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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 22 February 2015
Identifying Old Photos in Lockets and Brooches
Posted by Maureen

Teri Luna's grandmother Catherine Walker Brown Robson owned two pieces of photo jewelry. 

Her locket contained two photos, one of Catherine and the other of her sister Jean. When Teri removed them, two other images fell out that had been stored behind the other pictures. One was Catherine's husband, William, when he was young, and the other was her brother George Andrew Drinnan in his WWI military uniform.

The other photo jewelry, a pin or brooch, presents a mystery. Teri's not sure who's in this portrait: 



Catherine was born in Dalziel, Lanarkshire, Scotland, in 1894, and immigrated to Canada with her mother, Agnes Dunlop Drinnan Brown. Teri is hoping that this picture shows Catherine's father, John Waddell Brown.  Brown was born about 1855 in Fintry, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

People wore pins like this in both the United States and Scotland. But the pin dates to earlier than Teri thinks. Pins of similar design date from the 1850s to the early 1860s.

Based on the man's tie and lapels, I'd date this photo to the early 1860s.  His under-the-chin beard connected to sideburns also was common during that period. In the United States, this type of beard was called a Greeley after newspaperman Horace Greeley.

Because Brown's great-grandfather wasn't born until 1855, this man isn't him. This man is middle aged, with gray throughout his facial hair.  

So who could he be? He could be Agnes Dunlop Drinnan Brown's father, or the father of her husband, John Waddell Brown. I'd need more information on their birth places and years to double-check the data against the photo evidence.

If this image was taken in, say, 1863, and the man was in his 50s (let's estimate 53), then this man was born about 1810. This suggested birth year might help identify him in the family tree.

The best resource for researching photo jewelry, such as lockets, charms, pins and brooches, is Tokens of Affection and Regard (2005) by Larry J. West and Patricia Abbott. Teri's family is lucky to have this gorgeous pin.


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


  • photo jewelry
    Sunday, 22 February 2015 19:29:49 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 16 February 2015
    Old-Time Baby Pictures
    Posted by Maureen

    Social media today is full of pictures of children and grandchildren, but posting historical, black-and-white baby pictures hasn't really caught on yet.

    Babies born 100 years ago are just as cute as the darlings posted today.  Take this image for instance: Maria Baker submitted it and wants to know more about it. 



    She found it in her grandmother's things. Maria owns pictures of her grandmother (b. 1901) as a baby, and she knows this isn't her.

    In the late 1890s, it was common to pose children on animal skins like the one depicted here. The wide yoke on the dress suggests that it was taken circa 1900 (either a few years earlier or later). This child is likely belted around the waist to hold him or her in the wicker posing chair.

    The gender of the child isn't clear. Boys wore dresses until they started to become mobile. If this isn't Maria's grandmother, could it be one of her siblings or a picture of her husband? 

    If you look at an image taken overseas, the same basic information of photographer's name and location appears on the card photographs just like the ones taken in the United States. Wien stands for Vienna. Maria knows that her grandmother's family lived in that area. Etzelsdorfer is the name of the photographer.

    I hope having a date for the image helps her identify this adorable baby. I'd estimate the child is between 6 months to 1 year old.  From the warm hat on its head to the expression on the baby's face, this picture is a treasure.


    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


  • 1900-1910 photos | children
    Monday, 16 February 2015 20:32:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 09 February 2015
    RootsTech 2015
    Posted by Maureen

    Four years. That's how long it's taken for RootsTech to change the way we view genealogy conferences. In those few years, RootsTech has become the largest genealogical conference in the country. Last year, more than 7,000 people attended; this year's expected crowd may double that number in part because the organizers partnered with the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). The FGS conference will be held in conjunction with RootsTech, with separate class sessions but a shared exhibit hall and keynote speakers. Register for either conference and you can purcahse an add-on pass to attend sessions for the other. 

    If you can't attend, look for details (still to come) about the live streaming part of the conference, or watch last year's speakers. Their videos are online.

    I was there in 2011 and 2013, and I'll be there this year.  The reasons it's so popular are simple:

    1.Location. It's in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is home to the largest genealogical research library—FamilySearch's Family History Library

    2.Dynamic programs. Speakers from all over the world present new material at this conference. Each and every lecture is fresh.  This year I'm presenting a total of five at the joint FGS/RootsTech conference.

    3. Excitement. There's a buzz about RootsTech that's hard to miss. From early morning, big name keynote lectures to blockbuster evening entertainment, the conference goes from dawn to bedtime.

    I'll be in booth 1240, nearby Family Tree Magazine, Genealogy Gems and Family Chartmasters. Stop by to say hello, listen to one of our free Outside the Box lectures, and enter our grand prize drawing.

    I love attending conference so that I can meet people and look at their photos.

    Two years ago at RootsTech, I met Pam and Art Crawford, who had a photo mystery that defied explanation:

     crawford2.jpg

    I've written a few installments on this mind-bending mystery.  In the second installment I tackled the costume clues in Mind-Bending Mystery Part 2.

    Last October, a woman came forward with additional images and solved part of the mystery. You can read about it in Mind Bending Mystery Revisited.

    One puzzle remains. How did Pam's family come to think that these folks were relatives? Read the columns and weigh in below by adding a comment.

    Can't wait to see new photos this year! 


    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


  • Rootstech
    Monday, 09 February 2015 23:39:05 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 01 February 2015
    Big Hats in Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Ronnie O'Rourke's great aunt Mary (Mamie) Smith (b. 1892) wears an enormous hat in this family portrait. Her grandson identified her in the image, but now the family wants to know who's standing with her.


    Her hat and dress are quite stylish for this outdoor event. The presence of the mandolin suggests that this group was likely singing and maybe dancing along with the tunes played by the family musician.

    Ronnie specifically wants to know if the man standing next to Mamie is her father, John Smith (b. 1865).  The family knows he died somewhere between 1905 and 1920, but they can't find the death record. It's the curse of the common name. She's been trying to narrow down just which John Smith is her relative.

    She wonders if Mamie's cousins, the Nevins siblings Frank (b. 1887), Catherine (b. 1888), Thomas (b. 1892) and Louise (b. 1897) are in the photo.  

    Each photo generates a series of questions. In this case, I'd love to know:
    • Why Mamie is visiting her cousins?
    • Are they all cousins, or did she have siblings?
    • Where was it taken?
    • Who took the picture?  It's a snapshot and someone owned an amateur camera, but who?  There could be other candid shots taken on the same day. 
    • Could the man be the father of the other people in the picture?

    Ronnie wonders about that gorgeous hat. Turns out that Louise was a milliner and it's possible she made it.

    The hat offers a few clues as to when the image was taken.

    In the circa 1910 period large turban style hats became fashionable. French fashion magazines like the Journal Des Demoiselles. Click here to see a fashion plate from 1909. You'll see some similarities between these hats and the one worn by Mamie.


    Fashion savvy Americans knew what the current styles were overseas. Here's the 1909 Spring Sears Catalog showing similar turban shaped hats.



    By 1913, smaller hats were in vogue. The hat is one clue that suggests a time frame. 

    Is it Mamie's father?  Perhaps.  If so, then he was still living after 1905.

    Love looking at hats, check out the styles worn in the nineteenth century in Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats, 1840-1900.


    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


  • 1900-1910 photos | hats | summer | women
    Sunday, 01 February 2015 15:34:27 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]