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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, March 17, 2014
Cars in Family Photos
Posted by Maureen

In 20th century family photos, it's pretty common to see folks posed with their automobiles. It's a variation on the late 19th century scene with the family posed with their horse.  

Not everyone owned a car. Photo studios jumped on this as a marketing opportunity. Individuals could go to have their picture taken and pose in a fake car (or even on a plane).

wiseman.jpg

Elizabeth Wiseman thinks her grandfather is behind the steering wheel in this studio shot of four men in a fake automobile.  Before I weigh in on who's in the car, I'm going to ask her for a higher resolution photo.

The first thing you notice when you look at this photo is that the steering wheel in on the right side.  In the early years of American automobile manufacturing, it's not unusual to see the wheel on the right.  It was pretty typical for early horseless carriages.  There was a rare car known as a Hamilton constructed in 1909 that also featured a right-hand steering wheel. Only 25 were made.

There were so many car manufacturers in this country that there's no comprehensive guide. Just like fashion, the date is in the details. Start by looking at the length of the chassis, the style of the wheels and headlamps as well as the style of the windshield (if there is one).

These four men posed for a photo seated in a studio prop that resembled a touring car.  I love the small side door with a handle!

wiseman2.jpg


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 | automobiles | props in photos | Vehicles in photos
    Monday, March 17, 2014 1:54:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, March 09, 2014
    Stories in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    Three Women  Man on Fallen Treeedit.jpg

    Way back in grade school, I learned that the building blocks of a good story are who, what, where, when and how. Those elements plus a little family history lore add up to tell a tale.

    In the case of this photo, here's how it breaks down:

    Who: There are lot of "might"s in Jane Bonny's email but here's who she thinks might be in the photo. The woman on the far left might be her grandmother Grace Wickline (born 1891).
     
    crop1Three Women  Man on Fallen Tree.jpg

    According to Jane, the woman on the far right bears a bit of a resemblance to Grace's sister Bella, but Bella never lived near her sister.

    The woman in the center could be Grace's mother-in-law, Henrietta Gardner, but it all depends on the date of the photo. Grace married in 1923.

    Where: From 1910 to about 1923, Grace lived in Hidalgo County, Texas. She met her future husband, Francis Cooper Anderson, there. 

    Hidalgo County was a base for the US Army beginning in 1916, when American soldiers invaded Mexico in search of Pancho Villa. You can read more about it here.

    What: Exactly what's happening here is a bit of a mystery. It looks like a group on an outing.  Who's behind the camera is unknown.  It's important to think about who took a snapshot, because there's a relationship of some sort between that individual and the folks in a candid image.

    When: Now we are at the key piece of evidence. A date or time frame can help to confirm or refute an identification.

    On the woman who might be Grace, the deep crowned hat with a small brim is interesting. There were hats like this in the late 1910s and in the early 1920s, but hats in the late teens had brims that tilted down, not up like in the 1920s. 

    Bangs start to become fashionable again circa 1920 and if women didn't crop their hair they found ways to pin it up to look shorter. That's what this woman has done.

     crop3Three Women  Man on Fallen Tree.jpg

    These clues plus the dress styles suggest this photo was taken circa 1920. So Grace would be 29 in this photo.

    crop 2Three Women  Man on Fallen Tree.jpg

    Jane doesn't recognize the young man on the far left. He doesn't resemble Grace's husband, Francis.

    There is a great family history nugget relating to Grace. She told her family that she had a boyfriend in the Army, but that she didn't continue seeing him because she judged him to be without character.

    This man is not wearing a military uniform, but Jane wonders if this could be the boyfriend. Could they be holding hands? It's unclear. 

    The how in this photo involves trying to figure out his identity. First I'd compare his photo to other images of Francis. Perhaps he's related to the woman on the far right. 

    If he's not Francis, then who are the other two women?  Perhaps other relatives came to visit Grace in Texas. Posting this image online and in social media might help.


