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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, June 03, 2013
A Hand-Colored Photo Gem
Posted by Maureen

The other night my husband asked, "How do you find something to write about every week?" 

There's an easy answer: Every photo collection is unique, and every photo tells a story. You've been sharing photographs with me for more than a decade and no two images are exactly the same.

Take this week's image, for instance. It's a superior example of sophisticated hand-coloring. It's subtle and gorgeous. The unknown photographer and/or an artistic assistant knew how to turn an ordinary photograph into a painting.

sarahhandcolorededit.jpg

Hand-colored images like this one allow us to see details in our ancestors' clothing and furniture choices. The maroon chair is a common prop in pictures as of the late 1860s. I know from other images that other colors also were used. I've seen such chairs tinted a grassy shade of green.

This young woman wears a scarf around her neck. The studio colored it in a slightly darker shade of maroon than the chair. It's a perfect accessory to her soft gray dress. While I've seen other images tinted, I rarely see one where the studio has taken time to tint the hands and face. The end result—this young woman looks like she could walk out of the frame and say hello.

Robert Stoy sent in this picture of Sarah Simmons (1852-1892) of Georgia. Her clothing suggests it was taken in the late 1870s. Her bodice extending past her waist and scarves of this style were worn in this period.

By the time Sarah posed for this picture, studios had been coloring photographs for decades. Even early daguerreotypists of the 1840s employed artists to add color to their images.

It's a gem of an image.

You can learn more about hand-colored images in my book Family Photo Detective.


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

  • 1870s photos | women
    Monday, June 03, 2013 3:27:39 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, May 26, 2013
    Decoration Day, 1868
    Posted by Maureen

    History intersects at ironic moments that make the past very interesting. Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day, is one of those moments.

    All over the United States on this day, towns hold parades and locals decorate veterans' graves. This stereo image from the Library of Congress depicts the first Decoration Day, held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868.

    First Decoration Day.jpg

    A who's who of national figures gathered to pay their respects to the Union soldiers buried on the property of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. That land also has a connection to the American Revolution.

    It originally belonged to George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington and the adopted son of George Washington.

    georgecustis.jpg

    When he died, the land was owned by his daughter, the wife of Robert E. Lee. During the Civil War, the property was used for military purposes. The US government bought it at a tax sale and dedicated 200 acres for a national cemetery. Approximately 16,000 Civil War soldiers are buried there.

    The reviewing stand featured flags, bunting and touches of black. Two future presidents were in the stand that day.

    decoration daycropped.jpg

    Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. James A. Garfield are in this photo. Grant served as President from 1869 to 1877; Garfield served only 200 days before his assassination in 1881.

    Garfield, who was a member of Congress, delivered the oration. He began with the following:
    "I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden it must be here beside the graves of 15,000 men, whose lives were more significant than speech and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung." (The New York Herald, May 31, 1868, page 10)
    There is debate over which city held the very first Decoration Day. In 1868, May 30th was selected because it didn't commemorate any battles and because flowers are in bloom. The last Monday in May didn't officially become Memorial Day until 1971.

    Take a look at your family photo collections and see if you have photos of any veterans in your family. I'm going to post my pictures of those individuals on my social media pages to honor them.


    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

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | Revolutionary War
    Sunday, May 26, 2013 4:29:21 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 20, 2013
    The World War I Era in Color
    Posted by Maureen

    May is the month of gardens and Memorial Day, so I thought I'd take a peek into gardens of the past. On the Library of Congress website, I discovered this gorgeous color image that depicts an important moment in the history of 20th-century gardening.

    editworld war 1 garden.jpg

    While commercially successful color photography was still a few decades away, early 20th century photographers relied on artistic mediums to add color to their images. Even early daguerreotypists colored their photographs.

    During the WWI period, hand-colored glass slides made everyday scenes come to life. In this lantern slide, two boys (one wearing roller skates) and a man read the notices for a garden.

    editworld war 1 gardencloseup.jpg

    They stand in Bryant Park, at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue in New York City, in August 1918.

    Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) photographed this scene for us to illustrate a lecture to women's gardening clubs. She was a famous female photographer who took portraits of well-known figures throughout her career. She was also a proponent of historic preservation.  Sam Watters featured lantern slides by Johnston in his book Gardens for a Beautiful America, 1895-1935 (Acanthus Press, 2012).

    The garden in this photo was part of the National War Garden Commission of 1918. While Victory Gardens are usually associated with World War II, they were also popular during World War I. People planted gardens in public places and at home. There were even rooftop gardens.

    You can read more about these gardens and their history in Gena Philbert-Ortega's From The Family Kitchen: Discover Your Food Heritage and Preserve Favorite Recipes.

    Charles Lathrop Pack established The National War Garden Commission in August 1917. The war effected food production and he thought American's could boost output by creating small gardens. It's estimated that there were more than 5 million of these gardens during the war.

    You can view other WWI-era color images on the Library of Congress website. Browse the Frances Benjamin Johnston collection to see other examples of her work.

    If you have a photo of an ancestral garden, please submit it to me and I'll post it here.


    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 | World War I
    Monday, May 20, 2013 1:23:43 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 13, 2013
    Part 2 of an Italian Photo Mystery
    Posted by Diane

    Last week I introduced Eileen Poulin's mysterious photos on tin and showed you one of the two images of her Italian relatives.

    Frank LoRusso with a Martinelliedit.jpg

    Poulin's mother left her the pair with a note regarding the identity of the individuals in the photos—but the details are confusing: On the paper with the above image, a confirmation photo, Eileen's mother wrote: "Frank (my grandfather) with a Martinelli boy." The Martinellis are related to Eileen through her great grandmother on her grandmother's side of the family.

    The note stored with the second image, below, read, "brother of above." 



    The family is confused. Is the man in uniform Frank's brother, or the brother of the boy?

    I emailed Eileen for more information about when the family immigrated to the United States and how the Martinelli family was related to them. She called a relative, who identified the boy as her brother Frank Martinelli.

    Eileen's grandfather immigrated in 1916. You can view Francesco Antonio LoRusso's passenger details (or search for your own ancestor) on the Ellis Island website or click this link.

    The boy's suit and the style of the confirmation photo suggest it was taken around the year of immigration. One relative thinks it was in Italy, but Martinelli's sister thinks her brother was born in the United States. 

    The final factors about where the image was taken are the answers to two questions: Where was the Martinelli boy born? When did that family immigrate?

    The military photo was definitely taken in Italy. It depicts a man in an Italian military uniform from the WWI period.  I love that his headgear resembles women's hats of the early 20th century. 

    Military images are full of head-to-toe clues. The headgear, uniform style, insignia and even the leg wraps are evidence. The man may be a Bersaglieri, a corporal in the Italian army. For more information on Italian military uniforms see Italian Armies of World War I by David Nicolle and Raffaele Ruggeri in the Men in Arms series (Osprey, 2003). 

    Now that Eileen has a time period and additional family information, it's possible another relative can identify the soldier.

    Only a few days left to enter Family Tree Magazine's National Photo Month giveaway. The deadline is May 20th.


    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 | hats | men | Military photos
    Monday, May 13, 2013 3:46:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, May 06, 2013
    A Two-Part Italian Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    How many of us have found a note in a box of family photos? I suspect that it's pretty common. Unfortunately, the person who left the note probably didn't realize that it could cause confusion about who's who.

    Eileen Poulin has a double mystery based on a set of notes and two images. On one note, Eileen's mother wrote "Frank (my grandfather) with a Martinelli boy."

    Frank LoRusso with a Martinelliedit.jpg

    The image is on a piece of enameled tin. Usually these images have a device on the back to allow the owner to prop up the picture. This type of picture was very popular in the early 20th century.

    The white arm band on the boy represents the sacrament of Confirmation. Frank was probably the boy's sponsor. Confirmation sponsors had to be a certain age, be a member of good standing in the church and could be a child's godparent. A church document would confirm the relationship between Frank and the Martinelli family.

    Belted suits in the style worn by this boy first became fashionable in the 1910s.

    martinelli boy.jpg

    Eileen's great-grandfather Francesco Antonio LoRusso was the son of Isabella Maria Nardozza (1875-1952) and Vincenzo LoRusso (1866-1959). Both of his parents were born in Avigliano, Potenza, Italy, and died in Waterbury, Conn.

