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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, May 18, 2014
Cousin Connections Through Old Pictures
Posted by Diane

Never underestimate the power of a picture.  A single photo can connect you with a missing piece of evidence, point you in a new direction or help you meet "new" relatives. 

Last week's picture brought two women closer together and solved a more than 60-year-old mystery.

Broderickfront.jpg

Alice Broderick and her cousin Mary Ellen Gillespie arrived at Ellis Island in June 1906.

At one time the Gillespie relatives were very close, but as often happens, new generations create distance between cousins. Everyone means to keep in touch, but time and circumstances interfere.

Anne Hanlon has spent years researching her mother's family history. A few years ago, Anne's sister gave her a letter the family found in their mother's belongings when she died in 1949.  It was from a Mary Rupp, signed "your cousin."  Anne didn't know exactly how her mother was connected to Mrs. Rupp.

Anne periodically Googled the name "Mary Rupp" to see if any new information came to light. One of these searches led her to Maureen Petrilli's Ancestry.com page. She sent Maureen a message.  One query answered family history mysteries for both women.

MaryEllenGillespie2.jpg
Mary Ellen Gillespie Donelan Rupp

Anne, who owns the above photograph of the two women, thought one of the women on the postcard might be Maureen's grandmother. The details in last week's column verified when the picture was taken. There's a striking resemblance between the woman in Maureen's picture of her grandmother and the seated woman in the postcard.

Maureen's paternal great-grandmother, Mary Rupp, wrote that letter to Anne's mother. No one knows if Mary received a reply from her cousin.

Mary Ellen Gillespie Rupp's first husband, Michael Joseph Donelan, (Maureen's paternal grandfather) was crushed to death in a mining accident in Pennsylvania in 1921, just four months before Maureen's father was born. Mary became a widow with four children to support and another one on the way. Once she remarried, the family didn't really talk about her first husband.  However, in the letter to her cousin, Mary mentioned that Michael was born in Galway, Ireland, a fact that Maureen didn't know.

Anne, related to Maureen through Mary's first cousin, sent her newly rediscovered cousin both the letter and the photo. There may yet another connection between Anne and Maureen: Anne's father's brothers married sisters with the same surname as Maureen's grandfather! 

Online reunions happen everyday. Do you have one to share?


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-research tips | Reunions
    Sunday, May 18, 2014 4:36:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, May 11, 2014
    Mothers in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Who doesn't own an image of an ancestral mother with her children? It seems like everyone has at least one.
    Broderickfront.jpg

    This week's photo doesn't show a mother. Instead, she's referenced in a note on the back.

    Maureen Petrilli's grandmother Mary Ellen Gillespie arrived at Ellis Island with her cousin Alice Broderick in June 1906. They were headed for Alice's sister Margaret's home in Scranton, Pa. Both women were from Eskeragh, Ireland. 

    On the reverse of the postcard is a message: "Give this to Mrs. Broderick Eskeraugh Dooley So from her daughter"

    It seems pretty clear that a copy of this image was meant to go to either Alice's or Mary Ellen's mother. Both bore the surname of Broderick at this point.

    One of the key ways to date a postcard is to look at the back.

    broderick stamp box.jpg

    Stamp boxes are very important. This one shows the postcard was manufactured by the Kruxo Co.  A quick check of Playle's stamp box website provides information on when this style of stamp box was common. Playle's suggests that this design was used about 1907, providing another piece of evidence that Alice and Mary Ellen posed for this picture around the time they immigrated.

    The term postcard first appeared on privately produced cards in 1901; until that point, they were called private mailing cards. Initially only postcards produced by the US Postal Service could use the term.

    In the early years, real photo postcard printers were prohibited from using divided back cards with separate areas for address and message. That changed March 1, 1907. You can read more about postcard history on Wikipedia.

    This particular card doesn't have a divided back. 

    Many of us have postcards in our family photograph collections that were never sent. Maureen isn't sure if this card was ever sent to Ireland or, if it was, how it ended up back in the United States.


    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
    Sunday, May 11, 2014 3:24:33 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, May 05, 2014
    Texas Photo Mysteries
    Posted by Diane

    This past weekend I was the featured speaker for the Austin Genealogical Society. There were a lot of folks in the audience who weren't familiar with this Photo Detective blog. The big question was: Have I written about any Texas photo mysteries?  

    The answer is yes! Two. I did a quick search using the search box at the bottom of the left hand column on the blog.  

    Three Women  Man on Fallen Treeedit.jpg

    Back in March, I wrote about Jane Bonney's search for the identity of the women in the photo above, in Stories in the Family Album. Could Bonney's grandmother Grace Wickline be the woman on the far left?



    The mystery of this Texas twosome is still unsolved. Are they Confederate Guerillas?  The story was so intriguing that it was the focus of several columns.

    Two Texas Mysteries
     
    Texas Mystery Puzzle—No News

    Texas Trouble: Readers Respond
     
    Texas Twosome Revisited 

    Love the shirts worn by these two men! 

