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# Sunday, 05 March 2017
How to Identify the Right Couple in an Old Wedding Photo
Posted by Maureen

In the recent post 3 Clues to Identify Family in Old Wedding Photos, I asked a series of questions relating to this image belonging to William Davis: 



This week, I'm back with more information.

The clothing clues in this picture, including the woman's front-pleated skirt and  her bodice, all date the picture to the 1880s. Davis thinks the photo depicts William Issac Carrigan and Sarah Ann Hutton, who married Sept. 4, 1884.

Other Brides

To narrow the possibilities, I asked William if there were any other family weddings in the 1880s. There were three! (Four if you count the couple married in 1879, but I'll eliminate them for now. This bride's outfit is definitely from the 1880s.):
  • John Bailey Peyton Boswell and Lydia Ann Jane Trull married  Dec. 6, 1882, in Williamson Co, Ill.
  • Henry Wille and Elizabeth Theresa H. Bodedeker married circa 1886 possibly in St. Louis, Mo. 
  • William Issac Carrigan and Sarah Ann Hutton married Sept. 4, 1884, in Carrolton, Greene, Ill.

Financial Clues
All the couples except the Willes were from farming families. Henry Wille's father was a tavern owner who helped his son become a grocer. 

Armed with the list of other couples and some financial clues, I'm going to dig into the databases and see what other clues might pop up. I'll have more information next week.


Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now

  • Save
    1880s photos | wedding
    Sunday, 05 March 2017 14:22:52 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Sunday, 26 February 2017
    Old Movies: Study These Three Clues. Tell the Story.
    Posted by Maureen

     
    Romney, WV, March 1938. Library of Congress.


    Another Oscar statuette has been bestowed upon a movie of the year (not withstanding some painful-to-watch onstage confusion when the presenters announced the wrong Best Picture winner due to an envelope mixup).

    My family has a long history of being film buffs. My mother recalls Saturday double-features with her siblings. Even now, there's nothing she likes better than a good film (new or old). Do you know about your family connections with movie viewing? Here are some clues to look for:

    Trinkets and Treasures
    My grandmother collected an entire set of dishes from viewing movies at the local cinema. It wasn't until I was older that I learned the story behind those dinner plates. You might have a souvenir from an old movie in your family collection. It might be dinnerware, a trinket or a still. My Dad managed to get Boris Karloff's autograph. Unfortunately, he never told us the full story of that moment. It would've been a good one.

    Fashion Facts
    Movie stars were fashion trendsetters. The smokey eye make-up of the silent films became common place for our female ancestors, as did short hair thanks to the influence of Gloria Swanson and Theda Bara. That dark shadow and lipstick made their facial features more visible in black-and-white films. In 1915, Maybelline, Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden all offered women a way to look star-like.

    Look at family pictures from the early movie period to today. See if you can spot the fashion trends that first appeared in the movies.

    Movie-Making Relatives
    No one in my family ever participated in a professional film, but someone in your family might've had the opportunity. I met a man in September who told me of an ancestor who had starring roles in old westerns. He was fascinated by this untold tale and he had the pictures to prove it.

    Movies weren't always made in New York and Hollywood. In the early years, there were studios in small towns and large cities all over the country. For instance, there were several in my little home state of Rhode Island. 

    Much of movie history is lost. The films, stories and the stills are missing.  Use Google to search for lost films. You'll find links to a list of lost films on Wikipedia (including many from a 1937 Fox vault fire caused by combustible nitrate film) as well as a list of rediscovered gems.

    If your ancestor ran a movie theater, it's possible that tucked away in a box is movie memorabilia or even one of these missing films. You might own movie ephemera that a local museum would love to have in its collection. 

    Family history and film.  It has a nice ring. This is one of the stories that need to be documented before the persons connected to them are gone. 


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now

  • SaveSave
    1910s photos | movies
    Sunday, 26 February 2017 18:38:03 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [7]
    # Sunday, 19 February 2017
    3 Clues to Identify the Ancestors in Old Wedding Photos
    Posted by Maureen




    Dr. William Davis dated this photo in his collection to sometime between 1860 and 1890.  It once hung in his parents' house, but he can't remember which side of the family it represents. 
     
    The photo documents the wedding of one of Dr. Davis' ancestors, but which one? 

    If you find yourself wondering the same thing about an old wedding photograph, keep reading. Pictures that depict a bride and groom often contain specific clues to help you figure out more about the image and the individuals.

    Wedding photos also can hold the key to missing family information including where the wedding took place, the couple's religion, and their ethnicity. I have several questions about this image.

