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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, February 15, 2010
Friends and Neighbors
Posted by Maureen

A couple of weeks ago, I presented several lectures at the San Luis Obispo Genealogical Society conference.  I had great time and got to look at some interesting pictures. Roma Miller showed me this snapshot.

RomaMillerCaroline.jpg

This was in Roma's box of photos from her step-grandfather's family mixed in with other family photos. On the back it says, "Caroline 1927." But who's Caroline and where was it taken?

Look carefully at this image. See the shadow of the photographer at the bottom? It's a great shot of someone taking a picture of this woman. his or her arms are raised, holding the camera. 

Next look to the right of Caroline—there is a child. This little kid wears overalls and has his head bowed down. The short pants signify a boy, as does the haircut. This "baby cut" was similar to what we'd call a bowl cut—ear-length on the sides and bangs.

Caroline wears a simple daytime dress. She's probably busy taking care of the her child and the housework. The style of this dress makes me wonder if she could be pregnant. It's very loose-fitting. Her hair is one of the short cuts popular in the 1920s. I think it looks a lot like either something called the "Senorita" or the "Broadway."

The house is a two-story dwelling with a bow window in the style of the late 19th century. It's a Victorian-style house with a tall picket fence in the front and a wrought iron gate. In the background, a latticework wall surrounds a doorway with stairs.

Roma and I talked about ways to identify this woman.
  • Ask the owner: The child is about the right age to be her step-grandfather—could this be him and his mother? Nope. He doesn't recognize the woman.
  • Post it online: I'm helping out by featuring it in this column. Roma has also uploaded the picture to DeadFred.com 
  • Contact extended family: Roma sent out a mass e-mail to all her relatives. Success!
A cousin identified the woman and the location. It was a neighbor of Roma's maternal great-aunt when they lived in Oakdale, Calif. A quick check of the 1930 federal census should result in a last name (as long as Caroline remained in the area). Roma may never know who took this picture, but it could be someone related to her great-aunt.

On the surface it's such a simple portrait of a young mother, but when you add in the child, the house and the photographer, it's the beginning of a story and evidence of a friendship between neighbors.

There is one other reason I love this picture. It's a perfect example of how family collections of photos contain more than just blood relatives. There are usually friends and neighbors mixed in as well.


1920s photos | children | house/building photos | women
Monday, February 15, 2010 4:03:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, February 08, 2010
The Search for Annie Moore
Posted by Maureen

If you don't know who Annie Moore is, you haven't been following Megan Smolenyak's research on her.  For several years, Megan has been intrigued by her. Annie Moore was the first person to step foot on Ellis Island when it opened Jan. 1, 1892—a pretty significant first. There wasn't much known about her until Megan started digging. 

You know how research can lead to one thing and another? Well, that's what happened with Annie. Before long, Megan found two of Annie's relatives with images purported to show this mysterious woman. They claimed they had seen a photo of her at Ellis Island.

It's a long story. I've featured the research done so far on both Annie and the pictures on my own blog last week. Megan and I have been trying to verify the identity of the image of three children and figure out where it was taken.

There are folks on both sides of this photo problem. Megan and I have to do more research, and we'd love to see the original picture.

Rather than link to all the research in this column, you can view the image and click through the links provided in my blog. It's a complicated piece of photo research.

Comments are graciously accepted! 


1890s photos | children | Immigrant Photos | photo-research tips
Monday, February 08, 2010 7:01:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, February 01, 2010
How to Win the Family Photo Lottery
Posted by Maureen

I've lost track of exactly how long I've been writing this column. The first edition of my book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs was published in 2000, and I started this column in February of the following year. 

That means you've been reading about identifying family photographs for nine years. That's a lot of pictures!

Anyone can submit photos to be featured in this space or in my Photo Detective column in Family Tree Magazine. Under the Navigation heading at the left is a link to How to Submit Your Photo.

While I look at and file each of the e-mails I receive from readers, you can increase the odds that you'll win this picture lottery by doing the following:
  • Use Family Tree Magazine in the subject line of your email.