    Now that the attendees in Texas asked about photo mysteries in their state, I'm curious about mysteries from other states. I think it's time for a state by state directory. Stay tuned!

    I'll be at the National Genealogical Society conference this week. Please stop by booth 521 and say hello.


    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

  • men | unusual clothing
    Monday, May 05, 2014 7:26:58 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, April 27, 2014
    Sleeves Tell the Story
    Posted by Maureen

    Family history mixups happen all the time, especially with photo captions. Vicki Beegle wrote a name on this image awhile ago, but now she's not sure if it's a woman on her mother's side or her father's.  

    It's going to take a little time to sort this out.  In the mean time, I can tell her that there's one detail in this image that pinpoints the time frame when this woman lived: her sleeves.

    Holleman2 Viola Dickerson or bennett.jpg

    In the 1890s, women's sleeves dramatically changed. At the turn of the decade from the 1880s to the early 1890s, sleeves stood up straight from the shoulder in a sharp peak. In the mid-decade, large, oversize sleeves were fashionable. In the late 1890s, small puffs at the upper arm were common.   

    This woman's sleeve is the sharp peak of the early 1890s.

    Holleman3 Viola Dickerson or bennett.jpg

    It's a clue worth watching for. This small detail places this image in the 1889-1892 period.

    Another clue also confirms it's the 1890s: White cardstock mats were a popular choice in that decade.

    The big question is this woman's identity. She could be Viola Dickerson Holleman (b.1846) or Elizabeth Bennett (b.1841). Another photo of the same woman could confirm her identity.

    It's a worn photo with lots of scratches in the surface of the picture. To protect it from further wear and tear, I'd store in a non-PVC plastic sleeve, such as those available from archival suppliers and the Container Store.


    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 | women
    Sunday, April 27, 2014 5:28:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, April 21, 2014
    Foreign Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen



    This damaged image depicts one family line of Julie Townsend Gontarek's husband. Julie knows the image shows relatives in Poland, but not their identities. There are three possibilities: The Gontareks, Klamsky and Otrasek families all lived there.

    Before she can delve deeper, Julie wants to know when the picture was taken.

    It's a really interesting image. When I view pictures, my eyes dart over all the clues from sleeves to doorways.

    Look at the detail in this exterior doorway. It's lovely: 

     

    This young woman's sleeves suggest a date of the late 1890s, when there was fullness on the upper arm. The addition of plackets of contrasting fabric on the bodice and the cuffs shows off the skill of the person who made the dress.  I think she's pregnant: The longer bodice shows off what appears to be a baby bump.

     

    Mom wears a head scarf commonly seen on women in rural regions of Poland and other European countries. Her dress has detailing on the upper arm as well. Her long bodice is a little out of date for the late 1890s.



    Her little girl's clothing is typical for children: hair bows and short sleeves, which suggests warmer weather. I've seen a variety of clothes worn in rural regions both in the United States and overseas. Sometimes women would make clothes using older patterns, reusing older clothes and updating their fashions by adding sleeves or collars.  All the clothing worn here looks to be in excellent condition. 

    Both the mother and the girl shown above photo wear necklaces bearing crosses, which indicates their faith.

    The clothing clues in this image were confusing until I took a closer look at the men. Their collars date this image: Those starched, high-necked collars were popular about 1905. In particular, the man on the left wears a rounded-edge collar, common from about 1905 to at least 1915. 



    Men wore a wide variety of ties in the early 20th century, from long, thin knit ties to wide silk ties, as well as bow ties.

    This photo is full of family history clues:
    • The young girl leaning toward her mother appears to be around five years of age. If the picture dates between 1905 and 1915, then she was born between 1900 and 1910. I'm leaning toward the earlier end of this time frame.

    • The young pregnant bride looks like she'll be having a baby within a few months.

    • All of the individuals depicted could be relatives, but they also could be a collection of friends and family.

    • Who's not depicted?  Did someone in the family own a camera or did a professional take this image?
    I'd love to know the occasion for this photo.  Everyone is dressed up for a special event.  I'm hoping that these details help Julie figure out who's who and a reason this image was taken. 
     


    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 | children | Immigrant Photos | men | unusual clothing | women
    Monday, April 21, 2014 7:08:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, April 14, 2014
    Donating a Piece of History
    Posted by Maureen

    Now that Yvette LaGonterie knows that the mystery photo discovered in her grandparents' house doesn't show her family members, she asked me for advice on donating the image.

    The man in the family portrait LaGonterie found is Rev. George Frazier Miller, one of the founding members of the Niagara Movement, the predecessor of the NAACP.

    This is a question I'm asked on a fairly regular basis.  If you decide you'd like to pass on a photographic bit of history, first find an appropriate facility. Yvette wondered if she should donate the image to Howard University. Rev. Miller graduated from Howard.

