Free Updates

Let us tell you when new posts are added!

Email:

Navigation

Categories
September, 2014 (4)
August, 2014 (4)
July, 2014 (4)
June, 2014 (5)
May, 2014 (4)
April, 2014 (4)
March, 2014 (5)
February, 2014 (4)
January, 2014 (4)
December, 2013 (5)
November, 2013 (4)
October, 2013 (4)
September, 2013 (5)
August, 2013 (4)
July, 2013 (4)
June, 2013 (5)
May, 2013 (4)
April, 2013 (5)
March, 2013 (4)
February, 2013 (4)
January, 2013 (4)
December, 2012 (5)
November, 2012 (4)
October, 2012 (5)
September, 2012 (4)
August, 2012 (5)
July, 2012 (5)
June, 2012 (4)
May, 2012 (4)
April, 2012 (5)
March, 2012 (4)
February, 2012 (4)
January, 2012 (5)
December, 2011 (5)
November, 2011 (4)
October, 2011 (5)
September, 2011 (4)
August, 2011 (5)
July, 2011 (5)
June, 2011 (6)
May, 2011 (7)
April, 2011 (4)
March, 2011 (5)
February, 2011 (3)
January, 2011 (5)
December, 2010 (4)
November, 2010 (5)
October, 2010 (4)
September, 2010 (4)
August, 2010 (5)
July, 2010 (4)
June, 2010 (5)
May, 2010 (4)
April, 2010 (4)
March, 2010 (5)
February, 2010 (4)
January, 2010 (4)
December, 2009 (3)
November, 2009 (5)
October, 2009 (4)
September, 2009 (4)
August, 2009 (5)
July, 2009 (4)
June, 2009 (5)
May, 2009 (4)
April, 2009 (5)
March, 2009 (6)
February, 2009 (5)
January, 2009 (5)
December, 2008 (4)
November, 2008 (4)
October, 2008 (6)
September, 2008 (5)
August, 2008 (5)
July, 2008 (4)
June, 2008 (6)
May, 2008 (5)
April, 2008 (5)
March, 2008 (4)
February, 2008 (4)
January, 2008 (5)
December, 2007 (4)
November, 2007 (4)
October, 2007 (6)
September, 2007 (4)
August, 2007 (4)
July, 2007 (5)
June, 2007 (4)
May, 2007 (3)
April, 2007 (2)
March, 2007 (1)

Search

Archives

<August 2009>
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2627282930311
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
303112345

by Maureen A. Taylor

More Links










# Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Collecting Pictures of Your Ancestors
Posted by Maureen

Genealogists are famous for collecting relatives, but what about acquiring images of those folks? Is it really possible to find previously unknown photos of family members from the advent of photography in 1839? The answer is that it depends.

Family circumstances, their comfort level with photography and the availability of photographers all determine if your ancestors sat for pictures in photo studios or not.

By the time the amateur photographer era with Kodak’s “You Push the Button, We Do the Rest” slogan came along in the 1880s, many families were interested in having pictures taken. But it wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that snapshots really took off. Years of traveling around the country looking at family photos has taught me that most families had access to a camera by the early 20th century. There was suddenly an explosion of images. I’ve seen the proof.

This doesn’t mean that your family only took snapshots and didn’t sit for cabinet cards, tintypes, ambrotypes, or daguerreotypes. Frankly, the inheritance of images is a little sketchy. Sometimes images go to the oldest, sometimes the youngest and occasionally no one wants those unidentified images. At each junction of your family tree are opportunities for photo collections to be split amongst living relatives.

So who got what in yuor family? To figure that out you need a plan. It’s a lot like a research plan for information, only this time you’re hunting for pictures.

Mark Your Family Tree

If you own images of various folks on your family tree, mark that information by highlighting or if you’re using family tree software attach those images to the person’s information. This helps you see where the gaps are.

Contact Relatives

This means locating all living relatives to see if they have any photographs. If you have a gap for a particular branch of the family, this could mean that either they didn’t take pictures or someone else inherited them. Read my article on tracing your family forward for tips on researching family lines from 1839 to the present.

Post Your Search

A colleague once used a message board to see if anyone had data on a branch of her family. The person who responded said they didn’t, BUT they had a photo album. Hurrah! My friend asked to copy all the images in it. She didn’t have the material she sought, but she did find a few dozen images all taken in the 1860s.