  • Send me a question about the image, as well as anything at all you know or don't know about it.

  • Your contact information—name, address and telephone number. While I'm not apt to call overseas, if you live in the United States or Canada, don't be surprised to hear me on the other end of the telephone. I like to talk with folks about their pictures. It's amazing how much more can be learned through a conversation rather than an email.  Obviously, I love having unlimited long-distance calling! <smile>

  • In order to really see the details in your pictures, I need them submitted in at least 300 dpi.  If you send them smaller, all I can see when I enlarge a detail is a blur of pixels.
FatherAngelledit.jpg

This isn't too bad, but if I were to enlarge it any further it wouldn't be usable.
  • Don't forget to send me a scan of the back of the photo if it has any information or a photographer's name and address.
If you'd like to submit a picture but you don't have a scanner, it is possible to send a copy of an image via regular mail. You can make a copy using one of those retail photo kiosks.  The mailing instructions are in the link on the left.

One more thing—my e-mail archive goes back several years, so keep checking your e-mail. If you change e-mail addresses or telephone numbers, please resend your image with the new contact information.  A lot of the e-mail inquires I respond to for additional data never get answered by the photo's submitter. 

I love working on your photo mysteries!!  Keep the emails coming in.


photo-research tips
Monday, February 01, 2010 5:21:48 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, January 25, 2010
Photo Fun with Friends
Posted by Maureen

Way back in August, I asked for photos of people smiling. In response to that request Teri Colglazier sent me this photo.

ColglazierHOBO 8 1880 a (2).jpg
The woman in the back left has a toothy grin, probably because this group of friends has decided to have fun in front of the camera. No costumes were necessary—instead, a hand-painted board on the feet of the men proclaims: "The Hobo 8."  (There are eight young people in this photo.)

Teri thought that underneath the word hobo was a number 80. I'm not sure. It looks like it could be Ho with Bo beneath it. If it's a number, it's not a year.

While older folks often posed for pictures in their Sunday best, it wasn't unusual for young people to go to the studio dressed in casual clothes. The two men on the right wear big sweaters that could be worn today. In the back row, all four young women wear white blouses paired with dark skirts, belted at the waist. The little details in this photo provide a time frame:
  • The straw hat worn by one of the young men. It has a narrow brim and and wide ribbon.  The shape and style of hat brims and ribbons change from decade to decade in the early 20th century. He could work in an office.
  • The fellow on the far right has a flat-topped cap—all the rage in the second decade of the 20th century

  • The other two men wear a type of sports cap and a fedora style hat also in style in that period.

  • The smiling woman arranged her hair so that it forms a ridge on the top of her head. The woman next to her has her hair pulled back casually in a bow.

  • The woman on the far right is the most conservatively dressed with a Gibson girl-style high-neck blouse and full hairstyle.
The detail that clinches the date is the mob cap worn by the woman second from the right. I've seen photos of this type of hat on women working around the house in the period just prior to World War I. 

The facts add up to the photo being taken between 1910 and 1916.

Teri now has to figure out who's in the picture. In her e-mail, she mentioned that her family kept every photo ever taken or given to them by family and friends. She thinks the man third from the left could be a family member, but she's not positive.

Anyone out there recognize these people, photographed in McLean County, Ill.?


1910s photos | group photos | hairstyles
Monday, January 25, 2010 11:08:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, January 18, 2010
Head Toppers
Posted by Maureen

As you know I love hairstyles, but I'm also a hat person. No, I don't wear one, but I wish I did.  Given this fascination with brimmed accessories, is it any wonder I couldn't pass up Bro. Joseph F. Martin's challenge?

This photo depicts his great-grandparents Nicholas and Marcyanna Kaptur in front of their home in Detroit. Standing next to them are their daughters Emily and Constance.

KapturFamilyDetroit.jpg

It's a wonderful snapshot.  Bro. Martin would like to know when the picture was taken but can't identify the hats.

