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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, December 26, 2011
Resolutions for the New Year
Posted by Maureen

I've spent the last six months cleaning out every closet, file drawer and cabinet in my house.  After 17 years in the same house, there was a lot of stuff.  It feels good to start the new year with a fresh outlook.

If you feel the need to take charge of the clutter in your house, start with your photo collection. Here are some things to consider when dealing with all that photo build-up.

  • Start small.  Don't take out all the boxes at once, try one shoebox at a time. 
  • You don't have to keep everything. It's o.k. to throw out images that don't include individuals.  This is also true for digital images. My husband is very organized.  Every time he uploads digital images he immediately starts deleting those less than perfect shots. 
  • Back up those digital files. It's a new year so start a new habit. Regularly back-up all your digital files. I use an online service so that I don't forget to do it.
  • Identify a photo at a time.  Pick an unlabelled photo and start working on the clues.  You'll find lots of tips in archives of this blog.  You can search by topic by using the search box at the end of the left hand column.  

Use the comment section of this space to tell me about your photo-related resolutions.  I'd love to hear them.

Happy New Year!


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

  • preserving photos
    Monday, December 26, 2011 9:42:22 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 19, 2011
    Holiday Photos from Your Family Albums
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you to Kim Dawson, Carol Norwood and Fran Jensen for sending in holiday photos from their family albums. 

    dawson2.jpg

    Kim Dawson sent me this lovely photo of a family with their Christmas tree.  The child is Elsie Marion Quakenbush (born 1908). She's posed with her mother Ella Baird Quakenbush and her father, Alfred Garfield Quakenbush.  On the back it says "To Grandma with love from us all don't fail to see Elsie's baby doll it looks just like a baby."  I enlarged the picture to look at the doll.
    dawson3.jpg

    It is pretty life-like.  It looks like Elsie also received a book "Sing a Song of Sixpence" and a tea set.  Her parent's are proudly posed with a new Victrola so perhaps that was their Christmas present.  Elsie looks about  6 or 7.

    Kim thinks that Alfred's brother George Willis Quackenbush took the photo. He was a photographer in Oxford, New York.

    norwood2.jpg
    Carol Norwood submitted an image of her parent's Bill and Cita Jacobs. They are sitting under the tree at Cita's parents home in Hartford, Connecticut. The Jacobs were still newlyweds.  They were married three months prior to Christmas.

    Jensen.jpg

    Fran Jensen emailed me this charming studio shot of four children.  Her grandfather, John Roy Tolve Johansen is on the right. His sister Alma sits next to him. She's hugging a china faced doll. The other boy and girl are the Bough's who were the photographer's children. It was taken in Ringsted, Iowa.

    Here's one more picture.  This is one from my non-family collection.
    babies008.jpg
    I don't know the identify of these two boys, but on the back it says "Christmas 1898."  Don't you just love their modified Little Lord Fauntleroy suits.

    Happy Holidays!  If you want to see more Christmas trees, I have a short video on my Vimeo channel.


    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 | candid photos | children | holiday | men | women
    Monday, December 19, 2011 2:32:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, December 12, 2011
    Painted Woods Update
    Posted by Maureen

    PaintedWoods2.jpg

    Richard Levine has taken on this mystery photo, which he originally thought was taken in Painted Woods, ND.  We've emailed back and forth about his progress and I thought it was time to update all of you about what he's been up to. This is the photo featured in two of the November columns of this blog; check out Part 2.

    After this installment appeared online, Richard wrote to say that he now thought the photo was a wedding. He thinks that it could be his grandmother Rose Confeld (b. 1885) and her husband Samuel Levine (b.1883). They were married Aug. 15, 1905, at Kistler's Hall in Minneapolis, Minn. The hall appears in city directories and in newspapers.  His next step was to try to locate a photo of it from the Minnesota Historical Society.

    He's also compiled a list of second and third cousins to mail them a letter and a copy of this picture. He's determined to figure out the significance of this photo!

    I suggested trying to find a Sanborn Insurance atlas of the area around Kistler's. These maps have construction details which would verify that the building was wood and also tell you something about the neighborhood.  This photo appears to have been taken in a rural area. 

    Richard found a picture of Kistler's from 1914.  It shows how rural the area was. He also located a hand-drawn map from the 1920s that identifies a four-story Kistler building on the same street as the Kistler's Hall. The hall is no longer at the junction of 6th Avenue N. and Lyndale Ave.; the area now has a freeway intersection.

    He retraced his steps and went back to his family history. Now he's investigating land his great-grandfather Joseph Confeld owned in Anoka County, Minn. 

    I'll be back with the next update. Every week Richard gets closer to solving this mystery.


    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 | Jewish
    Monday, December 12, 2011 3:05:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # 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]