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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, February 21, 2011
Double Mystery Revisited
Posted by Maureen

Well, this photo problem is a tough case tough to crack. In Double Mystery and Back to the Double Mystery, I analyzed the clues in Sandy Forest's photo of her ancestor Felix Forest and an unidentified man.  

sandyforest1.jpg
Have you added your thoughts to the comment section? I'd love to hear from you. This week, a couple of readers think the objects in the photo are just props and not real items owned or carried by the men. I agree that some of the items are just for showing off -- the bottle of liquor, the glass and the fake dog. But how far does the photo clowning go? Are their hats and the spike photographer's props as well? That's what we'd all like to know.

I emailed Robert Holzweiss, president of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society about the spike and the hat that reads "Asst. Engineer."  He showed the photo to a panel of railroad experts and they agreed that there is no railroad connection. They suggested the spike could be an in to hook wagons together.
 
What do you think? I want to revisit family history with Sandy Forest and see if census records identify any other occupations in her family. That's my next step.

In honor of Valentine's Day last week, I have a short video on my Vimeo channel. If you like it, please click the "like" button.

Later this week, I'm in England at Who Do You Think You Are? Live. In my next column I'll have a report for you and hopefully a few photos.


unusual photos
Monday, February 21, 2011 2:05:51 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, February 14, 2011
Back to the Double Mystery
Posted by Maureen

Two weeks ago, in my Double Mystery post, I began dissecting the evidence in a photo owned by Sandy Forest. A couple of readers asked about the hat worn by the man on the right. It's a big clue.

sandyforest1.jpg

sandyforestcropped hat2.jpg

It's difficult to read the hat, but it says "Asst. Engineer" with letters beneath it. The first letter is "H,"  followed by what I think is an "E" and maybe a "D." Initially, I thought the second letter was an R, but there seems to be a bottom line to the letter. So what does it stand for? That's the big question.

He's holding a spike and is an engineer. That suggests a railway connection. But I'm not sure it's a locomotive railway line. It could be a street railway. Perhaps they are celebrating the inauguration of the first tracks being placed where Felix lived.

Railroad spikes come in different shapes, but the ones used to lay the rails have an off-set head. I've spent time researching spikes and so has Sandy. Something doesn't seem to quite add up.
sandyforestspike.jpg
I'm looking for an expert on railroads and think I've found one. Hopefully, I'll be back next week with an answer. 


1880s photos
Monday, February 14, 2011 4:59:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, February 07, 2011
Baby Picture Week
Posted by Maureen

Last week, Genealogy Insider blogger Diane Haddad, gave birth to a beautiful baby. In honor of this, I'm featuring your ancestral baby photos. Thank you for all the submissions.

estelle baby2.jpg
Kim Dolce sent in this picture of her grandmother Estelle Miller Moore, who was born May 12, 1911, in Riverside, N.J. Estelle looks like she's about to topple over. 

Ben  Adolph babies2.jpg
Linday Bly Holub emailed me this charming picture of her grandfather Benjamin Bly (on the left), born November 1890, in Moberly, Mo., and his baby brother Adolph Bly, born January 1893, in the same town.

Carol Norwood submitted several photos of three generations of baby pictures. Here are two.
norwood2edit.jpg
This is her maternal grandmother, Agnes Catherine Caroline Simon, born in 1896 in Erlangen, Germany. Don't you love her bare feet!

Norwood1edit.jpg

This is Carol's maternal grandfather, Helmuth Dromer, born in Potsdam, Germany in 1900. Small children of both sexes wore dresses. Carol actually owns pictures of his two older sisters, who as toddlers also posed in this dress sitting in this basket.

I've seen many different techniques and devices to photograph babies and small children, but one has to wonder about this basket. Cute, but if you look closely you'll notice the basket is on a pedestal. One false move the this tot is on the floor. 


1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | children
Monday, February 07, 2011 2:50:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, January 31, 2011
A Double Mystery
Posted by Maureen

This week I'm researching a very interesting family photo of two men clowning for the camera. Sandy Forest showed me this image at an event over the weekend and I couldn't stop thinking about it. She's pretty sure about the identity of the man on the left, but the man on the right is a mystery. And why is he holding a spike and wearing an interesting hat? The clues really pile up for this photo, so consider this week's post the first installment of a multi-part series.

sandyforest1.jpg
These two men are probably celebrating something because they are pouring an alcoholic beverage into a glass. That's just another part of the mystery. What's the occasion?

On the left is Felix Forest, a man famous in the family for his height. He stood 6 feet 4 inches. He was much taller than the average man in the late 19th century. The soft stovepipe hat on his head must have really made him stand out in any crowd.

Felix was born in Bonaventure, Quebec, but in the early 1880s, he immigrated to the United States. He moved around a lot. He married in Manchester, N.H., in 1892, spent time in Lewiston, Maine, and then lived in Fall River, Mass., before moving back to Bonaventure.

While I'm adding up the clues and trying to find facts I'll share my favorite part of the picture—the dog at the base of the column. It appears to be a tin cut-out of a little dog. Finding that dog in another photo could identify the photographer and the location.
sandyforest3.jpg
The men meant for this photo to be funny, and the dog is just one more comical addition. It makes me laugh out loud.

Next week, we'll focus on baby pictures. Diane Haddad, the Genealogy Insider blogger, had a baby last weekend, so I thought she'd enjoy a Photo Detective post of ancestral baby pictures. Email me yours to mtaylor@taylorandstrong.com.


Tintypes | unusual clothing | unusual photos
Monday, January 31, 2011 5:07:08 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, January 24, 2011
Preservation Points: Rules to Live By
Posted by Maureen

Contrary to popular thought, it's neither expensive nor time-consuming to preserve your family photos. All it takes is a few rules to live by (and some proper storage items).