    Study the clothing
    Two young women in my family are currently planning weddings.  One stated she'd like to wear her mother's gown. The other one said the same thing, but in her case, her mother's gown also was worn by two earlier generations of women, beginning in 1890. Each bride updated the look of the dress, but kept the original bodice. 

    This is a cautionary tale: Not all brides wore a brand-new dress and veil.  Dresses could be re-made and veils were often inherited.

    Study all the clothing worn in the picture to make sure that all the facts add up. By the time Dr. Davis wrote to me, he'd already determined that this picture could have been taken in the 1880s. He's right. 

    The dress with its center pleats in the skirt, the fitted bodice and the bustle all suggest the 1880s.  The man's close-fitting jacket with narrow collar are from the same period.

    I love the bride's mantilla-style veil and the pearls around her ruff collared neck and her wrist. Lovely!  Look closely, you can see her simple shoes.

    Their matching white gloves suggest that this was a formal wedding.

    Notice that the veil is white, but the dress is a different color.  It could be dark ivory, or one of the popular colors in the 1880s—a rust tone or a reddish shade. Many different colors were worn for weddings in that decade. Sometimes newspaper announcements for weddings of prominent community members mentioned details of the bride's gown. 

    Look at your family tree
    Davis thinks this photo could be William Issac Carrigan and Sarah Ann Hutton, who married Sept. 4, 1884, in Carrollton, Greene County, Ill. He could be right. It all depends on who else in the family married in the early 1880s.

    According to the census, Carrigan and Hutton both were born in Illinois.

    They posed in an elaborate studio, one with real furniture and a gorgeous painted backdrop. This couple's attire suggests they have some means. Does this fit what Davis knows about Carrigan and Hutton?

    I'm hoping Davis has other wedding suspects on his short list of people married in the 1880s.  While it's possible this picture shows William and Sarah, I'd like to know more about their families' status in society before saying yes. 



    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now

  • Save
    1880s photos | wedding
    Sunday, 19 February 2017 20:50:58 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [10]
    # Monday, 13 February 2017
    How to Take the Headache Out Of Old Confusing Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Carol Tear has a photos that's full of contradictions. It's enough to give a genealogist a headache, but it doesn't have to.

    She thinks this is Hannah Marquart Obenshain (born in 1788, dies sometime between 1850 and 1860). With a bit of research and family data, some of the identity confusion should disappear. Here's how you can do it:



     
    1. Study the history of ownership.
    A two times great grandmother, Edmonia, once owned the picture. Edmonia's father and grandparent's once lived with Hannah's eldest son.

    Seems good, right?

    Here's the problem: The picture bears the name of a photographer, W.B. Atkins, in West Virginia. West Virginia didn't become a state until 1863. Carol wonders how it's possible for this photographer to take this picture years after Hannah's death.

    There's another problem with her photo. The white cardstock it's printed on dates from the 1890s. That tells us that this image is a copy of a much earlier picture.

    2. Study the image.
    This is a wonderful photo. Hannah wears a daycap under her headscarf. The caps ruffles frame her face in the style of the early 19th century. She clasps her hands together perhaps to keep her still.

    Don't you love her glasses?  They could be a tarnished brass. That style and material was common in the mid-19th century. There is an interesting article on historic eyeglasses online, History on Your Face. Glasses stayed pretty much the same from 1835 until 1870.  

    When did Hannah sit for her portrait?  I'd estimate circa 1860. 

    3. Research the photographer

    W. B. Atkins first appears in the Bluefield Daily Telegram newspaper beginning in 1896. In the 1920s, he's referred to as the town's pioneering photographer. You can find this paper online at Newspapers.com.

    Now Carol has another question to answer: Who in her family was living in Bluefield and took an old photo of Hannah to Atkins to have a copy made? 

    In this instance, the clues of ownership and the photographer help clear up some of the puzzling features of this photo.
      

    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now

  • Save
    1860s photos | 1890s photos | women
    Monday, 13 February 2017 01:40:06 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, 05 February 2017
    3 Old Photo Stories You Can Tell Today
    Posted by Maureen




    What are you going to do with all your old photos? You can tuck them away for safekeeping or you can use them to tell your family about their ancestors. Or, you can do both. 

