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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, July 19, 2010
Mourning Clothes
Posted by Maureen

Ten years ago, I analyzed a photo sent to me from a woman in New Zealand. In the New Zealand Mystery, I discussed the family information, but also described her clothing and how it indicated she was in mourning.
 Goldsmith.jpg

Queen Victoria set the standard for both wedding attire and for mourning. After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, she wore black mourning clothes for the rest of her life. In the Victorian era, men would wear a black armband when someone died, but women wore full black crape (the 19th century spelling for crepe) dresses for a year and a day. Then they wore just crape-trimmed black dresses for another 21 months. (Tortora and Eubank, Survey of Historic Costume, 348). 

But what if your family didn't have the resources of the woman depicted above?  A wardrobe of mourning clothes probably wasn't economically feasible. Instead, clothes could be rented or borrowed for the funeral. According to the 1877 article by Henry R Hatherly, "Mourning Clothes as a Source of Infection" (Sanitary Record: A Journal of Public Health, Google Books), less-fortunate folks were spreading disease by wearing clothing worn by others—in particular, skin and parasitic diseases.

Not just Queen Victoria's subjects followed mourning customs. This week I looked at a tintype from Dresden. The dark clothing and the large hat with long, heavy fabric at the back suggests this 1880s woman is in mourning. The style of the hat is a bit unusual. I think the browband helps keep the hat on her head.

ThomasCollins.jpg

If you have any 19th-century photos of family wearing crape, I'd love to see them. You can e-mail them to me.

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


1850s photos | 1880s photos | mourning photos | unusual photos | women
Monday, July 19, 2010 3:47:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, July 12, 2010
Follow-up to Stitching Together An Identification
Posted by Maureen

Two weeks ago in Stitching Together An Identification,  I wrote about Candace Fountoulakis and her search to identify the women in two photos. At the time she thought they were related.

Soon after I posted the column she wrote to update me on her search. Now she doesn't think there is a connection. Her research didn't turn up a link.

She knows the single woman is "Aunt Mary Jane Hill," but now thinks that the couple could be either from the Newburn or the Mathews family.

Candace hopes that either the other researcher working on the family history will discover a new clue or that her mother holds the key in her box of old photos.

She's done all the right things—compared pictures, researched the photographic evidence, consulted family and delved into family history. My fingers are crossed that all her efforts result in another identified picture!

Of course, there is another possibility—they aren't relatives at all. <smile>
Family collections are often a collection of family and friends. 

You'll find guidance for identifying the mystery photos in your family albums in Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.


women
Monday, July 12, 2010 5:10:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, July 05, 2010
Uncovering Your Revolutionary War Ancestor
Posted by Diane

bakeman.jpg

This carte de visite of Daniel Frederick Bakeman commemorates his status as the last living Revolutionary War soldier in 1868. Bakeman died the following year. This image was widely available in the 19th century and Bakeman is generally accepted as the last living Revolutionary War soldier, but there is one problem: Other lesser-known men outlived him and were photographed. One such man was John Kitts of Baltimore, who died in September 1870.

Photographs of other members of the Revolutionary War generation exist in public, private and family collections. While I've collected 70 images of men, women and children who lived during the war, I know that additional images are still undiscovered. I'm hoping that by studying your family photograph collections that you'll find images that meet the following criteria: 
  • Men who lived during the war and who were alive after 1839 when photography was introduced in the United States would be at least 80 years of age. These individuals could be patriots, soldiers, loyalists or non-participants in the war.
  • Women may be wives or widows. Locating pictures of these women means looking at pictures taken anywhere from the advent of photography to the early 1900s. The last Revolutionary War widow died in 1906, according to this New York Times article.
Please contact me if you think you've located a picture of a Revolutionary War ancestor.

If you're interested in seeing my first collection of images, they appear in my new book, The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation (Kent State University Press, $45)

Taylor cover (2).jpg

Revolutionary War research resources from Family Tree Magazine and ShopFamilyTree.com:


1840s photos | 1850s photos | 1860s photos | cased images | men
Monday, July 05, 2010 8:46:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, June 28, 2010
Stitching Together an Identification
Posted by Maureen

Last June, I wrote about a photo owned by Candace Fountoulakis that was surrounded by a cross-stitch pattern. At the time I published the photo, Candace thought the couple was from either her Watts or Boohler side of the family, but now she's not sure. This photo changed her mind:
 
MaryJaneHill edit.jpg

This photo was in her mother's collection and is captioned: "Aunt Mary Jane Hill." The young woman wears a beautiful dress with dark trim on the bodice. Her small waist is highlighted by a belt. She leans on a chair for support. This pose and the dress style were common in the 1866-1868 period. The line line border was also common on card photographs in the late 1860s.

Now Candace thinks this woman is the sister of the woman in the first image:

 

The image above was also taken in the 1860s, making it possible for the two women to be of the same generation.

Candace knows a lot about the Hill family. They were a pioneer family in Gallia County, Ohio, and intermarried with the Watts family.

Additional research needs to be done before confirming that these two women are sisters, including:
  • If this is Mary Jane's sister, it's important to verify the birth date and parentage of this woman. 

  • Who's the man in the photo? 

  • Are there any other pictures of him in the family?
Since both images were in Candace's family, it's clear that there is some connection to her.  All that's left is to put the pieces together.

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


1860s photos | women
Monday, June 28, 2010 5:45:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# 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]