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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, November 10, 2008
A Reunion for the One-Gloved Mystery
Posted by Maureen

Here's a bit of proof that you should not only read the comments for each blog column but add one yourself. Imagine my surprise when Denise Damm commented on the one-glove mystery. (This makes the fourth post on this one photo!) 

Denise wrote "I am quite sure that the two men in the back are Samuel Wingfield (born in 1895) and his brother William Garretsmoke Wingfield (born in 1897)." She's speaking of the two men standing in the back of this photo:

According to Denise, the two men were cousins to the Melson boys Joel and Elmore. The Melsons' grandmother was the sister of Sam and Garret's grandfather. I'm so happy to have a reunion to feature in this spot!

Denise sent pictures of Sam and Garrett for me to share with you. Take a look and see what you think. Here's a picture of William taken in 1921:Sam Wingfield 1921 001.jpg

And here's a picture of Sam:
Wingfield 001edit.jpg

There is some confusion in the labeling of the first image. It says "Sam and William." Diane thinks it's William. 

Both men were born in Arkansas and later moved to California. I'm going to facilitate a reunion between the women. Denise really wants to talk with her long lost cousin Sue Stevenson. Wish I could be present when they start exchanging pictures and stories.


1920s photos | men
Monday, November 10, 2008 6:49:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, November 03, 2008
What Does the Future Hold For Your Family Photographs?
Posted by Maureen

I saw a very sad sight yesterday. I attended an collectibles show and saw a collection of daguerreotypes for sale. The mournful moment came when I realized that every single one of these images was identified.

As you probably know, daguerreotypes date from 1839 to the early 1860s. The majority of these images were from the 1850s. I really didn't want to leave them on the table, but at close to $1,000, the cost was too high for my budget. 

As a genealogist, you're aware that skills honed researching family back in time also can be used to track family forward. It's part of the whole orphan photo movement to reunite folks with their "lost" family pictures.

I purchased a couple of identified cabinet cards at the show and will try to reconnect them with relatives. I'll post my progress on this blog.

It broke my heart to see all those images sitting in that box. I see it all the time and it never gets any easier. The big question is: What's going to happen to your photos? Have you identified someone in your family to take care of your archive?

Before your pictures end up in a dumpster or split up at an antique show, start thinking about their future. Then write it down. Make sure your executor has a copy of the document so the collection you've cared for doesn't become someone's instant ancestors. 

In the words of one dealer: "I keep what I can sell and throw away the rest."  This was in response to my request for matrimonial images. Yup! They weren't worth saving. 

If you've reconnected a photo with a long-lost relative, please add your story to the Comments section. Each one of those reunion tales is heartwarming. Can't wait to hear from you!


preserving photos
Monday, November 03, 2008 7:45:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [8]
# Monday, October 27, 2008
Final Installment: One-Glove Mystery Solved!
Posted by Maureen

I'm doing the happy dance right now! I finally contacted Sue Anderson, the owner of the photo of the four men—two wearing one glove each—featured in two blog posts. Turns out she was on vacation and hadn't imagined the fuss being made over this photo. All she wanted to know was the date of the image and why the one glove. 

In the first post, I dated the image using the postcard back to a time frame of 1904 to 1918. That was the only sure information in the picture.

In the second installment, I reported readers' theories and focused on the gloves. Well, the pieces have finally fallen into place. You're not going to believe it!

While Sue's older relatives were sure two of the men were Lance and Elmore Melson, she wasn't positive because these elderly relatives have been wrong before. They said the two men in the front were Melsons and the men in the back were Wingfields.

Those two in the front are definitely Melsons. Sue sent me several other family photographs that confirm the resemblance. The ears are a giveaway.

Elmore Melson (b. 1896) had two other brothers: Joel (b.1894) and Bertram (b. 1892). I think Sue's family was partially right. Lance Melson would be too young to be in the group photo, but Joel is old enough. It's actually his presence (right front in the group image and below) and age that specifically date the image and solve the one glove detail!

Joel Melson.jpg

Notice the rolled up pants <smile>.

