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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, December 21, 2014
More Mystery Photos in an Old Family Album
Posted by Maureen

The trouble with women in light colored dresses is identifying the occasion. Not all dresses that appear white in a picture are that color. Many pale shades such as light blue look white in nineteenth century photographs. A woman wearing a "white" dress could be dressed for a wedding, a graduation, a first communion or for a hot summer's day.  It can be confusing.

This is another picture in Jim Te Vogt's family album.  He wonders if this could be Catherine M. Darcy when she married in 1884.

While this girl is dressed like a typical bride, this is actually a First Communion photo. 
  • The length of her dress is appropriate for a young girl but not a grown woman.
  • The veil while usually associated with weddings is also worn for First Communions.
  • This image dates to the 1870s based on the rows of ruffles on the skirt, and the style of the jewelry worn.  Heavy looking jewelry was commonplace in that decade. 
  • Take note of the brace behind her feet. This is a photographer's posing device to hold her still.
  • Chairs of this style were commonly seen in photographs in the 1870s.

Jim researched the New York Gallery of San Francisco that took this image and found it was in business from 1869 to 1887.  

Catherine M. Darcy could be this girl. She was born in 1863.  Typical age for First Communion was between ten and fourteen years of age. A explanation of the history of this church rite can be found on the Catholic News Agency website.

There is another possible photo of Catherine in the album.


O.V. Lange of San Francisco took this photo between 1885 to 1886. The Darcy's were the only relatives known to live in that area. The brown card stock and the dress design support a date of the mid 1880s. 

Catherine married on November 25, 1884. The brocade dress fabric suggests a winter wedding, rather than a spring event. I wonder if it's possible that Lange's studio was in business as early as November 1884.

Queen Victoria popularized white wedding dresses, but for most of the nineteenth century ordinary women married in very nice non-white dresses. If this isn't her wedding portrait then it was taken within a year of the event.

This lovely pair of images documents two major occasions in the Darcy family. 

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 | wedding | women
    Sunday, December 21, 2014 2:34:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, May 25, 2014
    Daughters and Sons-in-law in an 1850s Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Jim TeVogt owns a copy of this gorgeous image, reported to be three of Horace W. Twichell's daughters and their husbands. A cousin told him that his photo was made from a glass negative in the Twichell family.

    Horace W  Twichelledit daughters  _husbands-Eveline Twichell  Usual Haggerty Devore Irene Jane _Twichell  Will Thomas Cadoo Emeline Twichell  Peter H  _C.jpg

    Could this be:
    • Eveline (born 25 May 1824) married in 1840 to Usual Haggerty Devore (born 1815)
    • Emeline (the twin to Eveline, born 25 May 1824) married in 1844 to Petr H. Conklin (born 1822)
    • Irene Jane (born 1838) married in 1852 to Will Thomas Cadoo (born 1825)?
    There are many questions:
    • What type of image is it, as it was supposedly made from a glass negative?
    • Who's who? Are these the twins with another sister?



    Here's what I see: 
    • All three women wear their hair tight over their ears in the style of the 1840s. It's a very conservative style. The family were Methodist.
    • Each woman Has a flower pinned in the center of the opening of her collar.
    • Wide-necked dresses with short sleeves were still being worn in the early 1850s. Each woman has accessorized her dress with a wide collar tucked at the waist.
    • The center woman wears a wide bow at the waist.  I've seen this in photos of weddings.
       horace twichell daughter.jpg
    • The daughter on the far right wears undersleeves to cover her arms. These tied on the arm above the elbow.

    twichell daughter right.jpg

    Horace Twichell had two other daughters: Harriet (born 1826), who married Daniel Malin in 1845; and Henrietta (born 1831), who married a man named Sulla before 1860. 

    The only sister the family has a positively identified image of is Harriet and her husband, circa 1870. 

    Daniel  Harriet Mallanedit - ca  1870.jpg

    This is not one of the sisters or husbands in the first image. This man has bushy eyebrows and is much older than his wife. There are facial similarities between the sisters, such as the shape of the face and nose. Unfortunately, there are no other images of the other sisters and their families.