    The second image in this mystery (not shown here) is a military photo identified as "brother of above." Eileen doesn't know if by "above," her mother meant Frank or the Martinelli boy. 

    I have a lot of questions to ask Eileen about the family and more research to do on the uniform. See you next week—and don't forget to enter Family Tree Magazine's National Photo Month Sweepstakes before May 20.


    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 | children | Religous Events
    Monday, May 06, 2013 1:40:23 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, April 29, 2013
    Further Clues in the Connecticut Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I introduced a photo mystery from the Derby (CT) Public Library with links to archaeological excavations. The big question is: "Who's in this photo?"

    Let's look at some of the evidence in the picture.
    • The shed is of unknown use. A higher-resolution image might reveal what's inside the door. There appears to be items piled up. I'll wait for a clearer image to share that with you.
    • An elderly woman stands in the front yard. The front door is to her left.

      Freemanclose-upt.jpg
    • Nancy Freeman lived in the house from the time of her marriage until her death in 1895. She has a cane in her right hand and a hat in her left. She wears an apron over her dress.
    freemanhouseedit.jpg
    • A ladder against the house suggests that she's having shingles replaced. The workman left his coat and hat draped over a pole. 
    FreemanHousephotographer(2).jpg
    • Do you see the shadow on the grass?  This is the photographer. I'm working on verifying a caption on a copy of this picture. It contains the name of the photographer.

    The Freeman house is built on a hill. Behind the house the land drops off. Archaeologists found some of the foundation for the shed, but not enough to be able to determine its function or size. They found poultry wire on the site, which confirms stories about Nancy raising turkeys to support herself.

    I'll keep digging for new data.  


    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

  • african american | props in photos | women
    Monday, April 29, 2013 10:05:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, April 22, 2013
    A Piece of Connecticut History
    Posted by Maureen

    FreemanHouselibrary(2).jpg
    Photo courtesy of Derby (CT) Public Library

    Could this woman be Nancy Freeman, widow of  Roswell Freeman, who was one of Connecticut's "Black Governors"? That's the big question, and this query has a lot of pieces.

    Janet Woodruff, an archaeologist with the Archaeology Laboratory for African & African Diaspora Studies at Central Connecticut State University, sent me this photo for analysis. Dr. Warren Perry, Prof. Gerald Sawyer, Woodruff, and students and volunteers have been conducting archaeological excavations at this homesite since 2010.

    Photographs lie at the intersection of history, genealogy, family history and even archaeology.

    The tradition of the Black Governors dates back to Colonial Connecticut. These individuals were elected by members of their communities. The Connecticut State Library has an interesting online article and bibliography.

    Roswell and his father Quash were both Black Governors. This property may have been willed to Roswell when his father died. Roswell married Nancy (possibly Thompson) in 1826 and they had 13 children, although records have been found for only nine.

    The elderly woman pictured stands in her front yard (the front door is next to the ladder). Behind her is a shed. Archaeologists aren't sure of the purpose of that building. 

    I'm trying to answer several questions about this image. Next week, we'll look at a few of the details. There is more research to be done, so watch for updates to this story.


    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

  • african american | house/building photos | unusual photos | women
    Monday, April 22, 2013 9:40:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, April 15, 2013
    Old Photos: Are These Sisters or Family Friends?
    Posted by Maureen

    A few weeks ago I featured Jim Cat's picture of women seated on the stoop in front of their house.

    Cat2.jpg

    He recently wrote to tell me more about the women in the picture. His grandmother Mary Florence Filichia Catanzaro was born in Chicago on Feb. 18, 1894.

     cat3.jpg

    Mary had four sisters: Rose (born July 1892), Jennie (born 1900), Virginia (born circa 1902) and Constance (born circa 1906).

    Based on the style of the women's dresses and hair in this image, and a tentative date of circa 1910, only the oldest sisters, Rose and Mary, could be depicted here. The other sisters would be too young.

    If this image was taken at mid-decade, about 1915, the hairstyle of the woman seated second from left would be outdated, but not necessarily those of her companions. By 1915, Jennie was 15. If she's posed with her older sisters here, she'd be the youngest member of this group.

