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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, June 21, 2010
Spotting a Wedding Photo
Posted by Maureen

Irene Powell sent me this lovely wedding photo of her great-grandfather Joseph Kapler and his wife, Theresa. They were married in December, 1888.

Their clothing is perfect for the late 1880s. Theresa's dress features a fitted bodice and her sleeves have vertical puffs at the shoulder seam. Her skirt has knife pleats at the side. Joseph wears a fitted 1880s jacket, a shirt with an upturned collar, vest and tie. He has short hair and a trimmed mustache.

This photo is a perfect example of how a bride would often wear a very nice dress, rather than the Victorian ideal of a white ensemble. In this case, Theresa has accessorized her attire with wedding white in the bow at her neckline and a tiny headpiece. She doesn't carry a bouquet, but Joseph wears a large corsage pinned to his jacket. These tiny clues identify this as a wedding photo, even though neither one wears a wedding ring.

kapler  sonnkalb old 019.jpg

You might have wedding images in your collection and not recognize them. Watch for accessories that suggest a wedding—headpieces, corsages, flowers, bows and even sashes. Match up the family history information with a date for a photo, and you might be surprised that you have a wedding image or two. Getting married was a significant family milestone, and one that couples often commemorated with photos.  

I've never seen the item that stands between them. It appears to be a small table, but it has unusual filigree legs and a support under the drum. Can anyone identify it?

Need help researching, preserving and displaying your family photos? Visit ShopFamilyTree.com for how-to books and CDs.


1880s photos | wedding | women
Monday, June 21, 2010 4:48:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Jamboree Mystery Photo
Posted by Maureen

I'm back from the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree. Over 1,700 folks attended the three-day event. I met many readers of this column. Thank you for stopping by and saying hello! 

As usual, I held individual photo consultations. This is one of my favorite part of going to conferences because I get to look at photos and chat face-to-face with their owners. I hear a lot of interesting family stories and see some amazing photos. This week, I'm sharing one of them with you:

Young Bob (2).jpg
Kris Robinson and her sister visited me at Jamboree to try to answer a question. They know the man in the middle of this picture is their father, Robert Robinson (born in 1917), but they wonder if one of the women could be his mother, whom the Robinson ladies never knew. This casual snapshot of three smiling people has a bit of a dark side.

Lola Cloos Robinson was born in 1894 in Illinois. Her father abandoned the family when she was young. By 16, she was on her own working as a domestic in Unity, Ill. Kris isn't sure how her grandparents met, but they appear with their two boys in the 1920 Mason City, Iowa, census. One died at 4 years of age. In 1927, the family moved to California; they lived in Los Angeles and Huntington Park from 1928 to 1932, when they disappear from the city directories. 

Robert Robinson never discussed his family history or mentioned any other relatives. He had an unhappy childhood. However, Kris' mother told her that her father Robert had come home from school one day to find his mother gone. Lola had been institutionalized at a local hospital for unknown reasons. Kris is trying to gain access to those records.

Kris and her sister have spent a lot of time discovering the details of this woman's life. Just recently, they learned that Lola had two aunts and two cousins living in Los Angeles in 1931 and that those individuals had children.

Could one of the women that linked arms with Robert be his mother? The clothing styles reflect the styles of the early 1930s especially the sailor collared shirt worn by the woman on the left; the women's calf length skirts; Robert's suit with the bold tie; and the sweater worn by the woman on the left. You can find similar outfits in Sears Catalogs of the period. This dates the photo to the early 1930s, when Robert was in his mid-teens.

This photo raises so many questions.
  • It's an amateur snapshot, probably part of a series of images. Who's the photographer?
  •  Where's the rest of the roll and who owns it?

  •  If Robert's mother was institutionalized when he was young, when was she released? This information would help determine if onf of the women in the picture could be her.
Young Bob edit(2).jpg
  • If one of the women is her, I vote for this woman. She's older than the teen on Robert's other arm. She's also wearing lipstick, which young teens in the period generally didn't wear.  
I hope Kris and her sister can solve the information riddle surrounding this woman's life. Perhaps someone will see this column and recognize Robert and the women in the photo. Anyone have the rest of the roll?

Go to ShopFamilyTree.com for the how-to books and CDs you need to research, preserve and display your family photos.


1930s photos | men | women
Tuesday, June 15, 2010 8:33:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Photo Detective—Online and On the Road
Posted by Maureen

I hope to see you this month in Boston; Burbank, Calif.; or Wellington, Kan. I'm always looking for photos to feature in this space and in the Photo Detective column of Family Tree Magazine, so I hope you'll stop by and say hello (and bring a mystery photo if you have one)!

