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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, October 04, 2010
Drum Roll for the Civil War
Posted by Maureen

I'm deep into research and writing for Family Tree Magazine's forthcoming new book on Life in Civil War America.

  cwbook.jpg 
I'm busy working on the Afterword on Civil War photography.  I love having a project I can immerse myself in.

Last week The Genealogy Insider wrote a post about the "hand-in-jacket" pose favored by so many military men.

If you've ever wondered whether or not your Civil War soldier posed for a picture, then here's a statistic for you: According to the 1860 census, there were at least 1,500 individuals who operated as photographers just prior to the war. This number only includes those who claimed it as their primary business and doesn't include individuals who had side businesses snapping pictures. That's a lot of photographers. 
civil war.jpg
Private Frank A. Remington and two other unidentified Union soldiers

According to William C. Davis, editor of Touched By Fire: A National Historical Society Photographic Portrait of the Civil War (Black Dog & Levanthal Publishers, available used), these photographers took an estimated one million pictures, but only several thousand still exist.

Maybe my Civil War ancestor really did take time to pose for a picture—many soldiers did. I feel inspired to look. Right now, all I have is a pension file description of a man with red (!) hair and blue eyes. No 20th century family member has or had that color hair. I'm intrigued.

So here's how I'm going to look:
  • Check with relatives
  • Post a query online (haven't decided where yet)
  • Search reunion site such as DeadFred.com and AncientFaces.com
  • Try searching the United States Army Heritage & Education Center. It has thousands of images and an online database. Not everything is online, but it's worth a look. Since I think it's unlikely I'll find an identified photo, I'll also try searching for the companies in which my ancestor served. 
  • Contact local and state historical societies to see if they have relevant images. I know that to search these collections might require hiring a researcher. If so, I'll find a local researcher using the Association of Professional Genealogists.
The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs division has a lot of Civil War images. Look in their catalog, but also check the American Memory project. CivilWarPhotos.net has searchable database of 1,200 photos. A good resource for information on Civil War photography is the non-profit Center for Civil War Photography.

If you have a picture of a Civil War soldier in uniform, e-mail it to me. I'd love to see it. Please use "Civil War photo" in the subject line.

Now you can pre-order Family Tree Magazine's 2011 Civil War Desk Calendar, which features historical photos of people and scenes from the war, plus facts about the era from Life in Civil War America.


Military photos | photo-research tips
Monday, October 04, 2010 2:12:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, September 27, 2010
It's Fall and Back to School
Posted by Maureen

This week, I've created a short video of photos from school days in the past. You can watch "School Days" and other video shorts on my Vimeo page.

While the majority of images in "School Days" are from the nation's picture library, aka The Library of Congress, some of the pictures are from my collection of photographs I've purchased.

family047.jpg

One of my favorites is this little girl and a woman in a dotted shirt that dates from around 1900. Without the caption, you'd immediately think this is a mom and her daughter. Not in this case. It's a little girl and her teacher.

It's evidence that this little girl attended some sort of school (of course this could be her piano teacher). When you're researching your family it's easy to overlook records relating to ancestral childhoods. School records are a great way to find out just where you got your talent in math or in my case, my poor handwriting <smile>. You can learn more about school records here and don't forget to use the search box at the top right of the Family Tree Magazine site to search our archive of articles.

Got a mystery photo? Demystify it with help from Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.


1900-1910 photos | children | women
Monday, September 27, 2010 9:15:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, September 20, 2010
Wearing Family
Posted by Maureen

Pikecrop1 (2).jpg

This is a fantastic family photo owned by Sharon Pike. It's actually a photo within a photo. In this card portrait, a stunning portrait of a well-dressed middle aged woman, Jane Rivers Meriwether (1829-1897) gazes directly into the camera. Let's look at some of the details.

Hair
It appears she has naturally curly hair, but in this period the Marcel Wave was a popular hairstyle. It was invented by Francois Marcel in 1872, created using heated curling irons to form small waves. The style remained popular into the 1930s. You can read more about Marcel here.

Collar and Dress
In the late 1870s and early 1880s, wide collars were commonplace. However, they were usually white and made from fabric. This woman's collar looks like small threads woven and knotted, like macrame. She's used the collar to accent her dress, which is a lovely fitted bodice with small buttons and some fullness to the sleeve.

