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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, 25 May 2015
A Memorial Day Tribute
Posted by Maureen

Today we equate Memorial Day with the start of summer, but it's important to recognize it as a somber occasion as well.

A few years ago I wrote about the roots of the holiday in Decoration Day  1868.

First Decoration Day.jpg

This stereograph from the Library of Congress shows the first Decoration Day, held at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868.

Create A Memorial Day Tribute
One of my favorite parts of the Fold3.com website in their Honor Wall. It's a simple concept with a powerful impact. Upload a photo of an ancestor who served then add a biography of the person, records that mention them, stories about them and personal details. You've created an online memorial for your men or women in uniform. Click the green button at the bottom of the screen to link the profile you've created to Ancestry.com.

Before starting a new memorial search the site to make sure someone hasn't already created one for your ancestor.  Search by name or narrow by war/conflict first.

Search for Photos
My family has been lucky. A number of our ancestors served in the military from the Civil War to today, but they all came home safely. I have images of the men in my family that served from World War II to the present, but lack pictures from earlier conflicts. Here's a few strategies I use to try to find those missing pics.
  • Know where my ancestor was living at the time he (or she) served. This allows me to check local and state archives for documents and records.

  • Find proof of service. Whether it's a book that lists Civil War soldiers or a pension record, knowing the name of the regiment in which they served is helpful.

  • Search. Service details provide specific detail that allow you to search on Google for images taken of that regiment/unit, search auction catalogs online or find re-enactment groups. Amazing items turn up at auction including an album of every member of a Maine regiment.  (Still wonder who bought THAT!)  Members of re-enactment groups often research the men that served in the group they are recreating. This can lead to new information and perhaps a photo.  

  • If at first you don't succeed try again...  About once a year I run all the names of the people I'm looking for through databases like Ancestry.com, do another Google search and try local historical societies again. Why?  New material turns up everyday so it's worth a second look.

I'm still hoping to find a picture of the red haired ancestor described in a pension record who served in the Civil War. 


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


  • Civil War | Military photos
    Monday, 25 May 2015 16:42:19 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 17 May 2015
    The Wright Brothers and Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen



    In the early part of the 20th century, three members of the Wright family were among the most famous individuals in the country (if not the world).  Orville and Wilbur's patented flying machine demonstrations on both sides of the Atlantic brought thousands of people to fields to watch them fly.

    Their schoolteacher sister Katherine flew more than any woman of her generation. The three of them stand together in this 1910 photo from the  Library of Congress. If you want to see the Wrights' original patent drawings, they're avilable online through the Google patents search. Their aerial demonstrations mesmerized the public and made our ancestors believe in the future. 

    David McCullough's new book, The Wright Brothers, presents the brothers as ordinary men with extraordinary focus, determination and passion. Many men of their generation tried to perfect manned flight, but Orville and Wilbur Wright were first to actually do it.

    Their exploits even influenced a fashion trend. When Mrs. Hart O. Berg accompanied Wilbur Wright on a flight in 1908, she tied her scarf around her dress at the ankles to keep it in place.  It's possible that the French fashion designer Paul Poiret saw Mrs. Berg and Katherine Wright tie down their skirts. He created a short-lived style known as the Hobble skirt.



    It was difficult to walk in these narrow skirts. This postcard calls it a speed-limit skirt because women could take only baby steps. If you see a photo of an ancestor wearing a skirt of this design, you'll have a narrow time frame for an image of 1910 to 1913.

    Our ancestors had fashion icons that influenced everyday dress. Both Orville and Wilbur Wright dressed neatly for their flights. Wilbur always wore a high-necked collar with a tie, a jacket and a cap. While full-crowned caps were available before the Wrights took flight, they increased in popularity throughout the second decade of the century and beyond. The style of the brim and crown changed in later decades.

    Watch for these fashion trends in your family photos from the circa 1910 period. If your ancestor passed on stories of seeing the Wright brothers in flight, please let me know.


    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


  • 1910s photos | Airplanes | unusual clothing | women | Wright Brothers
    Sunday, 17 May 2015 14:53:55 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 11 May 2015
    A Click Away: Eight Years of Photo Identification Clues
    Posted by Maureen

    Every week I sit down to write a new blog post about picture mysteries.  On this blog that archive goes back eight years. That's a lot of photo clues and picture facts!  It's easy to use this blog as a free resource.  Here's how.

    • Below that is a list of categories. It's a list of blog posts by month and year in reverse order from the most recent all the way back to March 2007.  The number in parentheses refers to the number of blog posts in that month. Click any of the months to see all the posts for that period.
    • Scroll down past the dates and you'll find a list of subject headings used with each post.  Click any of those to go to all the columns that cover that topic such as 1840s to World War II.
    • Use the search box at the bottom of the sidebar to find more specific articles. I always include the name of the person who submitted the photo and the name of their ancestor.  Online family reunions are possible. Why not search for your surname using the search box to see if there are any hits?  A distant cousin may have submitted a photo mystery. 
    • You can also Google it!  Search "Photo Detective blog [and the surname you're looking for].   

    Over the years I've covered common photo identification clues, popular ID mistakes and written about how even the tiniest details can reveal family history. Take a look at past columns and let me know which one is your favorite.

    Thank you for reading!



    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 news | photo-research tips
    Monday, 11 May 2015 16:22:43 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 03 May 2015
    Old Photo Mysteries and Genetics
    Posted by Maureen

    At the recent New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC) I met Pat McHugh.  She told me about a very interesting image in her family collection.  The name of the couple is currently unknown.



    Their clothing and the studio setting suggests it was taken in the late 1860s. The pair was likely born in at least the early years of that century.  It's not their attire or the setting that makes this image stand out.

    Take a good look at the woman in this carte de visite

    Have you spotted anything unusual about her hand?



    She has six fingers on her right hand. The extra digit is on the outside of her hand, so according to the Wikipedia page on polydactyly, her condition is known as postaxial polydactyly. The incidence is only .6 per one thousand births for female Caucasian births, and it's considered an autosomal recessive trait. 

    This woman wasn't alone. There are many famous individuals who were born with an extra digit and a good number of fictional characters as well. Anne Boelyn's extra finger may be a myth.

    I'm hoping that armed with a date, Pat can determine who they are on her family tree. Unfortunately, the additional digit is unlikely to be mentioned in any documents. There don't appear to be any stories passed down in the family about this woman either. 

    This one image is a reminder to study all the details in a picture very carefully for unusual identification clues.  What's the most unusual thing you've found in a family photo?


    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 | unusual photos
    Sunday, 03 May 2015 22:55:11 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]