Free Updates

Let us tell you when new posts are added!

Email:

Navigation

Categories
June, 2017 (4)
May, 2017 (4)
April, 2017 (5)
March, 2017 (4)
February, 2017 (4)
January, 2017 (5)
December, 2016 (4)
November, 2016 (4)
October, 2016 (5)
September, 2016 (4)
August, 2016 (4)
July, 2016 (5)
June, 2016 (4)
May, 2016 (5)
April, 2016 (4)
March, 2016 (4)
February, 2016 (4)
January, 2016 (5)
December, 2015 (4)
November, 2015 (5)
October, 2015 (4)
September, 2015 (4)
August, 2015 (5)
July, 2015 (4)
June, 2015 (5)
May, 2015 (4)
April, 2015 (4)
March, 2015 (5)
February, 2015 (4)
January, 2015 (4)
December, 2014 (4)
November, 2014 (5)
October, 2014 (4)
September, 2014 (5)
August, 2014 (4)
July, 2014 (4)
June, 2014 (5)
May, 2014 (4)
April, 2014 (4)
March, 2014 (5)
February, 2014 (4)
January, 2014 (4)
December, 2013 (5)
November, 2013 (4)
October, 2013 (4)
September, 2013 (5)
August, 2013 (4)
July, 2013 (4)
June, 2013 (5)
May, 2013 (4)
April, 2013 (5)
March, 2013 (4)
February, 2013 (4)
January, 2013 (4)
December, 2012 (5)
November, 2012 (4)
October, 2012 (5)
September, 2012 (4)
August, 2012 (5)
July, 2012 (5)
June, 2012 (4)
May, 2012 (4)
April, 2012 (5)
March, 2012 (4)
February, 2012 (4)
January, 2012 (5)
December, 2011 (5)
November, 2011 (4)
October, 2011 (5)
September, 2011 (4)
August, 2011 (5)
July, 2011 (5)
June, 2011 (6)
May, 2011 (7)
April, 2011 (4)
March, 2011 (5)
February, 2011 (3)
January, 2011 (5)
December, 2010 (4)
November, 2010 (5)
October, 2010 (4)
September, 2010 (4)
August, 2010 (5)
July, 2010 (4)
June, 2010 (5)
May, 2010 (4)
April, 2010 (4)
March, 2010 (5)
February, 2010 (4)
January, 2010 (4)
December, 2009 (3)
November, 2009 (5)
October, 2009 (4)
September, 2009 (4)
August, 2009 (5)
July, 2009 (4)
June, 2009 (5)
May, 2009 (4)
April, 2009 (5)
March, 2009 (6)
February, 2009 (5)
January, 2009 (5)
December, 2008 (4)
November, 2008 (4)
October, 2008 (6)
September, 2008 (5)
August, 2008 (5)
July, 2008 (4)
June, 2008 (6)
May, 2008 (5)
April, 2008 (5)
March, 2008 (4)
February, 2008 (4)
January, 2008 (5)
December, 2007 (4)
November, 2007 (4)
October, 2007 (6)
September, 2007 (4)
August, 2007 (4)
July, 2007 (5)
June, 2007 (4)
May, 2007 (3)
April, 2007 (2)
March, 2007 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Search

Archives

<2017 June>
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
28293031123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
2526272829301
2345678

by Maureen A. Taylor

More Links










# Sunday, 30 October 2016
Death Photography: Is it For Real?
Posted by Maureen

Forget all those postmortem photography slideshows that have gone viral, like this one. Only a few of these photos that supposedly show deceased people are actual postmortem images.

Many of these supposed postmortem images show people who are very much alive and posing stiffly due to exposure times of up to 20 minutes, perhaps supported by metal braces photographers often used with subjects to help them remain still. Or a photographer may have darkened a person's blue eyes so they show up better (which does give a creepy effect).

Photographing the dead is an old tradition. Photo history author Dr. Stanley Burns divides postmortem photos into two types: "One portrays the person in death, and the other ... poses the person as if they were still alive."

Some of his collection is part of an exhibit called Securing the Shadow:Posthumous Portraiture in America, at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City through Feb. 27. It shows how to spot photographs and other art that truly memorializes the deceased.

Thank you to Dr. Stanley Burns and the American Folk Art Museum for allowing me to use two images from the exhibit.

Children were commonly photographed after death. Epidemics and the lack of modern antibiotics raised the mortality rate of infants and small children, and a postmortem photo might be the family's only picture of a child. Here, a grieving father poses with his baby. Sometimes the whole family surrounded the deceased in a last chance for a family portrait.  


c. 1860

Check women's listings in the 1900 or 1910 US census to compare the number of their children born versus the number still living. It can be shocking.

