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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, July 13, 2009
Which Immigrant is It?
Posted by Maureen

I've been asked to determine which wife is in a picture or which child, but this is the first inquiry that referred to an immigrant-ancestor mystery.

Jeanette Bias told me that "she knows everything about her family," just not who's in this picture. It's a scan of a cousin's original. This ardent genealogist has written two books on her family and is coordinating a reunion for late summer. She really wants to know who's in this image! 

Bias Unknown Dulas.jpg

This elderly couple's portrait makes a great example of an immigrant portrait. First, their clothing isn't current to the late 19th century; they're wearing simple clothing from their homeland. His high boots and her bonnet are clearly not fashionable, but rather, functional and cultural. 

Bias knows that all of her family immigrated from a small village in Silesia (now part of southwest Poland).

In order to help Jeannette date the picture and identify the couple, I need a couple of other details.

  • Color of the card stock of the original: Different color photographic mounts were popular at different times.

  • A photographer's name: I'm hopeful that either the bottom margin of the card or the back contains the name of a photographer.

The backdrop isn't unusual enough to jump to conclusion, but could this be a couple who remained in Silesia? The additional information will help.

Jeannette originally thought this was Simon (1843-1892) and Mary Dulas (1850-1932). She owns several pictures of Mary, but none of Simon. The couple immigrated on Nov. 1, 1884.  When Simon died at 55, Mary was only 42. This couple is much older than that.

So who's in the image?  I'm working with Jeannette to figure out this puzzle in time for her family reunion. The card stock, photographer's info. and perhaps even geography will help solve this one. Stay tuned!


Immigrant Photos
Monday, July 13, 2009 9:06:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Scanning Photos: Convex Images
Posted by Maureen

An integral part of the FamilyTreeMagazine.com web site is the reader forum. Did you know there's one called Photo Detective? Anyone can post, all you have to do is register. Last week, someone posted a question that deserves a whole blog column. K. Pherson wrote
I have a photo of an ancestor in its original old oval wall frame, which has a convex (outwardly-rounded) glass over it. It's large (approximately 18 by 24 inches) and the photo itself is convex. I have a similar empty frame, and I'd like to copy another picture to put in this frame, but no photo lab in my area seems to know how to duplicate a photo so that it looks good on a rounded surface. The photo becomes distorted.
Click here to see an explanation of how these convex images, popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s, were created, and what they look like.

This is actually a two-part response. I want to talk first about scanning those convex images, then offer advice on how to create a print to place in one of those frames.

Copying a Convex Image
If you have a convex image (glass or tin) and have tried to scan it, you know how difficult it is. If you can find a photo business in your area that has a 3D scanner, getting a copy will be easy. These specialty 3D scanners cost in excess of $2,000. They're cool devices—Jay Leno has one to photograph cars and they've been featured on the show "Mythbusters." A company called NextEngine manufactures them; its Web site is full of fascinating examples and a demo video.

For the rest of us, duplicating a convex image is a challenge. My usual method is to take photograph. Scanning such an image in sections and "stitching" them together using photo editing software might work, but I haven't tried it. If any reader has a successful way to duplicate a convex image, please comment on this article.

Removing a Picture from a Conves Frame
Be extremely cautious if you want to remove an image from one of these convex frames. These images are often stuck to the glass and trying to remove them will destroy the picture. If you're in doubt, consult a professional photo conservator.

Creating a Convex Effect
To create that curved effect for a flat image so it looks nice in his empty frame, K. Pherson doesn't need a photo lab. It's possible to do it using Adobe PhotoShop. I found a couple of online tutorials to help: The first is a step-by-step video by Luv2Help.com. ShapeShed also has written and video instructions.

If you'd like to create that effect but you don't own PhotoShop, try contacting a digital photo restorer in your area. I hope this helps!


preserving photos | unusual surfaces
Tuesday, July 07, 2009 6:27:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, June 29, 2009
News from California and Chicago
Posted by Maureen

This past weekend I attended the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree. What an experience! If you've never been, think about attending next year. You'll be glad you did. It was perfect.

The conference was held at the Marriott at Burbank Airport, a beautiful hotel with great rates. The convention center is connected to the hotel. 

In the exhibit hall I sat next to Lisa Louise Cooke of GenealogyGems. Lisa scheduled interviews throughout the conference for both her own podcasts and those she produces for Family Tree Magazine. You'll definitely want to listen in.

Lots of folks who read this blog and my articles in Family Tree Magazine stopped by to say hi and show me pictures. For an upcoming Photo Detective column in the magazine, I wrote about one family's picture of an ancestor in his fraternal organization regalia. The owners came by to show me the original tintype.

