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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, February 01, 2015
Big Hats in Family Photos
Posted by Maureen

Ronnie O'Rourke's great aunt Mary (Mamie) Smith (b. 1892) wears an enormous hat in this family portrait. Her grandson identified her in the image, but now the family wants to know who's standing with her.


Her hat and dress are quite stylish for this outdoor event. The presence of the mandolin suggests that this group was likely singing and maybe dancing along with the tunes played by the family musician.

Ronnie specifically wants to know if the man standing next to Mamie is her father, John Smith (b. 1865).  The family knows he died somewhere between 1905 and 1920, but they can't find the death record. It's the curse of the common name. She's been trying to narrow down just which John Smith is her relative.

She wonders if Mamie's cousins, the Nevins siblings Frank (b. 1887), Catherine (b. 1888), Thomas (b. 1892) and Louise (b. 1897) are in the photo.  

Each photo generates a series of questions. In this case, I'd love to know:
  • Why Mamie is visiting her cousins?
  • Are they all cousins, or did she have siblings?
  • Where was it taken?
  • Who took the picture?  It's a snapshot and someone owned an amateur camera, but who?  There could be other candid shots taken on the same day. 
  • Could the man be the father of the other people in the picture?

Ronnie wonders about that gorgeous hat. Turns out that Louise was a milliner and it's possible she made it.

The hat offers a few clues as to when the image was taken.

In the circa 1910 period large turban style hats became fashionable. French fashion magazines like the Journal Des Demoiselles. Click here to see a fashion plate from 1909. You'll see some similarities between these hats and the one worn by Mamie.


Fashion savvy Americans knew what the current styles were overseas. Here's the 1909 Spring Sears Catalog showing similar turban shaped hats.



By 1913, smaller hats were in vogue. The hat is one clue that suggests a time frame. 

Is it Mamie's father?  Perhaps.  If so, then he was still living after 1905.

Love looking at hats, check out the styles worn in the nineteenth century in Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 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


  • 1900-1910 photos | hats | summer | women
    Sunday, February 01, 2015 3:34:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, July 13, 2014
    Time Travel Vacations Using Stereographs
    Posted by Maureen

    This summer one of the most popular books is another installment of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (soon to be a mini-series). The story revolves around a World War II nurse who falls through a crack in time in a stone circle and ends up in mid-eighteenth century Scotland.

    We don't have to visit a stone circle to time travel. Photographs let us peek into the world of our ancestors.

    Previous generations took time to enjoy the season whether they traveled afar or to the nearest water venue. Many of the places our ancestors visited are no longer standing.

    For instance, residents and visitors to Philadelphia went to the Smith's Hotel and swimming pool on Smith's Island. The whole island is now gone.  The island once stood in the middle of the Delaware River. In the 1890s the U.S. government removed both Smith's Island and Windmill Island. You can read more about the venue on Philadelphia's Lost Islands. It's also possible to see what the swimming hole looked like by browsing the Library of Congress photo collection.



    The bright green card stock of this stereograph dates it to the mid to later 1860s when this color was common.  In 1868, card manufacturers began rounding the corners. This card still has square corners.

    A stereo card features two nearly identical images that appear 3D when viewed through a special viewer. This is the nineteenth century version of  going to the movies wearing those special glasses. 





    Here's one side of the image showing men using the slide.

    Take a trip into the past by browsing the Library of Congress site.  Start by searching a place name.  Then select an image.  When you do this is what you'll see.



    You'll be able to select the size of the image you can download. Options are underneath the image.  Cataloging information includes the photographer's name, date of publication and usage facts. On the lower half of the page you'll see links for subject, format and collections. At the very bottom you can click the bookmark link so you can revisit the same page.

    These links make it very easy to view other images on a similar topic such as "Swimming pools--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--1860-1870."  Or if you want to see more stereographs from the 1860s click that link.  

    It's easy to take an armchair trip into the past using stereo views.  Try it and see.



    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 | stereographs | summer
    Sunday, July 13, 2014 4:12:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]