So here goes...
  • Joel dies in 1918 in Oklahoma of pneumonia. The group portrait is likely the last image taken of the 24-year-old. It fits the 1918 period. His brother Elmore would be 22 in that image.
  • Melson and his brothers worked as farmers and weren't very well-off. In Joel's spare time, he also worked as a bronco rider. In the first blog post on this mystery, I suggested the glove was work-related. Since bronco riding isn't something I'm pfamiliar with, I contacted a colleague, Kathy Hinckley (known as the Family Detective), who grew up on a ranch in South Dakota and participated in riding events. She confirmed my theory that bronco riders wear one glove on the dominant hand! Mystery solved.
The men's ties are very Western in style. Kathy made one other comment about something I pondered: Why dress in suits and wear the riding glove? She thought this picture probably commemorated a special event, such as winning at the rodeo. I have no proof of this detail, but the explanation makes sense.
  • There's one more detail Sue helped with—the rolled pants. In the group picture those rolls look like cuffs, but it turns out Joel wasn't very tall, and instead of having his pants hemmed, just rolled them up.  
Sue is amazed at the number of comments and emails about her photo. Thank you to everyone who posted remarks or sent comments. I'm glad we can put the artifical hand theory to rest; Joel had both of his hands at the time of his death.


1910s photos | group photos | men | props in photos
Monday, October 27, 2008 3:28:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, October 20, 2008
Gloved Mystery
Posted by Maureen

Last week I wrote about a photo in which two of the men depicted each wore only one glove. I wondered about the significance of this oddity. A couple of people sent me e-mails about their thoughts.

Let's take a closer look at the gloves:

Lance and Elmore Melsonedit.jpg

Candy Rypczyk wrote, "My husband had a relative who lost both hands in a coal mining accident in Pennsylvania, and wore heavy gloves like this to hide the hooks he had in place of hands. The young man looks pretty young to have worked in the coal mines, but could also have been born with a hand deformity. Just a thought. (Perhaps the other young man is wearing a glove 'in sympathy.')"

I agree with you, Candy. There's definitely something different about the hands of the man on right. If you compare the dimensions of his hand, the gloved one is significantly larger. That's not the case with the man on the left—both his hands are the same size. I'll delve deeper into this mystery by contacting the owner of the photo to see if she has an additional family information.

Thank you also to the reader who suggested the man on the right might have an artificial limb, and to the person who observed the way the men in the front posed their legs for the picture. Another reader thought it might be a golfing glove.

I wonder if the type of glove provides any clues. It's a heavy leather glove. It's a little fancy for a work glove and their attire doesn't suggest they've come from their day's labor to pose for this picture.

So the questions remain:

  • What type of glove is this?
  • Do their gloved hands correspond with their dominant hands?
  • Did they have injured/artificial hands? Perhaps they are missing partial fingers on those hands?
  • What did these men do for work?
Isn't it fun the way a single photo can generate so many questions!

men
Monday, October 20, 2008 2:19:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Sunday, October 19, 2008
Tag continued!
Posted by Maureen

Kathryn Doyle of the California Genealogical Society and Library Blog added two more categories to the Tag game also called a meme.  By the way, check out the international blogs that Kathyrn tagged.

Five Places to Visit Again
1. Italy ( I love the whole country)
2. Sante Fe, New Mexico
3. Jekyll Island, Georgia
4. Bermuda (Have you caught on to the theme...sun and warmth)
5. The Pacific Coast

Five Places I Want to Visit for the First Time
1. Scotland ( I want to tread where my ancestors lived!)
2. The rest of the Fifty States I haven't been too. ( I know that's not specific)
3. Spain
4. Egypt
5. Switzerland
Actually anyplace I haven't been.  I LOVE to travel.


Photo fun
Sunday, October 19, 2008 3:39:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, October 17, 2008
Tag I'm It! An Online Game
Posted by Maureen

Diane Haddad of Family Tree Magazine's Genealogy Insider blog tagged me and this blog in a game of Internet tag.  So here goes...

10 Years Ago I..
1. Left full-time employment and benefits like vacation time to freelance and focus on photos.
2. Coordinated a website project Boston Family History
3. Had two young children
4. Wrote my first trade paperback book, Through the Eyes of Your Ancestors, a guide to family history for kids.
5. Didn't have time for anything else <grin>

Five Things on Today's To-Do List
1. Try to catch up on e-mail
2. Write this column
3. Attend my son's soccer game
4. Work on some client reports
5. Wrap up work to take the weekend off

Five Snacks I Enjoy
1. Newman O's (the wheat free/dairy free kind)
2. Pamela's dark chocolate chocolate chip cookies
3. Raspberry Sorbet (Haagan Dazs)
4. Tostitos
5. Green and Blacks 85% Dark Chocolate

Five Places I've Lived
1. Bristol, Rhode Island
2. Providence, Rhode Island
3. Boston area, Massachusetts (twice)
4. That's all!