An obvious sign of death in a portrait is a body in a coffin. The body may be adorned with flowers or for a child, a favorite toy.

 
c. 1844

In this image from a 2008 blog post, the family gathers behind the casket at a funeral.


Some photographers did employ techniques to make a deceased person look more life-like. That included tying a person to a chair or tying their chin so that the mouth wouldn't open. Hand-coloring the image could enhance the image. 

Mourning images are more common than postmortem images. Spot  evidence of a death in your family album by watching for the following.
  • a woman wearing jewelry, such as a brooch or pendant, made with hair and featuring a photo
  • a photo featuring dead flowers or arrangements of flowers with a picture in the center.

  • A person holding a photograph of a person who has died.
  • a woman dressed in black, but this is tricky. Dark colors and even some bright ones, like orange, appear black in old photos. And our ancestors might wear other colors while mourning. Some mourners wore lavender, depending on their relationship to the deceased.

If you're not sure whether you have a postmortem photograph, look for death records, newspaper obituaries or a mention in a family document dating from the same time as the 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

  • SaveSaveSave
    men | mourning photos | negatives | postmortem | props in photos
    Sunday, 30 October 2016 19:02:16 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 23 October 2016
    How to ID Strange Faces in Six Kinds of Old Group Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Whether an old family photo has two or 20 people (or more), it's considered a group portrait. When you find one in your collection, it may generate a groan rather than a cheer. Solving those types of picture mysteries is a challenge and a some might say a curse. You have to figure out the identity of all of those people!

    Let's look at several types of group portraits.

    Sporting Groups


    This group of tennis players posed between 1870 and 1880. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

    Our ancestors participated in sports: tennis, baseball, basketball and football, to name a few. When you see an ancestor with equipment or in uniforms, you might need help figuring out what sport was being played.  Start by looking at city directory listings for clubs and organizations in your ancestor's hometown.

    Family Reunions and Gatherings



    Family group portraits cover everything from picnics to weddings to family reunions.

    Joseph Martin's family gathered at Belle Island Park outside Detroit. In my  Four Tips to Identify Group Portraits, you'll find techniques to sort out who's who in a family gathering photo. Figuring out time and place and matching up faces are just parts of the puzzle. Use a chart to track how old people were in relevant years, then use the picture as bait to get cousins involved in the search.

    School Pictures
    I have one and you might, too—a class photo. While you might not remember all the names of your classmates, posting the image on social media can help you renew friendships and connections. If it's a class photo from an earlier generation, social media is still a good option. Photographers sold copies, so it's likely you're not the only one with the picture. 

    Work Photos
    A group portrait might be several people posed at work. Use your family history research to determine where your ancestor found employment.  Census documents and city directories are a good beginning.

    Organizational Dinners
    Fraternal organizations and social groups often gathered for dinners in hotels. These yard-long pictures are often rolled up in a box. You don't necessarily need to know the names of everyone in those pictures, but it would be great to find your relatives. Looking for their faces in the crowd requires patience and a good magnifying glass.

    Military Images
    Men and women in uniform often posed for big group pictures of the people they served with. Some are informal snapshots taken by one of the group while others are formal pictures to document their unit.




    I'm still trying to identify these women. If you know of any women who served in the transportation corp at Montgomery Air Force base in World War II, let me know. This is one of five snapshots I have of these women.



    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

  • Save
    group photos | women | World War II
    Sunday, 23 October 2016 18:09:04 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 16 October 2016
    How to Identify an Old Tintype Photo
    Posted by Maureen

    In part three of genealogist Darlene Sampley's mystery photos, it's time to take a look at another tintype.

    The first post explored the identity of a blue-eyed blonde girl in a painted tintype. Last week, we looked at a pair of crayon portraits.



    Preservation Note
    A tintype is an image created on a thin sheet of metal. If you don't know whether you have a tintype, here's a trick: A magnet will be attracted to a tintype.

    As you can see on the edges of this photo, the emulsion (image layer) has a tendency to flake off. When you have an image with this type of damage, scan it immediately to digitally preserve it. It should be kept in an acid- and lignin-free envelope for storage. 

    Dating the Image
    Created with a process patented in 1856, tintypes remained popular into the 20th century. This tintype was once in a case—you can see the mark of the original brass mat that framed the image. If the mat were present, it would be possible to study the design on the brass. But all we can see are the rounded corners of the opening.

    In this instance, the clothing helps determine a time frame for the image.



    This middle-aged couple posed for a solemn portrait in good clothes. The husband chose a wool checked shawl-collared vest. He tied his neck scarf in the horizontal style popular in the 1850s. He has a neck beard extending from near his ears to beneath the chin.

