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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, March 14, 2011
Mom, Dad and Baby
Posted by Maureen

Marla Hathhorn sent in this picture with a simple question. On the back someone wrote, "Ann Hicks." Is Ann Hicks the baby or the mother?
 
Ann Hicks2.jpg

Marla knows that her ancestor Anna Foley Hicks was born in Canada in 1844 and died in Oklahoma in 1914. 

A lot of people ask me, "What do I look at first in a photo?" The answer depends on the image. In this case, I read Marla's e-mail and quickly glanced at the photographer's imprint at the bottom of the card to see where the picture was taken. Then I examined their clothing.

The woman's dress is from the circa 1880 period. The bodice extends over the hips, extra fabric drapes over her upper legs and there are two layers of pleats. Her choice of jewelry is also typical for the time -- a thick chain with a charm was very popular. In the early 1880s, women wore their hair pulled back with short bangs. This young mother is very stylish in an understated way. Dad's clothing agrees with this time frame. 

The baby is very cute in it's long dress, thick tights and buttoned boots.  Around it's neck is a lovely bib.

Could the mother be Anna? In 1880 she'd be 36 years of age, a likely fit. 

T.R. Colpitts took this photo. The Rock Lake Herald of 1881 featured a short bit of news about him. It stated that he was taking a trip into southern Manitoba to take scenic views for resale. It appears from this photograph that he also found employment with the Hudsons Bay Parlors, a photographic establishment possibly connected with the Hudson Bay Company. I'm looking for that link.


1880s photos | men | women
Monday, March 14, 2011 2:08:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, March 07, 2011
Around the World with Family
Posted by Maureen

Reader Carol Norwood is a dedicated genealogist searching for more details of her mother's life in far off Indonesia.

Her mother Cita Dromer lived in Sumatra from 1927 to 1940. About a month ago, she sent scan of her mother's Poezie book (a type of scrapbook for poetry and other keepsakes) to The Indo Project. According to the group's website, "The Indo Project is dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and celebration of Indo culture and history through education and raising public awareness." They liked her mother's Poezie book so much they featured it in their newsletter. The album documents a fascinating period in her mother's life.

There are, of course, a couple of mystery photos. Norwood knows who's depicted in them, but she's trying to track down a living person. poezie.jpg
Since she's possibly still living, I'm not going to mention her name. When Carol's mother immigrated to the United States on the ship Poleau Tello, this South African girl was on board. The two became friends and wrote in each others album.

Carol has tracked down the girl's family and is hoping for a reunion. My fingers are crossed too. I'll keep you posted.


1940s photos | Photos from abroad
Monday, March 07, 2011 3:14:54 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011
Posted by Maureen

I'm posting a couple of days later than usual this week because I was in London for Who Do You Think You Are? Live. (Plus, I had a little downtime with my English friends.)

ftm booth.jpg
Maureen solves photo mysteries at WDYTYA? Live.

A series of last minute serendipitous things happened this year. I was able to provide photo consultations as a partnership with a British website What's That Picture? I met that site's creator, James Morley, three years ago at WDYTYA? Live. We've teamed up to take the site to the next step with an interactive timeline of photos supplied by users of the site and powered by Flickr. James is the technical genius behind it. Take a look at the timeline here. It's still in it's infancy, but we have big plans for it. You can add your dated family photos to it.

This press release appeared on the site and in the WDYTYA? Live newsletter just before I left for London. As soon as the show opened Saturday morning, the line (or queue, as the British call it) started forming. I've lost count of how many photos I actually looked it. Seems like hundreds, and it probably was. It was a fascinating experience to look at family photos from across the Atlantic. 

I love looking at pictures from all over the world.! There are subtle differences in clothing, especially men's work attire. The historical context of the images also has to be considered. English history has different milestones. I saw a lot of World War I images and some from the Boer War. One of the military pavilions would send folks to me to assign a photographic time frame to a picture, so they could go back to the military booth to find more information. We were sending people back and forth for the whole show!

I also managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the National Archives in England to meet with their photo specialist. Wish I could spend weeks looking at what they've got there! I was looking for something special, so I just might have to build another visit into my itinerary for next year.


Photos from abroad | Photo-sharing sites
Wednesday, March 02, 2011 2:45:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# 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]