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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, October 01, 2012
Photo Restoration of Which Man is It
Posted by Maureen

Last week I discussed the details in Lois O'Malley's photo of a crayon portrait and asked if someone could try to digitally restore it.  I love the genealogy community!  A woman named Shirley volunteered to see if she could restore the picture. 

Here's version three of the process. You can see the before and after in this photo. On the right is the damaged side of the picture and on the left is the restored side.
left collar tieedit3  Simmons (2).jpg

This poor photo is covered in mold and has visible water-damage and abrasive damage.  A project like this requires time and patience.

Shirley and I have discussed the clothing details. In a photo as badly damaged as this one, it's easy to interpret certain details incorrectly. Shirley is being very careful.

She asked whether or not this man's shirt has a collar. I replied that his shirt has a collar and that the tie is wrapped around the neck under it.

There is a lot of shading around his mouth. It doesn't look like a mustache or does it? I think it's either shading or some sort of paper deterioration.  We'll know more as the restoration proceeds.

A big thank you to Shirley for tackling this picture! 


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 | 1890s photos | Drawings | men | preserving photos
    Monday, October 01, 2012 12:56:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, September 24, 2012
    Family Resemblances in Old Photos: Who Is This Man?
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I discussed how to care for a badly damaged photograph, and showed an image Lois O'Malley photographed back in 2005. Lois wrote: "As soon as I saw the man in the photo he minded me of my grandfather, William Alexander Simmons (1873-1934)." He's seen here:

    Wm  Alex Simmons edit.jpg

    Her Dad's family all had blue eyes like the unknown man in the damaged picture:

    unknown  Simmons edit.jpg

    Now Lois is wondering if this mystery man is her great-grandfather, Hiram Simmons (1833-1911). 

    Facial comparison relies on looking at approximately 80 different points in a face, including eyes, noses, mouths, ears and the spacing between them.

    Photo identification is about adding up all the facts and coming up with a hypothesis. Here's what I'm looking at in this case:
    • Provenance: Though this man looks like Louis' grandfather, she thinks it might be her great-grandfather because the photo is owned by her dad's eldest sister's son. The process of inheriting photos is complicated. Lois thinks that this cousin ended up with the photo because their grandmother lived with her eldest daughter. However, it is also possible that the image depicts Lois's grandfather.
    • Format:  This is a crayon portrait. It's a photo outlined and colored in with artist materials. This type of picture was very popular in the late 19th century. The problem with crayon portraits is that an artist/photographer's assistant drew in the details. There could be a little artistic embellishment here.
    • Clothing: Due to the condition of this picture, it's difficult to see all the clothing details, but it appears the man wears a wide tie and a jacket with a narrow collar and a wide notch in the lapel. His hair is very short.
    Men wore a variety of ties in the late 19th century. There were wide ties in the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s. In the 1890s, men's neckware usually had a pattern. In the 1880s, lapels were narrow and short.

    In the 1870s, men wore their hair longer and not as neatly combed as this fellow.
    • Facial clues: The man in the portrait has a wider jaw than Lois' grandfather, but they have similar ears, eyes and even the same wide forehead. 
    Does anyone want to try cleaning up the deteriorated picture in a photo editing software? You can email me the results or post them on the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page. Please include details about the program you used and what tools you used in the software.


    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 | 1890s photos | enhanced images | hairstyles | men
    Monday, September 24, 2012 2:02:34 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 17, 2012
    What to Do When You Find a Damaged Family Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    In 2005 Lois O'Malley visited an elderly cousin in South Carolina to talk about family history. On the visit, she discovered he owned a large photo. As soon as she saw its condition, she took photos of it to make sure she had a copy.

    unknown  Simmons edit.jpg

    Storage in fluctuating temperature and humidity had taken a toll on this crayon portrait. This type of image is a photograph enhanced with charcoal pencil.

    The thin paper was worn away in places and there's evidence of mold and insect damage. O'Malley did the right thing. Her camera documented the exact day she took the image.