Avoid Temperature and Humidity Extremes
While you can't do anything about the weather outside your house, you can somewhat control the interior environment. First, avoid all the problem storage areas such as basements, attics and garages. Not only are those zones subject to temperature and humidity variations, they are usually home to critters that love to eat or nest in paper including your family photos.

Try to manage temperature fluctuations by storing your photos in a spot away from drafts (winter cold can harm as much as summer's heat) and heating systems. The ideal temperature for many photographic materials is 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Humidity can be controlled by the use of a de-humidifier or if your house is too dry in the winter, a humidifier. There is a cheaper alternative. A reusable desiccant container can help. It's a small box that contains an inert substance that attracts and holds water vapor.  When it's saturated (the indicator dot changes color)all you do is bake it in a ventilated oven to dry it out. While I wouldn't put one of these boxes in direct contact with my photos you can use it in closets. The cost is around $13 to $20.. They are available from museum suppliers such as Light Impressions.

Buy the Right Materials
When purchasing storage materials look for industry appropriate phrases such as acid- and lignin-free paper/cardboard and non-pvc plastic.  All you really need are some good quality boxes and sleeves that fit that criteria. You can buy materials in art supply stores, from museum storage companies and even from storage stores. Just check the labels for the right terminology. Buy in bulk with a friend and save money.

Scan Once and Store
You should have a digital back-up of your important images. Scan at a minimum of 600 dpi resolution  and 100 percent scale (that's the same dimensions as the original photo, instead of reducing the size) and then put the items in those storage containers. Back-up your digital files using a portable hard drive or an online back-up system such as Mozy.com. Once you've scanned at this resolution, you won't have to scan them again for any projects.

Identify and Label
OK I know this can be an overwhelming task, but take it slow. A picture at a time. Write on the back of a photo—name, date, occasion, and your name and date—or as little as you know. By adding your name and the current date your descendants will always know who labeled the photos.  Labeling tools include a soft lead pencil for paper based prints or a waterproof, fade-proof, quick-drying pen (not a Sharpie) that's safe for resin coated pictures. I like Zig markers. They are widely available in scrapbook, art and office supply stores.

These four basic rules will help you save your pictures so that generations can appreciate them. You can learn more about photo preservation in my book Preserving Your Family Photographs


preserving photos
Monday, January 24, 2011 2:33:30 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, January 17, 2011
In Honor of Martin Luther King Day
Posted by Maureen

I realized today that I don't spend enough time on Flickr. If you're not familiar with it, try it today. It's a wonderful free resource. You can upload picture files, invite comments and share your pictorial heritage.  If you want unlimited uploads and storage, user statistics and more then upload to a Pro account. It's only $24.95 a year.

So who's on Flickr?  Lots of folks including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. Smaller public libraries and archives also use Flickr to showcase the images in their collection.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Day, I searched for image collections appropriate to the occasion.

Black History Album
A lovely group of images including one of Martin Luther King and his wife.

Black History Group
Members of this group share photos and videos and join in discussions

African American Baseball Team courtesy of the Library of Congress
Here's one of the images in the Library of Congress.

Medal of Honor Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter, Jr. courtesy of the U.S. Army
Even the U.S. Army has a Flickr page!

Next week: Preservation Pointers.

Get ideas for taking, preserving, sharing and analyzing family photos from our Family Photo Essentials CD (now on sale at ShopFamilyTree.com).


1900-1910 photos | african american | men | Military photos | Photo-sharing sites
Monday, January 17, 2011 4:04:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, January 10, 2011
Time Flies
Posted by Maureen

I couldn't help but use this as the title. It sums up the clues in this week's picture. 

Nance Family Pictureedit.jpg

Look carefully. The man in the photo holds an open pocket watch in his right hand and has a rooster on his lap. It appears he's trying to convey something about time. It's a triple-mystery.

Sarah Swanner and her mother spent some time over the holidays scanning pictures and stumbled across this mystery image. They have no idea who the man is, where his picture was taken, or what the story is.

(An aside on scanning, I recommend setting the resolution at 600 dpi and saving as a tiff, but a 300-dpi tiff file will provide a good quality reproduction. More on scanning next week.)

All Sarah and her mother know is that this image once belonged Walter Nance, who was married to Sarah's great-grand-aunt Evelyn Dantzler. That's a start!

The white card style was extremely popular in the last years of the 1880s and throughout the 1890s. There is room at beneath the image for the photographer to include his studio name, but instead of personalizing the cards, he left it blank. It's an odd photo for a studio or an itinerant photographer.

There were folks who owned their own photo equipment, so I wonder if this isn't an amateur picture—one friend clowning for the other who's taking the picture. 

The rocks in the background are covered in lichen and there is a type of plant growing on the left. Any geologists out there?  Please weigh in on the type of rock. That might help solve the mystery of where this was taken.

I think the image was taken circa 1890. That's based on the type of suit he's wearing and the pin in his tie. Those types of pins were very popular in the late 1880s and early 1890s. Plus men tied their neckties with this particular style knot during that period.

The pin is interesting. Is it just a decorative pin or is it a clue that this man belonged to a fraternal organization?  I'll be looking for something in this shape. Hope to be able to report back next week.  I think it's a fraternal symbol and have some ideas. 

The next step is for Sarah to figure out which relatives and family friends were living in the 1890s period. It's important to remember that this man could be a friend rather than a relative. 

You can preserve your family's photo stories and share them with future generations in the book Family Tree Legacies: Preserving Memories Throughout Time.


1890s photos | men | unusual photos
Monday, January 10, 2011 9:14:04 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# 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]