Look Online

I have bad research luck. My family just doesn’t want to be found. At least that’s what I’ve decided. Imagine my surprise when I decided to type a name into Ancestry.com and click on a family tree. Turns out a very distant cousin created an Ancestry family tree and on it he’d posted images. They were pictures of my great-grandparents that even my mother had never seen. I did the genealogical happy dance that day!

Online searching includes using image search engines like Google.com and reunion sites such as DeadFred.

Library Bound

Let's not forget the treasure troves of images held in local history collections in historical societies, archives and public libraries. Search their online digital collections first then contact the organization and find out how to hire someone to ferret out images in their collections.

There are lots of opportunities to find pictures. Your family tree is a map and a compass combined. If you've been successful in your hunt for pictures send me an e-mail. I love to hear good news!


photo-research tips
Tuesday, August 25, 2009 9:42:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, August 17, 2009
Spotlight: Denver Public Library Picture Collection
Posted by Maureen

It's over 90 degrees in my town today. The heat and humidity make me start thinking about winter.

With months to go before the snow, I did the next best thing. I looked at pictures of cooler temperatures I found on the Denver Public Library Web site.

All right. Not all of the images depict winter scenes, but if you have any family in the Denver area, this is one collection you have to consult. The library has about a 100,000 images online and that's just the tip of their very large collection.

The National Endowment for the Humanities gave the Denver Public Library a grant in 1997, and since then, the library has been quickly adding material to this gorgeous digital archive. To bring the "chill" of winter into my office, I began by browsing through images of the 10th Mountain Division, then wandered over to the picture galleries of children and scenes of the Denver area. It's armchair traveling at it's best.

While you're exploring the site, check out the links to the electronic finding aids. They're fully searchable.

The Denver Public Library isn't the only library with such collections. Public libraries all over the country usually have picture and manuscript collections. Their librarians are custodians of local history. I strongly advise you to ask about the holdings of your local library.

I'd also like to send a big thank you to James Jeffreys of the Western History and Genealogy Department of the Denver Public Library for his help with an Photo Detective article slated for the December 2009 Family Tree Magazine.


children | house/building photos | Military photos | photo-research tips
Monday, August 17, 2009 7:38:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Pictures Without Provenance
Posted by Maureen

Hilda Barton sent me this lovely photo of a young girl with the subject line: "No Idea Who This is..." It's a picture without provenance.

unknown girl.jpg

I've written about provenance before. It's the history of ownership of a photograph or other object. It's easy to underestimate the value of knowing the previous owner of a picture, but this is actually one of the keys to figuring out who's in an unidentified picture.

Start by asking the following questions:
  • Who owned the picture before me? 
  • Did the photograph hang on the wall in relative's house? 
  • Was it loose in an album or on a page with other relatives?
These questions can determine which branch of the family owned the image and bring you one step closer to putting a name with face. But remember, the photo could show a friend's child—not a relative at all. Facial similarities to people in identified photos may help.

Then answer the next set of questions:
  • Where was it taken? Look for a photographer's name and address on the image. Then consult your family history to see who lived in the area.
  • How old is the person?  In this case, it's a young girl, probably less than 5 years old.
  • When was it taken? In 1916, The Ladies Home Journal published a short photo essay on "Arranging Your Little Girl's Hair." Younger children wore narrow bows, like this youngster. Her short bobbed hair was popular around 1919.
If Hilda can answer these questions, she can consult her family tree and make a short list of who's the right age to be in this picture.

On a side note, a fascinating new book by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo is called Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art (Penquin Press, $26.95). It's amazing how one man could dupe the art world with falsified documentation. I couldn't put it down.


1910s photos | children
Tuesday, August 11, 2009 12:11:47 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, August 03, 2009
Tweet. Tweet. I'm on Twitter.
Posted by Maureen

I've watched fellow genealogists talk about Twitter, but I've held back. Books, magazine articles and newspaper articles mention the power of Twitter. Oh boy, I thought. 

What is this new tool and how will I use it?   I'm not really sure at this point, but I decided to tip toe into this relatively new phenomena.  Over the weekend I signed up and had followers in seconds!

Want to follow my tweets?  You can find me on Twitter. I'm open to suggestions on how to use it.  Sound off in the comments section of this blog post.