I've spent the morning studying their hats. From left to right, there's a wonderful array of chapeaus. Dating and identifying a hat relies on a few things such as size and shape of the crown, size and shape of the brim, decorations (if any) and then the other details in the picture.  The final bit is important because very often, historic hat styles return to current fashion. If you don't look at the context of the hat you could have the wrong decade or even century.  

Great-grandmother Maryanna has a fascinating hat with a narrow brim and puffy mushroom looking crown. Her warm-weather straw hat is accented by a wide ribbon. Her husband wears a soft felt hat with a boxy crown and a wide brim. Next to him is one of their daughters, looking quite fashionable in a soft brimmed cloche hat. Her sister wears a smaller hat with what looks like a folded-back brim. 

Maryanna's dress with its drop waist and sailor-style collar is much older than the photo; I think from circa 1920. Older folks in photos tend to wear older styles rather than the current trends, but there are exceptions. The daughter standing second from left wears a lovely summer dress with narrow sleeves topped with full caps, and belted at the natural waist. It's the most fashionable outfit in the photo, stylish around 1925-1929.  Her sister wears a drop-waist dress from about 1925.

In this case, the dress styles and dates vary, but it appears that everyone's hat is contemporary to the late 1920s. The family is in the 1930 federal census as Nicholas, 68; Mary, 67; Constance, 26; Joseph, 26; and Emily, 23.  So where's Joseph in this snapshot? I don't have proof, but he's probably the one behind the camera.


1920s photos | group photos
Monday, January 18, 2010 4:53:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, January 11, 2010
Photo Identification in the News
Posted by Maureen

Readers of this column will be as fascinated as I was with these two articles on photo identification.

In the January 2010 issue of Smithsonian Magazine is the story of an unidentified daguerreotype owned by Jack and Beverly Wilgus. In it a handsome young man stands facing the camera holding a long metal rod. One of his eyes is closed shut.  The collectors thought he held a harpoon until they posted their image on the social networking image site Flickr. It wasn't long before they heard from someone who said it wasn't a harpoon and was possibly Phineas Gage. Gage's life could have been featured on a reality TV trauma show.  In 1848, when 25, Gage's life changed. An accident on the job sent a 43 inch tamping iron through his skull. He lived to talk about it and was conscious when the doctor arrived on the scene. You can read about Gage's life and the story of this daguerreotype online.  In the photo he's holding the rod that's engraved as a souvenir of the event.

Spring training is weeks away but for readers that are baseball fans, you'll get a jump start on the fun. A colleague sent me his 2004 issue of The Baseball Research Journal because it featured an article on identifying baseball images. I'm no sports fan, but I loved author George Michael's descriptions of how he sees the clues in photos of players sliding into base.  You can order copies of the Journal through the Society of American Baseball Research. 

Both of these articles will end up in my files. 

1840s photos | men | props in photos | unusual clothing
Monday, January 11, 2010 3:41:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Texas Twosome Revisited
Posted by Maureen

Last week's tease mentioned that I'd solved a persistent mystery. Ah ... I really thought I had the answer to the Texas mystery. Late last year I ran a three-installment story about these two men in their embroidered shirts. In the first piece, I showed you the pictures and mentioned some possible solutions. The following week I raised a couple of other issues. The third installment focused on readers' suggestions.

092109img038 (3).jpg092109img041 (5).jpg

A couple of weeks ago I was browsing through a book, Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War by T. J. Stiles. One of the illustrations is a photo of the outlaw "Bloody Bill" Anderson, and he's wearing an embroidered guerrilla shirt from the Civil War. I immediately jumped up and thought, "Oh, gosh, that's it!" The two men in their shirts could be guerrillas fighting for the Confederacy.

It seemed logical. The tintypes date from the Civil War, and Dr. Francis Montgomery was a Confederate officer for a short time before he was sent home ill with diabetes.

But was this new theory true? I picked up the phone and called the Museum of the Confederacy. Curator Robert Hancock was able to explain a few things about embroidered guerrilla shirts. He'd never seen anything like these two shirts before and really doubted that these two were Confederate guerrillas. Oh, DRAT!