(I'm actually still in California. Since I live in Boston, any trip to the west Coast includes a little vacation time.)

If you live in the Chicago area, there's an art show over 4th of July weekend at the Flat Iron Building you might be interested in. A couple of weeks ago the show organizers contacted me to ask if they could include two of my video podcasts. Of course I said YES!

The show is called Salute! and it celebrates patriotism. They'll be showing my video on the history of flags in photographs and one on veterans at Mount Vernon. I wish I could be there. You can see those videos you can watch them on my PhotoDetective channels on YouTube and Vimeo.


Genealogy events | Videos
Monday, June 29, 2009 4:40:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, June 22, 2009
Photo Craft Directions
Posted by Maureen

Several readers wrote to me after the article Photo Crafts From Our Readers. They wanted to know how to create those lovely photo tins and bookmarks.

Carol Norwood shared how she made her photo bookmarks:
The bookmarks are very simple. I just make them in Microsoft Publisher. I create several long, skinny strips on a page (I find three fit nicely on an 8-1/2 x 11-inch sheet of paper). I drop in a photo and then the appropriate text regarding that person. After printing three to four on card stock, I cut the bookmarks on a paper cutter. 
I don't know about you, but this is something I definitely want to try!

Carolyn Natsch wrote to tell me that those lovely photo tins were sold by a company named Maya Road, but are not currently available. Both of us searched and couldn't find another supplier. She suggested looking for similar items at scrapbook and craft stores. You can also make personalized photo tins using the online photo processing site Snapfish.com.

In fact, most of the photo processing sites now offer product lines you can personalize with family pictures. If you're planning a family reunion and want to produce a large quantity of items, check out the offerings on CafePress.com. Shirts, mugs, aprons and bags are all possibilities.

June 26-28 I'll be at the Southern California Genealogical Society  Jamboree in Burbank. I hope you'll stop by my booth (#117) and say hello!


Photo fun
Monday, June 22, 2009 4:30:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, June 15, 2009
The Trouble With Captions on Old Photos
Posted by Maureen

 

Barbara DeCrease found a photo in her grandmother's belongings with a one-word caption on the back: Grandfather. The trouble with captions like this is the lack of other identifying information. She doesn't know who wrote it, so she's puzzled. 

Her grandmother's grandfather was William James Elmore Jr., born circa 1860 in Panola County, Miss. The family has no record of him after 1910. This Elmore's father was also William James Elmore, born circa 1842 in South Carolina. No record of this man exists after 1880.

This is a wonderful picture of a hard-working man. Note the dusty work-boots. So which man is he? Barbara is fairly certain it's Elmore Jr., but does the proof add up?



Let's look at the caption again.



This is a postcard. The first photographic postcards were introduced in 1900, so it's clear this image dates from after that year.

The "when" is also simple: The stamp box in the upper right corner is an AZO design with triangles in the corners. This particular design was first introduced in 1910 and remained common until 1930. If you have a photo postcard in your collection, try matching up the stamp boxes with the one's on the Playle Web site

On the front of the image, someone wrote William Elmore and then erased it. It's barely visible even when I enlarge the photo on my computer, so I'm not going to zoom in here. The erased writing didn't indicate which Elmore this is.

In the 1890s and the early part of the20th century, photographers often used wicker chairs as props. This is another detail that helps firmly set this image in the 20th century.

I agree with Barbara that this is likely William Elmore Jr. in his middle years, about 1910.  Elmore Sr. would have to be older than 70 to be in this picture.

Labeling images is tricky business. Identifying this photo would've been a cinch, if the person who wrote grandfather had added a bit more information. I'm beginning to believe that when you caption your photos with the name, date, etc., you should include your name as the person who added the information. 

If you're looking for tips on how to label digital images for the Web to maximize their search potential, the Footnote Maven's Search Engines Can't Read Your Mind or Your Images is mandatory reading.


1910s photos | men
Monday, June 15, 2009 4:08:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, June 08, 2009
Photo Crafts From Our Readers
Posted by Maureen

Several readers of this blog sent in examples of their creative endeavors that use family photos. You don't want to damage original images by using them in picture-perfect projects, but you can use copies. Here's a gallery of their projects. 



Carolyn Natsch sent in the above picture of her memory tin.

Norwoodbookmarks.jpg
Carol Norwood creates these lovely photo bookmarks that include information about the person depicted.

Van KirkWall1.jpg

Jarrod W. Van Kirk created a pictorial family tree on a wall in his home.



Tillie Van Sickle sent this picture her beautiful Miller Family Quilt.