Jewelry
All right, I admit it: I left the best detail for the end. Jane wears gorgeous drop earrings in what appears to be a floral pattern. Around her neck is a braided necklace made of either hair (yes, hair!) or silk. Both materials were common and popular. In the 19th century, women often wore jewelry made from the hair of their family and friends. Hair jewelry is a fascinating topic and the pieces are quite lovely. You can learn more about it and see examples in an online article from Victorian Magazine. These long braided ropes were often used as watch chains.

The most prominent feature of this card photo is the piece of portrait jewelry at Jane's neckline. It's a large pin setting with a paper photograph of a middle-aged man. Photo jewelry came in all shapes and sizes. I'm particularly fond of it (although it often costs more than my pocketbook can bear <smile> ). The top experts on photographic jewelry are Larry J. West and Patricia Abbott. Their book, Tokens of Affection and Regard (published by the authors, out of print) took years to research and write.  It's a stunning volume filled with color plates of actual jewelry. You can view examples on the Smithsonian web exhibit based on their collection.

Pike Pin.jpg

The big question is "Who's the man on the pin?" Sharon wondered if it was Jane's father, who died in 1840, or could it be her husband, Ethelred Westcott, who died sometime between 1870 and 1895. He's a bit of a mystery man; Sharon doesn't have a specific death date.

The dark color of her collar could mean the man in the photo deceased. Jane could have had this pin made from a small card photograph. The man's photo is difficult to see, but it could date from the early 1870s. His suit and tie are from that period. He has a full beard with lots of gray in it. I don't have a birth date for Westcott, but it could be him. Women often wore pins depicting children or a spouse.

This photo of Jane Meriwether dates from the late 1870s or early 1880s. The light pink tone to the card and its gold trim makes me lean toward the late 1870s.

You'll find advice for creating, sharing and saving your family's photographs in the Family Photo Essentials CD, from the editors of Family Tree Magazine and Memory Makers magazine.


1870s photos | men | photo jewelry | women
Monday, September 20, 2010 6:34:10 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Home Sweet Homestead
Posted by Diane

Homestead2.jpg
I just love this picture!  It's got a lot of family history layers.

Terry Sargent sent in this photo asking if it was a Civil War-era picture. On the back is written, "Mrs. and Mrs. E.H. Sargent Strawberry." The "Strawberry" refers to Strawberry Point, Iowa, where the family had a farm.

Terry is hoping the photo depicts Emery Holden Sargent, his wife Louisa (Turner) Sargent, and their two children: Harriet (born 1857) and Emery Harford (born 1860). Emery was Terry's grandfather. Let's look at a few things first.

Provenance
This refers to the history of ownership of the photo. In this case, this photo was originally owned by Terry's aunt Lavera Fink, and then by one of Fink's nieces. That niece gave Terry a copy of the photo.

Costume
I examined the photo and enlarged it to view the details of what the folks were wearing. One detail stood out: the woman's hat. I know it's blurry, but you can see the small brim and the high crown of the hat. In the 1860s, women wore bonnets or very small hats, nothing with a crown of this height. This style hat was worn in the 1880s. Would the other details in the photo and family history support this theory?

Homesteadhat.jpg

Photographer
C. H. Hunt of Strawberry Point, Iowa, has his imprint on this cabinet card. According to Biographies of Western Photographers by Carl Mautz (Carl Mautz Publishing, 1997), Hunt was active in 1885. That puts the photo well outside the Civil War period. The decorative elements of the imprint reinforce the 1880s period.

Family History
There were two E.H. Sargents, father and son. So who is depicted in this photo? In the 1880 census, Emery Holden, his wife Louisa, son Emery as well as son Ora and his wife are living on the farm (US Census, Clayton County, Iowa, Caso Township, p. 289). 

There are no children listed with the family. Since there is no 1890 census for Iowa, I checked the family again in the 1900 census. This time, the farm is occupied by the younger Emery, his wife and all of their children, several of whom were born in the 1880s ( US Census, Clayton County, Iowa, Caso Township, sheet 18).

There is another bit of family history: Terry told me that according to Emery Holden Sargent's obituary in the Strawberry Point Press Journal (1905), Emery left the farm in 1886.

It's likely that this picture was taken around the time when the younger Emery took ownership of the family farm.

