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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, June 30, 2008
Photo Reunion Live!
Posted by Maureen

In the July 2008 issue of Family Tree Magazine, I wrote an article, "Charmed Life," about how genealogists connect with lost family—people, history and artifacts. It was a lot of fun to work on.

Midge Frazel, one of the women featured in the piece, has created a video of her story. You can watch it on her FaceBook page. In it she talks about how a chance discovery on the photo reunion site, Dead Fred, brought back a piece of her photo history. If you're not on FaceBook, don't worry, you can look at it on Flickr.

If you've never tried FaceBook, I recommend it! My teenagers hate that I have a page, but I'm having a great time connecting with colleagues via that social netwroking venue. By the way, if you decide to sign up, don't forget to become a fan of Family Tree Magazine. All you have to do is click on the cover.

I'd love to hear what you think of using FaceBook. Use the comment section below. 


Photo-sharing sites
Monday, June 30, 2008 2:23:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Loopy Photo Labels
Posted by Maureen

A big thank you to Leanne M. Baraban!  She bought this photo to share with me (and you). It's a great example of how good-intentioned labeling can go so very wrong. Below are all the identifications, and the woman who made them added a note: "I numbered these all so you would know who all of them were."

leanne.jpg.jpg

While it was a great idea to name each person for posterity, the numbers are written on the front of the photo in India ink. Here are the identifications:

no.1 Is my feller
 "    2 Nans feller
 "    3 Papa
  "   4 Nan
  "    5 me
  "   6 Mamma
  "   7 Mrs. Ashcroft (a neighbor)
  "   8 Miss Smith (the school teacher)
   "   9 is Miss Smiths feller
  "   10 Lucile
  "   11 Pleasant
  "   12 Mabel

That's all she wrote. I'm sure you've seen other examples of photos identified with arrows or x's, but if you really want future generations to be able to say who's who, follow these three steps.
1. Never write on the front. On the back is OK if you use a soft lead pencil for cardboard-mounted images, or a special photo-marking pen (such as a Zig marker) for 20th-century resin-coated snapshots. You can tag digital images using photo organizing or editing software.

2. Use the full name whenever possible. Wouldn't it be great to know who "Nan's feller" was? While this woman knew everyone's name, it's doubtful that identification lasted past her generation.

3. We'll probably never know why all these folks got together on a summer's day. If there's a special occasion associated with the image, include a short note.
If you're curious about when this picture was taken, look at the hats on the neighbor (7) and the school teacher (8). Those broad-brimmed, deep-crowned chapeaus were very common in the 1910 era. By the way, this is a postcard, and the design on the back first became available in late 1907.


1910s photos | photo postcards | preserving photos
Tuesday, June 24, 2008 2:26:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, June 16, 2008
Sisters or Mother and Daughter?
Posted by Maureen

A reader named Judy sent me a picture mystery that's a lot like choosing the answer to a multiple choice question—a, b or c. This makes my brain and eyes hurt. Here goes:

061608.jpg
  • On the back is written Great Grandma Frances Huffman.  Huffman was born in 1838.
  • In a different handwriting on the back someone wrote, Nira. There were two Niras in the family: Frances Huffman's mother, born about 1817, and a sister, born in 1859.
  • Frances Huffman had a daughter in 1856.
In case you're confused, both Huffman and her mother were giving birth to children in the 1850s. Huffman was 18 when her own daughter was born; her mother was 42 when she had Nira.

So who's in this picture? That's the quandry. The wide lace collar and beads suggest it was taken in the mid-to-late 1850s. The caption on the back suggests the woman is Huffman, but if it's really her and her about-2-year-old daughter, then it's an odd picture. 

In 1858, cased images such as daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and even tintypes were available, but paper prints weren't common. Note the gray cardboard used as backing and the circular shape to the portrait—I think this is a copy of an earlier image. The blurring of the portrait suggests the photographer shot the copy through the glass covering the original picture.

What about the additional caption mentioning Nira? Unless this is a picture of Huffman with her much younger sibling, that's probably a misidentification.

I'm not sure all the pieces of this puzzle are in place yet. I don't think the mother in this picture looks like she's in her 40s, but genetics and illness are just two factors affecting the aging process. Another picture of either Huffman or her mother wouldhelp  confirm the woman's identification.


1850s photos | children | women
Monday, June 16, 2008 10:33:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, June 09, 2008
Wicked Weather and Your Family Heirlooms (Photos included)
Posted by Maureen

It's that time of year when weather leads the news reports--tornados, floods and hurricanes. Also in the news are pictures and footage of folks clutching family photos they've rescued from disaster.  There is a lot you can do to save your family heirlooms from the wild and wicked weather.

I've written several weather related articles:

When the Worst Happens covers tips to remember when salvaging photos from water damage.

Planning for Disaster talks about the three steps in disaster preparedness--preparation, response and recovery.

10 Ways Weather Changed Your Family History appears in the May 2008 issue of Family Tree Magazine.  A timeline of weather events and a list of resources appears on the Family Tree Magazine website.

I'm a bit of a weather nut. I grew up in Rhode Island where everyone still talks about the Hurricane of 1938.  It devasted the state and most of the area never recovered. A high school  class in meteorology clinched my interest (and you thought I only cared about photos <smile>). My friends know not to raise the issue of global warming in my presence!

Two of my favorite books on weather are:

Mark Levine's F5: Devastation, Survival, and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the Twentieth Century (Miramax, $25.95)

R.A. Scott's Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 (Back Bay Books, $14.95)

I'd love to hear how you've rescued family heirlooms from destruction.  Post to either the comment section of this blog or to the Family Tree Magazine Photo Detective Forum.   Got a book to recommend?  Post that as well.


preserving photos
Monday, June 09, 2008 3:12:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# 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]