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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, August 29, 2011
Hurricane of 1938: Before and After
Posted by Maureen

people-on-the-beach-watch-h_1fb8582c4b.jpg

I grew up on the Rhode Island shore and spent summers on the beach. In Rhode Island (and New England), we measure storms like this weekend's hurricane/tropical storm against the grandaddy of all New England hurricanes: the Hurricane of 1938.  

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the shores of Narragansett Bay were dotted with resorts and beach houses. In this circa-1930s photo of Watch Hill, RI, groups of bathers and sun worshipers cluster under umbrellas in all modes of beach attire. It was a typical summer scene until Sept. 21, 1938.

Watch Hill was famous for its beaches, which stretched seven miles to the west to a lovely place known as Napatree Point. The 1938 hurricane changed the Rhode Island shoreline and washed away many of those summertime places. 

On Napatree Point, 39 cottages, their owners' cars and the road all disappeared and 15 people died, swept out to sea or into Watch Hill Harbor. Today, Napatree Point is a nature conservation area.

2001-19-watch-hill-235_ea6df4669a.jpg

Here's a view of part of the Watch Hill shoreline after the storm. 

You can see other scenes of the 1938 damage to Rhode Island on the Rhode Island State Archives Virtual Archives. You can use the search box on the home screen to search for hurricane or place names.  If you want to read about that storm, I suggest, R.A. Scotti's Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 (Back Bay Books, 2004).

The Rhode Island State Archives has one of my favorite picture collections, so don't stop with hurricane pictures. There is a lot more to look at in their virtual exhibits. 


Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1930s photos | candid photos | men | women
    Monday, August 29, 2011 3:22:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 22, 2011
    Godfrey Update
    Posted by Maureen

    It's week three of the project to identify all the faces in Gwen Prichard's family composite.

     

    In the first installment, I introduced this lovely composite and then last week I showed an original image from which one of the tiny portraits was taken.

    This week, Gwen wrote to me with a new piece of information. Her niece did a quick search of the city directories on Fold3 (formerly Footnote.com) and found a photographer named Peter Godfrey living in Louisville, Ky., in 1866. She thinks it's her ancestor. This suggests that Godfrey created the composite after 1866 when he was living in Fulton, Mo.

    We're still trying to sort through photos for facial comparisons and then trying to compare the life dates of those individuals with their possible ages in the composite.

    I agree with Gwen that Godfrey probably photographed family members residing in Louisville before he moved, and then the Missouri Godfreys later on. There is also the possibility that family members sent him photographs of themselves for inclusion in the composite.

    This photo has a lot of angles worth exploring! According to Gwen's emails, it appears she's identified around a dozen individuals. That's great news. Photo mysteries like this take a long time to decipher. She's doing all the right things—comparing faces to photos in her collection and reaching out to relatives. She's taking it one face at time.

    Photo challenges come in all sizes from single unnamed images to large group portraits. In Gwen's case, she's got a lot of genealogical information to help her follow the pictorial trail.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | Photo fun | unusual photos
    Monday, August 22, 2011 2:10:35 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 15, 2011
    Tackling the Godfrey Family Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week's column focused on Gwen Prichard's family photo mystery. This small composite image is a genealogical lock. All Gwen has to do is find the key. 

    GodfreyFamily2edit.jpg

    In this case, the key is her family photo collection. Gwen spent last week comparing each face in this picture to possible matches in her collection. She's well on her way to solving this picture puzzle.

    Here's one of her comparisons.  In the second row from the top, on the far left, is a little boy in curls.

    boy.jpg

    Gwen has the original photo in her collection. 

    boy with chair.jpg

    He's dressed in what appears to be a riding outfit for boys, with a whip in his hand. As Gwen looks at each face, she's trying to match the date of the composite (mid to late 1860s) with what she knows about the folks in her family pictures:
    • Who's the right age to be in the picture?
    • Do their facial features match—eyes, noses, mouths and shape of face?
    I'm not convinced all the images in this composite were taken at the same time. While she's working on her family collection, I'm studying each tiny picture for clues.