    It's a good idea to call a library, historical society or archive first to see if it would be interested in your donation. So I called and spoke with woman who works with prints and photographs at the university. She would love to have the photo in the university collection, but there's a gift process that's pretty typical when an organization considers accepting donated material:
    • Staff would like to meet with Yvette, either over the phone or in person (if she's in the area). It's important to discuss all the details of the prospective gift.
    • Archivists and librarians want to see the condition of the original.  This can also be done virtually using a scan of the photo.
    • The next step is for the library to draw up a deed of gift that outlines everything discussed.
    • Once the parties sign the deed of gift, the university receives a copy and so does the donor.
    It looks like Yvette's picture will have another home. <smile>  Have you ever donated items to a historical or genealogical society?  Please share your experiences in the comment section below.


    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 news
    Monday, April 14, 2014 4:27:15 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Monday, April 07, 2014
    Next Steps After Solving a Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen

    What do you do after solving an old-photo mystery? I'm hoping you label the picture on the back using a soft graphite pencil. I'm also hoping you let that photograph take you to a new level of genealogy research.

    While the group portrait featured in last week's blog didn't end up being Yvette LaGonterie's relatives, she used the identification of the Reverend Miller's family to circle back to her own family research.

    Yvonne2.jpg

    She used Google to locate information on the house her ancestors lived in at 86 Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn. It's a fun research twist to use real estate sites to learn more about the places your ancestors lived. The house was new when Anna and Edward Powers raised their family. Today it's worth nearly $1.5 million.

    Real estate sites can provide:
    • current value of an ancestral home
    • the date of construction
    • photographs of the building

    Once I have an address for an ancestor, I often use sites like Zillow  and Google Maps to locate places where my family lived.

    annapowers1921edit.jpg

    Yvette also sent along a photograph of her grandmother, posed to show off her oversize coat, taken in 1921. It's a great fashion 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 | african american | house/building photos | women
    Monday, April 07, 2014 3:19:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, March 31, 2014
    Photo Success Story: Reverend George Miller
    Posted by Diane

    Last week I wrote about Yvette LaGonterie's mystery photo and the possible link to the Underground Railroad. The clues dated this photo to circa 1900.

    Yvonne2.jpg

    I wondered if the man's collar was actually a clue to his profession. Could that be a clerical collar?

    Rev Miller.jpg

    That one little question led to an identification. This family has a name!
    Yvette's ancestors Anna and Edward Powers lived in Brooklyn by the 1890s and were active in St. Augustine's Episcopal Church, when the pastor was the Rev. George Frazier Miller. During his time at the church (1896-1943), four generations of Yvette's family knew this man. The relationship extended from her great-great-grandparents to her mother. 

    Yvette found a photo of him on the University of Massachusetts website. It confirmed the identity. Rev. Miller was one of the founding members of the Niagara Movement, the predecessor of the NAACP. 

    He was a important person in the community and obviously someone the Powers knew quite well. That's why this family picture was in with their photos.

    Next week, I'll be back with more on Yvette's family and this photo.


    1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | african american
    Monday, March 31, 2014 3:23:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, March 24, 2014
    A Photographic Link to the Underground Railroad?
    Posted by Maureen

    YvonneMystery Family.jpg

    The condition of this photo isn't unusual. The heavy acidic cardboard mount is very fragile. It's rare to find a photo of this type in perfect condition. Store a photo like this in an acid- and lignin-free folder made of heavyweight cardstock, so it's supported.

    If you've ever found a box of photographs in a relative's home, then you understand Yvette LaGonterie's excitement when she located several photo albums in the back of a closet at her grandparents' house. The albums contained images dating as early as 1918. 

    The big mystery is this photo. It was loose in the box, not mounted in an album. She showed it to her mother, who said, "it looks like my maternal grandmother's family."

    Yvonne2.jpg

    Unfortunately, the facts don't line up exactly.

    LaGonterie's great-grandmother Ella Estelle Powers was born in Philadelphia circa 1878. Ella's parents were Anna Elizabeth White Foreman (circa 1852 - 1925) and Edward Francis Powers (circa 1857-1911). Anna's family was prominent in Philadelphia. She was the niece of Jacob Clement White, Sr., secretary of the Philadelphia Vigilance Association, a group active in the Underground Railroad.

    Anna and Edward had three daughters, so this family doesn't match their family. Did Anna or Edward have any siblings?  This could depict their family. These are some photo facts to consider:
    • The little boy's play suit is a item available from the mid-1890s into the 20th century.
    • Mom's hairstyle with the topknot on the crown of her head was common around 1900. That date also fits with her dress style.
    • Dad's suit is very interesting. While upturned collars were commonly available, it's the style of the jacket that's fascinating. It features cloth-covered buttons and doesn't have a traditional jacket opening. This jacket extends to the neckline.

    It's an intriguing photo due to the connection to prominent Philadelphia residents involved in the Underground Railroad, and because of that suit. Yvette is looking for a family with a son and a daughter that had a connection to her relatives.


    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 | african american | children | women
    Monday, March 24, 2014 7:34:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # 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]