He told me that guerrillas wore whatever they wanted to. Since they weren't sanctioned by the Confederacy, they weren't issued any uniforms. They worked outside the Confederate military establishment.

While he wasn't familiar with these two shirts, he was able to tell me a fascinating fact: During the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s, some young men wore embroidered shirts. Hancock told me that this fashion statement was akin to the shirts of the 1960s. In the 19th century, young men rebelling against the white shirts and black frock coats their fathers wore would wear embellished shirts. There were even outlandish printed shirts in England. Some of these featured skulls and crossbones, snakes and other outrageous designs. I'd love to see one of these 19th-century shirts!

There were other similar shirts to the one's worn here. Battle shirts for men and those worn by firemen could feature some designs. Hancock was quick to say that these two men are wearing very unusual floral pattern motifs that don't fit either category.

The big problem with these shirts is that while the shirts and the pictures are identical in many ways, the embroidery is not. So who are these guys and why the shirts? Perhaps we'll never know.


1860s photos | men | unusual clothing
Tuesday, January 05, 2010 2:15:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, December 21, 2009
Photos with Santa
Posted by Diane

8d23937u santa.jpg

A simple question from my editor, the Genealogy Insider Diane Haddad, has me scrambling for the answer. She asked, "What's the history of having your picture taken with Santa?" Whoa! These iconic kid pictures are in a lot of family albums, and judging from the lines at mall Santas, having a photo with this Christmas symbol remains popular. 

But when did the first kid have a picture taken with Santa? It's a good question.

Out on a gift-buying journey I found a cute little book, A Century of Christmas Memories, 1900-1999 by the editors of the Peter Pauper Press (Peter Pauper Press). In it is a picture of baseball great Babe Ruth playing Santa at a benefit in December 1947. 

The photo featured above was taken in 1942 at Macy's Department Store in New York, and now is in the collection of the Library of Congress.  Accompanying information mentions there were two Santas, concealed from one another, so that the children wouldn't be upset. Each child got to talk with Santa and received a piece of candy.

The tradition must be older than that. I turned to Google for help. A quick search turned up a site that mentioned that the first department store Santa was a R.H. Macy's in New York in 1870, but it didn't mention photographs.

On the History Channel website, there's a history of many things relating to Christmas—including a short article on mall Santas. According to that piece, in 1841, a Philadelphia store featured a life-size Santa model.

I thought a newspaper search might help. I didn't find exactly what I was looking for, but I did locate an obituary for Charles W. Howard, who was considered the "Nation's No. 1 Santa Claus." According to the obituary in the May 2, 1966, New York Times, Howard began his career as Santa when just a child, and then in 1937, he opened a school for Santas. He taught "psychology, costuming, makeup, whisker grooming, voice-modulation and ho-ho-ho-ing."

Howard said "You've got to know the character you're playing. It's so real to me sometimes that I can feel the reindeer breathing on my cheek."

While I don't have a definitive answer yet on Diane's question, I'm still working on it. I have some leads, but need to contact some folks in the know. They haven't returned my calls in this busy season....they must be out shopping.

Happy Holidays!!


children | Photo fun
Monday, December 21, 2009 5:14:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, December 14, 2009
Finding the Story, Part Three
Posted by Maureen

If you've been following the last two weeks' worth of Joan Lee's search for her husband's grandfather, you know how complicated this story is. In week one, I looked at a photograph reputed to be Fred Klingbeil and in week two, I explained some additional problems with the Lee/Klingeil family tree.

Here are the basics: The Canadian branch of the Klingbeil family told Joan that Fred's father, Julius, immigrated to join his brother Louis in Canada. Joan had documentation but thought it would be fun to confirm the relationship with DNA. Her husband (descended from Julius) and the man in Canada (descended from Louis) sent off their cheek samples for a 33-marker test from Ancestry.com's DNA testing service and waited.

Joan couldn't believe there was yet another twist in the story—the DNA didn't match. At all! Not a single marker.

