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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, September 24, 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, September 24, 2012 2:02:34 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
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