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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, October 29, 2012
Photo Manipulation Before Photo Shop
Posted by Maureen

Last weekend I was in New York City for The Genealogy Event. If I'm going to be in New York City, I always make time for a visit to the Metropolitan Museum. I can't resist their photo exhibits. This time I saw Faking It : Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop. It was fascinating!

Spotting a manipulated photo in your family collection might be easy or difficult. It all depends on the technique. Here are some things to look for:
  • Handcoloring

There were technical limitations with early photography. One of them was the lack of color. Customers wanted their images to look as realistic as possible so photographers developed ways to add color to their images.

  • Ghostly images in the background

In the 1860s and early 1870s some photographers took double-exposure images and suggested that spirits were present.

  • The addition of a background

It was possible to add a background into an image. If you see a person posed in front of an unlikely landscape then it's possible that this image is a composite of two different images.

  • A person added in

Years ago I bought one of these at a photo sale. Look closely at the background. There is a woman the wrong proportion to the rest of the family. She's also wearing a dress from the early 1890s while everyone else is dressed in the styles of the late 1890s.

family045.jpg

familyclose-up.jpg

You can see a line around her head that illustrates the place where the studio dropped her into the scene.

  • Multiple poses of the same person

Here's an example.

composite.jpg This image dates from circa 1910, but this technique was common before this date.

This young woman has three poses of herself combined into one photo. 

Next week I'll be back with a famous example based on two Civil War photos taken by the Brady studio. 


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 | 1900-1910 photos | Photo fun | unusual photos
    Monday, October 29, 2012 3:27:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, October 22, 2012
    Photos and Family History Vacations
    Posted by Maureen

    Last weekend I spoke at a meeting of the Genealogical Research Institute of Virginia (GRIVA). My last lecture of the day covered family history vacations and discussed ways to use photos of homes, cemteries and other places to create an itinerary. I talked about visiting old family homes in person and virtually (using Google Earth).

    I also mentioned what to do with those vacation photos afterwards. I suggested posting them on sites like Historypin.com and Whatwasthere.com.

    Then I turned the meeting into a forum and let folks share their family history vacation tips. They asked if I would share their suggestions with the readers of this blog and I said YES! So if you're planning a family heritage tour, here are a few things they recommended.
    • Don't forget to visit the courthouse. One woman stressed the importance of looking for legal documents.

    • If you know the name of the cemetery where your ancestors are buried, but you can't find it, try calling the local funeral homes. A man said that a quick phone call helped him find the cemetery.

    • Take pictures of gravestones in the vicinity of your ancestors' monuments. Those folks might be relatives and you don't know it yet.

    • If your ancestors lived along a waterway, try consulting old nautical maps. They often show docks and can help you pinpoint a residence.

    • Look at church windows. Your ancestor may have paid for a memorial window.

    • Call the local public library to see if they have a history/genealogy collection. Verify the hours, too—websites don't always have up-to-date information.

    The GRIVA attendees also shared some general travel tips:

    • One woman loves to take Grayline tours of a city to orient herself.

    • If you go to Europe, take a small suitcase. Larger cases are too much work to lug around.

    • Another woman says she travels with old clothes and shoes. At the end of the trip she throws them away, leaving plenty of room for all the trip treasures she's collected.

    If you have a family history trip tip, please share it in a comment (below).  


    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

  • candid photos | house/building photos | Photos from abroad | Web sites
    Monday, October 22, 2012 5:38:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [14]
    # Monday, October 15, 2012
    Old Family Photo Rediscovered After Three Decades
    Posted by Maureen

    This year Jackie Corrigan's sister-in-law opened a suitcase that once belonged to her father. It hadn't been opened in 33 years! Bertram Corrigan lived from 1884 to 1979. The suitcase was in his belongings that family split up after his death.

    In the suitcase was a letter from 1892 and lots of pictures—a photographic treasure trove. It included pictures of his parents and other relatives, but also unidentified cartes-des-visite and tintypes. The most mysterious image is this one:

    Corriganedit.jpg

    It's incredibly faded. The picture is on cardstock and measures 4x6-1/2 inches, and according to family, looks like it was cut along one edge.  On the original writing is visible, but in this scan it doesn't appear.

    There are enough details to date the picture. The woman wears a short cape and her dress has a small round collar. This type of head-and-shoulders image, combined with the clothing clues, suggests the original image dates from the 1860s.

    Jackie and her sister-in-law think this might depict Elisabeth Davidson (1837-1905). It can be difficult to determine a person's age in a perfect print, and the condition of this picture makes it especially unclear. She could be in her 20s, making it possible this is Elisabeth.

    The provenance—or history of ownership—of the pictures could help verify this woman is a family member.

    Of course the most obvious proof would be to find another image of the woman later in life. In that suitcases of pictures might be a second one of her. Elisabeth's life overlapped with Bertram's, so it's quick possible there's other pictorial evidence.


    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 | women
    Monday, October 15, 2012 3:34:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, October 08, 2012
    Giant Grasshopper Mystery Photo—Solved!
    Posted by Maureen

    My Photo Detective magazine column appears in Family Tree Magazine. The October/November 2012 column is titled "Hoppin Fun" because the photo features a giant grasshopper sculpture. 

    grasshopperedit.jpg

    Larae Schraeder showed me the photo at the 2012 National Genealogical Society Conference in Cincinnati. The photo was in her collection of family pictures, and she thought the men might be relatives. In the magazine, I added up the clues but couldn't make the family connection for her.

    Well, it turns out the men aren't relatives. The real story is a fascinating tale of one man's hobby. 

    Thomas Talcott Hersey of Mitchell, SD, made this grasshopper. He's holding it down in the photo. Assisting him are his nephew Harry (Bart) Hersey and David John Hersey.

    Several of his descendants emailed me this weekend to tell me about this hopper and the other bugs that Hersey crafted. His inspiration came from a grasshopper swarm that killed his crops during the Dust Bowl era, and he called the metal creation Galloping Gertie.

    When he displayed his invention at Corn Palace Week in Mitchell and charged a nickel to view it, he earned enough to support his family for a winter.  Hersey ended up with a commission from a man who hired him to make a housefly, a flea, a black widow spider and a monarch butterfly to show at county fairs.

    Hersey's hobby of fashioning giant bugs out of wood, paper, cellophane, wire, string and oil cloth made him famous. In 1943, Hersey was a guest on Dave Elman's "Hobby Lobby" radio show on CBS. He spoke at length about how he made the insects; the grasshopper shown here even had a device to make its feelers move. Life Magazine and Popular Mechanics featured articles on his work.

    Hersey's relatives sent me several other pictures of his bugs and his relatives posing with them. They emailed me a postcard view of the scene above that had a printed caption: "Capturing Whopper Hopper near Mitchell, S.D. The largest grasshopper in existence 54 inches weighs 73 pounds."  It was taken and marketed by the Hersey Photo Service:
     


    Mystery solved! 

    Not all of the photos in a family collection depict relatives. Family members may have collected pictures of friends, neighbors and famous folks. In this case, we don't know if Larae's family actually saw Gertie or if they just bought the image for fun.


    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 | props in photos | unusual photos
    Monday, October 08, 2012 5:47:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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]