    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 | Military photos
    Sunday, March 09, 2014 10:48:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, March 02, 2014
    Sweden to the U.S. and Back Again
    Posted by Maureen

    Do you have photographs in your collection that were taken overseas? That's Maria Benini's problem. Only she lives in Stockholm, Sweden. and her mystery photo was taken in Illinois. 

    Benini found this boy's picture in a little brown box that her mother had in her family home in southern Sweden.

     mariabeniniJohn Doe Swedish boy.jpg
    mariabenini backohn Doe Swedish boy.jpg
     
    This little lad sat for his photo about 1870.  This date is based on the shape and style of the card photograph, the style of his suit and tie as well as the presence of the chair.

    Edgar Codding was a successful photographer in Knoxville, Illinois.
    1870 census codding.jpg
    1870 Federal Census record from National Archive microfilm M593, roll 241, p.87 digitized image from Heritage Quest, a Proquest database.

    In 1888, Maria's great-grandfather, Anders Nilsson, immigrated to Sioux City, Iowa. He wrote letters home about his time in the United States and stayed until 1933 to 1935. He signed his letters from America with the name Andrew.

    Benini thinks this photo might be proof that other family members also immigrated. A quick search of the census shows 38 Nilsons living in Illinois in 1870. The name could be a variant spelling of Nilsson.

    This information is a start. I'll post an update if Benini has any new information.


    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 | children | Immigrant Photos
    Sunday, March 02, 2014 5:30:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, February 23, 2014
    Old Family Photos: Boys in Dresses
    Posted by Diane


    Collins-AB-and-Amanda-with-Arthur-Carlos-Ray2.jpg


    Anna Swinney's question doesn't have to do with the identity of the people in this picture. She knows who they are. She submitted it because of what the youngest child is wearing: a dress.

    Collins4.jpg

    Amanda Perryman Collins (1860-1930) and her husband Albert Buell Collins (1862-1942) posed with their three children (left to right): Arthur (1887-1908), Carlos (1891-1985) and Ray (1889-1984).  The absence of their fourth child helps date the picture to circa 1892.

    There are some interesting details in the picture.
    • Mom still wears a popular 1880s hairstyle of curly bangs with her hair pulled back and a wide lace collar. 
    • Notched edges cabinet cards were in style in the 1880s to circa 1900.

    • Dad wears his tie under his collar.

    In the 1890s, Highland-style suits were popular for boys. These consisted of a short jacket and a kilt.

    Since this family still retains remnants of the 1880s in this early 1890s photo, let's look at boys' clothing from that decade: The general rule for both boys' and girls' attire was long dresses until they could walk, then shorter dresses to allow movement. Boys wore skirts until about age 5. Often, boys skirts' were paired with short pants underneath.

    Toddler boys also wore skirts and dresses in the 1860s and 1870s. In the 1860s, there was a type of loose-fitting "French dress" that was worn loosely belted at the waist. 

    It's also not unusual to see boys with "love-locks," or long sausage curls in family photos. If you're having a hard time telling little boys form little girls, here's a rule of thumb: Boys wore their hair parted on the side, while girls sported center parts.


    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

  • 1890s photos | children
    Sunday, February 23, 2014 5:05:37 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, February 16, 2014
    New England House History Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    There are photos that get stuck in my mind. Those are persistent mysteries that defy strategies to solve them. Bergetta Monroe's photo of a large farm is one of those images.

    I first wrote about it in 2009 in an article called Raising the Roof: Architectural Images. On a cold winter day about 1870, a photographer climbed the roof of a building and took this picture. It's a detailed look at a family's rich agricultural landholdings. Wood smoke comes out of the chimney in the foreground and the possible owner of the property stands at the gate.




    monroe house 2.jpg

    That was five years ago, and web searching has changed a bit since then.  When I first wrote about this image, I discussed the following identification details. Here they are with some updates.