    Wedding clues include the presence of the ribbon, the flowers and the similarly dressed women. So who's in the possible wedding image?  It could very well be the twins Emeline and Eveline with their sister Irene Jane in the middle. Irene married Dec. 15, 1852, which is a likely date for the picture. 

    As to the relative's comment about the glass negative, the original for a photo of this era would have been a shiny reflective daguerreotype. Glass negatives weren't available until after 1852, and glass ambrotypes weren't patented until 1854.  Someone in the family may have copied the original and ended up with a glass negative, from which TeVogt's image was made.  



    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 | unusual photos | wedding | women
    Sunday, May 25, 2014 4:34:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 08, 2010
    Family Across the Border
    Posted by Maureen

    Like so many French-Canadians and Acadians, some of Marie-Josee Binette's family left Quebec in the 1890s to seek jobs in the United States. She owns a lovely photo album that documents this move in pictures, but she has no idea who the people are.

    Marie-Josee knows that her great-grandmother Elina (Aline) Beaudoin spent several years in Lowell, Mass. with her husband Onesime Deblois. Both worked in area factories. After several years, some relatives stayed in the United States while others returned to Quebec. It's a familiar story to those of us with French-Canadian ancestry.

    From the imprint on this photo, it also appears that someone either lived in or visited the nearby city of Lawrence, Mass. Its nickname is the Immigrant City.

    Binnette2.jpg

    In the album is this beautiful image of a young couple. The style of her sleeves and dress date the photo to the last years of the 1890s. The photographer, Amos Morrill Bean, appears in Chris Steele and Ron Polito's A Directory of Massachusetts Photographers 1839-1900 (Picton Press, 1993). He was in business from 1868-1900.

    It's a great picture and I've seen poses like this before. While the couple's hands aren't touching, it suggestive of a wedding picture. Both the man and the woman wear very nice clothing. On their hands are brand new rings. The light glints off them. The woman wears her ring on the traditional left hand while her "husband" wears his on the right.  It's interesting.

    Binnette1crop.jpg

    My favorite part of this picture is the props. Both the man and the woman hold photographs on the table between them. Could this symbolize family that couldn't be there for the wedding? It's possible. There are any number of reasons to include photographs as props.

    Marie-Josee might find she still has cousins living in this country. Two organizations worth contacting are the American Canadian Genealogical Society and the American-French Genealogical Society. Both organizations have extensive resources on families that moved here, as well as those in Quebec.

    Got a mystery photo? Demystify it with help from Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.


    1890s photos | Immigrant Photos | men | wedding | women
    Monday, November 08, 2010 4:44:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, June 21, 2010
    Spotting a Wedding Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Irene Powell sent me this lovely wedding photo of her great-grandfather Joseph Kapler and his wife, Theresa. They were married in December, 1888.

    Their clothing is perfect for the late 1880s. Theresa's dress features a fitted bodice and her sleeves have vertical puffs at the shoulder seam. Her skirt has knife pleats at the side. Joseph wears a fitted 1880s jacket, a shirt with an upturned collar, vest and tie. He has short hair and a trimmed mustache.

    This photo is a perfect example of how a bride would often wear a very nice dress, rather than the Victorian ideal of a white ensemble. In this case, Theresa has accessorized her attire with wedding white in the bow at her neckline and a tiny headpiece. She doesn't carry a bouquet, but Joseph wears a large corsage pinned to his jacket. These tiny clues identify this as a wedding photo, even though neither one wears a wedding ring.

    kapler  sonnkalb old 019.jpg

    You might have wedding images in your collection and not recognize them. Watch for accessories that suggest a wedding—headpieces, corsages, flowers, bows and even sashes. Match up the family history information with a date for a photo, and you might be surprised that you have a wedding image or two. Getting married was a significant family milestone, and one that couples often commemorated with photos.  

    I've never seen the item that stands between them. It appears to be a small table, but it has unusual filigree legs and a support under the drum. Can anyone identify it?

    Need help researching, preserving and displaying your family photos? Visit ShopFamilyTree.com for how-to books and CDs.


    1880s photos | wedding | women
    Monday, June 21, 2010 4:48:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]