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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, August 25, 2013
The Marsteller Old-Photo Mystery
Posted by Maureen

Last week I outlined the mystery of the Ralph Marsteller photo.  This week I'm back with more details.
StaffordFamily photo Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller_edited-1.jpg
Let's start with some basics.

What are they wearing?
Clothing clues can be very helpful, BUT it's important to remember that there were lots of different styles every season and people didn't automatically wear the most current fashion. I look for details that help create a time frame. In this image, the most fashionably dressed woman is standing in the back on the far left.

Staffordhat.jpg

Fashion research suggests that this woman posed for this picture in 1918.  The lightweight fabric worn by everyone in the picture suggests a warm weather month. These little details could help pinpoint when Ralph Marsteller met his family or friends.

In 1918, broad-brimmed hats with an upturned edge returned. You could buy a similar hat in the Sears Catalog for that year. Widespread collars were very popular on dresses in this period as well.

stafford boy.jpg

These lightweight suits for little boys appeared in mail-order catalogs circa 1914 and were still popular four years later. They were recommended for boys 2 to 6 years of age and cost approximately 70 cents. So this boy's attire places him in an age group.

Who's Not in the Picture?
Patti Stafford knows that Ralph's wife Eva isn't in the photo, and it doesn't look like their teenage son is here either—none of the children are the right age to be him. Nor is their daughter Arlene in this picture; these girls look too young.

Who's Who?
If this picture was taken about 1918, then Ralph's son Ralph could be the little boy in the military style suit. He'd be 5 years old.

It's also possible that Ralph's sister is in the picture along with her husband and their children. More research into this angle could result in an identification.

The older woman is not Ralph's mother. She was deceased by this time, but this woman could be an aunt who resembles some of the people in the photo.

stafford older woman.jpg

Ralph's mother Dianna Jane Rumfeld/Rumfield had sisters with small children at the time of this picture. This could be a gathering of the Rumfeld/Rumfields, rather than the Marstellers.

Ralph's brother Henry is still living, so Patti's next step is to show him this photo to see if he can identify anyone in it.

Research often turns up overlooked information. When Ralph's father William died, a Mr. Snyder was appointed guardian for him. While going through all the family paperwork looking for a connection, Patti found an interesting detail. Dianna Jane's marriage certificate states that her last name was Rumfeld/Rumfield. Her death certificate states that Dianna's mother was Louisa Snyder. This detail suggests that Snyder was a family member.

I'm hopeful that Henry can put names with the rest of faces, but for now it looks like Patti has a picture of her grandfather and his father taken in about 1918.


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

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • 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 | men | snapshots | women | World War I
    Sunday, August 25, 2013 4:30:43 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, August 19, 2013
    Looking for a Pennsylvania Connection
    Posted by Diane

    Every week I search the submissions for this column looking for a mystery photo. Each photo is accompanied by some basic information and usually a story. My next steps are to contact the person who sent in the photo either by phone or email, then start digging for more information. This picture is very intriguing. 

    Only one person in Patti Stafford's group portrait is identified. It's her great grandfather Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller (born 1887 in Center Valley, Pa.). The rest of the people are unknown.

    But even having one name is a start. Patti hopes to find other Marsteller or Reinhard relatives who recognize people in this picture.

    StaffordFamily photo Ralph Reinhardt Marsteller_edited-1.jpg


    Ralph's father William Hillegass Marsteller died suddenly at age 40 in 1896, Allentown, Pa, without a will. T he courts appointed a Mr. Snyder as Ralph's guardian. Patti believes the 9-year-old and his sister, Estella, continued to live with their mother. It's possible that court records hold additional details.

    I'm working with Patti to piece together the story of this image.
    • Could the little boy on the left be her grandfather Ralph George Marsteller?
    • Could the older woman in the front be her great-great aunt?
    • Why is her great-grandfather in this picture, but not her great- grandmother and their other son?

    Patti's taking another look at her family history to see if she can find a family with several girls. There are three girls in the picture as well as the little boy in the sailor suit on the left. The gender of the child being held by the man in the back row isn't clear. 

    So how do the clues add up?  I'll be back next week with the rest of the story. I love a good mystery—don't you?