    Provenance
    This is key information. Knowing who owned this image before Bergetta's father can help solve the mystery. Her father told her that her grandfather Sidney Hinman Monroe was born in Jericho, Vt., in 1843, and then moved to Wisconsin. 

    Who's Who
    There may only be three generations between the people who posed for this picture and its current owner—Bergetta's grandfather, her father and her.  There appears to be an older generation sitting on a bench on the side of the house.

    monroe house 3.jpg

    Location
    Bergetta's ancestors lived in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Wisconsin. I suggested making a list of all the specific towns in which they lived. 
    • Search census records for the people. It's possible that the man at the gate is the owner or manager and the older couple lives there. The older couple would've been born in the early years of the 19th century. There might be an extended family living there.
       
    • The owner of this property would stand out due to his wealth.  It's a very large farm with many outbuildings. Tax records and deeds would also supply details on her ancestors' holdings.

    • Show the image to realtors in the towns in which her ancestors lived. This farm and its next-door building (the photographer stood on the roof to capture this picture) would be significant. I spent time today looking online at historical houses in Jericho with no matches.

    • Check with historical societies and historic preservation groups as well. It's possible the house is now gone.

    • I tried using Google Images for matches using Bergetta's photo for comparison by uploading it into the search engine. Nothing turned up.

    Tax Stamp

    Back in 2009, I spoke with revenue stamp expert Michael E. Aldrich.  He stated that this stamp on the back of the photo is significant due to its light blue color. A darker blue stamp was issued in 1864, but this one wasn't available until 1870, providing a date for the image. Because this stamp doesn't fall within the traditional revenue stamp period of August 1864 to August 1866, Aldrich thought it was placed there later.  If you'd like to see what other revenue stamps look like click here.  To learn more about a particular stamp, click the image. 

    I encourage you to go to the original article to see more pictures of the property. The house has gorgeous Doric columns and the barn is of Italianate design.  This was owned by someone who would've been very well known in his community.

    Strategy
    I'd follow the land evidence first to narrow down possible locations. Look for relatives that combine wealth and property. The 1870 Agricultural Census could offer clues once you have a list of towns. This non-population census exists for 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. You can learn more about them from the National Archives. It took awhile to build a farm like this.

    Next step is to check in with realtors, historical societies and preservationists.

    Bergetta has already tried social media using her FaceBook page, but she should also look for pages for the towns in which her ancestor's lived.

    I remain convinced that this is a picture mystery that can be solved!  It's all about connecting with the right pieces of information and following the bread crumbs.


    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 | hats | house/building photos
    Sunday, February 16, 2014 7:40:47 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, February 10, 2014
    Photo Album Mystery: Whose Granddad is It?
    Posted by Maureen

    Photo albums are always interesting to look at.  You can find almost anything tucked into a album: I've seen locks of hair, swatches of fabric, colorful scraps of paper, postcards, family photos, and images of friends and famous folk. Most times it isn't clear as to who's who.

    Art Parker calls himself a "Kodak kid" from Rochester who grew up in the Pocket Instamatic generation. He's fascinated with photographs but is stumped by this image.

    GrandDadArmstrong.jpg

    At some point, a well-meaning relative of this man wrote on the page, "Grand Dad Armstrong."  I bet you know the problem.  The big question is, whose granddad is Mr. Armstrong?

    This is a question of provenance. The history of ownership of this image is very important. This album is currently owned by Art's cousin. To verify the identity of this gent, it's important to know who owned the album all the way back to when it was put together. Of course, it's possible someone added that image later, but it's also likely that the person who placed the images in the album put it there.

    Some 19th-century albums have patent numbers in the front that can suggest when a relative bought it. Researching patents is really easy at Google's Patent Search. Art can enter a patent number into the search box and find the patent relating to the album. Nineteenth century patents included an illustration of the item.

