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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, September 24, 2012
Family Resemblances in Old Photos: Who Is This Man?
Posted by Maureen

Last week I discussed how to care for a badly damaged photograph, and showed an image Lois O'Malley photographed back in 2005. Lois wrote: "As soon as I saw the man in the photo he minded me of my grandfather, William Alexander Simmons (1873-1934)." He's seen here:

Wm  Alex Simmons edit.jpg

Her Dad's family all had blue eyes like the unknown man in the damaged picture:

unknown  Simmons edit.jpg

Now Lois is wondering if this mystery man is her great-grandfather, Hiram Simmons (1833-1911). 

Facial comparison relies on looking at approximately 80 different points in a face, including eyes, noses, mouths, ears and the spacing between them.

Photo identification is about adding up all the facts and coming up with a hypothesis. Here's what I'm looking at in this case:
  • Provenance: Though this man looks like Louis' grandfather, she thinks it might be her great-grandfather because the photo is owned by her dad's eldest sister's son. The process of inheriting photos is complicated. Lois thinks that this cousin ended up with the photo because their grandmother lived with her eldest daughter. However, it is also possible that the image depicts Lois's grandfather.
  • Format:  This is a crayon portrait. It's a photo outlined and colored in with artist materials. This type of picture was very popular in the late 19th century. The problem with crayon portraits is that an artist/photographer's assistant drew in the details. There could be a little artistic embellishment here.
  • Clothing: Due to the condition of this picture, it's difficult to see all the clothing details, but it appears the man wears a wide tie and a jacket with a narrow collar and a wide notch in the lapel. His hair is very short.
Men wore a variety of ties in the late 19th century. There were wide ties in the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s. In the 1890s, men's neckware usually had a pattern. In the 1880s, lapels were narrow and short.

In the 1870s, men wore their hair longer and not as neatly combed as this fellow.
  • Facial clues: The man in the portrait has a wider jaw than Lois' grandfather, but they have similar ears, eyes and even the same wide forehead. 
Does anyone want to try cleaning up the deteriorated picture in a photo editing software? You can email me the results or post them on the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page. Please include details about the program you used and what tools you used in the software.


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

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

  • 1870s photos | 1880s photos | 1890s photos | enhanced images | hairstyles | men
    Monday, September 24, 2012 2:02:34 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 17, 2012
    What to Do When You Find a Damaged Family Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    In 2005 Lois O'Malley visited an elderly cousin in South Carolina to talk about family history. On the visit, she discovered he owned a large photo. As soon as she saw its condition, she took photos of it to make sure she had a copy.

    unknown  Simmons edit.jpg

    Storage in fluctuating temperature and humidity had taken a toll on this crayon portrait. This type of image is a photograph enhanced with charcoal pencil.

    The thin paper was worn away in places and there's evidence of mold and insect damage. O'Malley did the right thing. Her camera documented the exact day she took the image.

    So what do you do with a picture in this condition?
    • Photograph or scan it immediately. This type of deterioration will continue to progress if it isn't moved to a stable environment.
    • Try to convince your relative of the importance of the image. 
    • Find a good storage spot. Ideally, a windowless interior closet in a living area of the home (not an attic, garage or basement).
    • Place the item in an acid- and lignin-free folder and a reinforced-corner box. Here are some online suppliers where you can get these storage materials.
    • Obtain an estimate from a photo conservation expert for stabilizing the picture. You can find a conservator in your area on the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works website. 
    • Separate moldy photos from other items. Mold spreads quite easily and you don't want to end up with more than one problem.

    It's a good thing that Lois photographed the picture. When she went back to visit her cousin a few years later, he couldn't find it. 

    There are more photo preservation tips in my book, Preserving Your Family Photographs.

    Lois is wondering if the man in the picture is her great-grandfather. I'll look at the photo evidence next week.


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

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

  • men | preserving photos
    Monday, September 17, 2012 2:55:54 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, September 10, 2012
    Preserving My Family Photographs
    Posted by Maureen

    When I decided to write a book on preserving photographs, I needed examples. For months I visited antique shops and photo shows looking for really damaged pictures. As you might expect, there was no shortage of problem images. 

    As the oldest child, I've inherited our family photo collection from my mother, so now it's time to put into practice all the things I've been teaching. Preservation is about more than just taking care of the photos—it also involves digitizing them and saving their stories. I thought you'd like to know what I've been doing:
    • I started by maintaining the original order of the photos just in case Mom mixed up some of Dad's pictures in the boxes. I wanted to be careful not to confuse photos from both sides of the family. My Mom had boxes of pictures, but Dad only had one large envelope. 
    • My first step was to scan all the pictures as 600 dpi (dots per inch) tiff files so that if something happened to the originals, I'd still have a high-quality scan. Having a digital file makes it easier to share photos with family too. 
    • I invested in some additional acid- and lignin-free boxes and non-pvc plastic sleeves. 
    • Last winter, I sat with Mom and recorded her talking about the photos. We got another chance to do that this weekend. A cousin inherited another box of pictures passed down in the family from my mother's oldest sister. This month, that cousin sent me a few of them. Thankfully, someone identified all the family members in them. My Mom took care of naming all the unrelated folks for me.  There were neighbors and friends in some of the pictures.
    • Now that I know who's who, I'll use a combination of old-fashioned filing and computer keywords to organize the lot. 

    These are a few basic tips for saving family photos. There's more information in my book Preserving Your Family Photographs, including details on dealing with those sticky "magnetic" album pages and taking care of negatives.

    Next week I'll tackle a photo identification mystery of a man in a badly damaged picture. 


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

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

  • preserving photos
    Monday, September 10, 2012 5:05:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Tuesday, September 04, 2012
    The Story Behind Unknown Faces in Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I featured Julie Magerka's genealogical photo mystery. As you know, I believe that every photo tells a story.  By piecing together the clues present in a photo—photographer's imprint, props, faces, clothing and photographic format—you can let that photo talk.  Even if you can't identify who's in an image, those basic elements may eventually lead to new discoveries.

    MagerkaGrammaFamily.jpg

    Julie's photo encouraged her to investigate her Romanian roots. While the photo seems like a simple group portrait, the story represented in the image is anything but ordinary.

    MagerkaGrammaFamilycloseup.jpg

    Julie's grandmother's name appeared on her son Rudolph's birth record as Julia Magierka. The record was marked that the baby was "illegitimate." Julie's Dad always used the spelling of Magerka for his surname, without the i in the surname used by his mother.

    Julia Magierka met John Turansky/Turiansky supposedly when he was a prisoner of war during World War I, and she was a translator. The couple married and had a daughter. John immigrated to Canada first, then about a year later, Julia and Rudolph's half-sister, Anne, followed.

    Rudolph didn't immigrate to Canada for another decade. Family story-tellers used to have a lot of theories about the fact that Jullia left him alone. Perhaps he lived with the family depicted in this photo.

    Julie is hoping that further research will reveal the names of the other people in this people. All she knows at this point is that there is definitely more to this photo story. 


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor, all available in ShopFamilyTree.com:

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

  • 1910s photos | group photos | Immigrant Photos | photo-research tips | Photos from abroad
    Tuesday, September 04, 2012 3:14:41 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]