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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, June 02, 2008
Unknown Soldiers
Posted by Maureen

I owe a big thank-you to readers who sent pictures of the military men in their family. My in box has quite of few images of men in mystery uniforms, so I thought focusing on military pictures for another week was warranted.

editUnknow soldiers WW1.jpg

Pay attention to the details such as these in a uniform, to help identify when it was worn.

  • During the Civil War, belt buckles often bore state abbreviations or CSA for the Confederate States of America. 
  • Hats are key. The shape and design of the hat can specify a time frame while insignia can help you identify the unit in which the soldier served.
  • Cloth chevrons on the sleeves and shoulders of a uniform and insignia on the collar or headgear signified rank.
  • Not all uniforms are military in origin. Fraternal groups costumes and occupational  attire is often confused with military uniforms.

Unfortunately, there's no single source that shows all the uniforms worn by soldiers or sailors. In the 19th century, there was quite a diversity of uniforms, with each unit having its own. Colorful attire such as the Turkish pants worn by the Zouaves were just one recognizable variation.

If you don't know who's depicted in photograph of a soldier or a sailor, try finding evidence of military service in documents—pension records, enlistment papers and other genealogical materials. 

Keep in mind that not all the military photos in your photo collection depict relatives—they could be friends of the family. One of the emails I received was from Connie L. Huntling. Her grandmother worked at a Veterans Administration hospital in Plattsburg, NY, during World War I.  In her papers were many photographs of men who were patients at the hospital. Connie sent me the two in this post two with the hope that someone will recognize these men.

060208.jpg
Please take a look at and click Comment below to tell me if you have any ideas about who the men might be. I'm going to ask Huntling to post the pictures to the photo-reunion site DeadFred as well.


men | Military photos | photo-research tips
Monday, June 02, 2008 8:14:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Sunday, June 01, 2008
How to Submit Your Mystery Photo to the Photo Detective
Posted by Maureen

Do you have shoeboxes filled with unidentified family photographs? Let photo historian Maureen A. Taylor lend a hand.

You can submit a mystery photograph for Taylor to analyze online in the Photo Detective blog or in Family Tree Magazine's print Photo Detective column.
See the Photo Detective blog for examples of the kind of information Taylor may be able to provide about your image.

Taylor will contact you by e-mail or phone if your submission is chosen for analysis. In that case, Family Tree Magazine may publish the picture and Taylor's professional analysis containing your name and the names of any relevant deceased ancestors on this blog or in the magazine.

Please note that by submitting your image, you grant Family Tree Magazine permission to use it in any and all print, online and promotional materials.

How to submit photos by e-mail:
Scan the picture in JPG format with a resolution of 300 dpi. If there are markings on the back, scan it as well. Send the images to Taylor as an e-mail attachment with the words Family Tree Magazine in the subject line. Include the following in the body of the message:
  • Your name and contact information. Taylor may need to ask you more questions about your picture.
  • Any information you have about the image, such as how it came into your possession, who you suspect is pictured and why, the location, etc.
  • Your specific question about the picture.
How to submit photos by postal mail:
Make a photographic copy of your image using a scanner or retail photo kiosk, or by visiting a photo services lab. Using a photocopier will result in a poor-quality image that can't be analzed. Copy the back, too, if it contains any markings. 

Type a letter with the bulleted information above. Mail the letter and copied photo to Photo Detective, Family Tree Magazine, 10151 Carver Rd., Blue Ash, OH 45242. DO NOT send your original photograph—photos will not be returned to you.

Disclaimers:
Many factors come into play in identifying historical photos; therefore, Family Tree Magazine can't guarantee the accuracy of an analysis. Not every submitted photo will be analyzed. Taylor is unable provide individuals with free private analyses; however, if you are interested in her professional photo services, please visit her Photo Detective Web site


photo news
Sunday, June 01, 2008 8:41:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, May 26, 2008
Military Memories
Posted by Maureen

In honor of Memorial Day, I'll mention two items appropriate for the occasion. First, if you enjoyed the books Dating Old Photographs and More Dating Old Photographs (Moorshead Magazines), then you're going to love the new one in the series. Dating Military Photographs will let you compare all your mysterious military images to those other people have submitted.

If you'd like to contribute a few pictures, you can read more about the project on the Family Chronicle Web site. The editors are looking for images of miltary personnel from the Mexican War up to and including World War I. The editors have asked for a little information about each picture, such as when the person served.