    I'll be back next week with another update on this fascinating photo.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | unusual photos
    Monday, August 15, 2011 4:06:34 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 08, 2011
    Godfrey Family Picture Puzzle
    Posted by Maureen

    Gwen Prichard and her cousin Libby Claypool have quite the family photo mystery. The image is a composite of what appears to be several generations worth of Godfreys.

    GodfreyFamily2edit.jpg

    Several years ago I saw something similar, but that woman didn't have a clue about the identity of the people in the collage. In Gwen's case, there are some identifications written on the back. 

    Godfrey-Reverse.jpg

    She has no idea who wrote the caption, but that detail could be the key to figuring out the identity of the folks depicted.

    Godfreywomen.jpg

    According to the caption, the first three women in the top row (left to right) are Fannie Godfrey, Sarah Ostick Dalton and "Aunt Godfrey." 

    This photo generates a lot of questions. It's going to take some time to figure this out. 

    Photographer
    According to Gwen, photographer Peter Godfrey appears in the 1870 and 1880 census, but she's been unable to find him in the 1860 federal census. He was born in 1841. I found a Peter Godfrey living in Ohio in the 1860 census working as a farm laborer. His age is 23. Could this be the photographer?

    Provenance
    The history of ownership of an image can offer clues worth following. In this case, Libby Claypool is fairly certain the photo belonged to her great- grandmother, Fannie Williams Sloane, who was Peter Godfrey's niece.   Perhaps she wrote the identifications on the back. If so then Gwen might be able to figure out the first name of "Aunt Godfrey." This aunt is an elderly woman and likely the oldest person in this photo. Did Frannie Sloane have an aunt who lived into the 1860s?

    Date of Photo
    There are a lot of faces in this composite. A quick assessment suggests that most of the images in this collage were taken in the 1860s. This carte de visite card photograph with a double-gold-line border was common in the 1860s. The photographer's name and address is also of a design popular in the Civil War decade.

    It seems quite possible that Peter Godfrey had a photo studio in the 1860s. Did he take all these photographs of family members or just make copy prints and lay them out to form this multi-generational group portrait?


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1860s photos | Civil War | unusual photos
    Monday, August 08, 2011 6:24:42 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 01, 2011
    A Possible Identity for the Lady
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week I wrote about Jay Kruizenga's photo of a woman with long hair.

    MYSTERYWOMAN.jpg

    He read the column and quickly wrote back to say thank you. It appears that the lovely woman with the long locks has a name!

    He believe that this picture was taken 1883-85 because the cardstock and other details match another photo in his family collection. The other image depicts Jacob Derk Kruizenga's only living son, Derek Jacobs, who was born in 1879. 

    Jay then wondered "who was living with Jacob Derk Kruizenga (1830-1906) and his wife Jennie (1837-1905) in the same time frame?"

    According to the 1880 federal census, the couple had two daughters living at home—Nettie (born 1861) and Frances (born in 1866). Jay doesn't think Nettie is the woman in this photo because she married and moved away from home around the time of the census. 

    Could this photo be Frances? Perhaps. She was the only living daughter of Jacob and his second wife Gezina Rotmans VanBraak. She didn't marry until 1885, so she would still be single in this photo.

    Now all Jay has to do is find another photo of Frances for comparison. She was well known in Michigan. Frances was elected President of the Michigan Chapter for the Independent Order of Foresters, a fraternal organization, and gave speeches at conventions. 

    Jay wrote to the Foresters but the person who replied said that all their historical information is boxed and unorganized, thus making it difficult to find anything. 

    I'm hopeful that someone has a photo of Frances in her capacity of president of that organization.

    Thank you to the person who commented on last week's story. If you've ever wondered why all these young women posed with their long hair down, there is a simple answer: They wanted to look like the famous Barnum and Bailey Circus act, the Seven Sutherland sisters. The sisters concluded their musical performance by letting down their hair for the audience. It was sensational!


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1880s photos | hairstyles | photo-research tips
    Monday, August 01, 2011 2:57:09 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]