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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Monday, 28 December 2015
A Year's Worth of Photos: 2015
Posted by Maureen

This was another amazing year of photo columns.  Thank you for sharing your family pictures and for re-posting your favorite photo detective blog posts on social media. Can't wait to see what 2016 will bring!

Here's a month by month overview of your favorites. Please click links to see the full stories.

Imagine moving and leaving photographs behind. It happens more often than you'd think possible. January's first post featured a portrait of a man found in a house. He's still a mystery.

February's post on photo jewelry explained how you can read the clues both in the photos and the settings to discover when a piece of jewelry containing a picture was made and/or worn.  Sometimes pictures were replaced in jewelry settings.

Comparing faces whether you do it using software or just using your eyes can be tricky. Family resemblances can lead to misidentified pictures. Here's what you need to know to sort out the twenty plus points in a person's face. 

In April a Gold Rush town picture yielded clues for one family. If you had family living in Shaw's Flats, California, you might spot a relative in this group picture.

DNA is this year's most talked about genealogical topic but inherited traits can show up in pictures too.  A six-fingered ancestor in one family collection was full of identification clues. 

June brought clues to help you spot a blue-eyed ancestor in a picture.  Try these tips with your photos.

It took Michael Boyce to make the right connections to solve his family photo mystery. Here's how he did it.

One of the most challenging clues in a picture are military uniforms. There were no standardized uniforms in the nineteenth century, but August's column lays out three techniques to sort through the evidence. 

The clues in September's graveside photo fit together to tell a story of one family's funeral, just not the one the family was expecting. Read all about it.

Our ancestors dressed like their favorite popular icons from politicians to performers. See how this one young woman dressed like Annie Oakley and see if you can spot these clues in your own collection.

November focused on facial hair. Imagine writing today's Presidential candidates to influence their facial hair fashions. That's exactly what one little girl did. The true story of Abraham Lincoln's beard is noteworthy.

Nineteenth century brides didn't usually wear white. They wore nice clothes and so did their grooms which means that wedding pictures are often overlooked in family collections. In Wedding Clues: 1855 Peter Whitmer and his bride Lucy Jane McDonald dressed to the nines for their nuptials.


1840s photos | 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Abraham Lincoln | Annie Oakley | beards | daguerreotype | facial resemblances | Gold Rush | group photos | jewelry | men | Military photos | mourning photos | photo jewelry | photo-research tips | wedding | women
Monday, 28 December 2015 17:00:44 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, 21 December 2015
Santa Claus Through the Years
Posted by Maureen

The depiction of Santa has changed a lot over the years from a thin person with variously shaped beards to the icon we recognize today. He didn't always wear red. According to Holiday Symbols by Sue Ellen Thompson (2000)the modern depiction of him is a combination of the English Father Christmas, the German St. Nicholas and the Dutch Sinter Klaas.  Technology brought kids a new way to imagine Santa by giving them new fictional interpretations and ways to listen to him.  Here's an overview of this loved Christmas character.

In 1843, Charles Dickens featured him as "the ghost of Christmas present" in a green robe with a wreath on his head in the original Christmas Carol.

Wikipedia "Santa Claus" accessed December 21, 2015

By 1868 children no longer had to dream of sugar plums, their parents could buy them. The United States Confection Company used an illustration of a white-bearded Santa wearing a tasseled hat standing astride a reindeer led sleigh as an advertisement for a sweet treat. 

Library of Congress

The twentieth century solidified Santa's look as a full figured, white bearded fellow. The Christmas 1901 Puck magazine featured an angry looking Santa with children and a baby.  Toys and books were popular gifts.  Notice the Victrola held by the bespectacled boy.  The National Jukebox project of the Library of Congress allows us to listen to Gilbert Girard aka Santa Claus tell us about his toy shop (1918).




L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz, wrote a new Christmas classic in 1902, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus which is available on the Internet Archive.  It was adapted for a film of the same name in 1985.