There is one odd thing about this picture: its appearance. It is a cabinet card, but the image of the farm is either a copy of another picture (notice the wide black border around it) or the photographer took a different-size negative to shoot the scene. The image itself is blurry when enlarged, while the photographer's imprint is clear. This could mean it's a copy. It's a square image, while most cabinet card-size photos are rectangular. I'd love to see other outdoor shots by this photographer.  In either case, the final date for the picture doesn't change. It's from the 1880s.

Have you inherited mystery photos from relatives? Demystify them them with help from Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.


1880s photos | hats | house/building photos
Tuesday, September 14, 2010 2:40:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Summertime Farewell
Posted by Maureen

I don't know about you, but I'm having a difficult time saying good-bye to summer. This weekend I took a short field trip to historic Concord, Mass., and ended up in an antique shop. I couldn't resist the piles of unidentified photos. Picked up some of fantastic hairstyles and hats, but also these two beach scenes:

beachRugen.jpg
In case you guessed...this wasn't taken in the United States. According to the postcard publishing information on the back, it was taken in Rugen, Germany. This lovely multi-generational family went to the beach. I love the beach hut that shades the two older women and the little girl. Mom and Dad sat in the sand. Can you imagine dressing for the beach in a full suit and dress shoes? The image was taken by A. Haase, circa 1910. Haase may have traveled up and down the beach taking pictures of folks on vacation.

If you want to learn more about this seaside resort, there is a website, but it's in German.

The other image I bought is a snapshot. It's clear from the woman's pose and expression that she is having a good time at the shore. I have no idea where it was taken.

Beach002.jpg
It's a great shot of a young woman in a late 1920s bathing costume. She's the epitome of the late 20s, from the wrap on her head to her glasses and the belted waist.  The 1920s saw the evolution of women's swimsuits from blousy, long skirted suits to form-fitting tanks.

You'll find advice for creating, sharing and saving your family's photographs in the Family Photo Essentials CD, from the editors of Family Tree Magazine and Memory Makers magazine.


1910s photos | 1920s photos | women
Tuesday, September 07, 2010 4:21:38 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, August 30, 2010
Hand-Me-Down Family
Posted by Maureen

Years ago, Truli Powell's mother received a box of photos from one of her husband's cousins. Now Truli is trying to date and identify the images. She's hoping that the cousin only gave them images from their specific line.

Powell Unknown 1 (2).JPG

In this "like mother, like daughter" tintype, the mother and the woman in the back (I'm assuming grandmother) wear nearly identical dress designs and hats. This 1890s scene depicts three generations on an outing. I love the park bench as a prop.

Powell Unknown 2.JPG

In the second tintype Truli sent, a young man in a suit and coat poses with a painted backdrop that features a house and a wall. The "rock" in the foreground is supposed to create the illusion that he's actually standing outdoors. Since backdrops usually reflect the area where someone lived, I wonder where this was taken.

Truli wants to know if this could be her great-great-grandfather Peter Floyd Powell (1832-1922). Unfortunately, that doesn't appear to the case. This photo depicts a young man probably in his early 20s. From the neatly greased hair to the polished shoes, this is a young man who's dressed very nicely for the late 1880s.

She sent another picture and I have to include it. Last week I focused on backdrops.
Powell Unknown 8 (2).jpg
Here, two young girls posed behind a backdrop with cutouts for their heads. Their hats and the car date the picture to the early 1910s.  One of the girls would be the right age to be the young girl on the bench in the first photo.

It's too bad that Truli's father's cousin didn't label the photos in some way, but hopefully the information in this column will help her put names with the faces.

Need help with your own mystery photos? Look for Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.


1890s photos | 1910s photos | photo backgrounds | Tintypes | Vehicles in photos
Monday, August 30, 2010 4:07:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, August 23, 2010
Studio Backdrops
Posted by Maureen

At last weekend's FGS conference in Knoxville, I did a little shopping. Picked up a couple of interesting books and this lovely trio of photos. I just love the backdrops. This photographer spared no expense.

While in the 19th century most backdrops looked like the outdoors or living rooms, in the 20th century the backdrop often sets the scene into a historical context. 

