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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, July 26, 2010
Prize Catch
Posted by Maureen

No doubt about it, I've looked at a lot of family photos. Every so often there's an image that not only depicts an ancestor, but also documents a bit of local history. Take this photo, for instance:

Otis Shepardson family  cougar edit.jpg

Pamela Fisher sent me this photo owned by her cousin Lorrie Glover. The women thinks the man on the right (with the dog) is their great-grandfather Otis Shepardson.

  Otis Shepardson family  cougargrandfather.jpg

Not everyone in the family agrees.  Shepardson was born in 1880 in Home Valley (Cowlitz County), Wash. 

This picture is mounted to a gray piece of card stock. It can be difficult to date a group photo where no one is wearing very fashionable clothes. Men's clothing is particularly challenging because the fashion changes are subtle. The style of men's hats suggests that it was taken circa 1900.  If that's true then it could be Otis.

There is one woman in the picture. She wears a frontier-style bonnet that protects her face from the sun. Perhaps one of the boys is her son. 

Otis Shepardson family  cougar bonnet.jpg

Also in the photo is a man in the background who looks like he just stepped off his horse. He wears a cowboy hat and a kerchief around his neck.

Otis Shepardson family  cougarman.jpg

This photo just begs the viewer to fill in the details and answer these questions.
  • Who shot the mountain lion?
  • Why are the men gathered around? (It could be the day the lion was placed there.)
I think I know why a taxidermied mountain lion is on display in the town. It's quite possible that this animal threatened the town. Once it was shot, the town mounted it on tree stump (notice the wooden post to keep its head up). Whoever shot it must have been the town hero.

My husband's ancestral hometown of Peru, Vt., once had a bear on display in the town center. I have photographic proof in an early 20th century postcard.

Peru2.jpg

You'll find help identifying the mystery photos in your family albums in Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.


1900-1910 photos | group photos | unusual photos
Monday, July 26, 2010 6:37:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Monday, July 19, 2010
Mourning Clothes
Posted by Maureen

Ten years ago, I analyzed a photo sent to me from a woman in New Zealand. In the New Zealand Mystery, I discussed the family information, but also described her clothing and how it indicated she was in mourning.
 Goldsmith.jpg

Queen Victoria set the standard for both wedding attire and for mourning. After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, she wore black mourning clothes for the rest of her life. In the Victorian era, men would wear a black armband when someone died, but women wore full black crape (the 19th century spelling for crepe) dresses for a year and a day. Then they wore just crape-trimmed black dresses for another 21 months. (Tortora and Eubank, Survey of Historic Costume, 348). 

But what if your family didn't have the resources of the woman depicted above?  A wardrobe of mourning clothes probably wasn't economically feasible. Instead, clothes could be rented or borrowed for the funeral. According to the 1877 article by Henry R Hatherly, "Mourning Clothes as a Source of Infection" (Sanitary Record: A Journal of Public Health, Google Books), less-fortunate folks were spreading disease by wearing clothing worn by others—in particular, skin and parasitic diseases.

Not just Queen Victoria's subjects followed mourning customs. This week I looked at a tintype from Dresden. The dark clothing and the large hat with long, heavy fabric at the back suggests this 1880s woman is in mourning. The style of the hat is a bit unusual. I think the browband helps keep the hat on her head.

ThomasCollins.jpg

If you have any 19th-century photos of family wearing crape, I'd love to see them. You can e-mail them to me.

Need help researching, preserving and displaying your family photos? Visit ShopFamilyTree.com for how-to books and CDs.


1850s photos | 1880s photos | mourning photos | unusual photos | women
Monday, July 19, 2010 3:47:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, July 12, 2010
Follow-up to Stitching Together An Identification
Posted by Maureen

Two weeks ago in Stitching Together An Identification,  I wrote about Candace Fountoulakis and her search to identify the women in two photos. At the time she thought they were related.

Soon after I posted the column she wrote to update me on her search. Now she doesn't think there is a connection. Her research didn't turn up a link.

She knows the single woman is "Aunt Mary Jane Hill," but now thinks that the couple could be either from the Newburn or the Mathews family.

Candace hopes that either the other researcher working on the family history will discover a new clue or that her mother holds the key in her box of old photos.

She's done all the right things—compared pictures, researched the photographic evidence, consulted family and delved into family history. My fingers are crossed that all her efforts result in another identified picture!

Of course, there is another possibility—they aren't relatives at all. <smile>
Family collections are often a collection of family and friends. 

You'll find guidance for identifying the mystery photos in your family albums in Maureen A. Taylor's book Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.


women
Monday, July 12, 2010 5:10:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, July 05, 2010
Uncovering Your Revolutionary War Ancestor
Posted by Diane

bakeman.jpg

This carte de visite of Daniel Frederick Bakeman commemorates his status as the last living Revolutionary War soldier in 1868. Bakeman died the following year. This image was widely available in the 19th century and Bakeman is generally accepted as the last living Revolutionary War soldier, but there is one problem: Other lesser-known men outlived him and were photographed. One such man was John Kitts of Baltimore, who died in September 1870.

Photographs of other members of the Revolutionary War generation exist in public, private and family collections. While I've collected 70 images of men, women and children who lived during the war, I know that additional images are still undiscovered. I'm hoping that by studying your family photograph collections that you'll find images that meet the following criteria: 
  • Men who lived during the war and who were alive after 1839 when photography was introduced in the United States would be at least 80 years of age. These individuals could be patriots, soldiers, loyalists or non-participants in the war.
  • Women may be wives or widows. Locating pictures of these women means looking at pictures taken anywhere from the advent of photography to the early 1900s. The last Revolutionary War widow died in 1906, according to this New York Times article.
Please contact me if you think you've located a picture of a Revolutionary War ancestor.

If you're interested in seeing my first collection of images, they appear in my new book, The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation (Kent State University Press, $45)

Taylor cover (2).jpg

Revolutionary War research resources from Family Tree Magazine and ShopFamilyTree.com:


1840s photos | 1850s photos | 1860s photos | cased images | men
Monday, July 05, 2010 8:46:08 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]