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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, November 08, 2010
Family Across the Border
Posted by Maureen

Like so many French-Canadians and Acadians, some of Marie-Josee Binette's family left Quebec in the 1890s to seek jobs in the United States. She owns a lovely photo album that documents this move in pictures, but she has no idea who the people are.

Marie-Josee knows that her great-grandmother Elina (Aline) Beaudoin spent several years in Lowell, Mass. with her husband Onesime Deblois. Both worked in area factories. After several years, some relatives stayed in the United States while others returned to Quebec. It's a familiar story to those of us with French-Canadian ancestry.

From the imprint on this photo, it also appears that someone either lived in or visited the nearby city of Lawrence, Mass. Its nickname is the Immigrant City.

Binnette2.jpg

In the album is this beautiful image of a young couple. The style of her sleeves and dress date the photo to the last years of the 1890s. The photographer, Amos Morrill Bean, appears in Chris Steele and Ron Polito's A Directory of Massachusetts Photographers 1839-1900 (Picton Press, 1993). He was in business from 1868-1900.

It's a great picture and I've seen poses like this before. While the couple's hands aren't touching, it suggestive of a wedding picture. Both the man and the woman wear very nice clothing. On their hands are brand new rings. The light glints off them. The woman wears her ring on the traditional left hand while her "husband" wears his on the right.  It's interesting.

Binnette1crop.jpg

My favorite part of this picture is the props. Both the man and the woman hold photographs on the table between them. Could this symbolize family that couldn't be there for the wedding? It's possible. There are any number of reasons to include photographs as props.

Marie-Josee might find she still has cousins living in this country. Two organizations worth contacting are the American Canadian Genealogical Society and the American-French Genealogical Society. Both organizations have extensive resources on families that moved here, as well as those in Quebec.

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


1890s photos | Immigrant Photos | men | wedding | women
Monday, November 08, 2010 4:44:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, November 01, 2010
From My Mailbag
Posted by Maureen

Not everyone has owns a scanner or has access to one, so in the "How to Submit" link to the left, there are instructions on how to send me copies (not originals) of your mystery pictures.

Every so often I receive a package containing photos from the editors at Family Tree Magazine. This week, instead of digging into my e-mail backlog, I thought ... let's check out the real mailbag. 

There was a problem. I'll show you two pictures in a minute, but first a gentle reminder. Please send me updated contact information when you move. I'm not sure what happened to the folks in my mailbag. All five of them no longer have active telephone numbers and don't appear to be living at the same address. My last attempt to contact them will be via their e-mail addresses. I'm not confident that those will work either. Sooo, if you know Mary Leal, formerly of Houston, or Christine Regan, formerly of Cincinnati, please let them know I posted their pictures here.

mailbag001.jpg
Mary Leal sent in this lovely photo of a young woman. Mary inherited a box full of unidentified photos from her mother. She has no idea who this is, but believes she once lived in the South Texas area because Mary's mother was from the Brownsville area.

Mary wanted to know why someone would cut this image. It's probably because it was once in one of those oval frames suitable for wall hanging or setting on a bureau.

The wide collar with pointed ends and the dress with the double row of buttons is in the style worn circa World War I, about 1915.

mailbag002.jpg
There's a long story associated with the picture Christine Regan sent in. She wasn't sure who was in this image, but hoped it depicts Louisa Whitford Hannay (1847-1897). Unfortunately, it's more likely Eva Grace Hannay Mitchell (born 1890). Just about everyone in Christine's family is gone and she's left with a pile of mystery images. It's a shame that no one in the family ever passed on the identity of these two young women. Eva lived until 1982!

As a young child, Eva's mother, Louisa gave her to an aunt to raise. Louisa had tuberculosis and couldn't care for her child. Instead, Alvilla Whitford Stanford (1848-1908) raised Eva, but according to family lore, the two never really bonded.