    So what do you do with a picture in this condition?
    • Photograph or scan it immediately. This type of deterioration will continue to progress if it isn't moved to a stable environment.
    • Try to convince your relative of the importance of the image. 
    • Find a good storage spot. Ideally, a windowless interior closet in a living area of the home (not an attic, garage or basement).
    • Place the item in an acid- and lignin-free folder and a reinforced-corner box. Here are some online suppliers where you can get these storage materials.
    • Obtain an estimate from a photo conservation expert for stabilizing the picture. You can find a conservator in your area on the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works website. 
    • Separate moldy photos from other items. Mold spreads quite easily and you don't want to end up with more than one problem.

    It's a good thing that Lois photographed the picture. When she went back to visit her cousin a few years later, he couldn't find it. 

    There are more photo preservation tips in my book, Preserving Your Family Photographs.

    Lois is wondering if the man in the picture is her great-grandfather. I'll look at the photo evidence next week.


    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

  • men | preserving photos
    Monday, September 17, 2012 2:55:54 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 10, 2012
    Preserving My Family Photographs
    Posted by Maureen

    When I decided to write a book on preserving photographs, I needed examples. For months I visited antique shops and photo shows looking for really damaged pictures. As you might expect, there was no shortage of problem images. 

    As the oldest child, I've inherited our family photo collection from my mother, so now it's time to put into practice all the things I've been teaching. Preservation is about more than just taking care of the photos—it also involves digitizing them and saving their stories. I thought you'd like to know what I've been doing:
    • I started by maintaining the original order of the photos just in case Mom mixed up some of Dad's pictures in the boxes. I wanted to be careful not to confuse photos from both sides of the family. My Mom had boxes of pictures, but Dad only had one large envelope. 
    • My first step was to scan all the pictures as 600 dpi (dots per inch) tiff files so that if something happened to the originals, I'd still have a high-quality scan. Having a digital file makes it easier to share photos with family too. 
    • I invested in some additional acid- and lignin-free boxes and non-pvc plastic sleeves. 
    • Last winter, I sat with Mom and recorded her talking about the photos. We got another chance to do that this weekend. A cousin inherited another box of pictures passed down in the family from my mother's oldest sister. This month, that cousin sent me a few of them. Thankfully, someone identified all the family members in them. My Mom took care of naming all the unrelated folks for me.  There were neighbors and friends in some of the pictures.
    • Now that I know who's who, I'll use a combination of old-fashioned filing and computer keywords to organize the lot. 

    These are a few basic tips for saving family photos. There's more information in my book Preserving Your Family Photographs, including details on dealing with those sticky "magnetic" album pages and taking care of negatives.

    Next week I'll tackle a photo identification mystery of a man in a badly damaged picture. 


    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

  • preserving photos
    Monday, September 10, 2012 5:05:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Tuesday, September 04, 2012
    The Story Behind Unknown Faces in Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I featured Julie Magerka's genealogical photo mystery. As you know, I believe that every photo tells a story.  By piecing together the clues present in a photo—photographer's imprint, props, faces, clothing and photographic format—you can let that photo talk.  Even if you can't identify who's in an image, those basic elements may eventually lead to new discoveries.

    MagerkaGrammaFamily.jpg

    Julie's photo encouraged her to investigate her Romanian roots. While the photo seems like a simple group portrait, the story represented in the image is anything but ordinary.

    MagerkaGrammaFamilycloseup.jpg

    Julie's grandmother's name appeared on her son Rudolph's birth record as Julia Magierka. The record was marked that the baby was "illegitimate." Julie's Dad always used the spelling of Magerka for his surname, without the i in the surname used by his mother.

    Julia Magierka met John Turansky/Turiansky supposedly when he was a prisoner of war during World War I, and she was a translator. The couple married and had a daughter. John immigrated to Canada first, then about a year later, Julia and Rudolph's half-sister, Anne, followed.

    Rudolph didn't immigrate to Canada for another decade. Family story-tellers used to have a lot of theories about the fact that Jullia left him alone. Perhaps he lived with the family depicted in this photo.

    Julie is hoping that further research will reveal the names of the other people in this people. All she knows at this point is that there is definitely more to this photo story. 


