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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, September 05, 2011
Images of Ancestors at Work
Posted by Maureen

Happy Labor Day!  It's a day that honors work so why not take a trip into the past to find pictures of your laboring ancestors.   Some of my favorite images on the Library of Congress website are the pictures that show individuals in their work clothes posed with tools.  Each one is like a time capsule.

Here's how to find them.
  • Go to the Library of Congress website
  • Click on the link for "Prints and Photographs."
  • Enter in the search box "occupational portraits" or the specific occupation of your ancestor. You can find your ancestor's occupation on census records, professional licenses or in family papers.  It may be that your family tells stories about work history.
  • Start looking.
I followed these tips and found two daguerreotypes. Those are shiny reflective images first introduced to the United States in 1839.


This peddler carried his wares in two boxes balanced over his shoulders.  It was taken circa 1850.


If you have any barrel making ancestors then you'll love this picture of a cooper with a barrel and his tools in hand, circa 1850.



Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • occupational
    Monday, September 05, 2011 8:47:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, August 29, 2011
    Hurricane of 1938: Before and After
    Posted by Maureen

    people-on-the-beach-watch-h_1fb8582c4b.jpg

    I grew up on the Rhode Island shore and spent summers on the beach. In Rhode Island (and New England), we measure storms like this weekend's hurricane/tropical storm against the grandaddy of all New England hurricanes: the Hurricane of 1938.  

    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the shores of Narragansett Bay were dotted with resorts and beach houses. In this circa-1930s photo of Watch Hill, RI, groups of bathers and sun worshipers cluster under umbrellas in all modes of beach attire. It was a typical summer scene until Sept. 21, 1938.

    Watch Hill was famous for its beaches, which stretched seven miles to the west to a lovely place known as Napatree Point. The 1938 hurricane changed the Rhode Island shoreline and washed away many of those summertime places. 

    On Napatree Point, 39 cottages, their owners' cars and the road all disappeared and 15 people died, swept out to sea or into Watch Hill Harbor. Today, Napatree Point is a nature conservation area.

    2001-19-watch-hill-235_ea6df4669a.jpg

    Here's a view of part of the Watch Hill shoreline after the storm. 

    You can see other scenes of the 1938 damage to Rhode Island on the Rhode Island State Archives Virtual Archives. You can use the search box on the home screen to search for hurricane or place names.  If you want to read about that storm, I suggest, R.A. Scotti's Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 (Back Bay Books, 2004).

    The Rhode Island State Archives has one of my favorite picture collections, so don't stop with hurricane pictures. There is a lot more to look at in their virtual exhibits. 


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1930s photos | candid photos | men | women
    Monday, August 29, 2011 3:22:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 22, 2011
    Godfrey Update
    Posted by Maureen

    It's week three of the project to identify all the faces in Gwen Prichard's family composite.

     

    In the first installment, I introduced this lovely composite and then last week I showed an original image from which one of the tiny portraits was taken.

    This week, Gwen wrote to me with a new piece of information. Her niece did a quick search of the city directories on Fold3 (formerly Footnote.com) and found a photographer named Peter Godfrey living in Louisville, Ky., in 1866. She thinks it's her ancestor. This suggests that Godfrey created the composite after 1866 when he was living in Fulton, Mo.

    We're still trying to sort through photos for facial comparisons and then trying to compare the life dates of those individuals with their possible ages in the composite.

    I agree with Gwen that Godfrey probably photographed family members residing in Louisville before he moved, and then the Missouri Godfreys later on. There is also the possibility that family members sent him photographs of themselves for inclusion in the composite.

    This photo has a lot of angles worth exploring! According to Gwen's emails, it appears she's identified around a dozen individuals. That's great news. Photo mysteries like this take a long time to decipher. She's doing all the right things—comparing faces to photos in her collection and reaching out to relatives. She's taking it one face at time.

    Photo challenges come in all sizes from single unnamed images to large group portraits. In Gwen's case, she's got a lot of genealogical information to help her follow the pictorial trail.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | Photo fun | unusual photos
    Monday, August 22, 2011 2:10:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 15, 2011
    Tackling the Godfrey Family Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week's column focused on Gwen Prichard's family photo mystery. This small composite image is a genealogical lock. All Gwen has to do is find the key. 

    GodfreyFamily2edit.jpg

    In this case, the key is her family photo collection. Gwen spent last week comparing each face in this picture to possible matches in her collection. She's well on her way to solving this picture puzzle.

