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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, November 17, 2013
Old Family Photos on Postcards
Posted by Maureen

Frieda Tata submitted this lovely photo of two women and a girl for some advice. She knows the young woman on the right is her grandmother Mae Davis (born 1888 in Brownwood, Mo.). 

This is a photo postcard.
 
threewomen.jpg

One of the most common questions about family photos is, "My ancestor had their photograph taken and it's a postcard. What does that mean?"

I love real-photo postcards (RPPC) because there are several ways to date them. 
  • Real photo postcards debuted about 1900. That immediately gives you a beginning time frame for the image.

  • While the photo here was taken in a studio, it is possible your ancestor took their postcard photo themselves. Kodak's No. 3A camera, introduced in 1903, let amateur photographers take images and have them printed on postcard stock.

  • Flip the card over. Does it have a divided back for the address and correspondence, or is there just space for the address? This little detail can further refine the time frame. On March 1, 1907, federal legislation finally let postcard senders write messages on the back of the cards they sent. 
  •  Take a good look at the stamp box. The designs of those boxes can help date your image as well. They identify the paper manufacturer. For instance, AZO is a popular manufacturer.  Compare your designs to those described on the Playle website.

  • If the postcard was mailed, look at the stamp design and the postmark for a specific date.

Mae's birth year suggests that this photo was taken circa 1908. I'd love an image of the back to see what clues it holds.

Last week I wrote about women in World War I and featured photos of  Dora Rodriques. Thank you to Wendy Schnur for telling me more about the Holland-born actress who supposedly walked across the United States to promote recruitment.


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

  • 1900-1910 photos | photo postcards | women | World War I
    Sunday, November 17, 2013 4:13:54 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, November 10, 2013
    Women in World War I
    Posted by Maureen

    What did your WWI-era female ancestors do in World War I? On Veterans Day, we typically honor the men and women who served in the military. But what about all the women who didn't serve, but supported the war effort?

    The theme of Who Do You Think You Are Live in London next year is World War I. Next year is the centennial of the start of the war in Europe (the United States got involved in 1917).

    During World War I, women:
    • worked in factories so men could enlist (and to support their families while the men were away)
    • volunteered for the Red Cross
    • worked as Army and Navy nurses
    • served the military in clerical positions
    • knit socks for the troops
    • participated in Victory Bond fundraising
    • marched in Preparedness Day parades to encourage U.S. involvement
    Women also acted as recruiters to encourage men to join the service.
    Young, attractive women often stood alongside male recruiters in uniform

    Dora Rodriguez was one of those recruiters. At the Library of Congress, there are three images of her in uniform taken by the National Photo Company. I'm sure the sight of a woman in pants and a uniform drew a lot of attention.

    dora rodriques 28170v.jpg

    dora 2 28171r.jpg

    dora 3 28172r.jpg

    Some who served overseas as nurses and Red Cross volunteers took cameras with them. Many women kept photo albums during the war.

    At the time of the 1910 census, most individuals with the surname of Rodrigues lived in Puerto Rico. A quick search of Ancestry didn't turn up any immediate hits for her. I suspect her birth name is something other than Dora.


    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 | unusual clothing | women | World War I
    Sunday, November 10, 2013 5:27:30 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, November 04, 2013
    Women at Work: Switchboard Operators
    Posted by Maureen

    Somewhere in these two pictures is Carilyn Bernd's maternal grandmother, Delma Ragan. Delma was born in 1902. She married Leo Ragan in 1922 and gave birth to twins in 1924.  Just three years later, she died at age 25. At some point, Delma was a telephone switchboard operator in Cherryvale, Kan.

    Bernd work001.jpg

    Each cable in this photo connects to a telephone line. These four operators were required to be polite and discrete. The older woman supervises their demeanor. The two young women at the desk on the left appear to be operating a telegraph machine. The clock on the wall tells us that the photographer captured them at work at 11:05 a.m. 

    Bernd work002.jpg

    Here, the women are in a break room reading, socializing and smiling for the camera.

    So which one is Delma?  There are several young women that could be her. If the family has another picture of her, they can compare the two and identify her.

    The early 1920s were a time of transition for fashion. The dropped waists of the Flappers were just beginning to make an appearance.  Short hair was becoming fashionable.

    On the far right sits a young woman in a Middy Blouse. Sears Catalogs sold the sailor-collared shirt. The fabric choice determined the price. Jean fabric middies sold for less than a dollar; those made from wool flannel sold for approximately $4.

    I'm hoping that Delma posed for a least one other picture before she died.



    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

  • 1920s photos | occupational | women
    Monday, November 04, 2013 4:35:20 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Monday, October 28, 2013
    Photo Reunions after Hurricane Sandy
    Posted by Maureen

    A year ago, Hurricane Sandy stormed into the East Coast of the United States destroying property and taking lives. Generations of family photographs were blown or washed out of destroyed and damaged houses. In the midst of the aftermath and chaos, one woman began focusing on images she found scattered along the shoreline and roads of her community of Union Beach, NJ.