Web sites
Monday, August 03, 2009 4:07:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, July 27, 2009
Adding Up Photo Clues
Posted by Maureen

I had trouble deciding the angle for this story. Would I discuss the problem of trying to figure out the photographic method or mention a family brick wall? Then I re-read all the emails from Randy Majors and decided to cover those topics as well as how he identified his picture.




What is it?
Electronic files are wonderful for sharing pictures, but nothing compares with looking at the original, especially when you're trying to determine the photographic method. One of the first questions I asked Randy was, "Can you describe the picture?"

There were two types of metal images in the first 20 years of photography. Daguerreotypes are shiny, highly reflective images that are reversed, but tintypes are on a thin sheet of iron and usually varnished. They aren't really shiny. He said that the image was somewhat shiny, but not mirror-like. 

So what is it? Without seeing the original, I'd guess a tintype. If you look very closely at the left of the picture you can see a crackled pattern in the photographic emulsion. I've never seen that in a daguerreotype, which is created by chemical salts on a silver plate. 

Williamcrop 1.jpg

The other detail that makes me think this is a tintype is the hole in the upper-left corner. I've seen scads of tintypes with this, but never a daguerreotype.

This lovely picture was once covered by an oval mat, appropriate for either a daguerreotype or a tintype.

When was it taken?
Let's look at the subjects' attire from left to right. The boy wears a jacket several sizes too large. The stiff wave of hair atop of his head was particularly popular in the 1850s. His father wears a collarless shirt, a vest and a jacket. His hair is long and combed back. A full under-the chin beard completes his appearance.

It wasn't unusual for little girls in the 1850s and in the early 1860s to wear dresses with shoulder-bearing necklines and short epaulette sleeves, with strings of beads around their neck. Their attire could be from the late 1850s or even the early 1860s.

The girl's doll could date the picture. I'm no doll expert, but determining whether this is a rag-style doll or a china doll could help place this image in a time frame. I think it's a china-headed doll. The problem is that the detail is missing from the face. For help with dating dolls in images, consult Dawn Herlocher's 200 Years of Dolls, 3rd edition (KP Books, $29.95).

crop2.jpg


Who is it?
One of the best ways to identify a picture is by swapping with relatives to see if they have similar images. The unidentified picture Randy sent was his great-aunt's. In Rady's collection was an identified picture of William Riley Majors, (1821-1881).

 William Riley Majors (2).jpg
Notice anything familiar? You guessed it.  It's not only the same man—it's the same picture, only a copy.

So who's in the first picture with William? His son William Andrew Majors and his daughter Martha Etta Majors. Based on the children's ages, Randy thinks this picture was taken about 1865 in the Madison County, Ill. or St. Louis, Mo., area. He could be right. This late a date also would suggest that the image is indeed a tintype.

Randy's biggest problem is that no one has been able to find out the lineage of William Riley Majors. He was born in either Alabama or Kentucky, and died in Cowley County, Kan. "He remains my biggest brick wall," Randy wrote.

Anyone have any research suggestions for Randy?
1850s photos | 1860s photos | children | men | Tintypes
Monday, July 27, 2009 8:55:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Photos on the Web: Copyright Woes
Posted by Maureen

If you've ever tried to copy a family photo at a store or photo lab and been denied due to copyright issues, there's an article you might be interested in.

On July 19, the New York Times published an article about photos on Wikipedia, "Wikipedia May Be a Font of Facts but It's a Desert for Photos."

If you've used this vast internet archive of user-contributed material, you know the picture quality/quantity is iffy. That's because these are "unofficial" photos anyone can use. According to the article, the site uses a "Creative Commons license, which allows anyone to use an image, for commercial purposes or not, as long as the photographer is credited." It's a bit more complicated, but the article explains it. 

There are legal and common-sense rules relating to photo usage. Basically, the store with the photo kiosk denied you the right to copy your picture because the photographer holds the reproduction rights for it. Even if the photographer is deceased or you don't know who it was, as for an old family portrait, the store might decide it doesn't want to take the chance.

A handy guide for when you need formal permission to use an image appears in Sharon DeBartolo Carmack's Carmack's Guide to Copyright & Contracts: A Pricer for Genealogists, Writers & Researchers (GPC, $15.95)

Here's a common sense rule for internet usage of family photos. If you want to post a photo of a living family member on your Web site or FaceBook page, make sure you have that person's permission, too. It's a common courtesy.


photo news | Photo-sharing sites
Tuesday, July 21, 2009 2:55:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# 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]