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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, May 03, 2010
NGS Wrap-Up
Posted by Maureen

Wow. Wow. Wow. That's all I heard at last week's National Genealogical Society conference. It really was fantastic!  More than 2,700 individuals attended the four day event.  I got to meet blog fans, see Facebook friends and examine great photos. I presented lectures on 19th century picture analysis, 20th century photos in family collections and one on immigrant clues in images. 

When I wasn't lecturing I was in the exhibit hall giving private photo consultations and looking at photo-related stuff for sale.  Here's a snapshot view of some of the items I thought you'd be interested in.

I love these photo blocks from Echo Road. You personalize them using copies of your family photos.



Have fun with your photos by using them in games, such as a deck of cards.  These are from the folks at Ancestry Games.



I browsed from booth to booth looking for creative ways to express family history and found these lovely framed interpretations of a pedigree chart from Jill Means of Legacy Design.



Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of some of the other items I saw, but definitely take a look at these websites: 
  • John E. Groberg of Geneartogy had some beautiful oversize photo trees in his booth. 
  • Stories by Me had a selection of photo blocks, games, magnets and other items that you could personalize using copies of your photos.
  • If you're looking for a way to organize and incorporate your photos into your family history, check out Photo Loom.
Back next week with a new photo mystery! I need to rest from all the conference excitement <smile>.

Photo fun | photo news
Monday, May 03, 2010 9:10:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, April 26, 2010
Head-to-Toe Fashion Sense
Posted by Maureen

Pamela Fisher sent in this gorgeous photo of a confident and determined young woman. Her direct gaze shows she's comfortable in front of the camera. The question is, of course, who is she?



Pamela owns an old book that had a small collection of photos stuck in the pages. The book and the photos belonged to the Fisher family. Since the provenance (history of ownership) of the items suggested young woman was a member of the Fisher family, Pamela thought this would be an easy ID. She thought it must be Rilla Cooper (b. 1860)who married into the Fisher family and that the photo was taken in Spokane, Wash., circa 1880.  Rilla is a mysterious ancestor her family doesn't know much about.

Unfortunately, this identification is incorrect. As soon as I saw the image, I knew it wasn't taken in the 1880s, when women's dresses had fitted bodices and large buttons.  From head to toe, this young woman is the epitome of early-20th century fashion.

When I called Pamela to discuss the picture she wondered, "If not Rilla, then who?" That's the exactly the problem. Let's stack up the clues and see if it's possible to narrow the time frame.

Hair: In the first decade of the 20th century, women wore their hair full. Creating this hairstyle required a "rat," a device made from your own hair harvested from a hair brush and formed into a sausage roll or (artificial versions existed). Women's magazines such as Ladies Home Journal ridiculed the extreme hairstyles of this period by showing examples of good and bad hair.



Hat: It's difficult to see, but it appears that this young woman wears a hat. Large hats were the style in the decade from 1900 to 1910. In this case, it looks like a collection of ribbons.

Dress: In the early years of the 1900- to-1910 period, dresses featured high necklines and lace insets in the yoke; in the latter part of the decade, large buttons added detail to the yoke. Corsets, which women wore beginning in their teens, created narrow waistlines.  

Late-19th century dress reform advocates changed the way women dressed. In the 20th century many women worked in offices and needed functional, easy-care clothing.  The two-piece outfit—blouse and skirt—was a necessity.

A quick glance at the 1909 Sears catalog shows blouses, skirts and hairstyles just like the one worn by this girl. You can view them in Joanne Olian's book, Everyday Fashions 1909-1920 as Pictured in the Sears Catalog (Dover Publications). Shirts with buttons and tucks were commonplace from about 1905 on.

Shoes: Pamela wondered why this girl crossed her legs. It's not uncommon to see women in this time frame posing this way, but most women of the time believed crossing one's legs was not in good taste. 

Perhaps this girl wanted to show off her boots. They're highly polished leather walking boots laced up the front. It looks like they have a bishop heel that tapers from the heel to the bottom. If that's true, this detail helps date the image. According to Nancy Rexford's Women's Shoes in America, 1795-1930 (Kent State University Press), this type of heel was popular through 1905, then it was replaced by other shapes.