Could one of these women be Eva? Christine really wanted one of the women to be Louisa, but the clothing style with the short skirts, combined with their young ages, rules out a woman born in 1847. Both wear calf-length summer dresses with tiered skirts and ruffled bodices. Their pointy shoes, dresses and short hair all suggest a date in the late 1910s to early 1920s. Eva would have been 30 in 1920. If she's in this photo, then she's a young-looking woman, but perhaps there is another answer.

The identical dresses suggest an occasion or a relationship. I think the two girls look a bit alike. Similar mouths, and same-shaped face. Perhaps they're sisters. One of Louisa's daughters, Maude Hannay Sollitt (died in 1936) had three daughters born in 1898, 1902 and 1908. As for the occasion, that's still a mystery.  

Our webinar download, Photo Retouching: How to Bring Old Family Pictures Back to Life, shows you on how to fix tears, spots and rips in your family photos using low-cost or free photo-editing software. The webinar download is available from ShopFamilyTree.com.


1910s photos | 1920s photos | women
Monday, November 01, 2010 4:15:09 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, October 25, 2010
Deciphering a Photo, Civil War Style
Posted by Maureen

GibsonCivil War Photo.jpg

Nancy Gibson's story will sound similar to many readers. She found this photo in her great-grandmother's album. Initially, she had no idea who the man might be, but now she thinks it might be her great-grandfather, born in 1822.

This is a fabulous photo! It's a man dressed in uniform posing with his weapons—sword at his side and pistol on the table. At his feet (to the right) you can see the brace that holds him in place:

GibsonCivil War Photobrace.jpg

He wears an officer's or enlisted man's nine-button frock coat. These coats were worn by company-grade officers and enlisted men. In this case, I think he's an officer. The sash could be for dress-up for the photo, or it could signify that he's the officer of the day. The symbol on his hat signifies the type of unit:

GibsonCivil War Photo headress.jpg

I've called in a military expert to help with that. I'll add the information here as soon as I have it. The type of cap is a kepi. It was worn by thousands of soldiers during the Civil War. A great source for information on uniforms is William K. Emerson's Encyclopedia of United States Army Insignia and Uniforms (University of Oklahoma Press, $135.00). 

GibsonCivil War Photoeditback.jpg

On the back of the picture is the photographer's name and a revenue stamp (above). Unfortunately the photographer's imprint is lightly stamped and too faint to see here, but it reads "J.D. Wardwell, Photographer, Fort Ethan Allen, Virginia."

The US Treasury Department collected revenue from photographs from Aug. 1, 1864 to Aug. 1, 1866. Photographers were required to put their initials and the date on the stamp, but few fully complied. Wardwell wrote his initials on this two cent stamp. It signifies that Gibson's ancestor paid 25 cents or less for this image.

As for Wardwell ... He was taking pictures at a temporary earthwork fortification built in Alexandria County, Va. You can learn more about it on Wikipedia. Today it is a state park. It's likely Wardwell was one of those photographers who spent his days photographing soldiers so they could send images home to loved ones.

There are a lot of story angles in this picture. The man and his days in the service during the Civil War, the photographer, or the fort.

It's possible that this man is Gibson's great-grandfather. A good way to check would be to determine which units served at the fort during the latter part of the War. She also could check Civil War papers at the National Archives or the Civil War service records or pension records online at Footnote.com.

You can see more Civil War photos in the Family Tree Magazine 2011 Civil War Desk Calendar. If you need help researching your Civil War ancestors, check out the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital download from ShopFamilyTree.com).

1860s photos | Civil War | Military photos
Monday, October 25, 2010 7:29:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, October 18, 2010
Civil War Roll Call, Part 2
Posted by Diane

I hope you enjoyed last week's gallery of Civil War soldiers. I have several more to share with you this week.
 
Merle Ladd's ancestor Lemuel Ladd (below) lost his life at Blackburn's Ford, near Manassas, Va. on July 18, 1861. He served with the 12th New York.

