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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, 26 January 2015
Civil War Photo Clues Revisited
Posted by Maureen

Last week's mystery photo featured a mother and daughter. Winston Cochrane owns the image and wanted to know if it depicts the daughter's wedding.



I tentatively dated the image to circa 1868 until more details became available. The back of a card photo can reveal other facts. The presence of a revenue stamp indicates a specific time frame of Aug. 1, 1864, to Aug. 1, 1866. A photographer's name and address can be researched in city directories, census records and online. A caption can confirm or refute the supposed identity of the sitter.

Here's the back of this image:



A quick search of the Louisville City Directories on Ancestry.com confirms Winston's details about the photographer. Samuel Jennings operated a studio from circa 1864 to 1866.

He ran an advertisement in the 1864 Louisville Directory on page 132:



Kentucky was a border state during the war and eventually sided with the Union. The lack of a revenue stamp on this image is puzzling. Jennings was in business throughout the years when those tax stamps were used, so the image was taken prior to August 1864 or after August 1866.

A comment on last week's post suggested a circa 1865 date based on the width of the hoop and the style of the sleeve. The frogging on the bodice also was popular during the Civil War. 

The lack of the stamp suggests it was taken after August 1866. If Mary Meaux and daughter Nannie posed in late 1866, then the daughter would be 17. 

A date for this image answers Winston's question about whether it was taken at her wedding in 1870.

You can learn more about Civil War photographs in my book, Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album.


Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1860s photos | Civil War | women
    Monday, 26 January 2015 15:22:56 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 18 January 2015
    Clues in a Civil War Era Photo
    Posted by Maureen



    Winston Cochrane sent in this adorable photo of a mother and daughter. Mary Meaux and her daughter Nannie M. Cochrane posed for this image, which shows the close connection between the two. Winston would like to know if the daughter is wearing a wedding dress. She married in Louiseville, Ky., in July 1870, at age 21. At the time her mother was 51.

    Before examining those clues, I played with an online site called PicMonkey.com to add details to the image.  Here are a few things I immediately saw when looking at the picture for the first time.



    • They both have slight smiles on their faces.
    • They are holding hands!
    • On the mother's dress, you can see the hoop line on her skirt.

    Clues to Date the Image

    • The size and shape of the card photograph identifies it as a carte de visite, a type of photograph first introduced to the United States in 1859.
    • The double blue line on the card was popular throughout the 1860s.
    • By the 1860s to early 1870s, round, cornered cards on thick cardstock were common.
    • In the mid-1860s, fanciful trim appeared on dresses. I love how the zigzag stitch on the mother's skirt appears in a tighter pattern on the daughter's bodice. The daughter's dress features plackets of different colored fabric at the shoulder seam and along the bottom of the dress. It's more than an everyday dress. The mother's sleeves feature ruffled trim at the wrists, a common trim in the mid to late 1860s.
    • How old are they? This is the big question. Does the daughter look 21? What do you think?
    • One detail I don't have is the back of the card. A revenue stamp on the back would narrow the time frame, as would the design of the photographer's imprint.

    So when was it taken? 

    I'll rule out the early 1860s.The daughter wears a lovely dress with plenty of details that suggest it's worn for a special occasion. It's a light colored dress in an indeterminate color. Wedding dresses ranged from white to darker colors.  Most brides in this period wore a very nice dress, not necessary white.

    Her hat dates from the mid-late 1860s, when narrow-brimmed hats with trim became commonplace. 

    Until I see the back, I'll place this image in the circa 1868 time frame. Dating clothing is not always an exact science. Sometimes people wore older clothing styles, comfortable with what they've been wearing, rather than newer styles. 


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1860s photos | Civil War | women
    Sunday, 18 January 2015 16:19:45 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Monday, 12 January 2015
    Dating an Old Tintype & DNA Clues to American Indian Ancestry
    Posted by Maureen



    I love the slight, Mona Lisa smile on the woman in this picture. She's comfortable and relaxed in this image, and so is the happy baby chewing on its fist. Rex Maggert thought he knew the identities of the woman and the baby, but now he's wondering if his initial ID is correct.

