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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, November 30, 2009
Finding the Story: Picture Clues and Family Facts
Posted by Maureen

There's nothing like a photo riddle when the picture and the facts don't add up. In my experience solving that particular problem relies on more than the pictorial evidence. You have to dive into family history in detail.

Let's take Joan Lee's photo of a young couple and their child as an example. It's a symbol of a long complicated family story that has so many twists and turns it's like a maze. A good way to gain freedom from the intricacies of this tangled web is to sort out the facts and list a series of questions.

Klingbeil Fred baby and wifeedit.jpg

This photo was given to Joan by a descendant of her husband's great grandfather's brother. He's identified as Fred Klingbeil, his wife and their son. It came with a sad story: The little boy supposedly drowned in Three Mile Lake in Ontario. If this is true, Joan can't find the proof. There's no death record, no cemetery record and no headstone where the family lived in Ontario.

But Joan has an even bigger problem. Does this photo even depict Fred Klingbeil? A timeline of his life compared to the photographic details conflict. He was a man on the move. (If anyone wants the exact citations for this article, please send me an email to mtaylor@taylorandstrong.com. Joan will be happy to supply them.)

Here are the facts of his life:

1882: Fred is born in Detroit, Mich., to Julius and Amelia Klingbeil, recent immigrants from Germany. According to family letters, Amelia was pregnant with Fred during their passage to America.

1891: Fred appears on the Canadian census for Windermere, Ont.

1902/03: A newspaper in Enderlin, ND, mentions that he's in town to build an addition onto his widowed mother's house.

1910: According to the U.S. Federal Census, Fred lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota working as a wallpaper hanger.

In October of 1910 he marries for the first time in Idaho. His bride, Marie Evans, states on the marriage record she's from Aberdeen, Wash.

Here's where it gets tricky. For this to be a photo of Fred and Marie with a son, it would have to be taken after 1910. But this woman's dress, with the belted waist and tight-fitting bodice, dates from about 1900.

Her hairstyle confirms the date. In my new book, Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles, I examine photos and discuss men's and women's hairstyles. The topknot on the crown of her head was common from the late 1890s to the turn of the century. By 1910, women wear their hair full around the face with a bun on the top. It's a different look from what's seen here. The father's upturned collar, suit style and silk tie are consistent with c. 1900 as well.

So is it a different Fred, or does it depict a different family?

You won't believe where this family history mystery goes! I'll be back next week with part 2. Stay tuned.


1900-1910 photos | photo-research tips
Monday, November 30, 2009 9:48:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, November 23, 2009
It's a Family Tree Magazine Reunion!
Posted by Maureen

In July, I wrote a column, Which Immigrant Is It, on a photo submitted by Jeannette Bias.

Last week, another woman contacted me to say that she's related to Jeanette and is the great-great-granddaughter of Simon (1843-1892) and Mary (1850-1932) Dulas, the couple possibly depicted in this portrait.

Bias Unknown Dulas.jpg

Except that this "new" relative doesn't think the man is Simon. She thinks he could be their son Joseph with whom Mary lived after the death of her husband. Oh boy!  The facts in this case make my head hurt. 

Here's the line-up of details.  I didn't originally assign a date to this image because I was hoping for a little more photographic evidence.
  • Simon Dulas dies in 1892 when Mary is only 42.  This couple looks a lot older than their early to late 40s.
  • There is another picture of Mary for comparison.
Dulas Mary (2)crop.jpg Unknown Dulas (2)close-up.jpg 

The image on the left was taken in the early 20th century, probably not long before her death. It is definitely Mary.

On the right is a close-up of the photo from above. Both of these photos appear to be of the same woman, but I wonder. There's a slight difference around the eyes.

There is yet another positively identified photo of Mary, only this time, she's posed with her children behind her.

Dulas Simon 1901 .jpg

That's certainly Mary in the front row. Standing directly behind her is her son Joseph (b. 1880).  This picture of him confirms that it's not Joseph in the very first photo in this column. The baby on Mary's lap is her first grandchild. 

So the mystery remains. If the woman in that first photo is Mary then who's the man standing next to her?
  • It's not a brother.  All of her brother's were still-born infants.
  • Could it be Simon's nephew John (1856-1918)?  There are no known pictures of him. 
  • Could it be Mary's parents? Johan Glowik (1822-1896) and Elizabeth Staloch (1823-1884) Her father immigrates after his wife's death.
  • Or is it a very old looking Simon?
If only Jeanette had the original of the first photo. Unfortunately, she doesn't. She obtained a copy from a relative who had gotten a copy from a now unknown other relative. The location of the original cabinet card is now completely a mystery.  That's unfortunate.  A photographer's imprint on the back could tell us where the picture was taken and help date the photo,  perhaps clearing up the identity of the folks in it.

At this point I'm leaning towards the couple in the first column and in the first photo in this column being Mary's parents. That would account for the strong resemblance of the women in all the photos. If that's the case then the couple posed for a picture around the time of Mary's mother Elizabeth's death in 1884.  Photos in this time frame could certainly be on white card stock and often featured elaborate painted backdrops of interior scenes.

I'm not completely certain and neither is Jeanette, but it does clear up the age issue.  If this couple were Mary's parents and they posed for a portrait in 1884 then Johan would be 62 and Elizabeth 61. Seems likely.

Any one have any aspirin? This case gave me a headache <smile>.