In December 1903, the Wright Brothers lifted off the ground in the first flight. Mass transit by airplane was decades away, but that didn't keep folks from simulating flight. Here, a group of friends are posing in a painted backdrop that looks like an early aircraft, with the skyline at their feet.  Their clothing and the design of the airplane dates from circa 1912.  You can view early airplanes on the web at Early Historic Aircraft.
FGS001.jpg

In the next postcard, the same woman seated at top right in the first photo takes another picture in the same studio. This time, you can see the airplane set to her left while she sits on a fake racehorse. She wears the same suit and hat so it's possible it was taken on the same day.

FGS002.jpg

In the same batch of photos I found another image of her standing near a painted wall with "Pennsylvania Pullman" on it. George Pullman manufactured train cars, trolley buses and streetcars. You can read more about him on Wikipedia. I think this is a train car, but I'm still trying to find a reference to the words on the side.
FGS003.jpg

I may not know the name of this woman, but it appears that in the early early 1910s she liked to frequent photo studios with creative backdrops.

You'll find advice for creating, sharing and saving your family's photographs in the Family Photo Essentials CD, from the editors of Family Tree Magazine and Memory Makers magazine.


1910s photos | photo backgrounds | props in photos | unusual photos | Vehicles in photos | women
Monday, August 23, 2010 5:17:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, August 16, 2010
It's Time for FGS!
Posted by Maureen

Oh boy...it's time for another national genealogy conference. This time it's sponsored by the Federation of Genealogical Societies.  I can't wait!

This year I've partnered with Family Search to provide free photo consultations in the exhibit hall. I'm really looking forward to meeting all the folks (and seeing their photos) that signed up for a slot. Unfortunately, all the spaces are now filled on the Event Brite site.  My fingers are crossed that I'll be able to do this again.

If you're at the conference, wave and say hi.  I'll be in the Family Search booth space.

Back next week, with a photo mystery!


Genealogy events
Monday, August 16, 2010 6:47:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, August 09, 2010
Favorite Photo Mysteries
Posted by Maureen

I’m taking a short vacation, so instead of a new column I’m taking a look back at some of my favorite mysteries.


Back in January I published a photo of the Hobo 8, a group of young people (above) smiling for the camera. It’s a great photo that captures the fun they were having. The sign and the 80 after it remain a mystery. Any ideas?

 
The problem of the Texas Twosome continues to be a challenge. I’ve taken these photos on the road with me and shown them in locales from coast to coast in the hopes of a new clue. I’ve outlined researchers’ ideas in a series of blog posts, linked below. Please let me know if you have any new thoughts on the matter. 

Two Texas Mysteries
 
Texas Mystery Puzzle—No News

Texas Trouble: Readers Respond
 
Texas Twosome Revisited 


A fun picture of another group of friends was the image from Clues from Hats and Backgrounds. I love the fact that photos are in the background. Those images could help solve the identity of the people in the photo, if only they were clearer.

men | photo backgrounds | unusual clothing | women
Monday, August 09, 2010 2:33:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Monday, August 02, 2010
Your Mourning Pictures
Posted by Maureen

Two weeks ago I wrote about mourning traditions and clothing and asked for e pictures of women wearing mourning clothes. This week, I'm featuring the two I received as well as one from my work collection of images.

davison headstone2 (3).jpg

Toni Mann sent in this very interesting photo.  It's a 20th century snapshot. It blurs when I enlarge it, but I think the women in the far background are wearing clothing from the early 1900s. The woman to the left of the headstone wears late 1890s mourning clothes. Perhaps her husband is buried there. Toni thinks it was taken in the Chicago area. Anyone recognize the headstone? 

edit1907 Hulse family reunion Greenville TX (2).jpg

Charman Davis emailed this photo of the Hulse Family August 1907 reunion. The woman on the left lost her husband the previous month.  Everyone wears light-colored summer clothes except for the widow.

funeraledit.jpg

I bought this photo several years ago. It dates from the late 1890s and depicts a woman in mourning standing by a burial. It's a new grave, based on the fresh flowers piled on it. It's intriguing that a widow would hire a photographer to take her picture in this setting.

You'll find advice for creating, sharing and saving your family's photographs in the Family Photo Essentials CD, from the editors of Family Tree Magazine and Memory Makers magazine.


1890s photos | 1930s photos | mourning photos
Monday, August 02, 2010 4:25:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]