    Could this be Almira Helmer Funderburg (born Feb. 11, 1813) and her son Solomon Mosier Helmer Funderburg (born Feb. 6, 1842)? If this was the case, the image would've been taken in the early 1840s.

    Rex knows that an early 1840s date would make the original a daguerreotype. The problem, though, is that you can see the scratches typical for a tintype, a process not patented until 1856.

    He's right to doubt the identity and focus on the photographic method. Those scratches clearly indicate that this was a tintype. He owns the original, which is approximately 2x4 inches, a popular tintype size known as a bon ton.

    Rex asked, "Could it be a tintype copy of a daguerreotype?" That's a possibility, but only when the other clues in the photo support that hypothesis. In this instance, clothing and other clues suggest a later date.

    The woman wears a cotton or wool challis dress in a bold pattern. The loose fit of the dress is common for the early 1860s. Her sleeves have drop shoulders and full gathers at the wrist. Big bows worn under collars also are typical of the early 1860s. It's likely this woman made this everyday dress.

    In the 1840s, on the other hand, women's dresses were close-fitting and the sleeves were tight on the arms.

    If this isn't Almira and Solomon, who's depicted?  Whoever she is, this woman is married. There is a wedding ring on her left hand.



    Rex's grandmother Alice Maggert told her descendants they had Native American roots. Other family researchers were told the same thing. Rex's DNA results show a zero chance of that ancestry, but test results can vary depending on the test taken, who in the family is tested, and how distant an American Indian ancestor might be. Family Tree Magazine's on-demand webinar Using DNA to Solve Family Mysteries, presented by Blaine Bettinger, can help you make sure you have the right test—and test-taker—to answer your family history question.

    Unfortunately, photographic evidence can't be relied upon to prove ancestral ethic identities. I have the same problem in my maternal ancestry. Documents and DNA are the best indicators.  

    The best chance for proving his family's American Indian roots lies with either a paper trail (Almira appears in the census as "white," but that enumeration may not be correct) or by having other close relatives genetically tested to see if their results are different.

    I'm hoping that Rex can name both the woman and the baby in this picture. It's the first step to solving a family history mystery.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1860s photos | children | women
    Monday, 12 January 2015 18:53:06 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 04 January 2015
    First Photo Mystery of 2015
    Posted by Maureen

    Diana Luellen and her father found this old photo at his sister's house almost 20 years ago. A lot of the aunt's pictures were identified, but the portrait of this man and several others were not.

    Diana emailed me that "this is the one I keep on my computer desk, willing him to tell me who he is each day." It's no wonder. The quality of this portrait shows us this man's expressive face and light-colored eyes.



    At one time this oval portrait was in a frame. The solemn, formal portrait makes me wonder if this man held a position of importance in his community. Nineteenth-century local histories feature men dressed in this fashion. It could've been taken for inclusion in a town history.

    The clothing is conservative. Wide lapels with deep notches and a silk stock around his neck over an upturned shirt collar date to the mid- to late 1860s. His tie style is more appropriate to the late 1850s or early 1860s. However, the style stayed in fashion for men in business and politics long after that period. His side whiskers don't appear to continue under the chin.

    If this man were approximately in his mid-60s when photographed, and this photograph was taken about 1867, then he was born circa 1800. Judging age is difficult, of course, because it relies on various factors including occupation, health and genetics. The man also could be in his early 70s.

    Diana has one clue. The man looks like the paternal side of her family, which lived in Luzerne/Susquehanna Co., Pa.

    My advice to her is to reexamine her family history for men born near the turn of the 19th century and still living during the 1860s. I'd then consider their occupational history, searching for someone who may have been a community leader or well-known business person.

    I'd also use the Internet Archive or Heritage Quest (a ProQuest database available through libraries) to look for local histories for the towns in which her ancestors lived.

    In this picture mystery, age, dress and local history are clues that could identify this man.


    Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides 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
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now


  • 1860s photos | hairstyles | men
    Sunday, 04 January 2015 16:53:02 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]