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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, December 05, 2011
Storytelling Pictures
Posted by Maureen

You never know what you're going to find in a family photo collection.  If you have an odd picture, please send it along. You can email it to me.

Dario X. Musso sent me a lovely family photo:

musso3.jpg
Seated on the right side is Nikita Radionov. Dario's grandmother is next to him. This photo of the Radionov family was taken circa 1919. 

The curious part of Dario's family collection isn't this image, it's the series of photos taken of Nikita's funeral in 1929. He was dragged to death by a horse. 

musso1edit.jpg

Musso2edit.jpg

I've shown you two of the four images Dario submitted.  From the size of the crowds at this funeral, it appears that both family and townspeople attended this event. 

Photos like this are an opportunity: I'd scan the faces to find other relatives. It might end up being the only known image of a particular person.
  1. Start with the front row and the pallbearers. Those individuals are likely family members or close friends.

  2. Compare the faces in the family group portrait with the individuals at the funeral. 
If you had relatives living near the Radionov family in Russia, then you might find your family represented as well. I'll double-check the location with Dario and publish that next week. 


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

  • 1910s photos | 1920s photos | group photos | mourning photos
    Monday, December 05, 2011 4:45:32 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Thursday, December 01, 2011
    The Ultimate Photo Preservation Collection Is Back for a Limited Time!
    Posted by Diane

    Hi! I (Diane) am dropping in briefly to let Photo Detective blog fans know that we're bringing back a limited number of the Ultimate Photo Preservation Collections to ShopFamilyTree.com.

    This kit offers tools to help you ensure your family's memories will be around for future generations to enjoy. It includes Maureen's signed Preserving Your Family Photographs book.

    This deeply discounted collection sold out in less than a day in June. Only 25 are available, so jump on this chance to grab one.


    preserving photos | ShopFamilyTree.com
    Thursday, December 01, 2011 2:18:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 28, 2011
    Winter Holidays in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    The holiday season has begun! It doesn't matter that stores decorated months ago. Thanksgiving is the beginning of all the winter holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. In the last week of December I'd like to run a column that features historical photos from your ancestral family album that capture the season. You can email them to me.

    They can be pictures of folks in front of their Christmas trees or family gathered around a table for a holiday meal. It can even be a snapshot of historical decorations on a Christmas tree. 

    I have a small collection of unidentified images of people that are not my ancestors. Here's one.

    holiday003edit.jpg

    This unidentified couple chose a picture of themselves tuning their new radio for their Christmas card. 

    Photo greeting cards date back to at least the 1880s. I own a New Year's card of a woman; she sent it to her friends.

    Can't wait to see what you send me!


    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 | Photo fun
    Monday, November 28, 2011 7:59:25 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 21, 2011
    Census Diving: Browsing for Facts
    Posted by Maureen

    As genealogists, we mine census records for our ancestors and the details of their lives. For the last two weeks I've written about Richard Levine's puzzling pic in Is this Painted Woods North Dakota? and Painted Woods Mystery: Part Two.

    One of the tools I used to research the photo was the 1900 US census.  I routinely use online census records to learn more about when photographers were in business and to fill in background information. 

    For the Levine mystery, I wanted to see just how many folks lived in Painted Woods, ND, and whether that information could help identify who's in the picture.

    I browsed the census pages. While I might hesitate to read the census page by page for major metropolitan areas, it's a great way to learn more about small communities.  Here's how to do it:

    On HeritageQuest Online, a ProQuest database available through many libraries, click the link for Census. There are two options at the census tab: Search or Browse (some records aren't indexed, so they're available only by browsing).  Click browse. Select the census year, state, county and location.

    In Levine's case my selections were 1900, North Dakota, Burleigh and Painted Woods. There were only a couple of pages for the families there.

    On Ancestry.com it is also possible to browse census pages. On the right hand side of the census search box for each year of the census is a Browse box.  You'll need to narrow the search by year, state, county and location to see the pages. 

    By reading the pages for Painted Woods, I learned that most of Jewish settlers had left the area by 1900. The area was then home to many Scandinavian immigrants. 

    In an unidentified family group portrait, a census record can help you determine who's in the picture: List the genders and estimated ages of the people in the photograph, then check census records for your relatives who were alive at the time the photo was taken. Look for a household whose members match the genders and estimated ages of those in the photo.

    When I use the census to research photographers, I fill in the years between the decennial enumerations with city directories, state censuses and any other pertinent records. 

    I'd like to know if you've ever used the census to solve a picture mystery. If you have, please use the comment box below this column.  I look forward to reading them.