So who is this stylish young woman? If the photo was taken about 1905, Pamela wonders if she could be Rilla (Cooper) Fisher's daughter Elizabeth who was born between 1883 and 1885. In 1905, Lizzie would be 20 to 22 years of age.  


1900-1910 photos | hairstyles | women
Monday, April 26, 2010 3:49:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, April 19, 2010
Birth and Death in the Family Album: Readers Respond
Posted by Maureen

Joy and sadness often go hand in hand in family photo collections.  This week I'll show off some photos that readers sent me.  Be warned....the last two pictures depict disturbing images.

twinsroose.jpg

Susan Roose thinks the photo above depicts William (died November 22, 1877) and Daniel Hunt (died November 30, 1877). They were both just a few months older than one year.  Notice the woman under the cloth. She's holding them still. These two babies look very healthy here.

twinsC07 Alston girls (3).jpg

Elizabeth Handler emailed this ambrotype of Marion Helen Alston (1850-1885) and her twin sister Christina. The back of the image states that it was framed by J.J. Gillespie Co. Fine Arts. Gillespie was a famous frame shop in Pittsburgh.

Violet Olive Victoria  Victor Clements (2).jpg

Bonnie Bileski of Winnipeg, Manitoba sent this snapshot of Violet Clements, her grandmother Olive Clements (back, right) and the twins, Victor and Victoria (born July 1, 1899).

Last week I told you I had some sad pictures from Judy Linnebach's family collection. Since so many folks e-mailed me to see them, I'll share them here.

deformed baby (4).jpg

Judy thinks that this picture depicts Freida Kohler (Nov. 7, 1907 -July 6, 1924). The cause of death was congenital hydrocephalus.

dead guy (3).jpg
Judi has no idea who this man is. All that's certain is that he's deceased and that he was photographed in St. Louis. Jay Ruby's book, Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America (out of print, but available used) is the best guide to this topic.

burns.jpg

Jackie McGuire sent in this picture with a heartbreaking story. A family story relates the tragedy of Elsietta Burns: "She was a much-beloved little girl, they say, but one day she was outside playing under the cherry tree and eating lots of cherries. She didn't know to spit out the pits and they killed her before the family could do anything for her."


1900-1910 photos | 1910s photos | children | men | unusual photos
Monday, April 19, 2010 3:55:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, April 12, 2010
Final Words on the Triplets
Posted by Diane

For the last two weeks I've written about a photo owned by Judy Linnebach. It depicts a couple and their three triplets. In the first installment, Motherhood Times Three, I discussed multiple births in the 19th century. They were a lot more common than I thought! 

In last week's installment, Mother Hubbard, I provided information on the family and their attire. I forgot to mention that in the 19th century it was common practice to obtain photos of deceased children. In this instance, the family asked an experienced photographer to take a photo of their babies even though one of them was deceased.

Additional research on the family added a mystery. There were two surviving infants, but only one lived to be an adult. I wondered what happened to George Boll. Judy was able to send me a funeral card for him.

Boll Georg death013 (2).jpg
I don't read German, so if a reader could translate the text and enter it in the comments, I'd really appreciate it.

If you want to know more about funeral cards, genealogist Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens has an online article on the topic. Geneablogger Dee Welborn has a great blog on these cards, Funeral Cards and Genealogy.  Fascinating stuff!  If you thought they were just death announcements, check out Dee's site. You can learn a lot about your family from these seemingly simple cards. 

Judy Linnebach also sent me a photo of an unidentified dead ancestor and a picture of a child who died from hydroencephalitis. If you want to see them, leave me a comment and I'll post them.

In the meantime, please e-mail me photos of multiple births before 1900.


1880s photos | children | unusual photos
Monday, April 12, 2010 4:42:14 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Monday, April 05, 2010
Mother Hubbard
Posted by Maureen

Last week I featured Judy Linnebach's picture of a 19th-century couple and their triplets. If you have a photo of a pre-1900 set of triplets, I'd love to post it in this space. Just about everyone who commented mentioned a multiple birth in their family. I can't wait to see the photos—you can e-mail them to me

Here's the rest of the story about Judy's photo.

triplets.jpg

When she wrote to me, she asked if this could be John Basilius Boll, his wife Barbara Platzer Boll and their children. According to her research, the couple married in 1879 and had two children before they had a set of twins in 1883. Is it possible that one of the triplets died and the death went unrecorded? Let's examine the evidence.

