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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, September 24, 2007
What a Photo Can Tell You About Your Ancestor
Posted by Maureen

This week I started making a list of all the things you can tell about a person from their portrait. I'd like you to add to my list my using the comment section. If you have an example to illustrate your point upload it to the Photo Detective Forum.

Here's what I have so far:

1) Occupation
If your ancestor wore distinctive clothing or posed in the workplace then you might be able to tell how they made their living.

2) Medical Conditions
Gnarled arthritic hands, thyroid conditions, eye diseases and more are all visible in a family photo.

3) Military Service
Anyone posed in a military uniform is obvious, but check lapels for veteran's pins.

4) Weddings
Watch for white hats and veils that signify a matrimonial event, but remember that not all brides wore white and not all white dresses are wedding gowns.

5) Education
Did your ancestor chose to pose with a book? Perhaps it's not just a prop, but a symbol of their ability to read.

6) Religion
A Bible or other religious symbol in a photo indicates your ancestor's faith.

Don't forget to add your clues. Got a question? Post it to the Photo Detective Forum.


photo-research tips
Monday, September 24, 2007 12:10:22 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Sunday, September 16, 2007
Another Success Story!
Posted by Maureen

Last week I featured two photos in my blog entry. As soon as Thomas Wetten saw what I'd written he sent me an email.

"I figured I was grasping, but my guess was the best I could formulate from the photo-dating websites I had visited thus far. The good news is, your mid-1890s date actually fits perfectly with that for another great-grandmother, Jennie Gilles. She is much more plausible, given her resemblance, and given who had it before I found it. It seems you've solved the mystery for me. Thank you."

If you missed my analysis and Wetten's familial guess scroll down this page to see the column.

I'm often asked if it's possible to identify an unidentified family photo. The answer is yes as long as you know your family history and can decipher the pictorial clues.  If you don't believe it then look at past columns for proof. You'll be a convert.<grin>

Submit your photographs for my analysis and see them featured in this spot. I pick at least two pictures a month.




Sunday, September 16, 2007 4:02:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Identifying People in Two 1890s Photos
Posted by Maureen

This week two photos have tentative identifications, but in both cases, the time frame of the image and the life dates for the individuals don’t compute.

Thomas Wetten suspects the girl in this portrait below is his great-grandmother Margaret Ellen Atkinson, born June 1870 in Durham, England.
    

A caption on the back of the second picture (below) states a relationship to the unknown writer, but no name: Grandma—taken in Liverpool. This label makes Barbara Diemer think the simple studio portrait is a relative of hers, who was born in 1820 and died around 1860.
    

No photographer’s name appears on either image.

Unfortunately for Wetten and Diemer, one detail in each picture refutes their conclusions. The wide sleeve on the girl’s blouse and the full upper sleeve on the woman’s dress date these images to the late 1890s. Further proof exists in the girl’s wide collar and striped skirt, and in the woman’s high, collared bodice—both contemporary fashions for the time period.

Wetten correctly identified the child’s portrait as a tintype (also known as a ferreotype or melainotype) by testing its magnetic qualities. Anyone with any doubt about the type of metal in an old can use a magnet to see if it’s a tintype. Tintypes, first patented in 1856, aren’t actually tin, but iron.

Wetten has several other suspects on his family tree for the girl. For the photo dates to fit the age of the girl pictured, he should look for a female born in the mid-1890s. (FYI—stone walls and fences were common settings in photographer’s studios of the period.)

Diemer’s paper print of an elderly woman depicts someone who could've been born in 1820 and lived into her 70s, rather than dying around 1860. Diemer has the right generation, but either the wrong woman or an incorrect death date.

Click Comment below if you have something to add about either picture.

1890s photos | children | women
Wednesday, September 12, 2007 1:50:23 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Photos of Summer
Posted by Maureen

Two weeks ago I asked readers to submit their summer photos. I received a wide variety of mystery photos and one that fit my request. Sandi Gill e-mailed this lovely photo of a group of children, one of whom is her mother.


Even though Gill doesn't know the names of the other children or where this photo was taken, she thought it made a good example for my Labor Day summer album. She's right. All the children wear the bobbed hair of the 1920s and light summer garments. Her mom is one of the smaller children, being only around kindergarten age.

Gill knows the family lived in Bayside, NY, but isn't sure if this photo was taken in her mother's backyard or elsewhere in the neighborhood. The large lilac hedge is a clue worth researching in other family photos or those of her mother's childhood friends. 

It's definitely a summertime shot, with the lilacs long past their bloom.

Thank you, Sandi, for sharing your picture!

1920s photos | children | group photos
Tuesday, September 04, 2007 12:50:39 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]