    Jeannette von Houten found thousands of images scattered all over the place covered in mud and mold. This rescue effort took time and money. Personal historian Mary Danielsen pitched in to help and the Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner Co. provided scanners.

    A conservator colleague of mine suggested the team wear gloves for handling the very dirty images and masks to prevent them from inhaling chemicals and mold. Instead of distilled water, cold tap water sufficed to wash the images. This is a delicate task. Immersion in water could destroy the pictures, but with the damage they'd already experienced due to exposure to the elements and water-borne debris, it was worth the risk. Do not attempt this type of rescue without professional advice.

    Today, Jeannette and her cousin Joseph Larnaitis continue the task. Out of the approximately 25,000 images found, about 5,000 have been saved. Anyone who lost pictures during the storm should consult the project website, Union Beach Memories.

    union beach.jpg

    Not all of the photos are online. The Union Beach Library has 60 binders of images waiting to be claimed.

    According to Jeannette, many families are just finding out about this photo rescue. Let's help her reconnect families with their photos by spreading the word.

    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

  • Hurricane Sandy | Photo-sharing sites | preserving photos | Reunions
    Monday, October 28, 2013 2:43:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, October 21, 2013
    Clues in an Old Photo Copy: Who Is She?
    Posted by Maureen

    Two weeks ago I wrote about Shirley Dunkle's image, a copy of an earlier photo. The clues added up to suggest the photo was copied about 1900, but that this woman in the image sat for the original portrait in the mid 1850s.

    Dunkle - Moores family - About 1860.jpg

    Shirley has a possible identification for this woman based on the date: She young woman could be Mary Jane Smethurst. She was born May 24, 1839, in Middleton, Lancashire, England. She married James Roberts March 31, 1861, in St. Mark's, Dukinfeld, Cheshire, England. 

    After the death of her husband in 1885, Mary Jane and many of her children immigrated to Massachusetts in 1888. She died in 1916.

    If this is Mary Jane,she was approximately 17 years of age and living in England when she sat for this portrait.

    I have one last question. What type of photograph was the original?

    In the United States, photographs taken in the mid-1850s were primarily daguerreotypes. These are shiny and reflective, and quite distinctive in their appearance. But when I looked at photographs at the Who Do You Think You Are Live show in London, it was quite apparent that the English didn't embrace the daguerreotype. 

    William Henry Fox Talbot, an English photographic inventor, introduced a type of paper print that was popular in the 1850s: the salted paper print, produced from paper negatives.

    Frederick Archer invented photographs on glass in 1851. His ambrotype process competed with both the salt paper print and the daguerreotype. The Ambrotype didn't become popular in the United States until the mid-1850s. 

    Shirley's family no longer owns the original photograph. I'm hoping another of Mary Jane's descendants still does and can shed some light on just what type of picture their ancestor posed for.


    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

  • 1850s photos | ambrotype | daguerreotype | salt paper print
    Monday, October 21, 2013 3:07:05 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, October 13, 2013
    Spotting a Copy of an Old Family Photo: Part 2
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I discussed photographic copies. It's a big topic. I used Shirley Dunkle's photo as an example. In the case of her photo, it was the context and the costume of the image that clued me into it being a copy.

    I've received several questions about the topic this week, so I'm going to delay discussing the identity of the woman in Shirley's photo until next week to focus more on copies.

    So, how can you spot a copy? Sometimes it's a little thing and other times it's pretty obvious.

    Here's a photo from my research collection:
     
    copy1.jpg 

    It's a little fellow from the mid-19th century. Can you see the scalloped mat visible in this copy? The original in this case was a daguerreotype.  The reflective nature of a daguerreotype made it difficult to photograph.  It's a great example of an obvious copy. The rest of the evidence in the image added to the identification of it not being an original.

    copy2.jpg
    The copy is a real-photo postcard of the type that dates to the early 20th century. Real-photo postcards are introduced circa 1900. Someone (perhaps the little boy all grown up) wrote on the card that the original image was taken 52 years in the past. Too bad there are no other identifiers on the card, like a name, date or location.

    There were photographic copies in the early days of photography as well. The only way to make an identical daguerreotype was to either duplicate the pose or make a copy of the original.

    Photographers' imprints often include a statement about their ability to provide copies. Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, paper prints and tintypes were all copied in photo studios when an owner needed another one.

    One person asked about remounting of pictures. Theoretically it's possible to remount an older image on newer card stock, but I've never seen an example of this from the 19th century. It was far easier for a photographer to re-photograph the original.

    I'm still working on Shirley's mystery. She's added another image to the mix. Tune in next week!
     