The picture is a card photograph measuring 2.5x4 inches. It's the size of a carte de visite. These small card photos were first introduced into the United States in 1859 and remained popular for decades. The thin red line border was first common in the late 1860s.

Tobias and Co. took this photo. On the back of the image is the name of the company and key details about their location and practice.

triplets2 back.jpg

What I find interesting is the first sentence of the second paragraph: "To Mothers and heads of Families, we wish to call their attention to the frequent trouble of obtaining good and permanent Pictures of Babies." Tobias & Co. had a patented process to guarantee success.

To locate more information on Tobias, I contacted the St. Louis Public Library and spoke with librarians in both the local history collection and in fine arts. The company appeared in 1878 and later city directories, but by the mid-1880s Henry Tobias was a printer.  It was unclear from census data if this was the same man who ran the photo studio.

This photo was found in a Bible once owned by Judy's father's maternal grandmother, Lena Wilhelms. Given that it wasn't directly connected to the Boll family, I asked Judy to research all the branches of the family to see if there was another multiple birth. Last week, we learned that multiple births were hereditary, so it's quite possible that this could depict someone else in her family. No luck! 

There was another possibility though: Lena's daughter Emma was a genealogist and collected information on the Boll family. It's likely that she placed the pictures in the Bible for safe-keeping.

The clothing clues in this picture are fascinating. The husband wears a simple work shirt (the Bolls were farmers). The wife's dress is barely visible except for a plain neckline and lace-trimmed cuffs. My grandmother always wore a "house dress" when she was home, and I wondered if the same wasn't true in the 1880s. While this woman's dress isn't the current 1880s dress that you see if fashion encyclopedias, there was a wide variety of dresses for women. 

In the 1880s, a new style of dress became popular for pregnant women. It was called a Mother Hubbard. Loose-fitting and comfortable, these cotton dresses could be made with a pattern available from a catalog. The mother in this photo had likely just given birth—these are very small infants. With three babies to breast-feed, a comfortable dress like a Mother Hubbard would be perfect attire. They often featured trim at the cuffs, just like you see here.

They were so comfy that many other women wore them belted in summer to stay cool. It was a controversial choice. In the Oct. 26, 1884, New York Times, an article titled, "The Mother Hubbard in Chicago" talked about variations of the dress being worn by women in one neighborhood and how one particular woman had been arrested for it. It ended on a reassuring note: "Ladies who wear Mother Hubbard dresses on the street need not be alarmed. There is no ordinance in Chicago against the wearing of them, although such an ordinance is in vogue in the town of Morris, Ill."

According to Joan Severa in Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans & Fashion, 1840-1900 (Kent State University Press), these dresses were meant for indoor use. They were house dresses, not to be worn outdoors.

So could this picture depict the Bolls and their children in 1883?  The evidence is conflicting.
  • In late December 1883, the Bolls had twin boys baptized—Charles and George.
  • In the 1900 census, the family is listed except for George. I have to double-check with Judy on his whereabouts. When asked, Barbara said she'd given birth to six children but that only five were still living. Could this refer to a deceased George? There were five children currently living with the parents. Why not mention another child if one of the triplets died?
  • Could another multiple birth in the family have gone unrecorded? It's possible.
Right now it appears that this photo documents the Boll family.
  • The mother's dress dates from the 1880s.
  • The photographer could still be taking images in his printing business (if, of course, it's the same man)
  • There are no other documented multiple births in the family. 
  • Judy has one documented multiple birth—the twin boys.
If this is the Bolls and their babies, then one of these triplets is likely deceased. This was a complicated case.

It's a haunting image.  Next week I'll be back with some other unusual pictures from Judy's family!