    GrandDadArmstrong close up.jpg

    The general appearance of this image suggests that it's a copy of a daguerreotype. Here are some tips on spotting a copy in your album. A daguerreotype is a shiny, reflective image on a silver-coated copper plate that needs to be held at a angle to view. You can read more about daguerreotypes in the January/February 2014 Family Tree Magazine.

    Art believes there are two possibilities: This man is either Isaac Armstrong (1779-1855) or his son Alfred B. Armstrong (1819-1902). 

    The knotted tie worn by this man looks like those worn in the mid-19th century. Combine this detail with his age and the fact that it's a copy, and it appears this man could be Isaac Armstrong. His picture was likely taken in the early 1850s.

    Now I want to know ... where is the original daguerreotype? Descendants of the Armstrong family still live in New York State's Southern Tier. I'm hoping the original is still in the family.


    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 | cased images | daguerreotype | Revolutionary War
    Monday, February 10, 2014 10:07:58 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, February 02, 2014
    Card Photo Clues
    Posted by Maureen

    What's a card photo? If you've heard the term you're probably wondering. A card photo is an image mounted on cardstock. The earliest ones are called carte de visite and are approximately 2.5x4.5 inches (although the sizes can vary a bit). Late 19th-century cabinet cards are larger and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from round ones of the 1880s to long thin ones.

    Dating a card photo relies on its size, the format of the image, the photographer's work dates, clothing clues and family history information.

    Jim TeVogt found this photo in an old album that belonged to a member of the McBride family of Minnesota, who was directly related to the McBrides of Sarpy County, Neb. 

    mcbride unknown.jpg

    I don't have the dimensions of this image, but the photographic format and the clothes hold plentiful clues.

    Images set into an oval were common in the 1860s and beyond. In the 1860s, images in oval settings usually featured pseudo frames or patriotic symbols. By the 1870s, the photographic image included the picture of the person and decorative elements such as the marble pattern surrounding the picture.

    This man's wide lapels on his jacket and his loose tie are common in the mid-1870s. The clues add up to suggest he sat for a portrait in the mid- to late 1870s.

    He definitely resembles the McBrides. This second picture is John McBride, Jr. (born May 12, 1865): 

     John McBride Jr  - Dec  15 1902.jpg

    His father was John McBride, who married in 1861. Here's John McBride, Sr.'s picture:
     
    John McBride Sr - About 1861.jpg

    The man in the 1861 image has a wider nose and wider jaw than the unknown man in the top image.

    Photo albums are a usually a mix of close family, distant cousins and friends. While the unknown man closely resembles John McBride, Jr., there are big discrepancies in the appearance of John McBride, Sr., and the unknown man.


    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 | 1870s photos | beards | men
    Sunday, February 02, 2014 5:44:35 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, January 26, 2014
    Who's Who in a Photo? Strategies for Finding Out
    Posted by Diane

    Last week I discussed Karen Perry's unidentified photo



    Today I called her to chat about what she's learned about it since she submitted the image last summer.

    She told me showed it to a distant relative, who said he recognized the man in the center but couldn't remember his name.

    perry3.jpg

    Since this relative descends from her paternal grandmother's side of the family, Karen thought maybe these folks were McClures who lived in northwestern Ohio.  

    Karen decided to take the picture to her class reunion. The Grover Hill school has a reunion where graduates from all classes gather in one place.  Unfortunately, no one recognized anyone in the picture.

    She then tried to upload the photos to an Allen County, Ohio, genealogy page, but doesn't remember which one. The Allen County Genealogy group has a Facebook page that she could join. That's a good next step. She'd then be able to post the photo.

    Members of her Stout, McClure, Parker and Stratton families lived all over northwestern Ohio in Allen, Van Wert, Paulding and Hancock counties. The Ohio Genealogical Society is an active group with an annual conference and chapter meetings. Karen could reach out to chapters in those areas and see if they could show the photo at meetings. 

    While connecting with someone locally could be helpful in her quest to identify these folks, she could also try posting it on sites such as DeadFred.com and AncientFaces.com. In the description, she can list all the possible surnames and locations.

