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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, July 30, 2012
Athletic Ancestors
Posted by Maureen

With the world's focus on the Olympics, it's time to think about the athletes in your family. There's a family story related to my husband's grandfather: It's said he was asked to play baseball with the Boston Red Sox, but his father forbade it. His father had other plans for the boy.

Do you have relative who excelled at a sport?  You can post your pictures to Family Tree Magazine's Facebook page or email them to me. (See our photo submission guidelines.) Don't forget to send me their stories.

The first London Olympics was held in 1908. You can view the athletes in black and white photos on the Library of Congress website; use "1908 Olympics" as a search term.

1908 olympicsTR.jpg

1908 olympicscrop.jpg

On Sept. 5, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt hosted members of the US Olympic team at his Sagamore Hill home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. On his left is sportswriter P.J. Conway and on his right is James Sullivan, secretary of the 1908 Olympic Committee. This is just one of the images available at the Library of Congress.

Movies and newsreels were just becoming popular at the time. Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can watch an interview with a rower who competed at the 1908 Olympics.

Here are some fun facts about that first London event:
  • It was supposed to be held in Rome, but when Mount Vesuvius erupted, plans were changed to London. City officials completed the "White City" for the games in under two years.

  • 1,971 men competed versus 37 women

  • The opening ceremony was held April 27 and the games didn't close until October 31.

  • The current length of the marathon was set at these games. Supposedly the race began under the windows of the royal nursery and ended in front of King Edward VII. 

There were political overtones at this event too. American shotputter and flag carrier Ralph Rose refused to dip the American flag in front of the King. Officials didn't display the Swedish flag, so those team members refused to participate. You'll find more information on Wikipedia and on the HistoryToday website.

And if your genealogy research includes ancestors who played sports on a school, hobby, amateur or professional team, see our October 2006 Family Tree Magazine guide to researching athletes in your family tree.



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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | men
    Monday, July 30, 2012 4:18:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [14]
    # Monday, July 23, 2012
    Scenes of Moving Day
    Posted by Maureen

    I've been packing boxes for weeks getting ready to move houses. So how did our ancestors move their belongings in the past? They employed wagons and later, vans similar to the ones companies use today.

    Piketruck moving2.jpg

    Sharon Pike sent in this picture of her father-in-law's Greyhound Van Lines Truck that he drove.  It was taken in the 1940s. When he was on the road, Gene sent his wife Marion postcards nearly every day.

    Check out my Moving Day board on Pinterest. If you haven't used this site yet, it's like an online scrapbook of images found on the web. You can organize your Pinterest images in "boards" and see what others have "pinned" on their boards.  When you scroll over one of the images you can post a comment. Can't wait to see what you have to say!

    Enjoy! 


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

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

  • 1940s photos | men | occupational | Photo fun | Photo-sharing sites
    Monday, July 23, 2012 6:35:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, July 16, 2012
    Which War is It?
    Posted by Maureen

    Mike Empting found this photo in a box with other cabinet cards. Only two men in his family served in the military:

    Unknown Soldieredit.jpg

    • his great-grandfather, who at age 35 enlisted for the Mexican American War. He was a bugler. The time frame for this war, 1846 to 1848, coincides with the daguerreotype era. The photos of this war are amazing to look at. Here's a website with several Mexican-American War images.

    • his great-grandfather's wife's brother enlisted in the Civil War in an artillery unit for two tours.

    The problem with this photo is that Empting isn't sure which man is depicted. Adding to the confusion are details on the photographer. According to the Minnesota Historical Society, J.J. Fritz aka the Fritz Studio operated in Saint Cloud from 1892 to 1909. Those work dates don't align with either war.

    The style of this cabinet card suggests the 1890s. At some point during that decade, someone likely had an earlier photograph copied. This was a common practice when multiple family members wanted a copy of a photo. The original photo was a carte de visite, a small card photograph popular during the Civil War.

    In the 1860s, the standard studio pose often included a pedestal on which the subject could lean.

    Since there weren't standard military uniforms during the Civil War, the details in this man's attire may help identify him.