1880s photos | children | unusual photos | women
Monday, April 05, 2010 5:40:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, March 29, 2010
Motherhood Times Three
Posted by Maureen

Judy Linnebach sent me this haunting photo of a couple and their three babies. That's right, triplets! I don't have all the answers yet, I'm still working on it. I'll post the second installment next week.

triplets.jpg
This image has obviously been enhanced by the photographer—the man's beard, her hair and all their eyes have additional dark ink added to them. The baby on the right has eyes dotted in. Blue or light green eyes tend to appear very light in early photographs so it's not unusual to see this type of enhancement.

Since I'm still gathering facts about this picture, the family and the photographer, I have some general impressions but no real answers yet. 
I have, however, learned a lot about multiple births in the 19th century.

A century before fertility treatments made multiple births relatively common, it was unusual to bear more than two babies at once. According to George Milby Gould and Walter Lytle Pyle, authors of Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, published in 1904 (available on Google Books), most multiple births in the 19th century were to women in the age range of 30 to 34, and heredity was a factor. The odds of having a multiple birth varied by country. In Germany, for instance, it was one in 7,910.

They cite examples of multiple births including a Mrs. Page of Texas, who gave birth to quadruplets in 1890 and was such a sensation that the family toured the following cities: Denver, St. Joseph, Omaha, Nebraska City, and then Boston. She'd already given birth to three sets of twins.  I'd love to see a picture of this family! There were 14 children.

Judy wrote that she "hoped this photo is enough to pique my interest." Absolutely! It's a complicated story, so bear with me while we sort it out.


children | unusual photos
Monday, March 29, 2010 4:01:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [9]
# Monday, March 22, 2010
A Women's History Month Salute: Spanish American War Style
Posted by Maureen

Surrounded by recuperating soldiers and orderlies is Deb Wilson's great-aunt Mary L. Keeler, also known as Molly.  She served as nurse during the Spanish American War (1898-99) at Fort Monroe, Va., as well as in Cuba and Puerto Rico. 

Deb knows this is her aunt, but the names of all the soldiers and other staff are unknown, as is the identity of the photographer.

Spanish American War (2).jpg

Molly appears to be the only woman in the image. On the left is a small table with an American flag, a vase of flowers and other small items.

I never really know where some of these picture stories are going to take me. Now that I've started researching this image, I wonder about the purpose behind it. An article on "Women Nurses in the Spanish-American War" in Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military by Mercedes H. Graf (article date March 22, 2001, available on Highbeam.com) revealed that female nurses were a controversial topic during the war. Molly's decision to use her nursing skills was a ground-breaking one.

Traditionally, since the end of the Civil War, men had done the nursing in the military. However, during the Spanish American War, Surgeon General George M. Stemberg knew that women nurses would be needed to help care for injured troops and those ill from yellow fever, malaria and typhoid. According to the article, shortly after the start of the war, the military added 100 women nurses. Was Molly one of those women? Or could she have been among the 32 nurses who'd already had yellow fever and were sent to Cuba to help with the epidemic? There's a bigger story in this photo than just the names of the men. This picture makes me want to know more about Molly and her service.

From the article, I learned that in 1898 the average nurse earned $30 a month plus a daily ration. By 1899, nursing applicants had to sign a one- year contract, and they received $40 a month for stateside service and an extra $10 per month for service outside the United States. Between April 25, 1898, and July 1, 1899, only 1,563 nurses served the more than 250,000 troops.

Tent hospitals such as the ward depicted here were commonplace. On the Nebraska GenWeb site is a list of Spanish American War Camps compiled by Fred Greguras.

Discovering the names of the men in the picture is a tough challenge. Spread the word about this picture, and let's try to put names to their faces. Finding out more about Molly's military service may provide a few leads.

Does an image in your family photos depict an important piece of American history?  Take a closer look and find the Molly in your family.

1890s photos | Military photos | women
Monday, March 22, 2010 5:25:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, March 15, 2010
London Report Part 2
Posted by Maureen

On the last day of the Who Do You Think You Are? Live! family history show in London, I spent time in the military pavilion. The booths in the event are grouped by type of vendor. That means all the Irish vendors are in one area, Scottish in another, and all the general larger vendors are in the center of the hall.

This year the military booths were all upstairs on the balcony. There were specific experts there to look at military memorabilia—badges, uniforms, and swords for instance. This is an interesting concept.  I'd love to see more military groups involved at US genealogy conferences.

