columns built circa 1910. 
    • If there are buildings with columns on the campus, then the next step is to look at digital collections in the school archives on their website.
    • Send an email to their archivist asking if they recognize the building.
    This research takes time.

    So far I've heard back from the following colleges: Wellesley College, Hollins University and Barnard. No matches. 

    So...if you recognize those distinctive features or know of someone who might, please share this.


    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 | school photos | women
    Sunday, 19 June 2016 21:36:53 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Sunday, 24 January 2016
    Old Photos in Print: A Collection of Tips
    Posted by Maureen

    One of the first tips for finding images (photographs, engravings, and paintings) of your ancestors is to start at home and branch out from there.  Those images could be hiding in plain sight on everything from passports to licenses.

    You're probably wondering when you can expect to find pictures of  relatives on those records. For instance, a common question is, "when were pictures first included in school yearbooks?"

    Use this handy guide to when various types of family history documents began to include pictures.

    Newspapers and Books
    Long before pictures appeared in print, editors hired artists to turn  photographs into engravings. You can find examples in early family histories and local histories. Civil War newspapers and magazines featured engravings of famous folks and battlefield scenes many based on photographs. 

    Photomechanical engravings that looked more like the original photographs appeared in 1880, and actual photos appeared in papers around 1919.

    Yearbooks
    In the mid-19th century, class books at Ivy League colleges contained actual images, carte des visite and cabinet cards. It wasn't until around 1919 that mass-produced yearbooks with photographs were common. Check school archives and local historical societies for copies.

    Immigration Paperwork
    If your great-grandparents liked to travel outside the country, it's possible to find their pictures in a passport created after about 1918. For more information on passports see the National Archives website.

    If your immigrant ancestor applied for citizenship and received it after July 1, 1929, his or her naturalization papers will include a photo.

    Drivers' Licenses
    New York city issued the first paper drivers licenses to chauffeurs in 1910. You can view these licenses in "The Evolution of the New York Driver's License."

    There's more information on how to locate other ancestral picture sources in Searching for Family History Photos How to Get Them Now!


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

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


  • 1850s photos | 1880s photos | 1910s photos | Civil War | Immigrant Photos | newspapers | school photos
    Sunday, 24 January 2016 18:06:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 07 June 2015
    Finding Your Ancestors' Graduation Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    This time of year makes me think about graduations. I live near two universities and often see graduates in cap and gowns smiling for pictures. Our ancestors also posed for school pictures, whether they were graduating from eighth grade, a trade school, high school or a college/university.

    In the mid-19th century, class books included actual card photographs of the graduates. The yearbook format we're familiar with debuted in the 1880s.

    Here are some tips on locating images of ancestral graduates in your family.
    • Contact the public library or historical society in the town where they lived to see if either institution has a yearbook collection. You can also try the local department of education, but usually older records are donated to a local historical society.

    • If your ancestor attended a private school, try contacting the school library to see if it has an archive. Most colleges and universities maintain an archive with yearbooks and other items. In some schools, incoming freshmen posed for pictures, not just when they graduated. Don't forget to check the school website in case there is a digital collection.

    • Try searching for yearbooks online. For starters, here are some websites with yearbooks:

      • Genealogy Today has a large collection of yearbooks and school materials. Search this list to see if a school your ancestor attended is mentioned.
      • Search for yearbooks and school materials published before 1922 on the Internet Archive. Enter the name of the school in the search box and narrow by year. 
      • Looking for a more recent yearbook? It might be worth subscribing to E-Yearbook.com. The cost is $19.95 a year or $4.95 for a month. 
      • The Library of Congress collection has a few graduation-related photographs. Search by surname and by school. 
      • Cyndis List.com has a category for Yearbooks and Annuals.

    In my book Searching For Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now! you'll discover other research tips for locating family photos.

    You may have a graduation photo and not know it. Watch for clues such as rolled-up diplomas. Some studio photographers used these as props.


    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


  • photo-research tips | school photos
    Sunday, 07 June 2015 18:51:21 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 07 May 2012
    More Family Photos of Ancestral Children
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I showcased your photos of ancestral children and this week it's a second installment.

    Jerome.jpg

    This little guy is Sandra Jerome's grandfather, Ralph Frederick Jerome. He was born September 7, 1894 in Jordan, Scott County, Minnesota.   He's wearing attire approximate for boys less than 5--a skirt.  It's paired with a short jacket and a wide collared shirt. A cute hat sits on his head.  He doesn't seem old enough to be able to ride the photographer's tricycle prop.  It was likely taken circa 1899. 

    Jennie Youngedit.jpg

    Can you spot the school photos in your family album?  They usually look something like this.  This 1899 photo depicts 11 year old Jennie Young. She's Bonnie Bolster's great aunt. 

    schooledit.jpg
    The boy in the front row holds a sign--Coral School District no. 1 May 27, 1898.  The children wear a wide array of styles popular in that period. The flags in the background are likely for Memorial Day.
    schoolsign.jpg

    Thank you for sharing pictures of your ancestors as children!  I'm off to NGS in Cincinnati, Ohio. Please stop by my booth 712 and say hello.


    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 | children | school photos
    Monday, 07 May 2012 17:58:04 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]