According to Bennett Greenspan of Family Tree DNA, this is almost an impossibility and shows that the two men aren't related. They didn't even share a haplogroup. Joan's husband is R1a and his Canadian cousin is J2. They took the test again, with the same results. The brother of the Canadian cousin also sent in a DNA test and that matched his sibling exactly.

So where does this leave Joan's husband and her research? The documentary evidence clearly shows that Fred was Melvin's father on the birth register, but if the DNA doesn't match, then Melvin wasn't genetically matched to the Canadian family, or was he?

This raises a question about a non-paternity event in the family. Was Fred the genetic father of Melvin? Were Louis and Julius Klingbeil natural brothers? Greenspan suggested that the family needs a tie-breaker, another direct male descendant to see where this issue occurs. In order to find the "break" in the family tree, Joan needs to locate another male descendant to see if the non-paternity is on Louis or Julius's line, and when it happened.

Just when you think you've see it all, Joan discovered another factor: Her husband had an exact match in the Ancestry.com Y-DNA database. This individual's family immigrated through Ellis Island from Kalix, Sweden, in the early 20th century, and eventually settled in Minnesota. That man's family appears to have German origins.

But here's the trouble: Joan has never found any link to this man in her research and their paper trails don't match. It's no wonder that Joan and her husband and his Canadian kin are shaking their heads.

From a simple photo and an ordinary question, a set of family history complexities have caused a lot of confusion. This is one heck of a family history mystery. For now, it's unsolved.

Got a family photo of the holidays to share? Send it to me and I'll feature it next week (or post it to your blog and I'll link to it here).


Immigrant Photos
Monday, December 14, 2009 3:40:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Monday, December 07, 2009
Finding the Story, Part Two
Posted by Maureen

Last week, I examined a lovely portrait of a young couple and their son. Although family in Canada identified the husband and wife as Fred and Marie Klingbeil, the facts of Fred's life and the date of the photo don't add up.

I asked Joan Lee if she had any other positively identified images of Fred to use for comparison. She did:
 
Klingbeil Frededit .jpg

In this one, Fred is a young man. This image looks like a high school graduation picture, which would place it in the c. 1900 time frame. His clothing and hair are appropriate for this period.

If you compare this image to the one featured last week, you'll see how the two men have strong jaws, but their other features aren't a match. They have different ears, eyes and even hair.

There's an even bigger question in Joan's research than who's who in the first image: She's been thorough and careful, but could she be looking at the wrong family tree. She started with a simple question about her father-in-law, Melvin Lee. "Who was his father?" Lee didn't know. He's alternated used Lee as a surname with that of his step-father, Martinson. Joan aimed to find out.

Joan found Melvin's birth record in a microfilm of the St. Petrie American Lutheran Church (Nome, North Dakota) 1904/05 register she'd obtained from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. His parent's were listed as Fred Cleigbol and Josie Lee. Josie Lee wasn't married to Cleigbol.

Lee birth.jpg

Tracking down additional information on the Lee family didn't turn up any new leads on Melvin's father, but Joan did find a name change. The Lees were Norwegian immigrants originally named Olson. The family legally changed their surname in 1876.

I'm impressed with Joan's follow-through. She researched 28 surname variations and left messages on multiple message boards. No luck!

A breakthrough came when a Lee cousin planned a family reunion and arranged a service at the St. Petrie Church. Joan's job was to write down the family history so that it could be handed out to attendees. As she was working, she began to think, "Could the C in Cleigbol be a K?" Her husband studied the record and agreed with her that it could represent a K when pronounced. She suddenly started finding information on Fred Klingbiel and connected with two other relatives.

Finally she felt the missing pieces fall into place. The Canadian branch of the Klingbeil family told her that Fred's father Julius had immigrated to join his brother Louis in Canada before moving to the United States. The documentation seemed to prove the relationship between her husband and his Canadian cousin. 

Being a thorough researcher, Joan thought, "why not confirm it through DNA?" Oh boy, there was yet another twist in this tale. Stay tuned for next week. Joan and I need another week to sift through this part of the story.


1900-1910 photos
Monday, December 07, 2009 9:18:57 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]