First stop was the Royal British Legion which had a display of poppies. This group has a travel group, Poppy Travel. They coordinate tours of military sites. Folks show them pictures taken during a war and they can put together a tour based on the locations in the images. I had a nice chat with Frank Baldwin of Poppy Travel standing next to the man constructed out of poppies.



Next, I spent time in The War Graves Photographic Project speaking with Project coordinator Steve Rogers (below). If you have an ancestor who died in an overseas conflict and was buried there, this is a website worth a second glance. They are photographing all the non-US military graves. The website explains:
The aim of The War Graves Photographic Project is to photograph every war grave, individual memorial, MoD grave, and family memorial of serving military personnel from WWI to the present day and make these available within a searchable database. 
It's an ambitious project with the goal of documenting 1.75 million graves!



The Royal Air Force Museum also had a booth. I collected information that may solve a friend's research dilemma.

The Western Front Association booth drew my attention because of a large poster of the Missing Men of the Somme. It's a collection of pictures of men missing in action from World War I.



This booth also had an online database of World War I cemeteries.



I spent the rest of my trip visiting friends who took me to Windsor Castle and the area around Stonehenge. They've been recently bitten by the genealogy bug (gasp!). It's turning into a one-name study of their last name—Chun. Turns out there were only 40-something people with that surname in the 1881 British census. If you're researching anyone with the Chun surname, e-mail me.

What a trip! I looked at lots of picture, gave a lecture, finally got to see Windsor Castle and learned a lot of new things.  I also bought new images to use in my lectures and articles. <smile> 

I'll be back next week with a picture submitted by one of you.

Genealogy events | Military photos | organizations | photo news
Monday, March 15, 2010 12:41:12 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, March 08, 2010
Who Do You Think You Are? Live London 2010
Posted by Maureen

Last week, as you know, I was in London for the Who Do You Think You Are? 2010 event.  It was fantastic fun, just like last year.

I was on the job meeting British fans of this column and looking at lots of pictures. There are subtle differences between photos taken here and overseas. For instance, tintypes weren't very common in the U.K., but ambrotypes (images on glass) were in abundance.

I have a few photos of the event to show you and I'll have another report in a week or so.



This year there was a North American section in the exhibit hall. Guess who was there? Josh Taylor of the American "Who Do You Think You Are?" program, and Michael LeClerc, both friends from Boston's New England Historic Genealogical Society. Traffic in their booth was steady. It appears that many Brits were looking for information on family who ended up in America <smile>.



The folks at FindMyPast.com used costume guides to help visitors search their site.



It wasn't strictly genealogy. Marks and Spencer staged an exhibit of material from its corporate archive. If you're not familiar with the name, it belongs to one of England's largest department stores.



Family Tree DNA had another huge booth this year and business was brisk with lots of folks taking DNA test kits. I stopped by (in my new English woolen sweater) to chat with Emily Auclino, a Facebook friend. I'm a bit jet-lagged in this picture.



Sunday, I spent a couple of hours in the military pavilion talking about photo projects. I'll have more to share next week. It was fascinating.  I loved the mix of history and genealogy at this event.

Organizers of this London event estimate that at least 15,000 people attend this three-day trade show. There are lectures, too. Attendees pay a per day ticket price of about $33. This includes admission to lectures, if you're lucky enough to get one. You have to wait in a line for tickets for specific lectures.

With Friday's successful launch of the American version of "Who Do You Think You Are?", I predict that a similar event in the United States is in our future.

Genealogy events
Monday, March 08, 2010 4:34:11 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, March 01, 2010
The Photo Detective Has Flown the Coop
Posted by Maureen



I'm happy to report I'm in London at the Who Do You Think You Are? Live family history show. I'll be presenting a class on “More Than Scraps and Paste: Scrapbooks and Family History,”  and I’ll be back next week with photos and details from this incredible three-day event.
  
Don’t forget to mark your calendar for the March 5 premiere date of the US version of the television show "Who Do You Think You Are?"  

Thank you to Kathleen Conway for this bird photo! See our video For more readers' pictures of ancestral family pets.


Pets | Videos
Monday, March 01, 2010 6:26:48 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]