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# Sunday, 02 July 2017
4th of July Clues in Old Family Photos
Posted by Maureen

Takoma Park, Maryland, 1922. Library of Congress.

Symbolism abounds in family photos taken on the 4th of July.  These three young men posed as the iconic drummers and fife player that commonly seen on the 4th of July as the trio from Yankee Doodle Dandy.

A search of newspapers on GenealogyBank.com turned up the story of the parade in which they participated.  The children of the Petworth section of the city made floats and marched on the morning of the 4th. 

Traditional holiday symbols include American flags and bunting, parades, picnics and fireworks. 

But the holiday celebrations varied from community to community and from region to region. My hometown of Providence, RI once liked to start the festivities with cannon fire at dawn.

Other towns had chariot races, foot races, baseball games and other sporting events. Town-wide picnics were commonplace too.

Look for 4th of July clues in your family pictures:
  •  Try to spot the symbols mentioned above especially children in colonial costume like the Yankee Doodle Dandy trio.
  • Study clothing clues to pinpoint a time frame for the photos. You can use past Photo Detective blog posts about clothing as a resources. Start with the search box in the lower left hand margin.
  • Read the local news for the day.  You might be able to match up scenes in your pictures with events in your ancestor's community.

Happy 4th of July!


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


  • 4th of July | patriotic
    Sunday, 02 July 2017 15:10:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 25 June 2017
    Does This Old Photo Have a Hidden Message?
    Posted by Maureen


    Houston County, TN Archive


    Historical societies all over the country have old mystery photos of local citizens. The picture above is from the Houston County, Tenn., archives. Thank you to Archivist/Records Manager Melissa Barker for submitting this image.

    Melissa knows from the photographers imprint it was taken by
    Edward E. Collison, Jr., who was born April 16, 1859, and died June 15, 1907. Collison was also the inventor of the Instantaneous Shutter for camera, and received patent #341,887 on May 18, 1886.

     

    Mom and Dad are cool under pressure. The photographer captured the baby mid-wail. 

    When this photo was taken isn't the mystery: Mom provides the time frame.

      

    The peaked shoulder seams on her dress and her short bangs date the image to circa 1890.

    The mysterious part of this image is the father.

     

    I don't think he's holding his hand this way just because. Its position suggests there's more to this. I know I've seen this hand position in photos before, but I can't find an example. I wonder if it's symbolic of membership in a fraternal or other organization. It doesn't appear to be Masonic or signify that the father was interested in Phrenology (a school of thought based on measurements of the human skull).

    Any thoughts on how this dad posed his hand? Maybe Melissa knows of specific groups active in Houston County.


    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
    1890s photos | props in photos | unusual photos
    Sunday, 25 June 2017 22:25:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 18 June 2017
    Our Ancestors' Photo-Ready Family Record Sheets
    Posted by Maureen

    Family milestones are well-known as photo occasions. Births, marriages and even deaths show up in family photo collections. 

    There's another family photo op in your family history: The purchase of a photo album or a family record like the one below.


    c. 1886, Library of Congress

    Family records suitable for framing were a way of documenting family history, similar to the center pages of a family Bible. The 1886 lithograph above has places to write down births, marriages and deaths, but in the center, oval spaces are meant to be cut out for photos. For this particular page, the buyer needed a picture of his or her parents together, as well as one of him/herself and spouse. 

    Many varieties of these family records were created, including some in full color. You can view an assortment on the Library of Congress website.  If you have one in your family, can you share it on our Facebook page?

    Can't wait to see the treasures your ancestors created by merging photos and family information!

    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


  • unusual photos
    Sunday, 18 June 2017 16:12:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Sunday, 11 June 2017
    How to Figure out Which Holiday Is Shown in Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Here's a picture problem that family photo historians often encounter: Photos of an unnamed, unknown celebrations. It could be local event, a national holiday, or a gathering of relatives for some family event. All too frequently, it's unclear.

    For instance, let's look at Flag Day. 

    Flag Day, June 14, commemorates the adoption of our flag on June 14, 1777. Flag Day wasn't an official occasion until 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation.


