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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, November 28, 2011
Winter Holidays in the Family Album
Posted by Maureen

The holiday season has begun! It doesn't matter that stores decorated months ago. Thanksgiving is the beginning of all the winter holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. In the last week of December I'd like to run a column that features historical photos from your ancestral family album that capture the season. You can email them to me.

They can be pictures of folks in front of their Christmas trees or family gathered around a table for a holiday meal. It can even be a snapshot of historical decorations on a Christmas tree. 

I have a small collection of unidentified images of people that are not my ancestors. Here's one.

holiday003edit.jpg

This unidentified couple chose a picture of themselves tuning their new radio for their Christmas card. 

Photo greeting cards date back to at least the 1880s. I own a New Year's card of a woman; she sent it to her friends.

Can't wait to see what you send me!


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 | Photo fun
    Monday, November 28, 2011 7:59:25 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 21, 2011
    Census Diving: Browsing for Facts
    Posted by Maureen

    As genealogists, we mine census records for our ancestors and the details of their lives. For the last two weeks I've written about Richard Levine's puzzling pic in Is this Painted Woods North Dakota? and Painted Woods Mystery: Part Two.

    One of the tools I used to research the photo was the 1900 US census.  I routinely use online census records to learn more about when photographers were in business and to fill in background information. 

    For the Levine mystery, I wanted to see just how many folks lived in Painted Woods, ND, and whether that information could help identify who's in the picture.

    I browsed the census pages. While I might hesitate to read the census page by page for major metropolitan areas, it's a great way to learn more about small communities.  Here's how to do it:

    On HeritageQuest Online, a ProQuest database available through many libraries, click the link for Census. There are two options at the census tab: Search or Browse (some records aren't indexed, so they're available only by browsing).  Click browse. Select the census year, state, county and location.

    In Levine's case my selections were 1900, North Dakota, Burleigh and Painted Woods. There were only a couple of pages for the families there.

    On Ancestry.com it is also possible to browse census pages. On the right hand side of the census search box for each year of the census is a Browse box.  You'll need to narrow the search by year, state, county and location to see the pages. 

    By reading the pages for Painted Woods, I learned that most of Jewish settlers had left the area by 1900. The area was then home to many Scandinavian immigrants. 

    In an unidentified family group portrait, a census record can help you determine who's in the picture: List the genders and estimated ages of the people in the photograph, then check census records for your relatives who were alive at the time the photo was taken. Look for a household whose members match the genders and estimated ages of those in the photo.

    When I use the census to research photographers, I fill in the years between the decennial enumerations with city directories, state censuses and any other pertinent records. 

    I'd like to know if you've ever used the census to solve a picture mystery. If you have, please use the comment box below this column.  I look forward to reading them.


    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | photo-research tips
    Monday, November 21, 2011 2:42:09 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Tuesday, November 15, 2011
    Painted Woods Mystery: Part Two
    Posted by Maureen

    Yesterday morning, I called Richard Levine to discuss his photograph of a family group possibly posed at Painted Woods, ND.


    I featured the photo and the mystery in last week’s column.

    Levine has known about this photo for only a few months. His cousin Sally showed it to him and told him that her mother said it was taken at Painted Woods. There are a few inconsistencies in this identification, though.

    Richard’s ancestors, Joseph and Anna Confeld, immigrated from Kishinev, Bessarabia in 1885, and settled in Painted Woods.

    Another set of Richard’s ancestors, Barouk and Hannah Dorfman, also lived in Painted Woods. The Dorfmans were among the first settlers to the area in 1882.

    Both families lived there only for a few years and then moved to Minnesota.

    Richard and Sally thought that since family said the picture was taken in Painted Woods, it must date from the 1880s. Last week, I looked at the clothing details and determined the original image dates to circa 1900. This generates some questions.

    The photo might not be of the Painted Woods community. In fact, by 1900, most of the Jewish settlers had moved elsewhere. The 1900 federal census for the community enumerates a number of Scandinavian families living in the area. 

    If this picture was taken in Painted Woods, Richard needs to determine why the family would return to the area. Could it be a family reunion, a wedding, or a funeral?

    One of the big problems is a lack of comparison photographs. I suggested comparing the faces in the group portrait with other photographs in the family. Unfortunately, Richard lacks images of family members. He’s hoping that someone will read this column and either have photographs of Painted Woods or of the Confelds or Dorfmans.

    Richard’s research turned up a first-person account of life in the community. Joseph Steinman (related to the Dorfmans) wrote about the hardships of life on the North Dakota frontier. It’s at the Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest.

    Another resource worth investigating is William Sherman’s Jewish Settlement in North Dakota Collection at the Institute for Regional Studies & University Archives at the North Dakota State University Libraries. (Click here to download a PDF finding aid for the collection.) 

    If anyone is interested in reading about daily life on the northern frontier, I suggest Rachel Calof’s Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains (Indiana State University, 1995). It’s an amazing true story.


    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

  • 1900-1910 photos | group photos | Jewish
    Tuesday, November 15, 2011 2:03:21 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, November 07, 2011
    Is this Painted Woods, North Dakota?
    Posted by Maureen

    Photographs and history go hand in hand. Take this photo for instance. It likely represents a bit of North Dakota history.

    PaintedWoodsNorthDakota (2).JPG

    Richard Levine's cousin Sally sent him this photo. Her mother had given it to her. The mother always thought it depicted a group at the Painted Woods settlement in North Dakota. 

    Levine's Jewish ancestors (Joseph and Anna Confeld) immigrated in 1885 from Kishinev, Bessarabia (now Moldova or Romania), which was a Russian territory. His grandmother Rose was born in North Dakota near Bismarck and lived in Painted Woods.  The harsh living conditions led many settlers to move elsewhere. In fact, Richard's family ended up in Minneapolis, Minn. 

    The big question in the family is about this photo. Does it depict a gathering at Painted Woods? And when was it taken?

    Richard reached out to the Jewish community through the JewishGen website and posted the photo there.

    The scalloped edge of this snapshot, as well as its size and format, identify this as a copy of an earlier picture. It was definitely photographed in the first half of the 20th century. In the lower left-hand corner you can see that the original photo had a tear.

    Let's look at the clothing clues.
    PaintedWoods2.jpg

    Richard thought it might be from the 1880s, but look closely at the women's dress sleeves.

     PaintedWoods3.jpg 

    The shape and style of the sleeve dates this photo to circa 1900.  The children's play clothes are also consistent with this date.

    I'll be back next week with another installment of this story.


    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

  • 1920s photos | group photos | Jewish
    Monday, November 07, 2011 3:17:24 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]