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

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • 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 | children | hats | men
    Monday, August 19, 2013 2:00:17 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, August 11, 2013
    Old Family Photos: Fraternal Organizations
    Posted by Maureen

    Blanch Flanigan owns not one but two images of family in dress that identifies them as members of a fraternal organization. These secret societies were very popular in the 19th century. They offered men brotherhood, work opportunities and a shared mission.

    Symbolism varied. The three interconnecting rings of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows signifies friendship, love and truth. Masonic aprons and compasses are also distinctive.

    These groups were primarily for men, but at least one fraternal organization allowed both male and female members: the Order of the Eastern Star. Boston lawyer and educator Rob Morris established this group in 1850. It was represented by a single star.

    Could these individuals be members of this organization?

    flanigan1edit.jpg

    This couple posed in the 1870s for this portrait. Mary Ellen and Henry Watson wear a fraternal collar with just one star.

    The Watsons were both born in Ontario, but their son was born in Quebec, Canada. It is unknown if this picture was taken in Ontario or Quebec. It's a solemn formal tintype portrait.

    I've seen pictures of men in fraternal regalia, but not a picture of both a man and a woman in this attire from this period.

    flanigan3.jpg

    Members of fraternal organizations were supposed to be respectful of their attire, so the second image is puzzling.

    flanigan2edit.jpg
    The men are clowning for the camera with their legs crossed, collars askew and with cigars in their mouths. The man on the right is Henry Watson. Seated next to him is his son James.

    The son wears a wide brimmed youthful style while his father wears his work cap. I love the hat on the father. I'll be in touch with Blanch to see if she knows more about Henry's occupation.

    There are a few questions relating to this image:
    • Is James a member as well?  Most groups had age requirements. Is he old enough to be a member.
    • Is the son wearing his mother's collar, or vice versa?
    • Why are they clowning for the camera? Could the collars be photographer's props?

    The basic identification facts of this photo are known, but there's a bigger story.

    I'd start by studying the local history of the town in which the family lived. This will help determine which fraternal organizations were in the area in the 1870s. This is a Masonic-related group, but which one?

    This isn't the first time I've written about fraternal groups. Here are three columns on the Independent Order of Odd Fellows:


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

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • 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 | fraternal | hats | occupational
    Sunday, August 11, 2013 3:57:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, August 04, 2013
    Foreign Photos in the Family Album
    Posted by Maureen

    This week I'm at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Conference. It's a huge event with folks attending from all over the globe. I love the international atmosphere and especially like looking at photographs taken around the world.

    Photos taken in foreign lands can be particularly challenging. Instead of showing you this week's photo immediately, I'm first going to break it down into clues. The image is one I purchase for my personal photo collection.

    foreign1.jpg

    The style of this woman's hair and the square-necked bodice and the fit of the dress identify a time frame of the early 20th century. Women who followed the current Parisian fashions and who lived in urban areas generally adopted western style dress. Even fashion-conscious women in rural areas might follow trends while others adopted the local cultural dress.

    foreign4.jpg

    Her hat rests on a chair. This additional detail narrows the time frame. Hats about 1910 featured wide brims and tall crowns with lots of trim.

    foreign2.jpg

    Men didn't always wear western dress. The style of this man's coat and even his mustache suggest a photo taken abroad (or one showing an immigrant in the United States). The insignia on his lapels are military.

    foreign6.jpg

    I could use a little help with the imprint. The photographer's information on a photo usually includes a name and address. Is there anyone who can read the Cyrillic on this image? 

    foreign3.jpg

    Here's the whole photo. The couple to the right are very fashionable folks for the second decade of the 20th century. The man on the far left and the young man in front draw attention because of their different clothing.  Photo studio props and backdrops vary around the world, but they usually include some basic similarities: a chair, something on the floor (in this case it's hay) and a painted backdrop.

     foreign7.jpg

    At their feet are the hats worn by members of this party. Two straw hats with wide bands and one military cap. That likely belongs to the man on the far left (see enlargement above). 

    Photos taken in foreign lands need careful study of every detail. You'll find more help in my book Family Photo Detective.


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

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • 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 | hats | Military photos | women | World War I
    Sunday, August 04, 2013 7:07:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [4]