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor, all available in ShopFamilyTree.com:

  • 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 | group photos | Immigrant Photos | photo-research tips | Photos from abroad
    Tuesday, September 04, 2012 3:14:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, August 27, 2012
    Identifying Unknown Faces in Old Photos
    Posted by Diane

    Over the years, a lot of you have sent me emails talking about a "picture moment." Genealogists are taught to look at census records, city directories and vital records, but if you read this column then you know that a photo can trigger a genealogical response. Gazing at an ancestral face suddenly makes you want to know more about the person.

     MagerkaGrammaFamily.jpg

    That's what happened to Julie Magerka of Ontario, Canada. This photo is the image that encouraged her to start researching her family tree. It's a nice image of an older woman surrounded by her descendants. In her email, Julie told me that her paternal roots "are in dark and mysterious Romania in a small village (now part of Ukraine) in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains."

    Julie's great-grandmother Catherine is the woman seated in the middle. Her dad is the boy on the right, with his mother behind him. Only her grandmother immigrated to Canada and sadly, never talked about her family. She's surrounded by her siblings in this picture, but no one in the family knows their names. Julie's father saved other photos of his aunts, but unfortunately, they are a mystery.

    This picture, taken circa 1916, generates some other questions:
    • Why was it taken?  
    Individuals often posed for a family picture before moving away. That could the reason for this picture.
    • Where is Catherine's husband?
    It's difficult to tell the color of Catherine's head scarf, but if her husband was deceased, she'd be wearing a dark-colored scarf. So why isn't he in this photo?
    The persistent mystery in this picture are putting names with the faces of the siblings. I'm hoping that by posting this picture online that someone will recognize them. 

    If you have a blog can you re-post this column to spread the word. Let's see if we can get the online community of genealogists to participate.

    Catherine and her sisters were aware of the fashions being worn in the circa 1916 period. Skirts were at the ankle and blouses featured the variety of collars worn by these women.

    The date for this image is based on the subjects' clothing but also on the birth date of Julie's father. He was born in 1911, and could be at least 5 years old in this photo.


    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 | group photos | Immigrant Photos | women
    Monday, August 27, 2012 3:11:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Monday, August 20, 2012
    Genealogy Fashions: Is Your Ancestor's Hat Back in Style?
    Posted by Maureen

    Fashion is looking back not merely to the 1970s, but all the way to the 1920s and even 1880s, at least as far as hats are concerned.

    Last Sunday's New York Times fashion supplement featured advertisements showing old-fashioned-looking hats by designers Louis Vuitton and Donna Karan. Even the Bloomingdale's ad featured a model in a vintage style hat.

    I can't show you the Louis Vuitton ad, but I can show you hats that resemble the ones worn by the models in the New York Times ads. It was a fashion spread for handbags, but the head wear looked liked these workmen's hats from the 1850s. I'm serious! Vuitton added a grosgrain band above the brim, but the shape is very similar.



    Donna Karan's ad is online. The hat on the woman in the video strongly resembles those worn in the 1880s. In fact, I featured a similar looking hat in Photo Contest Submissions: Shirley Jenks Jacobs submitted this photo of a woman in a rolled brimmed hat with trim and a high crown.

    Shirley Jenks Jacobs2.jpg

    One more blast from the past was the Bloomingdale's ad of a young model wearing a plush hat with a very wide brim and a plume of animal fur. It looked something like this image I own of a wedding from circa 1920.  Don't you love his hair? It helps date this image.

    weddingedit.jpg

    So which hat style will you wear this season? I'll be looking through the photos in my Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900 for more matches.


    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

  • 1850s photos | 1880s photos | 1920s photos | hairstyles | hats | ShopFamilyTree.com | unusual photos
    Monday, August 20, 2012 3:55:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 13, 2012
    Props in Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Don't you just love it when family history artifacts pop up in family photos? This is exactly what happened for genealogist Dorothy Jackson Reed.

    In 2007, she became the owner of a Book of Worship with the name Mary K. Fricke embossed in gold on the cover. According to the title page, this book was published by the Lutheran Publication Society in Philadelphia. It has a copyright of 1870, but a section of the book was revised in 1888.