    Your original prints belong in acid- and lignin-free boxes, but you can use the high-resolution scans to study details and write about the people depicted. Here are three tools to help you:
    • Twile.com won last year's RootsTech conference Innovator Challenge. On this site, you can create a free timeline of pictures and events for people in your family tree (uploads are limited for basic memberships). Share that information with relatives and, for an annual fee, encourage them to tell their side of the story on Twile. It's effortless collaboration. 
    • MyCanvas.com, a photo book and poster site, has been around for a bit. The page templates here are geared more toward genealogy than other photo book sites'. I'm working on a book for a friend (a surprise for her granddaughter), and it's easy and fun. You can create your book online and download PDFs of pages for free, and order professionally printed books. Watch your page count, though, because those extra pages can add up.
    • Scrivener is a app/program costing about $45 that works on both OS and Windows, as well as on your tablet/phone. Used by professional authors, this writing tool helps you organize your notes, develop an outline and add pictures. When you're done, you'll have a project you can print for the family. There is a learning curve, but my colleagues who use this regularly tell me it's worth the time. See Family Tree Magazine's review of Scrivener here.
    I'll be explore the expo hall at this week's RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, looking for new ways to use photos in genealogy. Of course, I'll share my favorite finds with you!


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now

  • Save
    Photo fun | photo-research tips | Photo-sharing sites
    Sunday, 05 February 2017 22:59:17 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, 29 January 2017
    3 Easy Best Practices For the Photos You Take Today
    Posted by Maureen

    Trust me. Your descendants will thank you if you follow these three best practices. 

    Our ancestors didn't take as many pictures as we do today.

    They had film cameras or had to go to a studio to document a moment. A photo do-over wasn't as easy as it is today. Bad pictures were a costly mistake.



    Our ancestors didn't have cell phone cameras ready for picture taking every second of every day. This is one of the reasons we're not swamped with images from the 1920s, versus the boxes and slide trays we have from our parents' generation. 

    Here's what you can do to save your descendants the trouble of going through all your photos.

    1. Thoughtfully take pictures of significant people, events and places. Document your life, but imagine you can only take a few pictures not hundreds.

    2. Weed out bad and near-duplicate pictures immediately. This is one of my husband's best practices. He takes a lot of pictures, but he deletes droves of them. Out of focus, off-center and multiple images go in the digital trash can. He picks the best one.

    3. Print out significant images.  If a picture isn't worth the price of those penny-a-print offers, then is it worth keeping at all?

    Vintage albums are making a comeback. Remember what it was like to look at an ancestor's album? Create that same feeling with your family photos by placing them in an acid- and lignin-free album. You can find archival-quality albums through these online suppliers.

    Your children and grandchildren will appreciate the time you took to tell your story in pictures.  
    SaveSave
    photo albums | Photo fun
    Sunday, 29 January 2017 16:45:58 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Sunday, 22 January 2017
    Old Photos: The Secret Ingredient to Discovering Family History
    Posted by Maureen

    You're probably wondering what I mean by photo clues being the secret ingredient. 

    Think of your family history as a recipe.  In my grandmother's terms, that would consist of a pinch of this and a pinch of that. Genealogy is the same way: We look at documents, manuscripts and photographs for information. It's how these things come together that helps you tell the story of your family.

    For instance:
    • The details you find in a census record, added to what you learn in an old letter, can tell you who's who in a mystery photo. 
    • Or ... the hat, sleeve or prop in a photo identifies a time period that sends you scurrying for more details on your family's lives in your favorite genealogy database. 
    Pictures really are the secret ingredient. Sure, you can test your DNA and find a census record, but photos are a visual link to that data. They enable you to look eye to eye with an ancestor. It causes goosebumps just thinking about it.

    Here's how it works: Let's think about sleeves for a second.

       

    Look carefully at the design of this sleeve.  The slight fullness at the shoulder and the tight lower sleeve suggest a date of circa 1889.

    Now, let's look at the whole image.


    Collection of the author
    .

    This young woman is wearing the latest fashion, from the hair piled on her head to the shape of her bodice and the drape of her skirt. All confirm the date of 1889.

    The imprint states that the photographer, A. Marx, had studios in Frankfurt and Hamburg. The photo album prop is a nice touch, but we don't know if it's significant to her family or just a photographer's prop.

    If this were your family photo, you'd know the following:
    • It was taken in either Homburg (Hamburg) or Frankfurt.
    • It shows a young woman, likely a teenager.
    • You (might) know who gave it to you.

    Each of those clues is part of the recipe, as is the date of the image. You might next research the history of those cities to understand why your ancestor left the area.

    You'd also gather what you know about your family history—and determine whether you need to find out more--so you can answer the question: Who's the right age to be this girl living in that part of Germany?

    You might know immediately who she could be. Now try to find another picture of her later in life to see if the faces match. 

    You can learn more about dating clothing from Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats and Hairstyles 1840-1900. Both available at ShopFamilyTree.com.

    That picture might help you tie up a piece of unknown or confusing family history.  It's all in the details of the secret sauce that make family history so fascinating.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now

  • SaveSave
    1880s photos | sleeves | women
    Sunday, 22 January 2017 19:47:13 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 15 January 2017
    On the Web: Breathtaking Panoramic Photos of Ancestors' Towns
    Posted by Maureen

    The next time you need a break, don't book a plane ticket. First take a trip into the past in a panoramic photo. The Library of Congress has quite a collection.