    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | photo-research tips
    Monday, November 21, 2011 2:42:09 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Tuesday, November 15, 2011
    Painted Woods Mystery: Part Two
    Posted by Maureen

    Yesterday morning, I called Richard Levine to discuss his photograph of a family group possibly posed at Painted Woods, ND.


    I featured the photo and the mystery in last week’s column.

    Levine has known about this photo for only a few months. His cousin Sally showed it to him and told him that her mother said it was taken at Painted Woods. There are a few inconsistencies in this identification, though.

    Richard’s ancestors, Joseph and Anna Confeld, immigrated from Kishinev, Bessarabia in 1885, and settled in Painted Woods.

    Another set of Richard’s ancestors, Barouk and Hannah Dorfman, also lived in Painted Woods. The Dorfmans were among the first settlers to the area in 1882.

    Both families lived there only for a few years and then moved to Minnesota.

    Richard and Sally thought that since family said the picture was taken in Painted Woods, it must date from the 1880s. Last week, I looked at the clothing details and determined the original image dates to circa 1900. This generates some questions.

    The photo might not be of the Painted Woods community. In fact, by 1900, most of the Jewish settlers had moved elsewhere. The 1900 federal census for the community enumerates a number of Scandinavian families living in the area. 

    If this picture was taken in Painted Woods, Richard needs to determine why the family would return to the area. Could it be a family reunion, a wedding, or a funeral?

    One of the big problems is a lack of comparison photographs. I suggested comparing the faces in the group portrait with other photographs in the family. Unfortunately, Richard lacks images of family members. He’s hoping that someone will read this column and either have photographs of Painted Woods or of the Confelds or Dorfmans.

    Richard’s research turned up a first-person account of life in the community. Joseph Steinman (related to the Dorfmans) wrote about the hardships of life on the North Dakota frontier. It’s at the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest.

    Another resource worth investigating is William Sherman’s Jewish Settlement in North Dakota Collection at the Institute for Regional Studies & University Archives at the North Dakota State University Libraries. (Click here to download a PDF finding aid for the collection.) 

    If anyone is interested in reading about daily life on the northern frontier, I suggest Rachel Calof’s Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains (Indiana State University, 1995). It’s an amazing true story.


    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | group photos | Jewish
    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 2:03:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 07, 2011
    Is this Painted Woods, North Dakota?
    Posted by Maureen

    Photographs and history go hand in hand. Take this photo for instance. It likely represents a bit of North Dakota history.

    PaintedWoodsNorthDakota (2).JPG

    Richard Levine's cousin Sally sent him this photo. Her mother had given it to her. The mother always thought it depicted a group at the Painted Woods settlement in North Dakota. 

    Levine's Jewish ancestors (Joseph and Anna Confeld) immigrated in 1885 from Kishinev, Bessarabia (now Moldova or Romania), which was a Russian territory. His grandmother Rose was born in North Dakota near Bismarck and lived in Painted Woods.  The harsh living conditions led many settlers to move elsewhere. In fact, Richard's family ended up in Minneapolis, Minn. 

    The big question in the family is about this photo. Does it depict a gathering at Painted Woods? And when was it taken?

    Richard reached out to the Jewish community through the JewishGen website and posted the photo there.

    The scalloped edge of this snapshot, as well as its size and format, identify this as a copy of an earlier picture. It was definitely photographed in the first half of the 20th century. In the lower left-hand corner you can see that the original photo had a tear.

    Let's look at the clothing clues.
    PaintedWoods2.jpg

    Richard thought it might be from the 1880s, but look closely at the women's dress sleeves.

     PaintedWoods3.jpg 

    The shape and style of the sleeve dates this photo to circa 1900.  The children's play clothes are also consistent with this date.

    I'll be back next week with another installment of this story.


    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

  • 1920s photos | group photos | Jewish
    Monday, November 07, 2011 3:17:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, October 31, 2011
    Trick or Treat in Your Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    halloween.jpg

    It's Halloween and time for trick or treat.  You might have images of this holiday in your family album.  These two young girls, c. 1920 are dressed in the style popular for the period. On the right the dots on this girl's outfit suggest she's a harlequin.  On the left, her companion is in a short dress with the dots. 

    Department stores advertised that customers could purchase their costumes in the store, then return to have their picture taken in the outfit. Most major stores had a photo studio.  You can submit images of your ancestors in costume by using the "How to Submit Your Photo" tips in the left hand column.

    I've spent the last few years trying to locate images of historic costumes and information on how Halloween was celebrated in the past.  This one is from my small collection.

    I enjoy browsing the pages of Ancestry.com's Historic Catalog of the Sears, Roebuck and Co. for costumes. Pick a year and the season and start browsing or use "halloween" as a keyword.