June 9th  New England Historic Genealogical Society, 6 pm
This is the official kick-off for my new book, The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation (Kent State University Press). I've spent at least eight years gathering images and vignettes of veterans, their wives and some significant children who lived during the American Revolution and  lived into the age of photography.

June 11-13th  Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree
I'll be there in the Family Tree Magazine booth in the exhibit hall as well as giving two lectures—Hairsteria: Hair in Family Photos and Identifying and Dating Family Photographs.  I can't wait for Saturday's  live podcast hosted by Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems and Family Tree Magazine's podcast. Lisa invited me to talk about The Last Muster project.  

June 18th  Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies Conference
At this all day seminar I'll be covering identifying nineteenth and twentieth family photographs in two talks: Identifying and Dating Family Photographs and Kodak Moments and Technicolor Dreams. The rest of the day I'll be focusing on telling the family story and modern genealogical research techniques.

NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are" has made genealogy and family photos a popular topic outside of family history world. The website Glo.com called to chat about trends in the field. I got a chance to talk about a few of my favorite things, including safely displaying family photographs and those lovely pages on Footnote. You'll find more on my conversation with Glo.com in their article and online slideshow, It's a Family Affair.

I'll be back next week with a report from Jamboree! 

Visit ShopFamilyTree.com for books and CDs that'll help you research, preserve and display your family photos.


Photo fun | photo news
Tuesday, June 08, 2010 5:42:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, June 01, 2010
A Memorial Day Salute and a Web Reunion
Posted by Maureen

About a year ago I started creating short videos of photo cases I've worked on and began posting them on Vimeo.com. Last week I featured a photo from Valerie Moran. It's a lovely summer scene and the flags in it provided a valuable clue. Hope you enjoy it! A New York production company created the 3-D effect. 

After years of writing about other folks online reunions, I now have one to brag about concerning one of my husband's relatives: A Facebook friend, Meryn Cadell, sent me an e-mail last week. I've included the links in this quote.

"I was just browsing the website of the ACE hotel in New York, and came across a lovely postcard, sent from the Hotel Breslin in 1908 to a little boy in Newton, Mass. named Gilbert McNamara. I wondered who he might be, and did a little searching, coming across your lovely story about the table that belonged to your husband's grandmother as well as a Gilbert McNamara, quite likely the same one, as the year and location seem appropriate."

When I saw this email and the postcard, I couldn't believe it!  I immediately picked up the phone and called my mother-in-law. She confirmed that the Gilbert in the postcard was indeed the right person.  Now it's a family history mystery in three parts:
  • How did the postcard end up on the web?
  • What was Mother McNamara doing in New York in December 1909?
  • Who was watching Gil? 
Ah..the power of the web to connect folks and information.  Wow!  Thank you Meryn.


photo postcards
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 6:01:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, May 24, 2010
It's a Family Tree Reunion!
Posted by Maureen

Last week I wrote about June Thomazin's search for information on a picture, featured in my Research Rewards post. A relative had identified the subjects, but June thought the photo depicted someone else. All her digging finally paid off.

One of the readers of this blog contacted me to say that she owned a copy of the picture and had additional details. She said that the photo was identified as Wesley and Catherine Newman by Catherine's great-great- granddaughter, who'd received it from her mother. She added, "Wesley was indeed a veteran of the Civil War and died in the Old Soldier's Home."

One of the basic rules of photo research is to seek out distant family members to see if they have identifications for your unidentified images.  It happens all the time.  I'm so happy that June has a "new" cousin to contact.

When I forwarded the e-mail, she quickly wrote back that she hadn't research that collateral line yet and was really excited to have someone to share information with. June wrote, "I'm on cloud nine."

June found her connection through this blog. It's one of those serendipitous genealogical moments. Don't forget to check photo-reunion sites.  Thousands of people a week use DeadFred.com and AncientFaces.com looking for family photos. More and more genealogists are also looking for family on Flickr.com.

Who knows what you might find?


photo-research tips
Monday, May 24, 2010 5:47:47 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, May 17, 2010
Research Rewards
Posted by Maureen

When June Thomazin submitted this photo of an elderly couple she also sent me an extensive account of her research.  I'm so impressed by her efforts that I thought it would make a good topic for this column.

NEWMANs.jpg

June's dedicated months to her search for data.  Here's a summary:
In the fall of 2009 June received the above photo from a cousin. It was labeled W.C. Dunaway's parents. According to her research this would mean that the subjects are James William Harvey Dunaway (1829-1880) and his wife Treacy Humphress Bateman (1820-1901). 