    Her mother identified all the other family pictures except this one. Why didn't she recognize any of these people? That's a big part of this puzzle. Since this photo dates from circa 1920 and there are likely individuals in their 20s in this picture, several of them could have lived long enough for Karen to meet them as a child.

    • Were they distant cousins who didn't remain in contact with Karen's family?
    • Did they live further away and thus weren't part of the larger family circle for gatherings? 

    Karen says the man in the middle looks familiar but can't think why he does. It's possible he resembles someone else in the family. She wants to figure out who they are and wished she'd asked her mother more about family history. Her sentiment is a common one.  

    Of course, there is no guarantee that these individuals are family. Our ancestors often sent photos of themselves to friends. Until this mystery is solved, she won't know if they are relatives or acquaintances. 


    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 | Genealogy events | group photos
    Sunday, January 26, 2014 6:40:08 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, January 19, 2014
    Figuring Out Who's Family in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Do you own one of those photos that nags you with unanswered questions?  Karen Perry does. 

    Perry unidentified1.jpg

    Unlike the rest of the photos in her collection, this lovely family group is completely unidentified. She's asked relatives, but no one knows who they are.

    Mom and Dad are in the center surrounded by their children. Two sons flank their parents with the other son stands center back.  Of course there could be in-laws in the photo, too. 

    Karen wrote that her "close-in" relatives lived in Ohio. More distant relatives lived in Virginia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The problem with photo collections is that they're often a combination of family, friends and neighbors. These individuals might not be direct relatives.

    She thinks the older man looks very familiar and thought he might be one of her famous relatives. They have links to two presidential families, the Harrisons and the McKinleys. She's looked online for pictures of the famous folk, but didn't see any obvious connections.

    Thankfully, Karen supplied full contact information with her submission so I'm calling her this week to see if there are any other clues in the family photo collection that would help with this identification. <smile>

    Right now, I can estimate when the image was taken based on their attire. The round eyeglasses of the man on the left, the loose-fitting dresses of the women and those short hairstyles pinpoint this to circa 1920. 

    perry2.jpg

    Here's a fun Flickr page for you with images of people wearing eyeglasses. Click an image for more information about the photo and the glasses.

    I'm hopeful that Karen will have some other details to share.  Once I've spoken with her I'll share some additional tips on how to share this photo.


    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 | group photos | men | women | eyeglasses
    Sunday, January 19, 2014 3:21:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, January 13, 2014
    Puzzling over Black Dresses
    Posted by Maureen

    Rebecca Foster wrote to me: Most of my elder family has passed away, so I am struggling to piece together my family history. I believe this is my third-great-grandmother Mary Ann Fagan.

    fagan2.jpg

    Rebecca initially thought this could be her in 1860s mourning dress, but she's right to doubt her initial assessment. This is an older woman. Mary Anne had a daughter in 1881, so an 1860s date is unlikely.

    She wears a dark dress, but is it black? It's possible the photographer colored only the chair and background, not the dress, making it appear the dress is black. 

    Photographic methods of the 19th century and early 20th century made many colors look black in photos.
    This woman posed around 1900 to 1910. Wicker chairs with curled backs appear in photographs taken in the 1890s and into the first decade of the 20th century (and a bit beyond).

    The dress has full sleeves and a pleated bodice. She could be wearing mourning clothes, but before making that determination, I'd like to learn more about Mary Anne and her family. I'll email Rebecca and see what else she knows.

    The rules for black mourning dress in the 1860s were set by Queen Victoria, and included black fabric without a sheen, black crape covering the face and a total lack of color. However, the rules for mourning varied based on the relationship to the deceased, and not every woman in a black dress is in mourning. 

    Other colors also were popular to show respect for the deceased. There are additional details in Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album.


    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 | 1900-1910 photos | mourning photos | women
    Monday, January 13, 2014 5:52:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]