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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, January 03, 2011
First Communion Mystery
Posted by Diane

I can tell that a lot of folks looked at their family photographs last week by the number of emails I received. Scannning, identifying and organizing your photos is a great way to start the new year. Remember to scan at no less than 600 dpi and select Tiff as the format. You can always re-size for various uses.

Let's ease into the year by discussing a photo with religious overtones.

Murphy-McHugh.jpg

Beth Hartley submitted this tintype photo with a question: "Is this my great-grandmother or her mother?" Beth's grandmother told her that she thought it depicted one of these two women with a younger brother, but she wasn't sure about the generation.

When you think you know who's in the photo, start with family history. In this case, Beth's great-grandmother Ellen McHugh was born in 1885, while Ellen's mother, Bridget Murphy McHugh, was born in 1855.

Photographic formats often help narrow down the time frame. A tintype is a photograph on a thin sheet of iron; they were popular by the late 1850s. The rounded corners on this image strongly suggest that it once occupied a frame.

Costume provides clues about the occasion. The girl's white dress and veil clearly indicate it's her First Communion. She's even holding a tiny prayer book. It's traditional in Catholic churches to dress girls in white dresses and veils for this event. First Communion dress styles mimic bridal fashions. The details in the white dress are unclear, but the veil suggests a date circa 1890. In this period, bridal veils hung from a small gathering of fabric or flowers on the top of the head. This information definitely rules out Bridget McHugh.

The average age for a First Communion is around 7. So if this photo depicts Ellen, then it was taken in the early 1890s. Ellen had an older brother born in 1883 and a younger brother born in 1887. The youngster standing next to her would be 5-year-old William. 

There are always unanswered questions about photos. In this case, I'd love to know why Ellen's older brother John isn't included in this studio shot.

For more help analyzing old family photos, use Taylor's guide Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs (now on sale at ShopFamilyTree.com).
1890s photos | children
Monday, January 03, 2011 2:49:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, December 27, 2010
iPad Apps to Try
Posted by Maureen

I've had an iPad for a few months and I suspect that many readers of this blog own one too. I'm always on the look-out for interesting apps. Here are some that I can't wait to try. You can find all of these by visiting the app store on your iPad.

Flickstackr ($1.99)
I can't wait to see if this one lives up to it's tabletpcreview.com review. It connects to Flickr so you can browse photos, but it also lets you create a photo stack of images you want to save while you are looking.

Sort Shots ($4.99)
This photo-organizing app uses tags to quickly sort through images. It also lets you share photos using Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Picasa.

Photobucket (free)
Just like the photo-sharing website photobucket.com, you can search, sort and share images.

Foto Editor (free)
It doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but you'll be able to make quick and simple edits on your photos on Foto Editor.

Impression (free)
This app will let you put an opaque watermark on your image to make it clear who owns the picture.

The two apps I use the most on my iPad are Ancestry.com's app Tree to Go (free) and Blogshelf ($4.99). Blogshelf organizes all my favorite blogs like books on a shelf. I just love it.

Have fun with your new apps and be sure to mention your favorite apps in the comment section below. I can't wait to try out some new ones.

preserving photos | Web sites
Monday, December 27, 2010 6:18:23 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, December 20, 2010
Season's Greetings
Posted by Maureen

Thank you to all the readers of this column for another year of photo mysteries! I have a holiday card for you on my Vimeo channel. You can watch this photo become a colorized greeting.
3b46146r.jpg
The photograph, titled "Caught in the Act", is from the Library of Congress. It was taken in 1900. Santa's bag of presents hasn't changed too much—he's carrying dolls and a sailing ship. But I think he's a pretty scary-looking Santa.

I have a holiday habit that drives my family crazy—I take photographs of our Christmas tree. It's a picture time capsule. And I have proof that I'm not the only person who does it: The photo of this tree predates my lifetime.
Christmas 1954.jpg
December 1954 is written in unfamiliar handwriting underneath the image. I'll be watching for that couch and those curtains in other family pictures.  This color photo is in serious need of some color correction. All the reds have taken over the image. That's a pretty typical problem with mid-1950s images. 

Cynthia Cox sent me this image from her family collection. It's also dated 1954.
Christmas Morning 1954.jpg
She labeled it, "Christmas morning at the Robert and Helen Cox Family Residence, Los Angeles." It was taken on Dec. 25. The doll was her gift and the fire truck was for her brother. Thank you for your submission, Cindy!

We've been photographing holiday traditions for generations. Last December, I explored the tradition of posing with Santa

You can use the comment section below to tell me what holiday traditions you photograph.

Happy Holidays!


holiday | unusual photos
Monday, December 20, 2010 4:20:14 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Monday, December 13, 2010
Immigrant Clues and Family Stories
Posted by Maureen

Poorescan0002 edit.jpg

Terri Poore and her cousin have a lot of questions about this photo. Who, what, when and where is just the beginning.

Unfortunately, the original owner of the picture is currently unknown. Terri's cousin received a copy of it years ago and can't remember who gave him the print.

