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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, March 11, 2013
Smartphone Camera Tip: Viewing Old Negatives
Posted by Maureen

I'm a relatively new smartphone user. While I was waiting for an upgrade, lots of folks got iPhones and other types of smartphones. A few months ago, I finally qualified and picked up a Samsung Galaxy.  

Some attendees to last month's Who Do You Think You Are? Live! show brought negatives with them for us to decipher. James Morley, of What's That Picture showed me a neat trick with the camera function. If you find yourself facing a batch of negatives at a relative's house and own a smart phone, try the following:
  • Select your camera app
  • Go to settings. On my phone it looks like a gear.
  • Select Effects
  • Select Negative

Point your camera at the negative and take a picture. It becomes a positive image. This was taken quickly and it works for identification purposes.  It's only a low-resolution picture. Although this isn't a high quality picture worth printing, it's a great way to preview those negatives.

editWDYTYA negative.jpg

My apologies to the woman who brought in this glass negative—I can't find your name in my London notes. Thank you for letting me use your picture to illustrate this article.



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

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • negatives | preserving photos | unusual photos
    Monday, March 11, 2013 4:02:37 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, March 03, 2013
    WDYTYA London and a Launch
    Posted by Maureen

    What a busy week! Last week at this time, I was walking through Shakespeare's birthplace recovering from two action-packed days of looking at photos at Who Do You Think You Are? Live! in London.  I have some pictures to share.

    As soon as I came home a new project launched: The Last Muster series of books that focus on images of Revolutionary War era folks is becoming a documentary. Genealogy Insider Diane Haddad shared the news. 

    If you're curious about what it's about, watch the trailer in Diane's post and read Judy Russell's blog post at The Legal Genealogist.

    Back to London.

    Guess who I saw when I was there?  Lisa Louise Cooke of the Genealogy Gems and Family Tree Magazine podcasts AND Janet Horvoka of Family Chart Masters, aka the Chart Chick. It was cold in London, thus my fleece jacket and scarf.

     WDYTYA1.jpg

    English genealogists love a certain American product too. Couldn't miss this booth:

    WDYTYA2.jpg

    Love to Learn, an English company specializing in online education, gave us a nice place to work with photographs. James Morley of What's That Picture.com and I met with folks on Friday and Saturday. The lines were long again this year. People waited up to two hours to show us their photos.

    WDYTYA4.jpg

    WDYTYA3.jpg

    We saw some amazing pictures, such as the pair of painted daguerreotypes held by these women.

    WDYTYA5.jpg

    This year I decided to count the number of pictures we saw. The total for the two days was over 500!


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

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • cased images | Photos from abroad | Revolutionary War | unusual clothing | women
    Sunday, March 03, 2013 6:40:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, February 25, 2013
    Who Do You Think You Are? Live!
    Posted by Maureen

    As you read this, I'm still in the London, England area visiting with friends. Here's a glimpse of me at last year's Who Do You Think You Are? Live! show.

    WDYTYA2012.jpg

    It's exhilarating to meet with so many people to discuss their photos. As you can tell from the smile on my face ... it's a lot of fun. I'll have new photos next week.

    I always see so many interesting photos in England. Photographic formats are a little different, and the clothing worn for pictures can identify what someone did for work or if they were a member of the ruling class.

    I'm still working on a US mystery, too. Dick Eastman's blog alerted me to a photo problem at the Levine Museum of the New South. You can view the album here. I've dated the images for the museum. The majority are from the late 1870s, and I am working with them to figure out who's who. Stay posted for updates!


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

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • photo albums | Photo fun
    Monday, February 25, 2013 7:28:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, February 17, 2013
    Clues in Old Photo Postcards, Part 2
    Posted by Diane

    Jennifer Bryan sent me a photo-postcard mystery and I featured part one in last week's post.

    This week I'll share what I learned about the recipient of the postcard, Miss Flossie Howell of Baker City, Ore.

    flossiehowelloregon.jpg

    Flossie's friend Desca wrote:
    Hello. Rec'd letter other day ans soon. What are you doing? Still working in store? Its snowing here today and is quite cold. I am feeling pretty good but can't stand much work. Lee is at work. Will come home soon. Do you like the pictures? Lo Desca. 
    I'd estimated the date for this card as circa 1910 based on the attire, so I used Ancestry.com to search the census for that year. I started my search by thinking that Flossie was a nickname for Florence and didn't find any good matches. I should have taken the direct approach. I immediately found a match for Flossie Howell in Baker City. The enumerator appears to have written her last name as "Hawell" rather than Howell.