    Mike's not sure this man is an Empting. The woman who gave Mike the images is deceased, but at the time of the gift, she didn't know the name of the soldier.

    National Public Radio recently broadcast a program about identifying a Civil War picture. You can listen to it here.  There's a bit of controversy about whether or not the photo in that story was reversed. It's possible. Reversal lens were available to correct the mirror image inherent in photo technology of the day, but not all photographers used them. 


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

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

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | men | Military photos
    Monday, July 16, 2012 1:21:47 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [10]
    # Monday, July 09, 2012
    Answers to our Farming Ancestor Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Do you read the comments posted on blogs?  Last week I posted Sharon Pike's photo of a wheat harvest and asked if anyone could identify the thresher.  We then posted the query on Family Tree Magazine's Facebook page.

    Thanks to savvy readers, Sharon now knows which man is her ancestor.

    Pike farming SDedit.jpg

    The thresher is on the far left of this line of men and machines. Her ancestor Will Pike is the man standing up.

    Pike farmingcloseup.jpg

    Thank you to everyone who commented and posted! 

    Here's a call for images.  I'm moving from the Boston area back to my native state of Rhode Island.  It made me wonder if any of you have photographs of your ancestors moving houses. You can email them to me. I'd love to see them.


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

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

  • 1910s photos | occupational | unusual photos
    Monday, July 09, 2012 10:48:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, July 02, 2012
    Your Farmer Ancestors: Threshing in South Dakota
    Posted by Maureen

    There are a lot of comments on my posting on the threshing photos I saw last month at Jamboree. I learned a lot about the threshing process.  Thank you! 

    Sharon Pike sent in another picture of threshing wheat. It's of her family in South Dakota.

    Pike farming SDedit.jpg

    Being from the East Coast, I'm not used to seeing such a vast expanse of land. It's so beautiful. The large haystack at the horizon draws your eye from the workers in the foreground to where the sky meets the field.

    On the back of Sharon's photo is a note that states that Will Pike is in back of the "header." She's not sure which part of the machinery is the header. Can someone help out and comment below?

    Will's full name was James William Pike (1887-1931), son of James S. Pike and his wife Hattie Weed. Will traveled around with a crew that harvested wheat. He lived in Brookings, SD, and later settled in Wisconsin.

    Happy Fourth of July this week! I've created a couple of short films on my Vimeo channel to honor the occasion:  One is a colorized engraving depicting a veteran in uniform and the other showcases flags in photographs. I hope you enjoy them!


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

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

  • 1900-1910 photos | holiday | men | occupational
    Monday, July 02, 2012 3:44:49 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Monday, June 25, 2012
    Photo Contest Submissions
    Posted by Maureen

    A big thank you to everyone that submitted photos to our contest.  The deadline has now passed and I'm gradually working my way through all the images to pick the winning image. The winner will receive a copy of my book, The Family Photo Detective, and the image may even be featured inside. Watch this space for news!

    Here are three of the pictures folks uploaded to the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page. 

    Jen Baldwin.jpg

    Jen Baldwin uploaded this cute pair of siblings—William W. and his sister Bessie Brown. It was taken in Colfax County, Neb., circa 1880. Don't you just love her pantalettes and his long curls.

    Shirley Jenks Jacobs2.jpg 
    Shirley Jenks Jacobs uploaded this photo of her great-grandmother. I love the hat. In the 1880s, hats had tall crowns and lots of trim on the front. You can't see it, but women in this period also wore large bustles. 

    Suzanne Whetzel2.jpg

    Suzanne Whetzel submitted this family portrait of her maternal great-grandparents Mary Ethel (Wade) and Henry Clark Yost with their son (Suzanne's grandfather) James Meryl Yost. James was born in 1908 and this toddler helps date the photo to about 1910.


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

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

  • 1870s photos | 1880s photos | children | group photos | hats
    Monday, June 25, 2012 3:18:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, June 17, 2012
    Family Photos Shared at Jamboree: Threshing Wheat
    Posted by Maureen

    I love going to genealogy conferences. The people, the photos and the stories all add up to a fantastic experience. For the last four years I've trekked out to California for the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree. It's a regional conference with a national feel—a big program with nationally known speakers.