1880s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Immigrant Photos
Monday, November 23, 2009 5:46:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, November 16, 2009
A Blast From My Past
Posted by Maureen

Last week after writing the column on photo storytelling I decided to take my own advice and browse through all the family photos I scanned last summer. I looked at pictures of my Mom as a young child and saw pictures of my own childhood. All of a sudden I spotted one of me as a pre-school age child sitting on a couch intently working on something.  What was IT? 

family275.jpg
I didn't know right away. So I kept browsing through pictures and discovered I had other images taken on the same day.  They are all snapshots.

I went back to this picture and tried to think about the folks in the other images in the roll, where it was taken and when. All that thinking triggered a memory flashback.  Suddenly I could remember that day and what I was doing.  I was playing with my favorite toy--A Wooly Willy. I remember spending hours working on different mustaches, beards and hairstyles. Drawing the iron filings across Willy's face with my pen magnet.   (Here's the proof, I was into thinking about pictures at a young age!)

A picture memory flashback is a funny thing. All kinds of things come to mind. The sound those patent leather shoes made on the kitchen floor, the shushing noise that dress made as I twirled around, and the painful curlers my mother used to achieve those curly locks.

This holiday when you're dragging out boxes and albums of pictures don't forget to share the pictures and stories of your own childhood.  Pay attention to the details in the picture and those in your memory.  As for the year of this picture-- I'll never tell <smile>.

If you're wondering what happened to all the pictures you've submitted to this space, I'm working on a blog calendar.  If you haven't heard from me you will soon.


candid photos
Monday, November 16, 2009 4:52:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, November 09, 2009
Photo Storytelling
Posted by Maureen

The holiday season is nearly upon us! It's a time of year I associate with food, family and friends, but it's also storytelling season. One of the traditions in my family is looking at old pictures—not just those taken a century ago, but those considered "old" by the kids in the family. You know ... their baby pictures! <smile>

Memory is a funny thing. You can show an older relative the same picture year after year and get no new information. Then all of sudden someone else in the room starts talking about an event related to the image, and remembrances start pouring out of that older relative. It's all about finding the right memory trigger. 

Help the process along by taking steps. This means collecting details on the images in your photo collection.
  • Start by trying to place images in a time frame based on the clues discussed in this column—photographers' work dates, family history and fashion for instance.

  • Next, organize your images into a timeline so they're grouped by generation. I guarantee this will work. If you're going to show Great Aunt Hazel an unidentified photo taken in the 1930s, it helps to have other images from the same time period. Each detail in the pictures will help her sort out the facts.

  • If you've discovered any additional information about the picture, now's the time to share it.
Once the storytelling starts, it won't be limited to that one picture or even the group of images. You'll begin hearing about your great aunt's memories of that person, where they lived, how she knew them and what it was like to grow up during the Depression.

If you've remembered to bring along a tape recorder, you'll be able to listen to it again. She might even share some long lost family secret!

As for those youngsters who can't stop looking at their own childhood pictures, ask them to tell a story too.  What were they doing or feeling on the day a particular picture was taken?  What do they think about their clothing?  Can they help you write a caption for the images in the family album?  You bet! 

Finding out the facts for each of your photos is fantastic, but it's the family storytelling that will last for generations. Photo storytelling is about using your photographs as visual treats to gaze while replaying the story of each one.


Photo fun | photo-research tips
Monday, November 09, 2009 5:35:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, November 02, 2009
Family Stories: A Photo at a Time
Posted by Maureen

Sharon Pike wrote to me with a question about the clothing on the children in this photo, "Do you think the photographer brought clothing as props for the children?" 

It's a really common query. In her e-mail, along with her question, was the story of this family. Since I believe every photo tells a story. I couldn't resist sharing this lovely bit of family history.

110209Tilley.jpg

Thomas "Tom" Schuler and his wife Matilda "Tilly" Mueller (Miller) sit on the stoop of their Louisville, Ky., house with their first four children. The two children flanking the parents are Leo Thomas Schuler on the left and his twin sister Verena Marie Schuler on the far right. The little boy on Dad's lap is Edward Joseph Schuler, and the baby is Louise Matilda Schuler. The presence of Louise dates the picture to the summer of 1899; she was born May 19 of that year. 

To answer Sharon's question, I don't think the photographer brought their clothes with him. Photographers often carried props and some accessories, but not a wagon full of clothes.

The kids and their parents are dressed in typical fashion for the turn of the century. Leo's wide-collared shirt and tie were worn by boys across the United States. None of the children is dressed for play; they're all wearing clothes for a special occasion—the family photo. Dad's the informal one: In this time frame, men wore coats in all types of weather, so it's a bit unusual that he's not wearing a jacket for this formal portrait. It was probably taken on a really hot summer day.

Each photo also tells the "backstory" of the folks depicted. A picture becomes a symbol to remember these family members. According to Sharon, Tom Schuler was born in Switzerland and immigrated with his family in 1870. As a young man, Tom and all the men in the family went back to Switzerland for a visit. It was a timely event. On the return trip to the United States, a young woman named Tilly Mueller was also en route to America with a work contract for a job as a maid. 

This shipboard romance has a happy ending. Sharon told me that Tom went to the house where Tilly worked and helped her climb out the window so they could elope. They eventually had seven children.

Telling the story of a picture and a family requires digging for names and dates, but family history and oral tradition fit together with the visual elements of a picture to tell the tale. Next week I'll be back with some tips on how to write your own photo story.

Thank you, Sharon, for sharing!


1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | children | group photos
Monday, November 02, 2009 4:06:57 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]