The new century brought Santa to the movies too. You can find a list of him in early films on Wikipedia. Who can forget the first time they saw, Miracle of 34th street? 

This holiday, have fun gazing at these old depictions of Santa, listening to his voice and sitting down with family to watch a classic film.

Happy Holidays!


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


  • 1840s photos | 1890s photos | 1900-1910 photos | Christmas | Santa Claus
    Monday, 21 December 2015 14:53:27 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Monday, 14 December 2015
    Little Boys in Military Dress in Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen



    Patsy Ellinger's picture of 3-year-old Paul Robert Engemann and his older brother Karl Engemann, age 5, is a charming portrayal of two little boys playing dress up. It was taken circa 1902. Both boys wear miniature military uniforms, copying those likely worn by soldiers in Silesia, Prussia.  This is nothing new.

    During the U.S. Civil War, mothers could make their son's Zouave outfits like those worn on the battlefield.


    Godey's Lady's Book January 1862


    Dress-up was more than play-time activity. Children often wore costumes for community events. The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario,  currently has an exhibit Mirrors with Memory: Daguerreotypes in Canada. One of the images on display shows a group of boys dressed in historical costumes taken in 1855. You can see it here.

    To relive your childhood dress-up kits look no further than the Sears Catalog. You can browse your childhood holiday wish list using the catalogs on Ancestry.com.

    The photo of the Engemann boys captured them in one of their last moments in Prussia. Their widowed mother brought the two boys to the United States in 1903. Karl served as an American soldier and died in 1918 during World War I.

    If you have photos of your ancestors dressed-up as children, I'd love to feature them. Here's how you can submit them.


    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


  • 1850s photos | 1860s photos | 1910s photos | children | Military photos | World War I
    Monday, 14 December 2015 14:19:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 06 December 2015
    Wedding Wear, 1855
    Posted by Maureen

    Lumber merchant Peter Whitmer (born 1828) and his bride Lucy Jane McDonald (born 1837) had the means to pose for two portraits when they wed in February 1855. In the first, the couple posed alone.

    Peter sits with top hat in one hand and his other gloved hand rests on the shoulder of his bride. Lucy looks contemplative, with her chin resting on one hand.



    In the second wedding portrait, they posed with best man Dr. Charles Parke and bridesmaid Margaret McDonald, Lucy's sister. In the same year, Parke was commissioned a surgeon for the Russian Army during the Crimean War. His diary of the California Gold Rush has been published as Dreams to Dust.

     


    Look closely at both portraits and you'll see the details in this well-dressed couple's wedding attire. Lucy wore a plaid dress with a wide lace collar and an open bonnet with silk interior that framed her face.

    Peter's wide, horizontally tied silk neckwear was very fashionable over an upturned collar. His long frock coat and patterned vest was suitable for a wedding or formal business dealings. His hair and that of his best man reflects the popular style, long and combed into an upward peak on the top of their heads.

    In 1855, most brides married in the home surrounded by family and friends. Clothing for the occasion was similar to everyday attire, but if the couple could afford it, outfits included a few extra touches such as a nicer fabric, silk trim or special lace. 

    While both of these portraits look like paper photographs, the originals would have been shiny reflective daguerreotypes. Candace LaPrade shared other pictures of Peter Whitmer for last week's column.

    Six of Lucy and Peter's seven children lived long lives.  In 1900, their children and grandchildren gathered for a portrait.
     


    The little girl sitting second from the right in the front row is Candace's grandmother. Peter and Lucy are in the center.



    Candace's grandmother wrote down all the names of the individuals in this group portrait and kept that paper in an envelope with the picture.

    Candace is one lucky genealogist! She has multiple pictures of some of her ancestors and information to go with them.


    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


  • 1850s photos | 1900-1910 photos | family reunion
    Sunday, 06 December 2015 20:50:37 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]