Five Jobs I've Had
1. clerk in a hardware store
2. Photo Curator
3. Reference Librarian
4. Picture Researcher
5. The Photo Detective <grin>

Five Blogs I Tag (This is a hard question there are so many I like to read)
1. Dead Fred (of course)
2. California Genealogical Society and Library Blog ( I love Wordless Wednesday's)
3. The Genealogue
4. The 24/7 Family History Circle
5. The Practical Archivist


Photo fun
Friday, October 17, 2008 9:10:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, October 13, 2008
Postal Clues and a One-Glove Mystery
Posted by Maureen

In honor of an upcoming article in the print Family Tree Magazine, this week's photo mystery is a postcard.

In the January 2009 issue, I wrote a piece called Getting the Message on the ways our ancestors communicated and the types of records they left behind. One of the methods highlighted was postcards. (The issue mails to subscribers near the end of October and goes on sale Nov. 11.)

Sue Stevenson sent me this postcard of four men:

Lance and Elmore Melson.jpg

In the front row are supposedly
(left to right) Lance Melson (1907-1988) and Elmore Melson (1896-1938). It's a real-photo postcard—a photograph with a postcard back.



Sue's big question doesn't concern the men's identities, but the mysterious single glove on each man in the front row. Before looking at that puzzle, let's backtrack and look at the other clues.

Let's start with the postcard back. One of my favorite postcard sites is Playle's Auction Site. It has an online directory that details the stamp box designs.

According to this site, the AZO box with upright triangles in the corners appeared from 1904 to 1918. Uh oh—if Lance Melson was born in 1908, he'd have to be 10 in this photo. That doesn't add up.

The men's clothing is a bit odd. Are their pants legs rolled up, or do they just have very wide cuffs? Cuffed pants were common on casual clothes in the early 20th century, but the cuffs on these pants are a bit extreme.

Neckties are the other interesting clothing detail. The man on the right in the front row wears a soft polka dot tie, a pattern that first appeared in the late 19th century. This style may be unique to his area, since it's not the type of tie you'd see in most of the country in the early 20th century.

Based on a working date for this image between 1904 and 1918, it may depict Lance's and Elmore's fathers, rather than the boys. More family history information would be necessary to verify that conclusion. 

As to the one glove? It's curious that one man wears a glove on his right hand and the other on his left. This could indicate their dominant hands. I haven't found other images like this, but I suspect these heavy leather gloves were worn for work. Or perhaps the men were just clowning for the camera.

Sue's right about their ears, though. This facial similarity indicates the men are likely related.

If anyone else has a photo of men wearing one glove—decades before Michael Jackson made it fashionable—send it along to me.

1910s photos | group photos | men | photo postcards
Monday, October 13, 2008 4:44:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Monday, October 06, 2008
Sound Off! Where Do You Post Family Pictures?
Posted by Maureen

In honor of October being Family History Month, I'd like to hear from you about your favorite photo sharing sites and where you post your family tree information. I have to admit this is a personal interest.

If you read the July 2008 issue of Family Tree Magazine then you know I wrote an article, Charmed Life, about how relatives re-connect.  Last weekend I experienced something all the folks quoted in that piece mentioned--finding a lost piece of family history.  Here's the irony.  Not only did I happen across a distant cousin's website with pedigree charts but I also discovered he'd posted a couple of photographs of my great-great grandmother and her siblings as well as her parents. 

I've been roaming the Internet for years looking for connections with no luck. Imagine my surprise to finally have an "Oh My Gosh" moment.  Now of course I'm wondering if I should create my own family website or just add to his information.  I have a family tree on Ancestry.com for my paternal side, but this cousin is from the maternal side of the family. Since my Mom is interested in genealogy, she's been working on her tree (with a little help from me).

Ah...the dilemma.  So what's an inquiring genealogist to do?  Ask the readers of this column of course.  I'd really like to hear about your good experiences of sharing research and relics, but also how you'd do things differently.