    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

  • 1850s photos | daguerreotype
    Sunday, October 13, 2013 11:43:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, October 06, 2013
    Spotting a Copy
    Posted by Maureen

    Here's a pretty typical family scenario: Mom and Dad have their picture taken in the early 1850s. Years later each of their five children wants a copy, so someone takes the original picture to the photo studio to have paper prints made. Each of those children pass that paper copy down to their children and so on until today. What happened to the original?  Generally the answer is, "Who knows?"

    Shirley Dunkle showed me this photo at a recent meeting of the Falmouth (Mass.) Genealogical Society. Shirley is a descendant of the woman in this photo.

    Dunkle2- Moores family - About 1860.jpg
     
    I knew immediately that this paper print is a copy of an earlier image. The woman is wearing a dress and hairstyle that was very fashionable for 1856-58:
    • Pagoda sleeves that bell out at the elbow with white undersleeves.
    • Straight trim on the sleeves and bodice.
    • Wide fringed bretelles that meet in a point at the waist.
    • Ribbons in her hair that show behind her collar.
    • She wears her hair behind her ears with small drop earrings.

    Dunkle 3- Moores family - About 1860.jpg

    I personally love the hand-crocheted lace collar at her neck, accessorized with a brooch. A necklace of shell or glass beads also accents her neck.

    Shirley's unknown ancestor is a young woman, likely less than 20 years of age. Estimating an age can narrow down the possibilities on her family tree.

    While the clothing definitely points to the 1850s, it was the context of the photo that identified it as a copy of an earlier photo.

    Dunkle - Moores family - About 1860.jpg

    Heavy gray cardstock wasn't available in photo studios of the 1850s. It's a copy likely made around 1900.  

    I'll tackle this triple mystery next week:

    • Who made the copy?
    • Who's the young woman?
    • What type of photo was the original?

    Unfortunately, Shirley doesn't know who owns the original picture.


    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

  • 1850s photos | hairstyles | jewelry | women
    Sunday, October 06, 2013 6:47:01 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, September 29, 2013
    A Photo Identification Home Run
    Posted by Diane

    The little girl in last week's column has a name! She's Lydia Rock.

    Girl Rock  002.jpg

    It only took a few hours of research by Dan Gwinn. I'd suggested that he look for a child born in the early 1860s. He began by re-examining his Rock family history. I was thrilled to get an email that started, "I think I may have found something." His third-great-grandmother Mary Ann Cooper Hornberger was the originator of the album. In it, she collected pictures of her aunts and uncles. Her uncle Allen and his wife Mary had a daughter Lydia, born in 1861.

    In the back of the album was a labeled picture of Lydia from circa 1880. Take a close look at her smile and features.They match the little girl in the fringed chair! Don't you love the marcel wave in her hair?

    Lydia Rock1.jpg

    The little girl, whom we now know as Lydia, and the older woman had their picture taken in the same studio. Allen's wife, Mary, was born in 1839. The older woman is quite possibly her.

    rock1.jpg

    Dan's third-great-grandmother arranged the photos in the album. On the first page is an unidentified man. In the second and third spots are Mary (the woman above) and Lydia. Could the man be Allen?  It's very possible.  The revenue stamp on the back of this photo dates it to between Aug. 1, 1864, and Aug. 1, 1866. This man is the right age to be Allen. Generally, family members are kept together in an album's arrangement.

    CDV Allen Rock (2).jpg

    The first person in an album is someone that an album's arranger knew very well. There was a close family relationship between Allen and his niece (Dan's third-great-grandmother). She admired him enough to name one of her own children after him.

    Dan wonders if the little girl's boots are prominently displayed to show off her father's wares. Uncle Allen Rock was an well-known boot and shoe store owner in Lancaster City, Pa.

    Allenrockad..jpg

    The clues led Dan to identify not one, but three family photos. It's equivalent to a home run hit.


    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 | 1880s photos | children | Civil War | photo albums | women
    Sunday, September 29, 2013 9:35:51 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, September 22, 2013
    "Reading" a Family Photo Album
    Posted by Maureen

    I love a good story, don't you? Every photo album tells one if you know where to look. The arrangement of the images is a key part of unraveling the threads of the tale.

    If you're like Daniel Gwinn, you probably inherited a family photo album with few (if any) identified photos. Here's how to approach this very common photographic brick wall.
    • Start with provenance. Who owned the album before you? Who owned it before them? The ownership of the album can help you determine from which branch of the family it descends.

    • Who's on the first page? OK, so you might not immediately know the answer to this question, but this person can unlock the whole album. The person in the number one spot is a very important person to the creator of the album. It could be a mother, a father, a husband, a child or in a few instances, it's the creator of the album. Place this photo in a time frame by studying photographic format, clothing and any other clues that are in the image.
       