    Here's one of her comparisons.  In the second row from the top, on the far left, is a little boy in curls.

    boy.jpg

    Gwen has the original photo in her collection. 

    boy with chair.jpg

    He's dressed in what appears to be a riding outfit for boys, with a whip in his hand. As Gwen looks at each face, she's trying to match the date of the composite (mid to late 1860s) with what she knows about the folks in her family pictures:
    • Who's the right age to be in the picture?
    • Do their facial features match—eyes, noses, mouths and shape of face?
    I'm not convinced all the images in this composite were taken at the same time. While she's working on her family collection, I'm studying each tiny picture for clues.

    I'll be back next week with another update on this fascinating photo.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | unusual photos
    Monday, August 15, 2011 4:06:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 08, 2011
    Godfrey Family Picture Puzzle
    Posted by Maureen

    Gwen Prichard and her cousin Libby Claypool have quite the family photo mystery. The image is a composite of what appears to be several generations worth of Godfreys.

    GodfreyFamily2edit.jpg

    Several years ago I saw something similar, but that woman didn't have a clue about the identity of the people in the collage. In Gwen's case, there are some identifications written on the back. 

    Godfrey-Reverse.jpg

    She has no idea who wrote the caption, but that detail could be the key to figuring out the identity of the folks depicted.

    Godfreywomen.jpg

    According to the caption, the first three women in the top row (left to right) are Fannie Godfrey, Sarah Ostick Dalton and "Aunt Godfrey." 

    This photo generates a lot of questions. It's going to take some time to figure this out. 

    Photographer
    According to Gwen, photographer Peter Godfrey appears in the 1870 and 1880 census, but she's been unable to find him in the 1860 federal census. He was born in 1841. I found a Peter Godfrey living in Ohio in the 1860 census working as a farm laborer. His age is 23. Could this be the photographer?

    Provenance
    The history of ownership of an image can offer clues worth following. In this case, Libby Claypool is fairly certain the photo belonged to her great- grandmother, Fannie Williams Sloane, who was Peter Godfrey's niece.   Perhaps she wrote the identifications on the back. If so then Gwen might be able to figure out the first name of "Aunt Godfrey." This aunt is an elderly woman and likely the oldest person in this photo. Did Frannie Sloane have an aunt who lived into the 1860s?

    Date of Photo
    There are a lot of faces in this composite. A quick assessment suggests that most of the images in this collage were taken in the 1860s. This carte de visite card photograph with a double-gold-line border was common in the 1860s. The photographer's name and address is also of a design popular in the Civil War decade.

    It seems quite possible that Peter Godfrey had a photo studio in the 1860s. Did he take all these photographs of family members or just make copy prints and lay them out to form this multi-generational group portrait?


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | unusual photos
    Monday, August 08, 2011 6:24:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 01, 2011
    A Possible Identity for the Lady
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about Jay Kruizenga's photo of a woman with long hair.

    MYSTERYWOMAN.jpg

    He read the column and quickly wrote back to say thank you. It appears that the lovely woman with the long locks has a name!

    He believe that this picture was taken 1883-85 because the cardstock and other details match another photo in his family collection. The other image depicts Jacob Derk Kruizenga's only living son, Derek Jacobs, who was born in 1879. 

    Jay then wondered "who was living with Jacob Derk Kruizenga (1830-1906) and his wife Jennie (1837-1905) in the same time frame?"

    According to the 1880 federal census, the couple had two daughters living at home—Nettie (born 1861) and Frances (born in 1866). Jay doesn't think Nettie is the woman in this photo because she married and moved away from home around the time of the census. 

    Could this photo be Frances? Perhaps. She was the only living daughter of Jacob and his second wife Gezina Rotmans VanBraak. She didn't marry until 1885, so she would still be single in this photo.

    Now all Jay has to do is find another photo of Frances for comparison. She was well known in Michigan. Frances was elected President of the Michigan Chapter for the Independent Order of Foresters, a fraternal organization, and gave speeches at conventions. 

    Jay wrote to the Foresters but the person who replied said that all their historical information is boxed and unorganized, thus making it difficult to find anything. 

    I'm hopeful that someone has a photo of Frances in her capacity of president of that organization.

    Thank you to the person who commented on last week's story. If you've ever wondered why all these young women posed with their long hair down, there is a simple answer: They wanted to look like the famous Barnum and Bailey Circus act, the Seven Sutherland sisters. The sisters concluded their musical performance by letting down their hair for the audience. It was sensational!