She's not sure this is correct, and actually thinks this photo depicts William Calvin Dunaway's in-laws, Wesley (1821-1899) and Elizabeth Close Newman (1826-1919).  Her goal was to determine a date for this photo. Since James Dunaway died in 1880 she's hoping to prove it dates from later than that.

On Nov.18, 2009, June began researching the photographer. She contacted the Kansas State Historical Society, Fort Scott Public Library, the State Library of Kansas, and the Old Fort Genealogical Society. No luck. No one has any information on a photographer named Letton.
 
A John F. Letton appeared in the Masonic Directories for 1881, 1884, 1885 and 1898.  He doesn't appear in any of the Fort Scott City Directories in the collection of the Old Fort Scott Genealogical Society. No listing in 1865-66, 1871-72, 1875, 1879, 1883, 1888, 1889-90, 1891-92, 1893, 1896, and 1898.

In those city directories is a record of Wesley and Elizabeth. They lived in Fort Scott; James lived a few miles away. His widow, Treacy, moved to Fort Scott after his death in 1880.

On the same day, June learns of another picture (below) in another relative's collection. It was taken circa 1888 and depicts William Calvin Dunaway and his family.  It has the same background!

wcdunaway.jpg

June also included notes in her timeline about sources she still needed to check. 

In addition to contacting the facilities named above, June spent time researching the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) ribbon worn by the husband in the first photo (we'll take a closer look at this next week). The ribbon, dating from after 1876, identifies him as a member of the GAR, a veterans group. Wesley served during the Civil War.

Sanborn fire insurance maps for Fort Scott for 1884, 1888, 1893 and 1899 didn't show any evidence of photo studio. Fire insurance maps often reveal details about the occupants of buildings in addition to construction materials.

Nor does Letton appear in Carl Mautz, Biographies of Western Photographers (Carl Mautz Publishing).

In January 2010, June spends more time trying to determine if any of the Lettons mentioned in census records for surrounding states could be the photographer who ends up in Fort Scott. There's a Caleb Letton in the 1870 and 1880 federal census for Jacksonville, Ill.

Additional research on the style of the image, black cardstock with gold trim, suggests it dates from the late 1880s to early 1890s.

In early 2010 June sends the photo to me. She's right about the cardstock. Black was one of the popular colors for cardstock in the mid-1880s. 

The clothing worn by the wife also suggests that the picture dates from the mid-1880s. Her long bodice extends way past her hips and features an opening in the front.  A lace color at the neckline was worn by women from the late 1870s into the mid 1880s.

It appears this couple was misidentified by whoever wrote the caption: "W.C. Dunaway's parents—my great grandparents."  Photo labels are often incorrect, especially when written by someone who didn't actually know the individuals in the image.

June feels this older woman looks like Catherine Newman Dunaway, the daughter of Wesley and Elizabeth.  

One more detail clinches the identification. You'll see two tintypes in the September issue of Family Tree Magazine.  I'll blog about the facial feature that is an identification clue. 

June's research paid off.  She spent at least two long days following up on clues, consulted her family history and then contacted experts to help her. 

Excellent job!!


men | Military photos
Monday, May 17, 2010 7:52:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, May 10, 2010
Sorting Truth From Fiction: Picture Tales
Posted by Maureen

camoros015.jpg

Behind every picture is a story. Some are simple tales of why someone went to have their portrait taken. In other cases, a picture tells the story of a lifetime.

Carmen Camoros sent this soft-focus photo of two young women. She's hoping one of them is her grandmother.  

Carmen's mother always told her that her grandmother had died giving birth to her in 1911 in Puerto Rico. She never talked about her.  After Carmen's mother died in 1979, Carmen packed up her belongings and put them away.

A decade later, she decided to look at them. In it was her mother's empty wallet with this picture inside.  The original is only 2 x 2 inches. Carmen's convinced the woman on the left looks just like her Mom. She's sure that the woman is her grandmother. 

There's a twist in this story. Carmen began researching her family and discovered that her grandmother didn't die in childbirth. She died of dysentery at 28 years of age, when Carmen's mother was 9.  For 5 years, her mother lived with her maternal grandparents until her father's remarriage.

Carmen's right. This photo could very well be her grandmother. The long, flowing dresses are from the first decade of the 20th century, but their hair clinches the date. Both young women wear decorative bands and trims popular from 1911 to about 1915. The large coils on her grandmother's head were one variation on the full styles of that decade.

The chair in the photo is in the Egyptian Revival style of the late 19th century. It was bowed legs and a curved, slatted back. 

It appears the grandmother has flowers pinned to the front of her dress.  The significance of this picture and those flowers is a still a mystery—at least for now.


1910s photos | women
Monday, May 10, 2010 3:16:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# 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]