    • Who's next? The individuals closest to the front are also very important to the person who laid out the album. Generally, husbands and wives are grouped together on adjacent pages.

    • Not everyone in the album is necessarily family. Nineteenth-century individuals collected photographs of family, friends, neighbors and even famous persons. Your album might be a mix of these.

    Each album starts with good intentions. The person placing the photos in the book likely had a plan for at least the first half of it. I've seen a lot of family photo albums and they have those good intentions in common—but by the end of the album, images are usually jumbled.

    Like any good book, it's best to begin at the beginning. Don't jump around or rush to the ending. Each page needs to be studied and placed in a time frame and a place. Photographer's imprints can help you place an image geographically. Every little detail can assist in the identification.

    In Daniel's case, the album came to him through his great aunt Elsie Hornberger. It belonged to her grandmother. He knows that most of the individuals in it are members of the Rock family, with origins in Lancaster County, Pa. He's submitted two tintypes that are complete mysteries. 

    Tintypes were patented in 1856 and remained common until the 1930s.

    rock1.jpg

    A few details in this picture place it in a time frame:

    • The fringed velvet chair. This is a photographer's prop. Chairs like it appear in photographs taken all over the United States.  I've never seen it in a photo taken before the late 1860s.

    • The woman wears a bodice called a polanaise with long ends that drape down over the skirt. In many cases, the skirt has ruffles and ruching. This woman's skirt is plain.

    • This photo dates from approximately 1869 to 1875.

    • Dan thinks the woman could be Caroline Rock Cooper, born in 1828. That would make this woman's age in her 40s

    I love the little book on her lap. It appears to have a plush cover and a round medallion on it.

    rock book.jpg

    There's something else that's interesting. Did you notice that the picture is reversed? Unless a photographer used a reversal lens, early images are mirrored. Here's the book with the reversal fixed.

    book reversed.jpg

    Here's the whole image with the reversal fixed.

    rock1a.jpg

    She holds the book with her right hand and her left arm rests on the chair.

    Dan's second photo show a little girl smiling for the photographer sitting in the same chair.

    Girl Rock  002.jpg

    It's obviously the same studio because it's an identical rug and chair. The hat is great! It has a wide brim, mid-size crown and features feathers and a velvet ribbon and bow. In the late 1860s, little girls wore dresses similar to those worn by their mothers. The yoked bodice and small ruffled collar point to this image being taken around the same time as the first picture, of the woman. The big question is, "Who is she?"

    • She's probably around 10 years of age.

    • She's not Caroline's daughter, Mary Ann, who was born in 1852. Mary Ann would be 18 in 1870

    While the older woman could be Caroline Rock Cooper, it also could be someone else in the family. It's unlikely that the girl is Caroline's daughter. 

    In order to solve this mystery, Dan needs to examine his family tree for a girl born in approximately 1860. These two photos could be mother and daughter, so locating a girl born in that year could solve both of his photo mysteries.

    For more information on solving family photo album puzzles, see my book Family Photo Detective.



    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 | children | hats | women
    Sunday, September 22, 2013 4:17:44 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 16, 2013
    More Ancestors at Work: Early 1900s Meat-Cutting Plant
    Posted by Maureen

    If you've ever read The Jungle (available free on Project Gutenberg), author Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel describing Chicago's meatpacking industry, then you may have tried to imagine what it was like to work in that industry in the early 20th century. Roxanne Munn's photos provide an glimpse into how meat made it to our ancestors' dinner tables.

    editMunnsDrummondMeats2.jpg

    Above, Munn's great-grandfather Frank Woletz stands with his hands on the counter, furthest forward on the right.  His supervisor stands on the other side of the table. He's the man in the coat, tie and hat.  The rest of the workers wear leather aprons to protect their clothes while preparing meat for market.  In the background are carcasses. Woletz worked at Drummond's Meat Cutting Plant in Eau Claire, Wis.

    Canadian immigrant David Drummond established his meat packing business in 1873. Forty years later it was the largest plant of its type in northwestern Wisconsin.

    editmunnsDrummondMeats.jpg

    In this image, Marie Woletz, Roxanne's great-aunt, sits second from the right in the sausage preparation room. On the left is a ranch full of hanging sausages. Typical outfits for women working in this industry were leather aprons and white muslin caps.  

    Roxanne is trying to find out who else is in the photos. She's also posted them on the Wisconsin GenWeb site hoping for more identifications. If you had an ancestor who worked at Drummond's, you might recognize one of the faces.

    These images are not your typical family photo. It's the type of photo taken by factory owners, labor activists and government investigators. I'd love to know who took the images and for what purpose. I'm looking for additional images taken at the plant. 


    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

  • group photos | men | occupational | women
    Monday, September 16, 2013 4:17:01 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]