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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, January 31, 2011
A Double Mystery
Posted by Maureen

This week I'm researching a very interesting family photo of two men clowning for the camera. Sandy Forest showed me this image at an event over the weekend and I couldn't stop thinking about it. She's pretty sure about the identity of the man on the left, but the man on the right is a mystery. And why is he holding a spike and wearing an interesting hat? The clues really pile up for this photo, so consider this week's post the first installment of a multi-part series.

sandyforest1.jpg
These two men are probably celebrating something because they are pouring an alcoholic beverage into a glass. That's just another part of the mystery. What's the occasion?

On the left is Felix Forest, a man famous in the family for his height. He stood 6 feet 4 inches. He was much taller than the average man in the late 19th century. The soft stovepipe hat on his head must have really made him stand out in any crowd.

Felix was born in Bonaventure, Quebec, but in the early 1880s, he immigrated to the United States. He moved around a lot. He married in Manchester, N.H., in 1892, spent time in Lewiston, Maine, and then lived in Fall River, Mass., before moving back to Bonaventure.

While I'm adding up the clues and trying to find facts I'll share my favorite part of the picture—the dog at the base of the column. It appears to be a tin cut-out of a little dog. Finding that dog in another photo could identify the photographer and the location.
sandyforest3.jpg
The men meant for this photo to be funny, and the dog is just one more comical addition. It makes me laugh out loud.

Next week, we'll focus on baby pictures. Diane Haddad, the Genealogy Insider blogger, had a baby last weekend, so I thought she'd enjoy a Photo Detective post of ancestral baby pictures. Email me yours to mtaylor@taylorandstrong.com.


Tintypes | unusual clothing | unusual photos
Monday, January 31, 2011 5:07:08 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, January 24, 2011
Preservation Points: Rules to Live By
Posted by Maureen

Contrary to popular thought, it's neither expensive nor time-consuming to preserve your family photos. All it takes is a few rules to live by (and some proper storage items).

Avoid Temperature and Humidity Extremes
While you can't do anything about the weather outside your house, you can somewhat control the interior environment. First, avoid all the problem storage areas such as basements, attics and garages. Not only are those zones subject to temperature and humidity variations, they are usually home to critters that love to eat or nest in paper including your family photos.

Try to manage temperature fluctuations by storing your photos in a spot away from drafts (winter cold can harm as much as summer's heat) and heating systems. The ideal temperature for many photographic materials is 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Humidity can be controlled by the use of a de-humidifier or if your house is too dry in the winter, a humidifier. There is a cheaper alternative. A reusable desiccant container can help. It's a small box that contains an inert substance that attracts and holds water vapor.  When it's saturated (the indicator dot changes color)all you do is bake it in a ventilated oven to dry it out. While I wouldn't put one of these boxes in direct contact with my photos you can use it in closets. The cost is around $13 to $20.. They are available from museum suppliers such as Light Impressions.

Buy the Right Materials
When purchasing storage materials look for industry appropriate phrases such as acid- and lignin-free paper/cardboard and non-pvc plastic.  All you really need are some good quality boxes and sleeves that fit that criteria. You can buy materials in art supply stores, from museum storage companies and even from storage stores. Just check the labels for the right terminology. Buy in bulk with a friend and save money.

Scan Once and Store
You should have a digital back-up of your important images. Scan at a minimum of 600 dpi resolution  and 100 percent scale (that's the same dimensions as the original photo, instead of reducing the size) and then put the items in those storage containers. Back-up your digital files using a portable hard drive or an online back-up system such as Mozy.com. Once you've scanned at this resolution, you won't have to scan them again for any projects.

Identify and Label
OK I know this can be an overwhelming task, but take it slow. A picture at a time. Write on the back of a photo—name, date, occasion, and your name and date—or as little as you know. By adding your name and the current date your descendants will always know who labeled the photos.  Labeling tools include a soft lead pencil for paper based prints or a waterproof, fade-proof, quick-drying pen (not a Sharpie) that's safe for resin coated pictures. I like Zig markers. They are widely available in scrapbook, art and office supply stores.

These four basic rules will help you save your pictures so that generations can appreciate them. You can learn more about photo preservation in my book Preserving Your Family Photographs


preserving photos
Monday, January 24, 2011 2:33:30 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, January 17, 2011
In Honor of Martin Luther King Day
Posted by Maureen

I realized today that I don't spend enough time on Flickr. If you're not familiar with it, try it today. It's a wonderful free resource. You can upload picture files, invite comments and share your pictorial heritage.  If you want unlimited uploads and storage, user statistics and more then upload to a Pro account. It's only $24.95 a year.

So who's on Flickr?  Lots of folks including the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. Smaller public libraries and archives also use Flickr to showcase the images in their collection.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Day, I searched for image collections appropriate to the occasion.