Terri and her cousin believe the folks in the picture are Felix Horvat (1884-1952), his first wife Sophie (1890-1918) and their daughter Anna 1909-1997).  I agree with this identification.

There is a long complicated story about this couple. It's very important to write down the oral history of your family because you never know when all the pieces will link up. This photo is a perfect example of how stories and pictures are a natural match.

First the facts: Sophie's hat in this picture and her coat date the picture. She is very well-dressed in a heavy wool coat, fur collar and an oversize hat known as a toque. Her hat and clothing combined with the birth date of their daughter date this picture to circa 1910. Toques were all the rage at the end of the first decade of the 20th century.

Her husband wears ethnic dress that identifies him as a resident of Croatia. The family lived in Ljubljujana, Croatia.

Now here's where it gets interesting. Family stories relate how this couple met. He was a country boy who worked as a coach driver for a wealthy family—the Bahuneks. Their daughter ran away with the coachman!  Sophie, her husband Felix and their daughter Anna immigrated to the United States in 1911 and lived in West Virginia for a time. The Bahuneks followed their daughter and also immigrated. 

There is a sad twist to this tale. According to family lore, when Sophie gave birth to Terri's grandfather Nicholas in 1912, Sophie's mother was present for the birth. Her mother and the midwife decided she shouldn't have any more children with that "awful man" so they tried to perform a gynecological procedure to prevent more children. 

The Horvat family moved to Michigan, but Sophie was so ill after the childbirth procedure that Felix allowed her family to move her back to West Virginia so they could care for her. He retained the children. In 1918, Sophie likely died from complications related to that botched procedure.

Family stories also relate how immediately following her death, her husband Felix and her father had a knife fight to determine the custody of the children. Felix won. He took the children back to Michigan and eventually married the children's caretaker, also named Sophie.

This photo is the gateway to an amazing family tale. Present in the image is pictorial evidence of the economic difference between the husband and wife. She's very fashionably dressed while he still wears his native dress. She's the city dweller and he's from the country.

Now Terri is trying to piece together the family history and try to locate living relatives.


1900-1910 photos | children | hats | Immigrant Photos
Monday, December 13, 2010 4:47:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, December 06, 2010
Shipboard Clues, Part 3
Posted by Maureen

This week is another installment of Jake Jacoby's photo of a group in his collection. Two weeks ago in Photo Mysteries, A Clue at a Time, I discussed clothing clues.  Last week in Shipboard Clues, I told you what I knew about the caption and the ship.

Photo mysteries take time to solve. I feel like I'm getting closer. After another conversation with Jake, we came to the conclusion that his grandfather might not be greeting a group of immigrants. It could be another occasion.

I've spent a lot of time calling folks knowledgeable about local history in both Mobile, Ala. and Pensacola, Fla., to learn more about the ship. I'm waiting for news.

Two readers of this column wrote to me:

Genealogist Drew Smith also used the search terms german ship baltimore and found a mention of a German ship named the Baltimore that sank at sea Jan. 24, 1897, en route from London to New York. Thank you, Drew!  I followed this lead and discovered a couple of news stories about it. One was in the New York Times and the other is available through the Kentuckiana Digital Library's database of the Daily Evening Bulletin (Maysville, Ky.). 

That Baltimore was commanded by a Capt. Hillman, but as far as I know, it didn't carry passengers. It sank with its cargo of chalk aboard. I'm excited to find a captain with that surname. Perhaps he also commanded a different ship at some time prior to the sinking. Hillman could be the name in the partially missing caption in Jake's picture.

Rachel Peirce's great-grandfather was a ship's captain, and she still has his books. There was a ship Baltimore listed in List of the Merchant Vessels in the United States, 1896 (p. 217). It appears to have been in Mobile, Ala.

I'm also researching packet steam boats that might have operated between Mobile and Pensacola. Quite a few of these boats used Mobile as a port.

I'll end this week with another picture of Jake's grandfather:

GrandpaJacoby copy.jpg

This was a New Year's Eve affair at the Progress Club in Pensacola. The image was taken in 1894. From  left to right are Charles Levy (seated), Lep Hirshman (standing), Joe Jacoby (seated with cane), Nathan Forcheimer (standing) and Ike Hirshman (seated).

Share your family photo stories with future generations in the book Family Tree Legacies: Preserving Memories Throughout Time. Given with printed photos or a family photo CD, it'll be a treasured holiday gift.


1890s photos | group photos | Immigrant Photos | unusual photos
Monday, December 06, 2010 4:43:37 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, November 29, 2010
Shipboard Clues
Posted by Maureen

Last week in A Photo Mystery, A Clue at a Time, I introduced you to a wonderful group picture of folks on a ship.

Joseph Jacoby2.jpg


The Ship
What I didn't show you is the caption that runs along the bottom edge of the picture. Unfortunately, part of the cardboard is broken off, leaving us to guess at the rest of the information.  I can't make out the first word, but there is a "....noon" or "roon" followed by "on board German Ship Baltimore." According to the owner of the photo, below the caption and cut off in the scan of the photo is "Capt. Hillr..." The rest of his last name is missing.  So far, no luck in finding a man with a last name starting with those letters.