    Every year, folks stop by to show me their photos. Some people come back each year and as you might expect, friendships develop. 

    Here's a picture of Mildred "Millie" Vander Hoeven and me at Jamboree in 2010.

    millie.jpg

    Millie stops by to chat and share stories of her childhood. She's sent me pictures of her childhood and her parents.

    Family photo collections are an amazing array of people portraits and other types of pictures. These next two images of Millie's show men threshing wheat. I need to chat with her to get a bit more information. 

    millie1.jpg

    millie2.jpg

    Can anyone—perhaps someone familiar with farming—comment on what the crews are doing in these photos? Click Comments below to share your thoughts.


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

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

  • Genealogy events | occupational | unusual photos
    Sunday, June 17, 2012 2:57:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]
    # Monday, June 11, 2012
    Jean-ealogy: Ancestors in Blue Jeans
    Posted by Diane

    When I was working on my book Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album, I spent a lot of time looking for all sorts of clothing examples.

    As one of the photo shows, I found this picture of a man wearing what looks like blue jeans. Today jeans are an American export, possibly our most popular clothing style overseas.


    The ancestor of the jeans we wear today dates back to 1873. Levi Strauss, an 1840s German immigrant, immigrant is responsible for our blue jean obsession. He sold canvas pants reinforced with copper rivets, which were strong enough to withstand the rigors of mining. You can learn more about the history of these pants online.

    During the Civil War, there was a cotton twill called jean cloth. The man in this late-1860s image wears an overcoat and trousers that look like they are the predecessors of the canvas jeans. 

    In his right hand, the man holds what I think is a divining rod for looking for water.

    Got a picture of an ancestral family member in blue jeans? I'll feature it here in a timeline of the pants in family photos. Email me your picture with a brief description.


    1860s photos | Civil War | hats | men | occupational | props in photos | unusual clothing
    Monday, June 11, 2012 6:23:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, June 03, 2012
    Westward Bound! Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree
    Posted by Maureen

    This week I'm off to the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree and a meeting of the California Genealogical Society. I hope to see you there! Please stop by my booth at the Jamboree to say hello.

    All this California travel makes me think about western American style clothing worn in family photos—in particular Stetson hats, jeans and frontier bonnets. Do you have a photo of someone dressed for the West?  I'd love to see it. You can email me.

    I love the story of the Stetson hat. It's an example of American ingenuity. John B. Stetson, son of a Philadelphia hat manufacturer, took a trip West to recover from consumption. He showed his companions how to make felted fabric and created a hat from that material.

    In 1865, Stetson founded his hat company. He called his hat the "Boss of the Plains." It wasn't a new design: Similar style hats were worn by Army units, and wide-brimmed hats were also popular on plantations because they offered shade.

    It was Stetson's marketing efforts that made his hat a success. He wore his hat everywhere and each hat bore a gold leaf Stetson on the inside to mark it as authentic.

    stetson.jpg

    Wearers could use them to retrieve water for washing or drinking, earning them the nickname, "10 gallon hat."

    You'll find more information on Stetsons and other types of western hats in my book Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900.


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

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

  • 1880s photos | men | unusual clothing
    Sunday, June 03, 2012 5:39:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 28, 2012
    Call for Photos! Maureen's New Book
    Posted by Maureen

    I'm working on an updated and revised version of Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs. To reflect all the new content, it has a new name, The Family Photo Detective:

    When I was at the NGS Conference in Cincinnati, Genealogy Insider Diane Haddad, Managing Editor Allison Dolan and I sat down to brainstorm ideas for the new book. We thought it would be exciting to include photographs from readers of this space.

    So...do you have a mystery photo you'd always wanted to know more about? You can email it to us or post it to the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page. There are more details on the Genealogy Insider.

    I'm looking for a photo to feature in my Photo Detective column for Family Tree Magazine, and maybe in the book. I'll select one photo to win a copy of the book (due out in 2013).

    Can't wait to see what you've got in those family boxes of photos or tucked away in photo albums!

    Please send in your submissions by June 4th.



    Monday, May 28, 2012 10:19:55 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]