Black History Album
A lovely group of images including one of Martin Luther King and his wife.

Black History Group
Members of this group share photos and videos and join in discussions

African American Baseball Team courtesy of the Library of Congress
Here's one of the images in the Library of Congress.

Medal of Honor Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter, Jr. courtesy of the U.S. Army
Even the U.S. Army has a Flickr page!

Next week: Preservation Pointers.

Get ideas for taking, preserving, sharing and analyzing family photos from our Family Photo Essentials CD (now on sale at ShopFamilyTree.com).


1900-1910 photos | african american | men | Military photos | Photo-sharing sites
Monday, January 17, 2011 4:04:10 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, January 10, 2011
Time Flies
Posted by Maureen

I couldn't help but use this as the title. It sums up the clues in this week's picture. 

Nance Family Pictureedit.jpg

Look carefully. The man in the photo holds an open pocket watch in his right hand and has a rooster on his lap. It appears he's trying to convey something about time. It's a triple-mystery.

Sarah Swanner and her mother spent some time over the holidays scanning pictures and stumbled across this mystery image. They have no idea who the man is, where his picture was taken, or what the story is.

(An aside on scanning, I recommend setting the resolution at 600 dpi and saving as a tiff, but a 300-dpi tiff file will provide a good quality reproduction. More on scanning next week.)

All Sarah and her mother know is that this image once belonged Walter Nance, who was married to Sarah's great-grand-aunt Evelyn Dantzler. That's a start!

The white card style was extremely popular in the last years of the 1880s and throughout the 1890s. There is room at beneath the image for the photographer to include his studio name, but instead of personalizing the cards, he left it blank. It's an odd photo for a studio or an itinerant photographer.

There were folks who owned their own photo equipment, so I wonder if this isn't an amateur picture—one friend clowning for the other who's taking the picture. 

The rocks in the background are covered in lichen and there is a type of plant growing on the left. Any geologists out there?  Please weigh in on the type of rock. That might help solve the mystery of where this was taken.

I think the image was taken circa 1890. That's based on the type of suit he's wearing and the pin in his tie. Those types of pins were very popular in the late 1880s and early 1890s. Plus men tied their neckties with this particular style knot during that period.

The pin is interesting. Is it just a decorative pin or is it a clue that this man belonged to a fraternal organization?  I'll be looking for something in this shape. Hope to be able to report back next week.  I think it's a fraternal symbol and have some ideas. 

The next step is for Sarah to figure out which relatives and family friends were living in the 1890s period. It's important to remember that this man could be a friend rather than a relative. 

You can preserve your family's photo stories and share them with future generations in the book Family Tree Legacies: Preserving Memories Throughout Time.


1890s photos | men | unusual photos
Monday, January 10, 2011 9:14:04 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, January 03, 2011
First Communion Mystery
Posted by Diane

I can tell that a lot of folks looked at their family photographs last week by the number of emails I received. Scannning, identifying and organizing your photos is a great way to start the new year. Remember to scan at no less than 600 dpi and select Tiff as the format. You can always re-size for various uses.

Let's ease into the year by discussing a photo with religious overtones.

Murphy-McHugh.jpg

Beth Hartley submitted this tintype photo with a question: "Is this my great-grandmother or her mother?" Beth's grandmother told her that she thought it depicted one of these two women with a younger brother, but she wasn't sure about the generation.

When you think you know who's in the photo, start with family history. In this case, Beth's great-grandmother Ellen McHugh was born in 1885, while Ellen's mother, Bridget Murphy McHugh, was born in 1855.

Photographic formats often help narrow down the time frame. A tintype is a photograph on a thin sheet of iron; they were popular by the late 1850s. The rounded corners on this image strongly suggest that it once occupied a frame.

Costume provides clues about the occasion. The girl's white dress and veil clearly indicate it's her First Communion. She's even holding a tiny prayer book. It's traditional in Catholic churches to dress girls in white dresses and veils for this event. First Communion dress styles mimic bridal fashions. The details in the white dress are unclear, but the veil suggests a date circa 1890. In this period, bridal veils hung from a small gathering of fabric or flowers on the top of the head. This information definitely rules out Bridget McHugh.

The average age for a First Communion is around 7. So if this photo depicts Ellen, then it was taken in the early 1890s. Ellen had an older brother born in 1883 and a younger brother born in 1887. The youngster standing next to her would be 5-year-old William. 

There are always unanswered questions about photos. In this case, I'd love to know why Ellen's older brother John isn't included in this studio shot.

For more help analyzing old family photos, use Taylor's guide Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs (now on sale at ShopFamilyTree.com).
1890s photos | children
Monday, January 03, 2011 2:49:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [4]