Speaking of World War I, attendees at the National Genealogical Society conference in Kansas City were treated to one of the country's best museums (that's my opinion anyway). Who knew the city housed a museum dedicated to World War I? I didn't. A colleague suggested it was well worth a visit. She was right! The National World War One Museum was a visual experience:
  • Visitors watch two movies about the time period that include actual footage from the era.
  • A recreated trench lets you experience how scary it must have been to fight from those mud-walled pits.
  • There are tanks and uniforms galore as well as a poppy field of honor for those who died during the war.
The uniform displays alone taught me a few things about military attire during that world war. If you get a chance to visit Kansas City, make sure you include a visit to this museum.

If you have an image of an ancestor in a World War I uniform, send it to me.  I'll feature it next week.


Military photos | photo-research tips
Monday, May 26, 2008 2:50:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, May 19, 2008
Fraternal Insignia
Posted by Maureen

Linda Matthews was just one of the people who answered my call for pictures of ancestors in fraternal uniforms. She inherited this wonderful photo of her cousin Carl Lager.

051908lager.jpg

Carl was born April 23, 1854, in Sweden, and died Feb. 15, 1935, in Henry County, Ill.  According to a short biography of him in the three-volume History of Swedes in Illinois (published in 1908 and available on Google Book Search), he was a Mason, a Knight Templar, an Odd Fellow, a Knight of Pythias and a Mystic Shriner.

He also was a Major in the Patriarchs Miiltant, the uniformed branch of the Odd Fellows. Matthews wondered about his uniform in this photo and suggested it's Patriarchs Militant attire.



She's right. The three interlocking rings is the symbol for the Odd Fellows while the symbol on his hat identifies the specific group within the organization.
 
051908head.jpg

You'll find photos of the insignia on his hat online .

men | organizations
Monday, May 19, 2008 4:56:14 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, May 09, 2008
Fraternal Membership Clue
Posted by Maureen

David Farmer wrote asking about a photo of his paternal grandfather. It's on metal and depicts Charles Birchfield Farmer in his work clothes.

051208b.jpg

Charlie Birchfield Farmer was a farmer. He stands in front of a barn and an old wheel. Tucked into his overalls is a pistol, and slung across his chest is a canteen for when he got thirsty working in the fields. 

Farmer was born in 1885 in northeast Tennessee and lived in southwest Virginia. This image depicts him in the early part of the 20th century. as a young man, so I'd estimate this was taken before 1910. Any gun experts out there want to take a look at his pistol?  That could narrow the time frame even further.

Photographs could appear on any type of surface that could be coated with light-sensitive chemicals, such as metal, leather, fabric and porcelain. In this case, it's a metal frame.



The most unusual part of the image wasn't its setting, but the letters and symbols surrounding Farmer's portrait. David wants to know what the letters FLT mean.

The interlocking three rings at the top of the frame indicate Farmer was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the FLT—that stands for the group's slogan, "Friendship, Love, Truth."

If you have an image of an ancestor in a fraternal costume, send it in. I'll feature it in an upcoming column.

1900-1910 photos | men | unusual surfaces
Friday, May 09, 2008 3:30:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
Locks and Lace
Posted by Maureen


050808Earl Lamson.jpg


I couldn't resist posting this photo submitted by Cyndi Fraser.  This little boy is Charles E. Lamson, born November 20, 1899 in Minnesota.   Sears Roebuck's sold similar blouses for 50 cents.

Thank you Cyndi!


1900-1910 photos
Friday, May 09, 2008 2:58:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, May 05, 2008
Curly Locks: A Trend Revealed
Posted by Maureen

I asked for it. I posted a request for images of curly-headed tots and now I've got several. Thank you!!

They confirm my hypothesis about boys and hair. It appears that in the early 20th century, there was a trend—little boys with long hair and hair bows. They look just like their sisters. What's a genealogist to do to tell them apart? 

Family traditions, oral histories and good old-fashioned genealogical research are the only ways to tell the boys from the girls in these cases. Don't jump to conclusions when you see a bow in this period—you might be wrong. Add up the kids in the family, ask older relatives if they know who's who, and try to match up their ages to kids in the photo using census returns and other documents.

Here's an image Esther Thompson sent me: 


Her emails says it all "This is a picture of my great-grandparents William and Ida Johnson, and the boy in the front with the curls (and bow in his hair) is my grandfather Andrew Clyde Johnson, born in 1897. I got this picture from my Dad's sister and when I asked her who the little girl was, she said, 'that little girl is your grandfather.' I couldn't believe it."

Here's a close-up. Enjoy!

050608 child.jpg

1900-1910 photos | children | group photos
Monday, May 05, 2008 4:26:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, April 28, 2008
Family Portraits: Boy or Girl?
Posted by Maureen

Elva Martin sent me this picture to help settle a family reunion disagreement.

042808.jpg





















See the child in the second row on the far right? The one with a bow in the hair? Do you think this is a boy or a girl?