    Howell1910edit3.jpg

    She's living with Nathaniel B. Starbird, a janitor in a bank, and his wife Ada. Flossie works as a bookkeeper in a grocery store. She was 20 at the time of the census, suggesting a birth year of 1890. You can find this census record using the following link.

    Flossie was born in Kansas, but she didn't know the birthplaces of her parents. The Starbirds were originally from Maine.

    Flossie lived in Baker City from circa 1908. She appears in the Baker City, Ore., City Directory for that year, working as a domestic. You can view the city directory on Ancestry.com.

    I'm still working on the identity of Desca, Hazel and Mabel. Desca turns out to have been a somewhat common name. 

    This week I'm at Who Do You Think You Are Live in London!  Each year I share images from the event.  I'm taking a few extra days in London, so watch for my images in two weeks.

    Next week I'll write about how I'm helping to identify images from a photo album in a historical society. My new book, The Family Photo Detective, has a whole chapter on unraveling clues in photo albums. It's one of my favorite types of mysteries.

    Cheerio!


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

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • 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 | hairstyles | photo postcards | women
    Sunday, February 17, 2013 7:09:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, February 10, 2013
    Clues in Old Photo Postcards
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about orphan photos and how you can reunite them with family. This week I'm featuring one such image that Jennifer Bryan bought. I'm hoping that a descendant will see this two-part story.

    flossiehowelloregon.jpg

    These three young women—Desca, Mabel and Hazel—sent this real photo-postcard to their friend Flossie. It's a postcard with clues on the front and back. Postmarks, postage stamps, address information and the message all add up to tell the story of these women. 

    I'll start with the front. The high necklines of these blouses suggest a time frame of circa 1910. These white lawn fabric blouses could be purchased through the Sears Catalog for 49 cents to $1.35. You can view the Sears Catalog pages on Ancestry.com.

    I especially love the fashionable hairstyle of the woman on the right. She's rolled her hair away from the sides of her head. She's accessorized her appearance with a hairstyle she may have seen in a women's magazine, a watch pinned to her bodice, and a neck ribbon.

    flossiewatch.jpg

    Just like the best- and worst-dressed issues of People magazine, ancestral fashion magazines had articles about fashion foibles. What do you think of this young woman's hair? 

    The other two women are not as fashion-conscious as their friend, based on their simpler hairstyles and lack of accessories. Their hair and blouses agree with the tentative time frame about 1910.

    Next week, I'll examine the clues on the back of this photo-postcard to see how the clues add up.


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

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • 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 | photo postcards | women
    Sunday, February 10, 2013 11:37:28 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, February 04, 2013
    Reuniting Orphan Photos With Family
    Posted by Maureen

    Have you ever walked into an antique store and found a photo with a name on it? This is known as an orphan photo. 

    At some point in its photographic lifespan, it became separated from its family. Photos are rarely mentioned in probate records, their inheritance often a matter of serendipity. When family members die and no one steps forward to claim pictures, they end up in tag sales, antique shops and on eBay.

    The next time you see one of these pictures, consider purchasing it. Using your genealogical research skills, you might be able to reunite it with family members that "lost" a piece of the past. They'll be glad you found it.

    I'm working on two such images, but haven't solved the ownership mystery yet. Here's what I've done to research the images.

    1) Date the Image
    Unless the name on the image is unusual, it's necessary to have a time frame. Photographer's work dates, clothing details, props and photographic format can place the image within a range of dates. Next, I estimate the age of the person in the image.

    2) Consult the Census
    Using information in the photographer's imprint, such as geographic location, can help narrow down the search parameters. I start by searching the census using full names. Since the name on the image might be a nickname, also try wildcard searching. If the photo was taken in a small town, it's sometimes useful to browse through the census for that area to locate others with a similar surname.