    If you want to learn more about Halloween in a particular year, try reading the newspaper using GenealogyBank.com. In the advanced searching tab, enter "Halloween" as a word you want to include and then the date.  I suggest using a span of days, since not all papers ran holiday related items on October 31st.  Most of the advertisements are in the week before that. 

    Have fun exploring the past using the printed materials that were part of ancestral lives. It's like time traveling using your computer.


    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 | holiday | Photo fun | photo postcards
    Monday, October 31, 2011 6:50:39 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, October 24, 2011
    Asking Permission
    Posted by Maureen

    Last night I had an interesting discussion with a colleague. She mentioned that she's researching a Civil War soldier from Vermont and that she'd found a great website, Vermont Civil War. It includes lists of photographs of men from various units. On the site was a mention of the man my colleague's been looking for. 

    When you find an image on the site, there's a link in the listing so you can discover the whereabouts of the picture. In the case of the photo she found, the listing provided a name and stated the image is in a private collection.

    Before my colleague can use the image in a publication (such as a book or website), she needs to request a high-quality scan (at least 300 dpi) and obtain permission to publish it. The BIG problem is that the owner of the image hasn't responded to her emails. At this point, she's not even sure whether the email address is correct.

    I've had similar things happen to me (and maybe you have too). As I work on various projects I often see images that I'd love to include in a publication. Locating the owner is often difficult. But before you can use an image in a publication or on a website, you need to obtain permission from the owner. Here are a few tips to help.
    • Google the name and use social networking.  Even though picture credits usually include the name of the person or organization that originally supplied the image, there's no guarantee that person or entity is still contactable. It can take time to follow the history of that image. Try searching for the person on the web to see if there's obituary or a change of email. Don't forget to check social networking sites like Facebook to see if they have a page.

    • Google the email address. My friend didn't know you could do that. If a person lists an email address on a message board, in a family tree or with any other website, a web search can help you find it. Test your own email address to see how many places it appears. You'll likely be surprised. I've used this technique to find full names, addresses and new email addresses for folks I've been trying to contact.

    • Try auction catalogs. Last week, I contacted a historical society about using an image and discovered the society sold it. Now I have to try to find out which auction house handled the transaction and who bought it. If it's in private hands, the auction house can forward my request to use it. They won't divulge who bought it, though. 

    • Use Google Images. When I find an image online and I can't determine who owns it, I'll use Google Images. Copy and paste the image into the search box and you'll find other places that image has appeared online.  It's pretty cool!  Beware though. Not all the matches will be exact or family friendly.  Click on Advanced Image Search on the Google Images website for more tips.
    I'll be back next week with a spooky image for Halloween.


    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

  • photo-research tips | unusual photos
    Monday, October 24, 2011 8:43:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, October 17, 2011
    1890s Fashion in Color
    Posted by Diane

    It's so easy to look at a vintage photograph and image that our ancestors dressed in drab colors. If you're as curious as I am about fabrics and colors then watch my new video on hand-colored images.

    women143web.jpg

    These two women wear cotton dresses from the circa-1890 period. Their sleeves and hairstyles pinpoint the period. Frizzed bangs were popular in the 1880s.

    Notice the full upper sleeve on the dress of the woman on the right. This style of leg-of-mutton sleeve (a full sleeve that is gathered to be sewn into the armhole) was quite popular in the last years of the 1880s and the early 1890s. The shape and size of this type of sleeve varied throughout the decade.  

    Here's a colorful look at an 1892 fashion plate from the French fashion magazine, Journal Des Demoiselles. I don't have a description of the dresses, but you can see what they looked like in full color. In this time frame, little girls dressed like their mothers.

    1892.jpg

    I have one last fashion plate to show you. This one is from the February 1890 Godey's Lady's Book, an American women's magazine. Each issue of the magazine featured a series of fashion plates and a description of them. I have a description of both the fabric and the fur used  in these outfits. 

    GodeysFebruary1890web.jpg

    On the left: Cloak of green and black cloth, trimmed with a band of black monkey fur. Her hat is known as a toque and it's made of velvet trimmed with "jet ornament." Jet was a black stone quite popular in the late 19th century.

    On the right: "Carriage cloak of dark maroon plush and crushed strawberry embroidered satin." An unspecified fur trims the coat but the description goes on to say that the front is made from satin and is tight-fitting. On her head is a velvet hat trimmed with feathers.

    I'd love to see a photograph of a woman wearing one of these outfits. It would be interesting to compare the plate and the photo.

    As you can see from these plates, our ancestors wore bright bold colors or subtle shades depending on what was fashionable. 


    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 | women
    Monday, October 17, 2011 1:50:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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]