The picture is an example of confusing details even when you know the name of everyone in a photo.

Martin's clan is clear about this being the Peter Mower family. They even have a date for the picture, 1910.

It's that troublesome child causing the disagreement. "Petter" Mower, his wife and their nine children appear in the 1910 census for Saugerties, NY. Their oldest, Harry (age 16) stands proudly in the back. Leona (3) sits on her father's lap while baby Marion is with Mom.

The rest of the boys are Leory (15), Arnold (13), Adelbert (11), Orie (10), Louis (7) and Everett (5). Orie is supposed to be the child with the bow, but did boys wear bows in the their hair and long curls?  The answer is, sometimes!

I know I've written columns about the ways boys and girls wore their hair parted—boys on the side and girls down the center—but there are always exceptions. Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1886 book, Little Lord Fauntleroy, featured a main character named Cedric whose mother dressed him in a "black velvet suit, with a lace collar, and with love-locks."  You can read the whole text for free on the Project Gutenberg site.  But Burnett didn't start the trend, she only popularized it.

Throughout the centuries, there have been mothers who couldn't bear to cut the gorgeous curls from their little boys' heads. It appears Orie's mom couldn't either. Of all the children in the portrait, Orie resembles her the most.



He has her mouth, eyes, nose and even the same-shape face. Perhaps he was her favorite. It's impossible to know, unless there's a family story about Orie's place in his mother's affections.

Despite the family disagreement about his sex, this child is a boy.

E-mail me your old pictures of boys in curls and I'll feature them in a future blog. For now, this is another picture puzzle solved.

1910s photos | children | group photos
Monday, April 28, 2008 10:51:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, April 18, 2008
New Discovery in Photo History
Posted by Maureen

This story is so good I couldn't wait until next week to blog about it. The April 17 New York Times ran a story, "An Image is a Mystery for Photo Detectives." This is one mystery I wish I was actively working on.

Turns out William Fox Talbot probably wasn't the first person to develop paper images.

There was a circle of friends in England who tinkered with photographic processes as early as the 1790s. While the news doesn't change when daguerreotypes were patented (1839), this tale of photo detecting focuses on a series of clues relating to who took the images of leaves the New York Times reports on. 

I've written about provenance, i.e. the trail of ownership of an heirloom or photo, and in this one case it's key. Photo historians attributed these leaf pictures to Talbot, but now a historian familiar with his work doesn't believe that to be true. It's like a Pandora's Box of photo history. If this one picture isn't Talbots, then likely several others aren't attributed properly, too.

It's a great tale. Sotheby's is going to auction some of these pieces, but right now photo scholars are trying to figure out the true photographer.


photo news
Friday, April 18, 2008 4:33:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Belieu Babies
Posted by Maureen

Within moments of posting last week's column on the pictures of Catherine Denison Belieu and her babies, I received an e-mail from Midge Frazel, Denison family historian. Turns out there's nothing simple about those Belieu kids. Did Catherine have 11, 12 or 13 children? It's still being debated.

I wrote that the family traveled to Oregon by boat, but another family historian commented that the family could have traveled overland. She's right, but this family took the water route. You can read Midge's note about how the family got to Oregon by clicking Comments below last week's piece. 

So which babies are depicted in these portraits? Catherine's clothing is a simple dress with a small collar accented by a pin. This helps date the picture to a short time frame, the mid-1860s to at least 1869. After 1869, women's collars changed. Of course there's no guarantee Catherine stopped wearing her older clothing into the early 1870s.

Catherine and her husband, John Asbury Belieu, had several children in the late 1860s and early 1870s.
  • Sarah Naomi Alice, born Dec. 4, 1864; died June 13, 1867.

  • Jesse Leander, born Oct. 11, 1866.

  • M. Elizabeth Evalin, born Feb. 3, 1869. This Eva is supposed to be Carole Hayden's great-grandmother, but some genealogists claim this child died in 1872.  There's a mistake in here somewhere.

  • James Asbury Elmer, born Jan. 2, 1871
It's likely the two babies in the photos are two of these children, but it's difficult to assign names. I think that at least one of them is Sarah, who died in 1867. It was a common practice to pose for a picture with a first child.

The two images show different children. I've come to that conclusion by comparing the shapes of their heads—they're slightly different. Both children wear dresses, but you can't jump to the conclusion they're girls. The mother could be reusing a garment from her first baby.

Regardless of who's who, these two images are treasures for the Denison/Belieu family. Now here's a challenge to other descendants. Do you own pictures of Catherine with her other children? Send them in and let's really try to settle the question of which baby is which.


1860s photos | children | women
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 2:09:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]