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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, October 10, 2011
Mother and Daughters
Posted by Diane

Family photographs are endlessly fascinating. There is the life story of the individuals in a picture and then there is the story of the person who took the image. I've looked a thousands of photographs over the years so I can spot a talented studio photographer just by looking at their pictures.




The unidentified studio photographer that took this picture knew what he/she was doing. It's beautiful.  Each person in the image is posed so that she stands out. The girl on the left looks off to the side with a tilted head. The girl on the right looks slightly off to the right while the woman in the center looks directly into the lens. This type of pose, an older woman flanked by two younger women, generally suggests that the woman in the center is older and the mother (or an older sibling). This whole identification mystery hinges on who's in the middle.

Tom Keith knows that his great-grandmother Josetta (b. 1879) is the woman on the right, but he's not sure of the identity of the other women. Josetta had two sisters, Emma (b. 1862) and Carrie (b. 1880). Their mother Susan was born in 1844. So who's in the picture?

Emma died in childbirth in 1893. If she's in the picture then the image is from the early 1890s, but if that's the case, then Josetta is only 13 here and Carrie, 12.




Two clues in this picture pinpoint the time frame. Notice the topknot on Josetta's head? This particular style of hair was commonplace in the mid to late 1890s. Josetta and the woman in the center wear wide-collared dresses with large sleeves. This style first becomes stylish circa 1893. The sister on the left dresses like a schoolgirl with a big bow in her hair and a tailored jacket and shirt.

I don't believe this portrait was taken prior to Emma's death, because both young women look older than their early teens, plus the fashion clues don't add up.

If this picture was taken circa 1895, then Josetta would be 16, Carrie, 15, and their mother Susan would be 51. Do you think the woman in the center is old enough to be about 50 years of age?




I'm looking for more evidence.  Do you want to add your opinion?  Please add your comment below.


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

  • 1890s photos | hairstyles | women
    Monday, October 10, 2011 8:19:45 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [13]
    # Monday, October 03, 2011
    Foreign Intrigue
    Posted by Maureen

    Each photo has a life story. Who took it, why was it taken, and if it's in this column, who is it. This picture from Maureen Ballantine's collection has an additional issue—how did it get so damaged?

    Lagonterie2.jpg

    The scan she sent me was so faded that I enhanced it using Adobe Photoshop Elements.

    The portrait of this unidentified woman has experienced the passage of time: The cardboard mount is broken and the right edge is missing part of the picture. The area around her face is rippled—that bit of damage suggests that at one point this part of the image was wet and the photographic paper became separated from the cardboard. This image is in fragile condition.

    According to Ballantine, the portrait wasn't taken in the United States; this mystery woman posed for her picture on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Over the years, the tropical heat and humidity took its toll on this lovely image.

    Maureen's cousin thinks that it is her great-great-grandmother Anne Philibert, and that the picture was taken between 1870 and 1880.

    I don't have Anne's life dates, but the photo evidence suggests a date earlier than the 1870s.

     Lagonterie3.jpg

    The woman wears her hair pulled back in soft curls. Her dress features full sleeves and a hoop skirt. The dress suggests a date in the early 1860s. 

    While there are slight stylistic differences in clothing worn in different countries, this woman's attire also suggests that she's aware of the current fashion. Dresses in the 1870s have more-elaborate trim, long bodices and different sleeves from this one.  In the background of the larger image, you see the standard tasseled drapery used in studios in the 1860s.

    It's time for Maureen and her cousin to double-check their genealogy to see if Anne is still a possibility for a woman living in the 1860s.

    A damaged photo requires special care. An acid- and lignin-free folder would protect it from further abrasion. Scanning it at 600 dpi as a TIF file provides a backup copy. Maureen might want to consider having a professional photographic conservator provide an estimate to stabilize the image. She can find one through the American Institute for Conservation of Artistic and Historic Works. This image will continue to deteriorate.

    There is more preservation advice in my book, Preserving Family Photographs and details on hairstyles in Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles.
     


    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, October 03, 2011 4:53:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 26, 2011
    What is Crowdsourcing?
    Posted by Maureen

    Crowdsourcing has been in the news lately relating to photo identification. According to Wikipedia, the term refers to the outsourcing of tasks to a community. 

    The Library of Congress (LOC) is using the historical, photographic and genealogical community to help identify their photo mysteries. In its Flickr collection is a set called "Mystery Photos Solved." On Dec. 24, 2009, the LOC posted this set and asked for help identifying the images. 

    Within days, they had the answers. Each identification was confirmed through the use of other images and maps. It's a fantastic use of the web-based community.