It's no news to you that there are lots of sites and many possibilities. While I've been involved in genealogy for decades this is the first time I've been asked to share.  So what do you think?


Photo-sharing sites
Monday, October 06, 2008 4:14:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [13]
# Friday, September 26, 2008
An Early Paper Print Confirmed!
Posted by Maureen

Way back in June 2005, I wrote a Photo Detective column for Family Tree Magazine on a mysterious-looking paper photograph. This week, the owner of the image, George Pek, sent me an update.

pekIMg.jpg

In 2005, I surmised that Pek's image was a salted paper print, but I didn't have  proof. At the time, he didn't have a scan and lived too far away for me to see the original. This week, however, he sent me this lovely scan. It clearly shows the thin paper image and the heavier paper backing.

(By the way, I've made several attempts to even up the contrast without any luck. The surface of the paper is shiny and reflects the light from the scanner.)

Pek also sent me proof that I'd identified the photo correctly: results from  tests on the image. Using an electron microscope, a scientist had captured an X-ray spectrum of a fragment of the image that clearly indicated it's a salted paper print. The testing showed that the paper contained not only sodium and magnesium, but also traces of bromine—which the scientist says was an experimental additive at the time. His report concluded that, although there's no way to confirm the picture's date from this testing, the results are consistent with 1848.

That's the year on the image. Pek continues to look for evidence that this is Judith Simpson, a woman who appears in Quebec records. If the name and age are correct, Simpson was born about 1774.

Salted paper prints date from 1840 to circa 1860—the same era as silver-plate daguerreotypes. Interestingly, the pricier daguerreotype images were more popular than paper prints in the 1840s and 1850s, at least in America.

The most charming part of this portrait is Simpson's attire. Her clothing reflects fashions of the 1830s, not the late 1840s when she sat for this picture. It's clear proof that not everyone dressed in the latest fashion for their portraits—so it's important to consider all the clues in an image.



women | 1840s photos
Friday, September 26, 2008 4:42:14 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, September 22, 2008
Tackling an Albumful of Mystery Photos
Posted by Maureen

Bobbi Borbas wrote back after I posted her unidentified group portrait to say that after looking at her family history, she still isn't sure who the folks are in her mystery image. Some photo mysteries take a great deal of time and patience to solve. I still think the case can be cracked!

A similarly vexing mystery: I was on the road again this weekend meeting people at the Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center in Manassas, Va. I saw some gorgeous photos and new mysteries. One in particular stands out. A woman brought in a photo album that had been passed down in the family. She didn't know who any of the people were, but I really believe she can put the pieces together.

I don't have any photos to share, so I'll describe the album: It had two clusters of photos. The first half featured photos from the late 1880s, all taken in Grand Island, Neb. The last couple of pages had photos from the 1860s, with no photographer's name or address. It appeared that at least two generations were included.

Here's how I'd approach this problem (similar steps can work for your own photos):
  • Research the population of Grand Island in the 1880s. That's the easy part. According to Wikipedia, less than 3,000 people lived there in 1880, but close to 7,500 did as of 1890. The reason for this population boom: the railroad. 
  • When was the photographer in business? I'd start this search by contacting the Nebraska State Historical Society. Its reference department might have a list of photographers in the area.
  • Next, look at surnames in the family and think about the following questions: Who lived in Nebraska in that time frame? When did they settle in the area and why? Those answers can lead to sources such as land and church records, which can fill in for the "lost" 1890 federal census schedules. 
  • The number one spot in a photo album is key. In this case, that picture was a young boy, with the second and third images showing a couple, followed by two girls. Did the boy die?
  • Look for facial similarities. In this album, there were clusters of pictures where it was clear from their noses and mouths that they were all close relatives.
  • Re-examine the family history. By adding up all the clues, I think it's possible to assign some probable names to these individuals.
Every piece of evidence helps tell the story of a photo album. There was a reason behind the order of the images. Who created it often becomes clear, and by solving one of the picture mysteries, you get that much closer to figuring out the rest. 

This is one problem I'd love to help solve.  If the woman from RELIC would like some assistance, send me an e-mail. It'd make an interesting case study for a future column. 


1860s photos
Monday, September 22, 2008 3:04:05 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]