    Mary K Fricke (Katherine Marie) edit.jpg

    Four years later, Dorothy's sister Miriam gave her a photograph of Mary K. Fricke taken by the London Studios in Baltimore. In the picture, Mary appears to be holding the Book of Worship.

    Mary K Fricke (Katherine Marie)bible2.jpg

    Mary was born in 1878 and lived until 1953. Fashion clues date this image to the mid-1890s:
    • The style of the wicker chair. Most photo studios featured wicker furniture at the end of the century.
    • Her large puffy dress sleeves. In the 1890s, women's sleeves are quite distinctive. 
    • The color of the cardstock. White was a popular color in that decade.

    If this picture was taken circa 1895, Mary would've been 17. She's dressed like a girl with long braids and a skirt above the ankles.

    Could this be a confirmation photo? It's quite possible since personalized Bibles were usually given to commemorate religious events. 



    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

  • 1890s photos | props in photos
    Monday, August 13, 2012 3:57:45 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Thursday, August 09, 2012
    And the Winner is...
    Posted by Maureen

    Several weeks ago we put out a call for images for inclusion in my new book, Family Photo Detective (available for preorder in ShopFamilyTree.com). Pictures poured into my inbox and the Family Tree Magazine inbox, and many were posted on the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page.

    Congratulations to Michael Hanrahan, who sent in the winning image and will receive a copy of the book!

    You'll have to wait for the book for the full story of his photograph, but I thought you'd like to see the picture:



    And a closer look:



    It's a really fun picture of a group of women at a party. Here's what Mike says about it: "These ladies include my great-grandmother, grandmother, and numerous great-aunts. I'm thinking the picture was taken around 1910 in Elmira, NY."

    I'll tell you more about this photo in the future.

    You can view the other entries in our slideshow on Flickr. I'll be featuring many of these images in future blog posts.


    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


  • Improve your genealogical skills and connect with other family historians from the convenience of home at Family Tree University's Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference, taking place Sept. 14-16. Early bird registration ends Friday, Aug. 10 at 11:59 p.m.—just enter code FTUVCEARLY at checkout to save $50!


    1900-1910 photos | group photos | unusual photos | women
    Thursday, August 09, 2012 1:44:18 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 06, 2012
    It's a Family Reunion
    Posted by Maureen

    Have you ever been to a family reunion? I'm writing this from my husband's reunion. It's an every-other-year event that's been held since the mid-20th century. There's a lot of debate about when the first one was held. 

    Here are two observations:

    • The coordinator is an energetic cousin who plans activities and dinners.  She's also become involved with creating a family website. What's interesting is that she doesn't consider herself a genealogist. I disagree: iPad in hand, she's busy interviewing family members about past generations to put the information online. Yup ... you guessed it, she's collecting photos, too. The site isn't live yet, but based on her enthusiasm, it will be soon. Can't wait to see what she's created!
    • Family history is everywhere. Whether it's a wedding that happened two weeks ago or figuring out when everyone first got together, there's a lot of history being collected.  It's also being made everyday.  Another cousin chronicles each reunion. She creates an album for every event with the photographs sent to her afterward. Each album is a time capsule.

    If you've been to a reunion (or are planning one) can you comment below and share with readers ideas for photo-related activities to incorporate? We take a family photo at each reunion and snap lots of pictures. What have you done at your reunion? 

    Reunions magazine has a great website. Click any tab and you'll find suggestions for planning a reunion, activities for young and old, and details on sharing the pictures later. The resort where our event is held has a Pinterest site so guests can share photos they've posted. Reunions magazine also has a Pinterest page with dozens of boards. There are family history related t-shirt ideas, invitations, illustrated family trees and more.

    I'm off to fill biodegradable water balloons for the traditional water balloon fight. Back next week with a family history photo mystery!


    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

  • Want to improve your genealogical skills and connect with other family historians—all from the convenience of home? Check out Family Tree University's Fall 2012 Virtual Genealogy Conference, happening Sept. 14-16. Early bird registration ends Friday, Aug. 10 at 11:59 p.m.—enter code FTUVCEARLY at checkout to save $50!


    Photo-sharing sites | preserving photos | Reunions
    Monday, August 06, 2012 3:52:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]