    3) Use City Directories
    Ancestry.com, Fold3.com and local libraries and historical societies often have city directories. Search for the photographer and for the surname of the person pictured.

    4) Survey the News
    Since it was common for family to visit photo studios when they were on vacation or visiting relatives, it's a good idea to see if there are any newspaper stories about special events or advertisements for the photographer. Each resource provides you with an opportunity to verify the information in the caption.

    5) Check Genealogical Databases
    Search a variety of genealogical databases such as Ancestry.com and Geni.com. On Ancestry, click the box "Family Trees" at the bottom of the search screen to search for matches. On Geni.com, use the Search People box on the top right.

    In addition to these tips, I also analyze the handwriting to determine if someone living within the lifetime of the person depicted wrote the caption, or a descendant did it later. For instance, ballpoint pen is a 20th-century invention.

    Sometimes success is just a few clicks away, while other times the answer seems out of reach.

    This month, I'll also blog about other ways to reconnect with your "missing" 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

  • Photo fun | photo-research tips | Photo-sharing sites | Reunions
    Monday, February 04, 2013 8:13:50 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 28, 2013
    Confirming Identities in Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    I'm working on a photo mystery that is making my eyes hurt and my brain spin. With any luck I'll be able to present it here next week. 

    In the meantime, Milah Goler Pasto contacted me through Facebook to ask about a couple of her family photos. She was hoping for confirmation that the mother and the child in this picture were who she was told they were.

    margaretmahoneysullivanedit.jpg

    Their dress styles, the wicker chair and the painted backdrop all suggest a date of circa 1900. In that period, women's sleeves could have a slight fullness at the shoulder and bodices were pouched and full at the waist. Wicker chairs were a popular studio accessory in the 1890s and in the early 20th century. While painted backdrops were common throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, at the turn of the century they often featured household scenes.

    So who's in this lovely picture?  Irish immigrant Margaret (Mahoney) Sullivan (born 1873) and her daughter Margaret (born 1892).

    John Nathan Sullivan (born 1848), a "free person of color" married Margaret Mahoney and they had two daughters. He was a coachman for Dr. Hubbard of Taunton, Mass., and according to Milah, his obituary said "he was well and favorably known throughout the vicinity."


    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 | african american | children | Immigrant Photos | women
    Monday, January 28, 2013 4:50:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 21, 2013
    Lincoln's Inauguration and Your Family
    Posted by Maureen

    From movies to today's inauguration, all things Lincoln are in the spotlight. On March 4, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln participated in his second inauguration. Thousands of individuals came to Washington, DC, to witness it. The news media of the time were present, reporting on the events of the day.

    Photographs of inaugurals usually focus on the President, but in 1865, at least one photographer captured the crowds. This rainy inaugural photo is from the Library of Congress collection and captures Washington, DC, at a key moment. The Civil War was drawing to a close, and Lincoln spoke to that in his address:

    "With malice toward none, with charity for all ... let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds ..."

    lincolninauguration3.jpg

    A reporter for the Sunday Mercury published in Philadelphia on March 5, 1865, wrote about the weather:

    "Rain had been falling all yesterday and last night, making the proverbially filthy streets of the political metropolis filthier and more unpleasant than ever. (page 3)"

    If you look closely at this photo you'll see people dressed for inclement weather, wearing heavy overcoats and hats, standing in deep puddles. There are a few children in the foreground. Somewhere in this group are African-American troops who marched in the Inaugural Parade.

    lincolninauguration4.jpg

    A crowd scene like this allows a peek into the past. There is a wide variety of clothing, from wool coats to hoop skirts, worn by these individuals. Take a close look at the hats worn by the men in the crowd. Only one man is wearing a stovepipe hat; the rest are in smaller hats and caps. The man in the tall hat is dressed formally for the occasion. Men of means or who had significant jobs usually dressed the part. In the 1860s, the hat a man wore could tell you a lot about their occupation or fashion habits. For more information on men's hats, see Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900.

    lincolninauguration5.jpg

    Do you know about the political leanings of your ancestors?

    • There may be images of women bearing suffragette banners or men wearing political memorabilia such as pins.
    • Even if your ancestor wasn't politically active, study the history of your ancestors' lives to see how political decisions influenced their everyday experiences.
    • Take a close look at the pictures in your family, set them in a time frame and investigate the history in your genealogy. There may be images relating to immigration, military service and even social events—all a result of the political situation of the country in which they lived. 