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1880s photos | hairstyles | photo-research tips
    Monday, August 01, 2011 2:57:09 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, July 25, 2011
    Mysterious Woman with Wavy Hair
    Posted by Maureen

    Jay Kruizenga of DutchBlood.com sent in this photo of his family's mystery woman. Her long, flowing hair definitely makes an impression. She has really long full hair that must have created an enormous braid when pinned up.

    MYSTERYWOMAN.jpg

    The photo was given to Jay by the daughter of his grandfather's brother. Now the family wants to know who's in the picture. Is she Jacob Derk Kruizenga's third wife, Jennie? Jennie was born Dec. 1, 1836 and married Jacob in 1876. This was her third wedding.

    There are several problems with that identification.
    • The studio arrangement of rug, chair and drapery dates from the 1880s.
    • The long pleats in her skirt, accessorized by what appears to be a very full overskirt in the same fabric as the rest of the dress, and the high collar and large buttons are characteristic of the 1880s.
    • This woman is much younger than Jennie would be in the mid-1880s. Born in 1836, Jennie would be 50 by 1886. I estimate that this young woman is only in her late teens or her 20s. She has a very young face, plus it's rare to see an older woman posed with her hair down.
    Tracking down the identity of this woman starts with the ownership of the image. It once belonged to Jay's grandfather's brother. Jay has a family history website. It's lovely with lots of information, stories and pictures.   

    So the question is: Who's the right age to be the young woman in this picture? If she's 20 here and the picture was taken circa 1886 then she was born in the 1860s. While she's not Jacob's third wife, might she be one of his children, or a friend of the family?


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1880s photos | hairstyles | Immigrant Photos
    Monday, July 25, 2011 7:05:52 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, July 18, 2011
    Wacky Hair or Fashionable Foible?
    Posted by Maureen

    I can't help it.  I love the hairstyles and facial hair in photographs so much I'm actually thinking about a second volume of my Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900 book. The curls and whorls of nineteenth century styles definitely provide insights into your ancestor's fashion sense and their personality.  This week I'm sharing three images from my growing collection of purchased images of women's tresses and men in beards. 

    women356-French.jpg
    In this 1860s carte de visite, a middle aged woman wears her hair in the style of her youth.  Women wore their hair looped over their ears in the 1840s and early 1850s. Both her attire and her hair are conservative.

     Look closely at her hair.
    women356crop.jpg

    There is a lack of gray hair. One of my colleagues who's also a Civil War reenactor is looking for pictures of Civil War era women with gray hair.  Did they color their hair or is our prevalent gray hair a result of modern living?  Hair dye was available, but a fashion historian told me that women who ate a lot of seafood didn't go gray.   Hmmm.

    women341.jpg
    Here's a very fashionable woman from the 1880s with her oiled curls and large bow.  Her hair is neatly coiffed.

    Let's not leave the men out of it. <smile>
    men216-Wells.jpg

    It's the 1870s look with a bit of the past mixed in.  In a beard style chart from the nineteenth century, his is called the "Burnside, short."  The full Burnside look featured much longer sideburns. My favorite part of this man's hair is the wave on the top of his head.

    men216crop.jpg

    Hope you're having a nice summer!


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • hairstyles | men | women | beards
    Monday, July 18, 2011 2:34:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Tuesday, July 12, 2011
    Who's That Girl?
    Posted by Maureen

    Do you want a chance to win a trip for two to Belgium and a $1000 shopping trip to fashion icon Diane Von Furstenberg's boutique? 

    All you have to do is register on the Red Star Line blog and solve a mystery. Anyone know the identity of this girl?

    c063254.jpg
    Photo courtesy of the National Archives of Canada

    The online photo caption is "Young Galician immigrant holding envelope labelled 'Red Star Line.' Saint John, NB. May, 1905."

    Journalist Gretchen Kelly recently interviewed me for the Red Star Line blog, which focuses on this picture. Each week she investigates another angle to the story. By reading her blog, you'll learn about Galician immigration to Canada, the history of the Red Star Line and how Gretchen is trying to solve this picture puzzle.

    She asked how I'd go about determining this girl's identity. As you might expect, I have a few ideas. I'll write a follow-up account once I've tracked down the leads. However, the rules of photo identification are clear whether they're applied to this photo or to your unidentified family image:
    • Never assume:  I haven't seen the original photo, so I can't determine the truthfulness of the caption. The first rule of photo identification combines "never assume" and "don't jump to conclusions."