    4211208458_f55821d9e4_m.jpg

    Here's one of them. It's a staircase in a Paris Opera House taken between 1890-1900. You'll notice that the image is color and looks like a photograph. In actuality, it's an "ink-based photolithograph."  

    You can view the entire LOC collection of these lovely images on Flickr. You'll be able to travel without leaving your computer screen. <smile>

    The LOC is also using crowdsourcing to try to identify the faces in their Civil War collection.

    This technique is being used to predict weather, identify new planets and save old languages. The techie community is calling this trend outdated, but I love the way folks work together to solve these picture riddles.


    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



  • 1890s photos | unusual photos
    Monday, September 26, 2011 9:14:17 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 19, 2011
    Oral History and Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Behind every family photo is a story. It might be a simple tale of how your ancestor visited a photo studio or a complex story interwoven with local, national and family history.

    Bonnie Farver, Farver family historian for Pennsylvania, sent me this great portrait.

    sohanna1.jpg

    The Farvers have an oral tradition associated with this woman that claims she's Sohanna or Christina Springer Brice, a Lakota Sioux related to Sitting Bull.

    Have you noticed her blue eyes?

    sohanna1eyes.jpg

    According to Farver, most of this woman's descendants have blue eyes and blonde hair.

    Farver's been researching Sitting Bull hoping to find a connection to this woman. She learned that Sitting Bull had twin children. It's an interesting fact: There are 24 sets of twins in the Farver family beginning in 1880 to the present. 

    This image is a copy of a one-inch-square tintype. It appeared on a reunion notice.

    Family folklore states that in this picture, she wears a neckpiece of white ermine fur and that the metal pin is actually a Henry rifle shell. Sorting out the truth from the legend is key in every family story. For instance, this neck ruffle doesn't appear to be made from ermine. Perhaps the ermine hangs from the ribbon wrapped around her neck. 

    sohannaclose-up.jpg

    However, her pin is an unusual shape and might be a refashioned shotgun shell. The Henry rifle was first made in the 1850s.

    Farver wanted to know if the dress was recycled from a Civil War uniform.  While it's difficult to see the fabric in this photo, the style of the collar, the bodice and the big buttons date from the late 1870s. 

    So who is this woman? That's the big question in the family. Could she be the wife of John Conrad Farver (possibly a German immigrant), born in 1755 and died 1823-24?  If she's around 80 years of age and this photo was taken circa 1879, then this woman was born circa 1799.  She could have been the young bride of a much older man—that was not an unusual occurrence.  Proof of her identity is still lacking, but having a time frame for the picture may help narrow the possibilities.

    If you recognize her, comment below and I'll let Bonnie Farver know. She'd love to have a definite name to go with this face.


    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

  • 1870s photos | unusual photos
    Monday, September 19, 2011 8:54:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, September 12, 2011
    Friendship, Love and Truth in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    Pam Rolland is working her way through family albums in the possession of her aunt. She reports that she's been able to date and identify many of the pictures in them, but still has a few mysteries.  

    This is one of them. It was in an album with members of the Roberts family.

    rolland.jpg

    That particular branch of the family moved from North Carolina to Virginia then to Missouri, Arkansas and finally to Oregon.

    Look closely at the man's accessory.  The clasp holding it on is three interconnecting rings.



    That is a symbol of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a group I've written about in previous columns.  You can see these rings in Fraternal Membership Clues and in Fraternal Insignia. They stand for Friendship, Love and Truth.

    The Odd Fellows are a fraternal organization that believes in charitable pursuits. You can read more about the history of the group and their mission on Wikipedia.

    Photos of men in fraternal symbolism can be difficult to decipher. There is no comprehensive guide to these symbols.  Unless the accessories are easy to identify, tracking down what your ancestor is wearing requires extensive research into their lives. 
    • Obituaries often reveal membership in these "secret" groups. 
    • In the 19th century, a majority of men belonged to a fraternal organization. They were professional networks and offered support for members in need.
    • City directories are a great resource when trying to determine which groups had chapters in the area in which your ancestor lived. There is usually a list of local organizations in directories.
    • Many of these nineteenth century groups still exist so a quick Google search can provide you with contact information. 
    Complicating Rolland's search for this man's identity is the number of places the family lived. In order to narrow down the possibilities she'll have to identify where this man might have lived in the 1880s (based on his attire and the card stock) and who in the family tree might be the right age to be him.


    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 | beards | organizations | unusual clothing
    Monday, September 12, 2011 3:03:21 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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]