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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 25 September 2016
Colorful Old Photos: Tintypes
Posted by Maureen



This photo takes your breath away. It's a gorgeous painted tintype. This woman in the blue dress stares into the camera with such intensity, you wonder what she was thinking. 

Tintypes, patented in 1856 in the United States, were available in other countries. This is a particularly nice painted tintype. Photo studies often hired artists to enhance their pictures.

Look at the detail in her earring.



You actually get a sense of the filigree design.

Part of the stunning quality of this image is the delicate treatment of her eyes.



Delicate brush strokes define the shape and of her eyebrows and there is no doubt about the color of her eyes, blue.

So who is she? That's what Karen Krumbach wants to know. This is the only tintype in her collection. Let's see what can be deduced from the picture and Karen's family information.
  • The portrait was expensive. This expert painting wasn't cheap.
  • Karen's great-grandmother immigrated from Sweden in 1872, and then married here.
  • Her dress has a v-neck, rather than a rounded collar. She wears her hair down. The combination of these clues suggest a date in the early 1870s.
  • Karen's Swedish ancestors had reddish brown to darker brown hair and some had blue eyes.

Could this be Karen's great-grandmother's wedding portrait?  If she fits the description, it's possible. Karen should answer these questions:

  • Is she the right age?
  • Did this great-grandmother have blue eyes?
  • When did she get married?

Photos of immigrants document the family before and after they left home. Some pictures remained with relatives in their homeland, while others came to America.

This is a very special family photo. It was taken for a reason. The look in this woman's eyes makes me want to know more about her life, too.


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


  • 1870s photos | Tintypes | unusual photos | wedding
    Sunday, 25 September 2016 18:48:22 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 18 September 2016
    Wavy Hair in Your Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Last week, I wrote about how "radium perms" gave our ancestors' hair smooth curls. Two readers sent me pictures of their female ancestors with wavy hair. Whether permed or created with a curling iron, these female ancestors ended up with lovely 'dos.


    Sharon Haskin Galitz sent in a 1928 graduation picture of her mother.



    Laura Powell's grandmother Ruth Myers posed for this picture around 1930, about age 16.

    I've written about clues in curls before. See if you can use the pictures in this post and those linked below for comparison with your family photos.  Can you spot the details?
    • Clues in Curls: Some women wore long curls in their youth. This woman's hair steals the attention in this picture.
    • Four Times the Mystery: A set of four photo booth images act as a timeline of one woman's life. Her hair is part of the solution.

    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


  • 1870s photos | 1920s photos | 1930s photos | hairstyles
    Sunday, 18 September 2016 18:06:41 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 11 September 2016
    Toxic Hairstyles in Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    What's the weirdest thing you've ever done to your hair? 

    Bad hair happens to everyone unless your hair is too short to go astray. You know what I'm talking about.

    Generations of women (and men) have spent money on preparations to make their hair conform to the latest style. But some of those lotions and shampoos made problems worse: They could burn the scalp and make people lose their locks.

    There was another trend that actually made people sick! Look closely at your 20th-century snapshots for evidence of a permanent wave. 



    The combination of heat and chemicals made hair behave. Permanent waved hair was very popular in the 1920s, but the process dates back to the 1870s. You can learn more about the history of the "perm" on Wikipedia.  

    Here's another woman with a similar 'do from the 1920s.

     

    It's a lovely 1923 portrait from my collection of research images.  

    So how did these women attain their gorgeous curled looks?

    Radium—the radioactive, cancer-causing substance associated with Marie Curie. Supposedly it also gave you hair that others would envy.

    The full advertisement for the product advertised with this image, copyrighted in 1924 by H.W. Cherry, actually mentions the word "radium."  You could get a permanent for $5.



    There are no statistics on how many women used this process or how many became ill because of it. Do you have a picture of an ancestor with a permanent wave?  I'd love to see it.


    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


  • 1920s photos | hairstyles | women
    Sunday, 11 September 2016 21:48:37 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 04 September 2016
    3 Tips to Locate Photos of Ancestors' School Days
    Posted by Maureen

    For the first three years of grade school, I went to class in a 19th-century building. A big wide staircase and a classroom cloak room stick in my mind. That building is long gone, replaced by a modern school. I've search for a picture of the original structure to see if my memories of it compare to how it actually looked.

    Finding images of the schools my family attended is a good beginning to understanding their classroom experience, and it helps flesh out my family story.

    Depending on when and where they lived, the school could be a one-room schoolhouse or a massive brick-and-mortar city school.


    Nebraska State Historical Society, [Digital ID, e.g., nbhips 12036]

    If your ancestor attended school in Nebraska, count yourself lucky. The Nebraska State Historical Society added images to the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress. This one is a sod school, District 62, 2 miles west of Merna, Custer County, Neb., in 1889. 

    In this picture, you can see the backwards writing on the bottom edge of the original glass plate.

    According to the cataloging record, in 1974, someone identified the teacher in the middle as Elsie Thomas who married a Bidgood. One of the girls in the back row, second to the left of the teacher, is Nettie Hannawald. There is another picture of Nettie online as well.

    Tip 1: Look online. Search the Library of Congress for pictures of schools in places your ancestors lived. Choose "Photos, Prints, Drawings" from the dropdown menu at the top, and type search terms such as Merna Nebraska school.

    Then expand your search to Google images. A quick search for history of public school architecture Grand Rapids resulted in a lot of hits including an online article and photo essays for Grand Rapids, Michigan.

    Tip 2: Check newspapers.
    In a town where I once lived, an old schoolhouse is now a bank, but I learned a lot about the building form old newspapers. In the 1930s, some members of the town balked at installing indoor plumbing. The old outhouse was good enough, they said.

    Search newspapers looking for school information:
    • You might locate information about the school building.
    • Merit student lists in the paper could mention your relative
    • There might be an engraving or a photograph published

    Tip 3: Ask the locals. Public libraries and historical societies often have pictures of old school buildings. Check the library or society website for a collection of digital images. Include school yearbooks in your search.

    Let us know what you find!


    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


  • 1880s photos | children | school photos
    Sunday, 04 September 2016 17:27:43 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]