    Library of Congress

    Above, a crowd of thousands gathers around the Washington Monument for a Flag Day ceremony in 1918. 

    Flag Day isn't a federal holiday, but some cities still celebrate the day with parades, including Fairfield, Wash.; Appleton, Wis.; Quincy, Mass.; Troy, NY; and Three Oaks, Mich.

    Flags and bunting are common during other holidays, too, such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Veterans Day, so it can be difficult to determine the occasion for a patriotic picture. Here are a few tips:
    • Watch for signs and banners in parade photos. You may need to use a photographer's loupe, or scan the photo at high resolution and zoom in on your computer screen.
    • Search newspaper websites and local history sites to see how the towns in which your ancestor lived celebrated the day. You might find an article about the very event shown in the photo.
    • School children were often photographed carrying flags in schoolyards for Flag Day.
    • If you see a flag in the photo, count the stars. Every time a new state joined the Union, the flag gained a star (Hawaii was the last state, in 1959), helping you date the photo. Visit USFlag.org for photos of flags over the years.


    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 | Flag Day | photo-research tips
    Sunday, 11 June 2017 21:48:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 04 June 2017
    3 Clues to Solve an Old Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen



    When a family member won't talk about a person in a picture, it makes you wonder why. It also leaves you with an unidentified family photo. 

    Dale Wheeler's father never spoke about the woman in this photo. Dale has three possible identities for this young woman:
    • Julia Ann (Stewart) Wheeler (1853-1931)
    • Sarah (Cunningham) Linville (1842-1917)
    • Gertrude (Linville) Wheeler (1886-1924)

    This colorized tintype contains clues that help narrow the time frame. 

    • The chair: Fringed photography studio chairs first appear in the mid-1860s.
    • Her clothing: The wide bow, heavy beads and belted waist suggest a date in the late 1860s to circa 1870. 

    The tentative date for the image eliminates Gertrude Wheeler from consideration. Now take a good look at this woman's face and estimate how old she is.



    This woman looks young. If this picture was taken in 1869, Julia Ann would be 16, and Sarah, 27. I think this image depicts Julia Ann. 

    There is one other clothing clue that supports this conclusion—her hemline.



    The skirt is short, not floor-length. This is a dress length worn by girls, not grown women.  

    The provenance (history of ownership) of this image also needs to be confirmed, with these considerations in mind: 
    • Who is Julia Ann in relation to Dale's father? 
    • Dale's father was born in 1926 and would've been a toddler when Julia Ann died. Did he know her?
    • Do relatives have any photos known to be Julia Ann for comparison? 

    In this case, the three clues of fashion, props and age suggest a identity for this woman.


    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 | Tintypes | women
    Sunday, 04 June 2017 14:37:06 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, 28 May 2017
    Honor Your Family's Veterans With an Online Photo Memorial
    Posted by Maureen

    Memorial Day is the day we honor our fallen military service members with parades and speeches. The backyard barbecues held afterward kick off summer.

    How Memorial Day Began
    There wasn't always a Memorial Day. In 1868, people gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to honor Civil War soldiers buried on the land once owned by Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The government had bought the parcel at a tax sale and set aside 200 acres for a cemetery.

    Planners of what was then called Decoration Day chose May 30 because it didn't commemorate any battles and because flowers would be in bloom. You can read more at Decoration Day, 1868.

    decoration daycropped.jpg

    In this Library of Congress photo of Decoration Day in 1873 (the LOC catalog entry notes a penciled-in date of 1868 on the back of the image is wrong), Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. James A. Garfield are in the reviewing stand. Grant was president from 1869 to 1877, and Garfield served as president for 20 days in 1881, until he was assassinated. 

    Decoration Day officially became Memorial Day in 1971, more than a 100 years after the first ceremony.

    Create an Online Photo Memorial to Your Family's Veterans
    Fold3.com makes it easy to create an online memorial to the military men and women in your family. You can view what other memorials look like here. Hover over Memorials to chose US Honor Wall, US Vietnam Wall (based on names from the Vietnam memorial), or U.S.S. Arizona Wall (based on names from the U.S.S. Arizona memorial).