    A panoramic photo can be a single image or a set of pictures aligned together that offer an expansive view of a place. For instance, this lovely view of Paris.



    It's so detailed, you feel like you're there. 

    Panoramic photographers sought the highest building with the best view. The puzzle in these pictures is often trying to determine exactly where they stood. Maps and other images offer helpful clues.

    For a number of years I've researched a local Rhode Island photographer, Francis Hacker. Imagine my surprise to discover that he shot a series of five images of the Washington D.C. Mall from the Smithsonian Castle. Now I want to know exactly how he came to be the photographer of this lovely set. You can view it here.




    The 1879 image captures a Washington, D.C., much different from the one we know today. Many of the familiar monuments haven't been built yet. Look closely at the center of this picture.  Recognize the landmark?



    You guessed it: That tower is the Washington Monument under construction.

    Search for panoramic images of your ancestor's hometown (or your own) at the Library of Congress website by entering the name of the city or town and panorama in the search box on the home page. Choose Photos, Prints, Drawings from the dropdown menu.

    On the search results page, look to the left for filters that let you narrow your results by date and location. Tell me what you find.

    Panoramic pictures exist from the 1840s and theyre still popular today. All you have to do is select the panoramic feature on your camera (or in the camera app in your mobile device).  Hacker and his contemporaries would be amazed.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1870s photos | panoramic photos
    Sunday, 15 January 2017 21:43:50 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 08 January 2017
    The Most Important Question To Ask Cousins About Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Way back in the 1990s, Roma Bennett's cousin gave her this photo. 



    At the time her cousin told her she didn't know anything about this tintype. Hmmm. In my experience, people usually know something about a picture, but they don't know they know it until you ask the right question.

    The most important question to ask about an image is:

    Who owned this photo before you did?

    This may seem like a teeny-weeny question, but the answer will set you on the right branch of the family to make the identification.

    In Roma's case, how she's related to that cousin is important. The photo could be from their mutual family tree, or from an unrelated branch on her cousin's other parent's side. 

    There can be a lot of unknowns with a photo, starting with who's in it.  Most individuals remember where they originally saw the picture (on a grandparent's mantel), where they found it (in a deceased person's things), or who gave it to them.

    I hope it's not too late for Roma to ask her cousin that question. 

    Photo Clues

    Roma's picture is a tintype that's seen it's share of wear and tear and has darkened over time. I've tweaked it using photo-editing software to better see the details.

    The woman's skirt with all those layers of ruffles and her neck scarf suggest a date of about 1878.

    The props and backdrop don't help much to refine the date. Painted backdrops were popular in this period. The fringed chair first appeared in studios in the 1860s and remained a fixture for a couple of decades. The cloth-covered table was common in pictures beginning in the 1840s.

    This young couple were either married or siblings. The hand on the shoulder is a symbol of a close relationship. 

    After reaching out to her cousin, Roma could look at her family tree for marriages in the 1878 period. It should help narrow down the possibilities of who's in the picture. Maybe her cousin has other pictures of this couple later in life.  


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now

  • Save
    1870s photos | Tintypes
    Sunday, 08 January 2017 16:37:29 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 01 January 2017
    Why I Love Old Photos (And You Should, Too!)
    Posted by Maureen

    Happy New Year! 

    babies008.jpg
    Collection of the author, 1898
    .

    It's that time of year for resolutions. If you feel you need to make one, here's an easy one that's simple to keep—but very important: Take care of your photos.

    Investing in a few of the right kind of storage containers, archival-quality acid- and lignin-free boxes, will keep your images around for the next generation. You can find archival storage materials at these online suppliers.

    Here are three reasons why I love old photos:
    • Each one tells a story. The people and places depicted in each one are a part of your family tale. Decipher the clues and find out more about your ancestors.
    • Each one is a time portal. I love time travel plots in stories, don't you?  Every old photo takes us into a different time and place. There's history in those pictures. Forget wishing for a time machine, you have that already. It's an old picture.
    • Each one is an artifact.  Your old photos are ancestral artifacts just like furniture and silver.  Learning more about the history of those images offers insights into how much they cost and their importance to your relatives.

    You can learn more about your old family photos by following this blog. Every week brings a new tip, technique or identification example.  If you love old photos too, tell me why by adding a comment. It's great to hear from you.



    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now

  • Save
    holiday | organizations | photo albums | Photo fun
    Sunday, 01 January 2017 17:24:51 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]