    • Who wrote the caption? So who wrote this caption and when?  Was it the original photographer or an archivist years later? Believe it or not, handwriting will help you place a caption in a time frame.  Handwriting can vary from generation to generation. What type of pencil or pen was used to write the caption?  If it's in ballpoint, then this caption was probably written after this style of pen became widely available in 1945.

    • Is the date correct? The clues in the caption will help determine if the date could be correct. Read handwriting carefully; it's easy to misinterpret numbers. In this case, there were no Red Star Line ships leaving for New Brunswick in May, 1905, so something is wrong. Is the month wrong or the year incorrect? Or perhaps the whole scene is a promotional setup—the girl came in on a different ship and the photographer gave her a Red Star Line ticket to hold. That's a provocative theory (gasp!).

    • Why was the photograph taken? Photographs were taken of recent immigrants to New Brunswick to promote immigration to western Canada. There's another story behind this picture—the reason for the portrait.

    • Who is she? In addition to this photograph documenting one girl's journey to America, she's someone's relative. Until the picture proof adds up, I wonder about the truthfulness of the whole caption. Could she be an immigrant from a different part of Europe?
       
    • Where was the picture taken? There isn't much information in the background to place this photo, however there's another photo online of a group arriving in New Brunswick:
    group red star.jp.jpg
    Notice the wall behind them in this photo from the National Archives of Canada. It's the same as in the first photo. Both images are identified as having been taken in New Brunswick.
    OK, so now you know that I'm the type of person who has to see the proof. However, there are clear clues in the image. The background helps verify where it was taken. 

    The little girl is probably around 6 to 10 years old. Her face still has a very young appearance. She wears her hair back in a neat braid. On the seat beside her is a packet of clothes.

    She has a tidy appearance. Her dress and coat are appropriate for the early 20th century. She has a pinafore over the top of her dress, stockings and well-polished boots. It's an interesting appearance for a young immigrant. 

    Other questions come to mind. Did she immigrate alone? It wasn't that unusual an occurrence. Or did she come with family and the photographer singled her out from the group?

    Genealogists all over the world are hunting for her identity trying to find her in passenger lists. The contest is open to all. 

    I'll let you know what happens and if I discover any new clues. 


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • children | group photos | hairstyles | Immigrant Photos | unusual photos
    Tuesday, July 12, 2011 3:49:53 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Tuesday, July 05, 2011
    What's it Worth and What's the Story?
    Posted by Maureen

    Photos come in different shapes, sizes and mediums.  They also come with stories.

    Let's take this image of Governor Blacksnake, aka Chainbreaker.  I featured him in my book The Last Muster: Images of The Revolutionary War Generation. I'd found the image in the Extra Census Bulletin: Indians: The Six Nations of New York (US Census Printing Office, 1892) and on the cover of Jeanne Winston Adler's Chainbreaker's War (Black Dome Press, 2002), but with no attribution.

    Months of searching archives, libraries and museums didn't turn up a single lead about the owner of the original daguerreotype. Was it lost?

    Blacksnake.jpg

    In 2009, Cowan's Auctions featured the original daguerreotype and it sold for $22,325. Turns out the image had been found sitting in a box in a warehouse in New York State. A label on the inside of the image's case identified the subject of the daguerreotype and the photographer—Flint of Syracuse. It's a great case of lost and found.

    There is a story behind this image. I'd love to know more about the photographer and why the photo ended up in a box of miscellaneous pictures. I know the story of the Chainbreaker's life. He recounted his story to a neighbor, Benjamin Williams, during the winter of 1845-46.  He related tales about the Seneca tribe's involvement in the American Revolution, and bits about his own life.

    The tale makes up the book The Revolutionary War Memoirs of Governor Blacksnake as Told to Benjamin Williams (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). It's available for preview in Google Books—access it in Family Tree Magazine's Google Library.

    The next time you look at a family photo, take a few moments to consider the story behind the picture, such as who took it and when.  Also consider what was happening in your family history around the time it was taken. 

    Your family pictures may not be as historically significant or as monetarily valuable as this portrait of Chainbreaker, but they have enormous family worth to your descendants.

    I'm still working on my The Last Muster project and continuing my search for images of men and women who lived during the Revolutionary War and into the age of photography. For more information, see my website.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1840s photos | Revolutionary War | unusual photos
    Tuesday, July 05, 2011 2:36:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]