    His wife wears a cap on her head. A single brooch decorates her collar. While her clothes appear dark in this portrait, they may not be. Even bright colors like orange looked black in photos. She could be wearing a red dress or other dark shade.

    You can see that both members of this couple have blue eyes.

    There is one more clue in this picture.



    The man's hands show that he works without gloves. On his wife's hand is a wedding ring. Yes, in the picture it appears that it's on her right hand, but this is because the image is reversed—common for early photographic processes. Not all photographers used reversal lens to make portraits look natural.

    Let's estimate that this man is in his late 50s. If the picture was taken circa 1858, then he was born circa 1810. Darlene should examine her research for a man born about that time. I'm hoping these details help Darlene identify this couple.



    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

  • SaveSaveSaveSave
    1850s photos | cased images | men | Tintypes | women
    Sunday, 16 October 2016 19:07:01 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 09 October 2016
    A Pair of Photo Mysteries: Charcoal-Enhanced 1840s Portraits
    Posted by Maureen

    Darlene Sampley isn't sure who the young woman is in the painted tintype featured in last week's column, but she working on figuring out the mystery. But that tintype isn't the only problem photo in Darlene's collection. This week it's a pair of portraits, of a mysterious man and woman. Ladies first:

     

    There are several clues in this picture.

    First, it's a copy. It's a charcoal enhanced photograph on paper, as is the next image.

    The vertical pleats in this woman's bodice suggest that her dress dates from the 1840s. This means the original was a daguerreotype.

    Additional clues include:
    • Narrow lace collars were common in this period, then re-appear in the 1860s.

    • There are streaks of gray in her hair.
    • Married women often wore daycaps covering their hair in the mid-19th century. It's a conservative cap, plain with small ruffles on the sides of her head.
    • Her nose is narrow with a triangle shaped tip. Together with her small mouth, these two features can be used to identify her in other images.

    The second portrait could be her husband.



    Look at the width of those lapels on his coat! Combined with the knotted tie with upturned shirt collar, this suggests the 1840s.

    There are wisps of gray in the long sideburns and hair, but it's his eyes that dominate the portrait. They are deep-set and likely blue. Unlike last week's picture, the photographer didn't color them. Those eyes, his wide straight mouth and narrow chin could help identify him in later pictures.

    If this couple were in their 40s or early 50s, then they were born around 1800. 

    There is a possibility on Darlene's family tree: William Noyes (b.1789 -d.1878) and his wife "Polly" Huestis (b.1800 -d.1863). There are other couples on her tree born in this general time frame as well. To sort them out, she needs to do the following:
    • Follow the history of ownership of these portraits to verify they come from the Noyes line.  

    • Find other images. Since they live past mid-century, I'm hoping someone else in her family have other images of them for comparison. 
    Fingers crossed! I'm also hoping that someone in the family has the original daguerreotypes.


    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 | enhanced images | women
    Sunday, 09 October 2016 15:45:01 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 02 October 2016
    Family History Month: Focus on One Old Photo Collection
    Posted by Maureen

    Thank you Darlene Sampley! 

    I met Darlene last month in San Diego at an all-day seminar for the San Diego Genealogical Society. We started talking about her family photo collection and I started thinking about Family History Month, which genealogists traditionally observe in October. Hmm. Wouldn't it be great to show examples each week from one woman's photo collection?

    Darlene agreed and here we are. Let's take a peek at her mystery photos and see what happens:

    Last week's Photo Detective Blog column focused on painted tintypes. Darlene has one, too. I enhanced this image to help you see the details.  The hand coloring is much clearer in this enhanced version that it was in the original. Photographers often varnished tintypes, and over time, that coating darkens and makes the image difficult to see. A simple tweak to accept automatic color restoration when scanning made this image pop into view. 


    The original customer asked the studio to hand-color certain details in this image—her blonde hair, white collar and gold pin. This girl has light-colored eyes, but unlike last week's picture, the studio in this case didn't dramatically color the eyes. It looks like there might be a subtle tint.



    The problem with this image is the dark area of her dress. Other than the collar, very little is visible. The collar could be from the 1870s or 1880s. Which is it? 



    The bar pin holds the clue. In the late 1870s, women often wore small pins like this at the base of the throat. It's lovely! It could be real gold or costume jewelry. 

    This lady doesn't look that old, perhaps only a young teenager. 

    Let's see what happens when Darlene compares these details to her family tree. I'm hoping for a tentative identification.

    If you want to learn more about painted tintypes, read an online article about the Dr. Stanley Burns collection, called Forgotten Marriage



    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 | jewelry | Tintypes | unusual photos
    Sunday, 02 October 2016 15:23:19 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]