    Before creating a new memorial, search for the veteran's name to see if one already exists. You can create a free basic Fold3 account and add information to what's already online.

    If there isn't a page for your relative:
    1. In the Memorials menu, select Add a Memorial Page (or click here). You'll need to create a free basic Fold3 account if you're not a member of Fold3.
    2. Set up a profile page with a name and picture.
    3. Add a summary of facts about the person.
    4. Identify related pages (perhaps another relative served as well) or add them yourself.
    5. Upload photos and digitized documents.

    You can add a story about the person and ask others to contribute their memories. When you're finished, share the page on your social media accounts.

    For an example of what's possible, take a look at this page for William Taylor (no relation to me). There's a list of personal details, a cemetery stone as a profile picture, and short stories about him. In the upper right of the screen is a prompt for page visitors to tell a story about him. 

    If you've created a Memorial Page, please share the link with us.


    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
    Decoration Day | Memorial Day | patriotic | Veterans
    Sunday, 28 May 2017 16:57:42 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Sunday, 21 May 2017
    Don't Forget the Women and Children in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen



    Last week, I examined the cataloging record and photo format clues for this stereograph picture, taken between 1860 and 1864, from the Library of Congress online photo collection. This week, let's talk about the individuals shown.

    The Library of Congress caption states they're members of the Wallack family of New York actors and stage managers. James William Wallack (1795-1864) sits in a chair while his son Lester Wallack (1820-1888) stands to the side with his hand in his coat pocket.

    There are so many unanswered questions that aren't addressed in the caption.
    • Who are the woman and children?
    • Where was the picture taken?
    • Why was it taken?
    • Is the date correct?

    James Wallack

    A quick Google search for James Wallack turned up a Wikipedia page and  many more images of him as a younger man. James acted on the New York stage and his parents were comedians in London. In 1861, James opened Wallack's Theatre, a popular venue in New York.

    Since the stereo photo was taken circa 1860, let's look at the census for information on his family.  


    At that time, James Wallack lived with 6-year-old Charles Wallack (whom we know from other records is his grandson; the 1860 census doesn't state relationships), a druggist of a different surname, two servants and a waiter.

    Each clue generates another query. For example, why does Charles live with his grandfather?

    The Wikipedia page for James has a photo of him with a grandson. A caption, apparently added later by the child, states "I am the boy Charles E. Wallack." 




    Here's a close-up of the boys in the 1860-64 stereoview for comparision:




    We still don't know for sure which boy is Charles, who the other boy is, or who the woman is.

    Lester Wallack
    Before jumping to any conclusions, let's do more looking for the Wallacks. James' son Lester, born in New York, acted in London before returning home to the States and managing Wallack's Theater.

    The 1870 census shows "John" and wife Emily with children Florence, Charles and Harry. The family lived with several servants at 30th Street between 6th and Madison Ave in New York. If you're wondering why the census gives Lester's first name as John, it's because he used John Lester as a stage name.



    Find A Grave has memorials for Lester, Emily Mary Millais Wallack, and Florence. Other memorials may belong to Charles E. and Harold, but aren't identified as such.

    Another mystery?
    If the two boys in the stereograph are Charles and Harry and the woman is Emily, then where is Florence?

    In 1860 Harry was 5; Charles, 6; and Florence, 11. She's missing from this image. 

    The house in the stereo picture doesn't look like Manhattan to me. It's possible that the family had a country house or were posed someplace else.

    An 1860/61 date for the stereograph works. The boys appear to be about the right age. In 1861, the Wallacks were well-known for their theater businesses and acting talents. This stereo of a famous family would be a collectible image for your ancestors interested in celebrities of the period.

    Apply these techniques to your own mystery photos:
    • Start by identifying the photo format.
    • Generate a list of questions to be answered.
    • Research the people.
    • Estimate their ages at the time the image was taken.
    • Put it all together and tell the story of the people and the picture.


    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 | children | photo-research tips | women
    Sunday, 21 May 2017 22:52:54 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, 14 May 2017
    Seeing Double: 5 Clues in an Old Stereograph Photo
    Posted by Diane

    I love the Library of Congress. I can lose myself for hours in its online historical photos collection doing random searches. Sometimes I even tackle one of their photo mysteries for fun.

