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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Thursday, April 26, 2007
Blanket Backdrop
Posted by Maureen

Last time, we used the stamp box on the back of this photo postcard to establish a date. Now let's look at the beautiful backdrop.

I've seen ancestors posed in front of all sorts of painted backdrops and even a few wrinkled sheets, but this gorgeous bed covering adds texture to a simple portrait. Georgia women such as these ladies have a long tradition of producing beautiful quilts and blankets. The online New Georgia Encyclopedia contains a description of this history. On this Web page, you can see a photo of several members of another family, the Wheelers, in front of a quilt they made. This makes me wonder if the backdrop in Armstrong's photo is part of the story.



Armstrong believes whole-heartedly the older, seated woman in this photo is her great-grandmother Margaret E. Jordan Stephens, because she owns identified pictures of her. The picture dates from about 1910 based on the length of the young women's dresses, as well as the shape of the collar on the dress of the woman on the left. According to information from census records, Margaret would've been about 77 years old at this time.

There are a couple of possible IDs for the two younger women: They may be Margaret's daughters, hard to find in censuses because they went by nicknames or middle names. Margaret had sons, so the women could be daughters-in-law. Or they may be ladies who helped with the quilt in the background, posing to commemorate the completion of their work just as the women in the New Georgia Encyclopedia photo did.

I'm still working on the bedcovering facts. I'll let you know about new information in the Photo Detective Forum. Or if you can identify the pattern, please add your own thoughts to the forum.

photo backgrounds | photo postcards | women
Thursday, April 26, 2007 9:28:52 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, April 12, 2007
Ladies First
Posted by Maureen

Often details other than what's pictured in a photograph tell you a larger story. Helene Armstrong thinks the seated woman here is her great-grandmother Margaret E. Jordan Stephens. A caption on the back of this photo reads "Ally, Rose, Mar." The "Mar" probably stands for Margaret, but Armstrong has no idea who the other women are. She's trying to research all Margaret's children, but there may be as many as 13.


Since Armstrong knows Margaret's husband's name and where the family lived, I began my photo identification work in census records, looking for children named Rose and Ally. Armstrong had already searched the census for 1860 through 1900, but I wanted to double-check.

Though I found Margaret and her husband Joseph in the 1880 US census for Georgia, living with 10 children aged 1 to 25 years, no daughters were named Rose or Ally. Both Margaret and her husband listed their ages as 47, suggesting a birth year of about 1833. This information will come in handy when trying to verify the rest of the evidence in the photo.

Along with the caption on the back of the image was a distinctive box for a stamp. It was easy to match up this stamp box with one on Playle.com, a Web site with an alphabetical and pictorial listing of postcard manufacturers.


Armstrong's "real photo" postcard (a photo with a postcard back) was manufactured by CYKO, which used this particular stamp box design from 1904 into the 1920s. This provides an initial date range for the photo. You can read more about postcards in As We Were: American Photographic Postcards, 1905-1930 by Rosamond B. Vaule (Godine, $45).

Next time, we'll narrow the date and see what this photo's beautiful backdrop can tell us. It's coming your way April 26.

You can weigh in on photo identifications on the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Photo Detective Forum. Post your own mystery photo, too—it might be selected for free analysis in my next column!

photo postcards | women
Thursday, April 12, 2007 9:24:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]