Lemuel Ladd1838-18612.jpg

Roxanne Munns sent in this photograph of George Allen (below). This photo was stored with her Young family pictures. She doesn't know who George is, but she thinks he might be George Allen of Co. G of the 7th Wisconsin. If anyone is related to this man, email me and I'll forward your message to Roxanne.

munns2.jpg

Bruce A. Brown's great-great-grandfather John McNown (below) enlisted Oct. 6, 1861, into Company F, 16th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment from Lemonweir Township, Juneau County, Wis.  He lost his life on April 6, 1862.

John McNown immigrated from the Isle of Man to Canada about 1825, and then to the United States in 1849.

JohnMcCwar2.jpg

This picture of John is a copy of the original photo. From its appearance, the original is a tintype or an ambrotype. There are distinctive marks that suggest it was once in a case with a mat framing the image.

Four children of Oliver and Lucinda (Boodey) Leathers of Maine served in the Civil War.  John served with the Maine cavalry, Alphonso served with a New Hampshire regiment while the other two brothers enlisted with a Minnesota unit. Lynn Kent submitted the photo below and thinks it depicts Charles Leather from the 1st Minnesota regiment.

Leathers CW perhaps Charles2.jpg

Look closely at Emvira Smith Fuller's dress (below). She was the wife of Calvin Fuller of Barnard, Maine. She wears his picture in a piece of photographic  jewelry.






Thank you for all the photos! 

For a guide to researching your Civil War ancestors, see the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital download from ShopFamilyTree.com).

1860s photos | Civil War | men | Military photos | women
Monday, October 18, 2010 7:44:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, October 11, 2010
Civil War Roll Call
Posted by Maureen

Last week I posted a call for Civil War images...so many folks answered that request that I have enough material for two columns. I also mentioned some tips on how readers could find images of their Civil War ancestors. In William C. Darrah's Cartes de visite in the Nineteenth Century (out of print), he claims that virtually every soldier posed for at least one image of themselves in uniform. In fact, many sat for multiple images. 

Rachel Peirce sent in this photograph of Charles C. Baker of North Kingstown, RI. This young man was the first Civil War casualty for the town. He was only 17. He'd served with the 4th Rhode Island Co. H.



It's possible this image was printed as a memorial piece.  Two months ago, Rachel saw this ambrotype on eBay and bought it.  It appears to be a similar but slightly different image of Baker.



Donna G. Pilcher sent an image of her great-grandfather George W. Morrison, who fought for the Union as a private in Co. G 54th Indiana Volunteer Infantry from June 9, 1862 to Sept. 13, 1862. He injured his left eye and remained partial deaf in the left ear after his service.

The original was a reversed image (common in tintypes) and his belt buckle used to say S.U., but someone fixed that.

PilcherFile0076.jpg

Deb Wilson has a bit of a mystery in her photo. On the right is John Thomas Boofter, who served with Company B., 97th Infantry Regiment of Pennsylvania, but the soldier on the left is unidentified. She thinks it might be Boofter's brother Edward, who also served in the war for Maryland. Given the affectionate pose, it's quite possible. 

CWBoofter.jpg

Kim Dolce's ancestor, Isaac Sharp Heisler posed in uniform for the 23rd New Jersey Volunteers. He died of typhoid in Virginia on Feb. 15, 1863.

Heisler civil war.jpg


Nora Patton Taylor e-mailed me a photo of her great-uncle Marinus King McDowell, who enlisted three times and was wounded at Antietam. This is a copy print of an earlier image. According the Nora, he was supposed to be at the theater on the night Lincoln was shot. He didn't go because his leg bothered him.




See more Civil War photos in the Family Tree Magazine 2011 Civil War Desk Calendar. For a guide to researching your Civil War ancestors, see the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine (available as a digital download from ShopFamilyTree.com).

Civil War | men | Military photos
Monday, October 11, 2010 4:19:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# 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]