    If there's one thing that gets my attention, it's when I see a photo with a partial caption. Like this photo, for instance: It's obviously posed for dramatic effect, but why? What's the real story here?

    When I see an interesting image, it's important to step back and study the clues. Remember, not all the details are in the image itself. Picture evidence is only one part of the process. 



    Library of Congress, stereo 1s05258

    Five clues stand out in this stereograph image of a well-dressed family seated on a porch:
    1. It's unusual to see a "family photo" stereograph. This format was popular for scenes and themed collections, like the Civil War. Stereos consist of two nearly identical images mounted next to each other. When viewed using a stereopticon viewer, the image appears 3-dimensional. The blur on the right side of this card on the seated man's face) may interfere with seeing it clearly.

    2. The Library of Congress has this dated to circa 1860 to 1864.

    3. The first stereo cards were published in 1854. Generally, yellow card stock wasn't available until the early 1860s. There were ivory cards, and it's possible the color of this paper has changed over the years.
       
    4. The catalog record suggests that the image was taken by George Stacy, who operated a studio from 1854 to 1861 in New York.   

    5. The record identifies the men in the image, but not the woman and children.
    Let's push the research envelope and see what else I can discover about the people in this picture. It should be possible to identify everyone in it.

    Do you have any stereo views in your family photo collection? They indicate a pastime enjoyed by an ancestor. Tell me about them in the comments below. 

    Stay tuned for 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
    1860s photos | children | stereographs | women
    Sunday, 14 May 2017 21:56:36 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
    # Sunday, 07 May 2017
    Stamp Boxes, Messages & More: Family Clues in Old Photo Postcards
    Posted by Maureen



    Old postcards among your collection of family letters and photos might contain a variety of clues worth exploring. From stamp boxes to postmarks and messages, there can be genealogical gold in the littlest things.

    I've written about real-photo postcards (RPPCs) in the past. These are family photos printed with a postcard back. An RPPC is an actual photo, not a chromolithograph print.

    Not all postcards were mailed. Printing on a postcard back was just another option when you visited the photo studio or had your snapshots printed.

    Do you have RPPCs in your family photo collection? If you're not sure, take a close look with a magnifying glass or loupe, or scan and zoom in. A chromolithograph print appears to made up of tiny dots; an RPPC does not.

    Here's where to look for information about RPPCs in past Photo Detective blog posts:
    • RPPCs debuted in 1900, but there were changes to the backs of these cards within a few years. Read Old Family Photos on Postcards to learn more about the history and formats for these cards.

    Postcards were popular both in the United States and overseas. Do you have one to share?  Email it to me here, following the instructions in our How To Submit Your Photo section.



    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 postcards | unusual photos
    Sunday, 07 May 2017 22:23:21 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [6]
    # Sunday, 30 April 2017
    Turn It Over! Genealogy Clues on Old Postcards
    Posted by Maureen



    This ordinary postcard captioned "R. I. Institute for Deaf and Dumb, Providence, R.I." contains a photo clue and it's not the building pictured. It's the message on the back:
    Dearest Ma got my proofs to day only one out of five that looks like me. The rest looks as if I was going to cry. The two of Ed and I are good. Grace wants to know how much the cards are up there. She wants to sent you some money for you to get some. With lots of love and kisses Ella. Sent to Mrs. Charles Hoxie, 36 Twelfth St. Norwich Conn
    Let's add up the clues in this message:
    • Ella posed for a school picture and so did her friend or brother Ed.

    • Ella's mother is Mrs. Charles Hoxie of Norwich, Connecticut.

    • I can't read the postmark, but this style card was popular circa 1910.

    • Students are named in various Rhode Island records. I'll be looking for Ella, Ed and Grace.

    • We don't know if Ella ordered final prints, but this type of message would send me sorting through family photos.

    While I'm working on the Hoxie family, let me know about any interesting family history-related messages you've found on old postcards. 


    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 | photo postcards
    Sunday, 30 April 2017 22:07:08 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [19]