    Clothing and hairstyles changed radically in the second decade of the 20th century. By 1920, many women had shorter hair and wore loose-fitting dresses with shorter hemlines than in recent years.

    Assuming two of these women are sisters, the other two are likely friends. Despite the grainy quality of this type of tintype it should be possible to determine who's who by comparing later photographs of the sisters to this image.


    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 | women
    Monday, April 15, 2013 2:47:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, April 07, 2013
    Mind-Bending Photo Mystery: Part 2
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about Pam and Art Crawford's family photo dilemma. With both the Crawford and Jones families claiming this couple as their relatives, it's a pixel puzzle.

    crawford2.jpg
     
    This week I'm tackling the costume clues in the image.

    crawfordtie.jpg

    Men's ties and collars can help pinpoint a date. This man wears an all-over patterned tie. The design has a slight diagonal pattern, which suggests it's from about 1930. The points in the collar look longer than a middle-pointed shape, which suggests it might be a 1930s style called the "California Collar." Clark Gable popularized it.

    crawfordcollar.jpg

    Lace collars were very popular in the 1930s. Around the woman's neck are pearls. Simulated pearls could be bought from the Sears catalog for approximately 95 cents. It's very difficult to see due to the shadows in this picture, but her dress has a soft flouncy sleeve. 

    crawfordglasses.jpg

    Both husband and wife wear round glasses. Round shapes were common in the 1920s, but thin metal frames were also still available in the 1930s. Since they probably didn't change glasses very often, it's likely these are from the late 1920s.

    The circa-1930s date eliminates Thomas Jefferson Jones and Mary Jane Williams from consideration. Mary Jane died in 1916.

    When comparing their faces, I noticed that the husband looks older and more frail than his wife.

    This couple could be Art's grandparent's Nathaniel Crawford and Lois Viola Henley. Nathaniel died in 1937.

    The big questions remain: How did Pam's grandmother come to own a copy of this image, and why did she identify the couple as Thomas and Mary Jones?

    Extensive family research by the Crawfords has yet to reveal an answer.


    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

  • 1930s photos | men | women
    Sunday, April 07, 2013 5:19:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, April 01, 2013
    Mind-Bending Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    crawford2.jpg

    Isn't this a nice picture?  It seems so innocuous. Yet this picture is BIG photo mystery that has a couple puzzled: I met Pam and Art Crawford at last month's RootsTech conference. Using my iPad as a voice recorder, I interviewed them about this picture. You can listen to the recording here.

    Pam's grandmother gave her the image in 1975, in the family photo album. She was told it was Grandma and Grandpa Jones. Pam's grandmother was alive at the same time as the couple depicted, so she would have known them.

    Thomas Jefferson Jones was born Nov. 8, 1843, in Christy Twp., Laurence Co., Ill. He married Mary Jane Williams in Lawrence Co. in 1865. Mary Jane was born May 4, 1850, in Covington, Kenton Co., Ky., and moved to Lawrence Co., Illinois as a child.

    Thomas died March 1, 1934, and Mary Jane died Dec. 24, 1916. Both died in Bonpas Twp., Richland Co., Ill.

    Here's the mystery:
    A few months ago, Art's cousin started a Facebook group, "Descendants of David Crawford." Art joined the group and saw this photo, identified as Nathaniel Alpheus Crawford. When he showed it to Pam, she said, "I know that photo!"

    Nathaniel Crawford was born Oct. 21, 1861, in Summerville, Chattooga Co., Ga. He married Lois Viola Henley in 1891. She was born May 27, 1871, in Georgia. They both died in Chattooga Co., Nathaniel on Sept. 13, 1937, and Lois on Aug. 4, 1956.

    Obviously there are multiple mysteries:
    • Who's really in the photo?
    • How did it end up in both families?
    • Is there a relationship between Pam and Art's family?

    It's a real stumper. Let's start with the picture: It's a 20th-century photo—after World War I, based the design of the woman's collar.

    I'm off to the library to figure out the rest of the clues and double-check a few things. I'll be back next week with more details.


    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 | 1920s photos | men | women
    Monday, April 01, 2013 3:47:30 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]