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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Friday, August 29, 2008
Photo Detective Talks Roots on Today
Posted by Diane

This isn’t Maureen. I’m Diane from Family Tree Magazine’s Genealogy Insider blog—I'm dropping in to share the video of Maureen’s spots on NBC’s "Today" show this morning, giving tips on how to trace your roots.

She answers viewer questions in the first spot with Al Roker, and talks about photo research with Meredith Vieira.



Videos
Friday, August 29, 2008 7:01:30 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Postmortem Images
Posted by Maureen

Remember how last week I mentioned that this column would feature a "viewer discretion advised" image? The sight of a deceased person in a photo is the reason for the warning.

Like it or not, our ancestors began photographing the dead members of their family in the early 1840s. If you think you'll find such an image disturbing or unsettling, please don't continue reading. 

Theresa Klepadlo-Berio submitted this photo with the following e-mail message: "I have had this photograph for years and have always wondered it it's an actual funeral or what...All I know is that it was in an old photo album of my grandparents' and they were from Poland."

terri082508weird.jpg

It is in fact a funeral. The elderly woman in the casket is being photographed before her burial. The people surrounding her are probably family members. This picture is a key to her family history in Poland, and a a great example of how one photograph can help you connect with your heritage.

I spent a bit of time fixing the contrast and adjusting the sharpness of this image using my favorite photo editing tool—Picnik. (It's free!) Once I improved the picture the markings on the side of the coffin jumped out at me.

terri082508weird2.jpg

The words are still very difficult to read, but I took a chance and entered what I thought I saw into Google. Eureka! The words are spoczywaj w pokoju pax.

On the Pennsylvania USGenWeb Tombstone Transcription Project Web site was a translation: "Rest in Peace." A closeup of the woman's hands isn't clear enough for reproduction here, but she's holding a cloth and either a book or a photograph.

I immediately called Terri and asked her more about her family. Turns out there's a family tradition of photographing the dead! This is the only postmortem picture in her collection, but as we chatted she mentioned that her father's family used to pose relatives around the deceased. That suggests that this image here contains at least a few relatives. But who?

That's something I hope to write more about in the near future. Terri's going to send me some information on her family history. With any luck we'll be able to figure out who's who and when this was taken.

This image is also a good example of how the picture is just one piece of the family puzzle. Forensic research is needed to put the whole story together. More later...

In a related piece of news, a story this month in the Ventura County Star focused on one photographer's fine art pictures of parents with their deceased infants. Historically, mothers have long posed for a final picture with their deceased infants. The imges are usually heartbreaking and really upsetting to view. However, photographer Leila Jones' work at the Simi Valley Hospital transcends the grief.  She does an amazing job of capturing these last moments.


photo news | Photos from abroad
Tuesday, August 26, 2008 3:18:18 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, August 18, 2008
Meet the Photo Detective, Online and at FGS
Posted by Maureen

I'll be at the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Philadelphia Sept. 2-6, and I hope I'll see you there. You can visit with me in my booth, #304, in the conference exhibit hall. It's a great chance to chat with me about your family photos or just stop by to say hi. Please do! I like meeting the folks who submit photos to this column. 

At the conference, I'll also be presenting a workshop on identifying and preserving family photos. It's not too late to sign up for this special offering. You can register for the conference online until Aug. 22 at 5 p.m. Central time.  

Last week the e-zine/blog Shades of the Departed asked me to write a short piece about the wedding photos I collect. I met the author of this informative and wonderful photo site, The Footnote Maven, through FaceBook. We're kindred spirits when it comes to old photos. Check out the story. I talk about seven of the images from my personal (though not my family) collection. If you've ever cried at wedding, then be advised. You'll need a tissue.

Next week I'll feature a photo in this space that'll carry a warning, "Viewer discretion advised." Now doesn't that pique your interest!


photo news | Web sites
Monday, August 18, 2008 9:12:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, August 11, 2008
Sports in the Family
Posted by Maureen

Like many of you, I'm glued to the TV and online news sources watching the Olympics. While I don't have any Olympic hopefuls in my house, there are plenty of athletes on the family tree: In one oft-told tale, my husband's grandfather had an opportunity to play for a major league baseball team, but his father made him go to law school instead. 

Do you have a photo of an ancestral athlete? Send it to me and I'll share it in this space. Got a story to go with it?  I'd love to hear it. 

I looked through my archive of recent submissions to this column, but couldn't find a mystery family photo that fit the theme of sports. Instead, I've pulled one from the Library of Congress.

swimming3b21884r.jpg

George Grantham Bain took this photo, captioned, "Champion Australian girl swimming team," April 8, 1919. Bain was a news photographer who primarily worked in New York City. Haven't found the associated news story to go with it yet, but I'm still looking. 


1910s photos
Monday, August 11, 2008 3:08:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Friday, August 01, 2008
Medical Conditions and Family History
Posted by Maureen

Two weeks ago I put out a call for photos showing medical conditions. There are three images and one blog link in this post so be sure to read all the way to the end.

The inspiration for that request was a photo that Elizabeth Vollrath emailed me in May.
080108vollrath.jpg   080108vollrath2.jpg
It's a lovely 1880s photograph showing an unusual feature in her right ear.  While not a medical condition, it made me think about details in photos. 

Vollrath's dad inherited the split in the earlobe, showing a relationship to this unknown woman. I wondered whether she was his grandmother. I was close. A cousin later positively identified this woman as Ida Sophia Hass (b. 1866). Ida's sister Pauline Hass was Vollrath's great-great-grandmother, and her dad's great grandmother.

Diedra March sent me this photo of her great-grandfather's family.
 
Norberg oval photo copied to cd.jpg   080108MarchNorberg2 .jpg
She thinks her dad has inherited macular degeneration from this man, his mother's father. Anders Norberg appears to have something wrong with his eyes. According to March, Macular Degeneration causes blindness in your center vision, and people with the condition often look out of the corners of their eyes.

Rachel McPherson shared a photo of a school group that shows her grandmother in a leg brace (front row, fourth from right) due to polio.

Patricia School Picture.jpg  schoolpolio.jpg

She was born in 1933, before a vaccine was available.

Bloggers like to share through their online postings. The Footnote Maven posted a medically related photo on her blog, Shades of the Departed, on "Health Issues and Women Wearing Glasses." 

Thank you to everyone who sent images in response to my request! 


1880s photos | group photos | men | photo-research tips | women
Friday, August 01, 2008 4:23:52 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]