When you're faced with incomplete caption information, it's best to start with what you know.  In this instance, I Googled Ship Baltimore. On theshipslist.com, I found a description. There was a German ship, Baltimore. It was built in 1868 for the North German Lloyd of Bremen and traveled from Bremen to Baltimore until 1872. In 1881, she was then used for the Bremen to South America service. The big problem with this ship being the one in the photo is the final date of service. This particular Baltimore was scrapped in 1894. 

In the first column I dated the photo from 1896 to 1899. 

There was another ship, the City of Baltimore that operated as part of the Baltimore Mail Line, but its dates of service are too late. It traveled from Baltimore to Hamburg in the 1930s. Not all information is online and I'm still looking for a good off-line resource. 

There must be another ship with the same name that operated in the late 1890s. Just haven't found it yet.

The Location
Jake Jacoby's grandfather lived his whole life in either Mobile, Ala., or Pensacola, Fla. There is a BIG question about where this photo was taken. Mobile was a busy port and many immigrants arrived there, but right now we lack proof.

If you had an ancestor arrive at Mobile, the National Archives has an Index to Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Ports in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, 1890-1924 (T517).

There is another possibility. The Sept. 1, 1904, Canebrake Herald (Uniontown, Ala.) mentioned Joseph Jacoby. He was a traveling salesman for his brother's business, Jacoby Grocery Co.. Since in the 1900 federal census, Jacoby lists his occupation as a salesman, perhaps he traveled, and this photo might have been taken on a trip during the last years of the 1890s.

While I've been able to date the photo and work with the owner to sort through clues, the final answer is elusive. Jake Jacoby thinks the photo was taken in Mobile rather than Pensacola. It's a good assumption. His grandfather had business and family connections in Mobile.

A single name of an immigrant depicted in this photo would help solve the mystery, but unfortunately no one's name appears on the photo.

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


hats | Immigrant Photos | men | unusual photos | women
Monday, November 29, 2010 9:52:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, November 22, 2010
A Photo Mystery, A Clue at a Time
Posted by Maureen

Complex image identification often requires examining each piece of a photo story—historical context, family history, and costume history along with a bit of common sense.

Jake Jacoby owns this wonderful image of a group of people onboard a ship. There is a caption, but I'll share that next week. I'm still working on it.

Joseph Jacoby3.jpg

Jake knows that his grandfather, Joseph M. Jacoby is seated on the far right in the front.

Joseph Jacobyedit.jpg

What's he doing on a ship? Jake thinks he's welcoming a group of Jewish immigrants from Germany. 

I can date the photograph by the hats and other costume clues. The width of this woman's sleeve and the birds and feathers in the women's hats suggest that it was taken about 1896 to 1899.

Joseph Jacobyhat.jpg

This is the woman standing directly behind Joseph Jacoby.

Joseph's life is well-documented. He was born in Mobile, Ala. in 1865, and in the 1885 Pensacola, Fla., city directory, he's working as a clerk at P. Stone. During the period of this photograph, Joseph still lived in Pensacola. He married Esther Myerson on Jan. 4, 1896.

Despite living in Florida, Joseph maintained his ties with family and friends in Mobile. He actually attended temple there. Approximately 60 miles separate the two cities. Jake knows his grandfather traveled between Mobile and Pensacola via wagon.

The big question regarding this photo is, where was it taken? Next week, I'll be back with some information on the caption and some tips for researching late-19th century passenger lists.

I'm planning a special column for the end of the year. Please send in your photos of family celebrating the holidays in the past.  You can email them to me. 

Happy Thanksgiving!!


1890s photos | group photos | hats | Immigrant Photos | unusual photos
Monday, November 22, 2010 5:31:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, November 15, 2010
Lookalikes in the Family Album
Posted by Maureen

I'll blame it on the holiday season. I'm feeling a little silly today. I laughed out loud when I saw Karen Thornhill's picture submission. Thank you Karen! 

eldredfamily2.jpg

It's not the subject matter of the photo that made be chuckle, it's how she started the e-mail. First, though...who do you think the woman on the left looks like? Karen wrote me with the following opening line "Glenn Close, Abraham Lincoln and a baby." 

It started me thinking: Do you have any celebrity lookalikes in your family album? Go ahead. Send them in to me in an email.

Just for comparison purposes, here's a picture of a young Abraham Lincoln from the Library of Congress. It was taken Oct. 1, 1858.

Lincoln3.jpg

And here's a Wikipedia link to images of Glenn Close.

The actual subjects depicted in this family photo are Karen's grandparents and her aunt—Rosetta (Seeley) Eldred and Emmet Ernest Eldred with baby Emma (Eldred) Johnson.

Share your family photo stories with future generations in the book Family Tree Legacies: Preserving Memories Throughout Time.


1900-1910 photos | men
Monday, November 15, 2010 2:42:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
# 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]