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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, December 03, 2012
Reader-Submitted Multi-Generational Pictures
Posted by Maureen

I've been thinking about holiday cards. On Thanksgiving all 14 members of my husband's family—three generations of relatives—stood in the yard and posed for a group portrait. 

I find the thought of having even more generations represented in a single image amazing. Yet that's just what a reader submitted when I asked for multi-generation pictures.

Kay Haden sent me two five-generation images from her family. There is no duplication of people in the two pictures.

ComstockFiveGenerationsedit.jpg
In the first, someone used a ballpoint pen to write the names on the people. I wish they'd written on the back with a soft pencil, but there are lots of family photos with inked IDs.

While the image states a date of 1907, Kay knows that it was actually taken two years later in 1909. This is based on the birth year of the baby.
The baby is Graydon Earl Comstock (1908-1983). He's sitting on his father's lap—Kenney Marcus Comstock (1887-1958). Kenney's father, James Monroe Comstock (1860-1928), stands behind him. Next to James is his mother, Miranda Jane (Brown) Comstock (1842-1912). The oldest person in the image is the 2x great grandmother of the baby, Rebekah Poindexter (Jones) Brown (1822-1912).

Five Generations edit.jpg

In this 1961 image, Kay is the young woman in the back row. Her mother stands next to her. The baby is her oldest son. In the front row is the baby's great-grandmother and his 2x great grandmother. I don't usually publish images of living individuals, so I've withheld their names. 

There is so much family history in these photos! If you pose for one, please take time to also sit with the family members and reminisce about their lives. Bring along a voice recorder/video capture device so that you can relive the moment later on—as well as save a piece of your family history.


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 | Reunions | women
    Monday, December 03, 2012 12:52:55 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, November 26, 2012
    Multi-Generation Portraits, Redux
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I featured a multi-generation picture submitted by Mary Lutz. We've been communicating about this photo via email, and I have a few more details to share.

    Lutz1edit.jpg
    The original post mentioned that the baby is Mary Ruth Talbott Godwin. There is one problem with that identification. She was born in 1892. The clues in this picture (hairstyles and bodice styles) don't add up to that timeline. Instead, it's an early 20th century picture.

    Thank goodness Mary also recognized the discrepancy. She provided an alternative identification for these women, one that makes sense based on the photo clues.

    The baby is Ruth Waterstradt (born 1909). The mother is Pearl Godwin Waterstradt (born 1885). The grandmother in the center is Jennie Witten Godwin (born 1864) and on the left is great-grandmother Mary Brown Witten (born 1834). The baby is likely less than a year old which dates this image to circa 1910. 

    In addition to the four-generation picture, Mary sent in another group portrait. The two individuals in the center are Mary Brown Witten and her husband Samuel. The picture was taken in Grundy County, Mo.


    govertson2edit.jpg

    The woman in the center is the same woman who appears on the left in the four-generation image.
    marywitten.jpg

    This photo also dates from the early 20th century. Since Mary knows the identity of the two people in the center, the rest of the pieces should fall into place.


    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 | children | men | women
    Monday, November 26, 2012 4:04:45 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 19, 2012
    Multi-Generation Portraits
    Posted by Maureen

    It's Thanksgiving! If you're planning a family gathering and are wondering how to keep folks occupied until the meal is ready, try getting them to chat about family photos. It doesn't matter if they are identified images or a group of mystery pics. I'll be taking out a box of snapshots, setting up my digital tape recorder and hopefully capturing some "new" memories.  Images can trigger all types of memories relating to the people depicted, not just the story of that photographic moment. Try it and see.

    Mary Lutz Govertsen sent in a complicated multi-generational photo of several generations of her family. She's hoping that I can compare it to another of her images and identify the date and the people. Isn't it lovely?

    Lutz1edit.jpg

    On the back it says "4 generations: Granny [Mary Ruth Godwin, the baby], her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother." In the photo are the two Brown sisters who, due to marriage and disparate ages, are Mary Govertsen's grandmother's grandmother and great-grandmother.

    Family trees are full of twists and turns. Mary's family is a little more complicated. Her family moved from Tazewell, Va., to Missouri; due to multiple re-marriages and inter-marriages everyone is related. This is a family tree that I can't wait to see.

    It's a beautiful family photo that's sure to inspire some great family stories. I'll be back next week with more details on the group and the other image. If you have a multi-generational photo, I'd love to see it and feature it in this blog. The How to Submit Your Photo link provides details on how to send me your picture.

    Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!


    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 | children | unusual photos | women
    Monday, November 19, 2012 1:50:16 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 11, 2012
    A Veterans Day Salute
    Posted by Maureen

    This weekend I attended the annual Daguerreian Society 24th annual symposium in Baltimore, Maryland. I love those early images. The shiny reflective surface makes the viewer a part of the image because you can see your reflection. There were approximately 56 vendor tables full of mostly unidentified images. These pictures meant something to their original families, but now they are appreciated for their picture quality. With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, one of the most sought-after type of picture were military images. 

    In honor of Veterans Day, here's a look back at some of the men (and women) in uniform featured in this blog.

    Spanish American War
    Deb Wilson's great aunt Mary L. Keeler served as a nurse during the Spanish American War. Her photo appeared as a Women's History Month tribute.


    Civil War

    There are thousands of photographs of soldiers who posed in uniform during the War Between the States.

    Here are some pointers for deciphering the Civil War photos in your collection. Look for uniform clues, research the photographers and study your family history documents.

    There were two blog posts of Civil War-era photos submitted by readers.  Part 2 looks at clues in a piece of photographic jewelry and in a veteran's badges.


    Overseas Veterans
    One of my favorite photo mysteries belongs to Justin Piccirilli. It depicts a member of his family in an Italian uniform.

    If you want to find more military-themed blog columns, use the keyword list to the left. Click "military" to scroll through all the appropriate columns. 

    Next week I'll tackle two multigenerational family photos.


    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 | Civil War | Military photos
    Sunday, November 11, 2012 3:46:31 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 04, 2012
    Historical Fact or Fiction?
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about ways to spot manipulated photos in your family collection. My inspiration was an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.

    Mathew Brady is the most well-known photographer of the Civil War. His studio documented well-known figures of the period as well as ordinary soldiers. When he died in 1896, his nephew Levin Corbin Handy inherited the collection. Handy was a photographer as well, and at times he tinkered with his uncle's images. In the exhibit is one of those composites. It depicts Ulysses S. Grant on horseback at City Point, Va. Or does it? Take a good look at the composite—it's actually made from three pictures.

    First the composite.
    Grantcitypoint.jpg
    The three images are as follows.

    Handy used a Brady image of Grant at Cold Harbor, Va. (1864) and removed his head. He then placed it on the body of General Alexander McDowell McCook on horseback taken in 1864. I don't have the image of McCook, but here's the Cold Harbor one.

    grantcoldharbor.jpg

    Handy placed the composite of Grant over a Brady image of Confederate prisoners after the Battle of Fisher's Hill, Va., taken in 1864.

    Here's that scene.
    Fishers Hilledit2.jpg
    Handy created the composite in 1902. Because Americans were still clamoring for images depicting the Civil War, Handy found new ways to market his uncle's images.

    The full story of this picture appears in the book Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop. Thank you to the curators who put this exhibit together. The exhibit will also be at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., from February-May 2013 and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in Houston, Tex., from June-August 2013.

    If you'd like to see more pictures taken by the Brady Studio, go to the Library of Congress website, and search the Prints and Photographs collection for "Mathew Brady."


    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 | 1900-1910 photos | Civil War | men | Military photos | unusual photos
    Sunday, November 04, 2012 6:32:11 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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]