Hope you enjoy (and even get inspired by) these examples!
Photo fun | preserving photos
Monday, June 08, 2009 2:19:46 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, June 01, 2009
Photo Crafts From Our Ancestors
Posted by Maureen

So far, no one has answered my call in last week's column for pictures of creative endeavors using family photos, but I found an example of a historic photo craft attached to an email from Candace Fountoulakis. She received this photo from her maternal aunt.

060109wATTS0001.jpg
It's a lovely piece of needlework, but no one knows the name of the couple in the center. Candace thinks they could be from either the Watts or the Boohler side of her family from Ohio.

This image was taken by the Grand Central Gallery of Omaha, Neb. German immigrant Herman Heyn was the owner of the studio, according to the 1883 city directory for Omaha (available on Ancestry.com). In subsequent years Heyn is at the same address until his photo business becomes James & Co., circa 1900.

Given the style of their clothing, this picture is likely a copy of a much earlier image taken in the 1860s. The couple is dressed in everyday work attire; notice the apron worn by the woman.

Figuring out who they are requires examining family history. Fountoulakis can see who lived in Omaha in the 1880s or 1890s, then look at the birth and death dates of their parents.

A woman created the frame using cross stitch. Don't jump to the conclusion that this couple is necessarily on a maternal line. During the 19th century, it was customary to call your in-laws Mother and Father as well as your own parents.

Although the identity of this couple is a mystery for now, it's no secret what happened to Heyn. He later became famous for taking pictures of Native American tribal personages during the Indian Congress of 1898.  You can view some of his stunning handcolored pictures on the Library of Congress Flickr site.


1860s photos | Photo fun
Monday, June 01, 2009 7:23:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Share Your Family History Photo Crafts
Posted by Maureen

This week I'm looking for a little reader participation. It's time to show off!

Have you created a family history project using your family photos? E-mail me a photo of it and I'll either feature it here, or if I receive enough submissions, I'll put together another slide show.

I was inspired by a woman in my town who creates photo quilts. They're so beautiful, you want to frame them rather than put them on your bed. Let's see how creative you are!



Wednesday, May 27, 2009 5:14:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, May 18, 2009
Photo Favorites
Posted by Diane

This week I'm taking a break from a long column and featuring a few new online photo finds. 

I 've been in love with photography for as long as I can remember. Started studying pictures as a toddler and had my first camera in second grade. In high school I was a member of an after school photo group (there were only four of us) and spent a lot of time in the dark room developing pictures. Photo history, picture taking techniques, picture research....you name it I've been involved in it.

I read a wide array of materials on photography (new and old) so it was great to hear that the New York Times has yet another blog on pictures. It's called Lens: Photography, Video and Visual Journalism.  If you like photography, then you'll love reading these columns. One recent post discussed slow photography vs. digital quickness. The focus is large format pictures. The images are gorgeous!!

Another New York Times blog covered the story of the Humiston children in a multi-part series. It's a fantastic tale of how one photograph can tell an intricate story--all you have to do is look at all the facets of the picture and put the pieces together.  It's a great piece of journalism by filmmaker, Errol Morris. You can read part one here.

There is a new page on Flickr. The Jewish Women's Archive is looking for photographs of the Jewish mothers in our families.  The page is called: Jewish Mothers: The Way We Were, The Way We Are

That's all for this week.


Web sites
Monday, May 18, 2009 7:23:22 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, May 11, 2009
Why the Long Face? Part Two
Posted by Maureen

A few weeks ago I wrote about posing devices employed by photographers to guarantee their clients sat still for their pictures. At that time I also asked if anyone had photographs of the actual head rests and other equipment. Jeffrey W. Deitchler answered the call and sent me two pictures. Thank you!!


Can you spot the head rest over on the right? It's the metal arm sticking into the picture.  It's likely that this photo of three men was once in a paper enclosure that hid the device. 




Photographers used a variety of devices to keep folks still for their portraits. Chairs, tables and columns gave clients something to lean on. These head rests could be adjusted for the height of the customer and some of them were sturdy enough to gently brace the sitter. However, these rests could also literally clamp around a neck, for instance, to hold someone in place. Sounds pretty uncomfortable!

Here's what Lake Price's Manual of Photographic Manipulation (1868, 2nd edition, available on Google Books.) had to say about head rests. There are drawings of other types of these devices.









This is the first time I've incorporated original page views in the blog. Let me know if you love it or hate it.  It makes the blog a little long, but I really like reading the original text. 

Jeffrey sent me one more picture to share with readers. It's one of his Ford ancestors photographed in Michigan. The entire posing device



I hope you'll check out the video podcasts on my YouTube Channel.


Monday, May 11, 2009 9:53:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]