    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 | group photos | hats | men
    Monday, January 21, 2013 3:26:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, January 14, 2013
    Turn-of-the-Century Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Terry Graham's mother showed him a few unidentified photographs and now he's using the power of the web to try to identify them. He's posted them on his Ancestry.com family tree so that family members can comment on them.  He thinks the mother's maiden name could be Turgeon.
    Graham.jpg


    It's the little girl in this picture that captures our attention. The photographer posed her with head turned and eyes on the lens. It's a lovely picture of a turn-of-the-century family.

    Women's Clothing
    Women's fashion began to change circa 1900.
    • More women were employed, and clothing in washable fabrics became a necessity. This woman wears her "Sunday best" dress for this formal family portrait.
    • Wide high-necked lace collars were very popular before 1905. Skirts were worn approximately 2 inches off the floor.  
    • Hairstyles puffed out from the face. Extreme hairstyles were often caricatured in magazines, but this woman has chosen wisely. Her hair frames her face. A large wide-brimmed hat would accessorize the outfit.

    Men's Clothing
    Styles varied from casual dress worn by laborers to suits. The man in the family portrait wears his best suit. Collars worn standing up with a variety of silk ties were fashionable in the period. Men's mustaches were trimmed and waxed in the 1890s; in this turn-of-the-century portrait, he's retained his full mustache.

    Children's Clothing
    Play clothes for children were introduced in the early 20th century, but this little girl wears a light-colored dress that mimics some of the design elements of her mother's dress, i.e. the wide collar.

    Photo Details
    Watch for the spontaneous moments in a family picture. The little girl looks like Mom has just brushed her hair for the portrait, but both parents have little wisps of hair sticking out from their heads: Look at the left side of Dad's head and the hair above the neckline of the mother's dress.

    About the Photographer
    Alfred Adt of Waterbury, Connecticut, took this photo. According to city directories of Waterbury found on Ancestry.com and details in census records, Adt was born in approximately 1863 and was a photographer in Waterbury from at least 1894 to 1909.  


    Use the comment field below to tell me how you came to own your family photos. Which relative gave them to you?  


    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, January 14, 2013 4:15:39 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, January 07, 2013
    "Downton Abbey" and Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    I can't resist the pull of a period piece be it a television series or a movie, so it's no surprise that last night I sat down to watch the first episode of Season 3 of PBS' "Downton Abbey." There were a lot of moments relevant to both family history and photography.

    The 1920s were a time of transition. Women's hairstyles changed and dresses became less form-fitting. Compare the styles worn by the Dowager Countess of Grantham and the attire of the American Martha Levinson for instance. You can view their attire on the PBS Character Hub.

    The Dowager Countess is conservative and clings to tradition. Her dress and hair support that; she wears dresses from the early 20th century and her hair pulled back. The hourglass figure is the shape attained with corsets and fitted dresses. 

    Martha Levinson is all about being modern. She dresses like a contemporary woman of 1920 with her waved colored hair and shorter, loose dresses. The opening sequence of her appearance says it all. She steps out to greet the staff in a wide-collared brocade coat and a rakish hat with a plume.

    If these women were members of your family and you had a photo of them taken individually against a simple background, then dating the photo based on the Countess' clothing could be misleading. Her appearance suggests a date earlier than 1920.

    Both women's fashion choices also reveal their personalities. I'll be watching to see if the Dowager Countess changes her style as the series progresses or if she remains tied to her long dresses.

    Personally, I love checking out their hats—wide-brimmed summer hats for the wedding of Matthew and Mary, as well as the everyday ones worn by staff and family. You can learn more about women's hats in Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900. I've included several English photos of women "in the service." It's a reference to their occupation of working for families.

    Photo identification and dating an image relies on information. What a person wears is helpful, but not the whole story. Pictorial context is important--where was it taken, who took the image and what else is visible. Adding up the clues can solve the mystery, date the image and identify the person.


    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 | 1920s photos | hairstyles | hats
    Monday, January 07, 2013 4:21:56 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]