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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 27 November 2016
Clues in a Curious Old Family Photo: The First Mannequin Challenge?
Posted by Maureen

It's not the first time a family photo begs the question "What were they thinking?" That's the case with this image of family sitting as though they're doing a mannequin challenge.



The story behind this clowning for the camera has been lost, and the picture lacks identification. It was found in the collection of Sherry Yates' great-grandmother. Sherry and her mother wonder if the older woman in the middle could be Mary S. Veal Parker (1834-1908).



Approximating Ages

Mary was Sherry's great-great-grandmother, who lived in Glassboro, Gloucester County, NJ, and died in 1908. Whether this is Mary depends on the date of the image. The clothing clues suggest a date from just before 1908, so it's quite possible this is Mary. 

If it is her, then identifying the rest of the folks may fall into place. A family group sheet of who's living and their ages in about 1905 should help with that task. The little boy in the front, for example, is around 5 years of age. 

Interior Views
When you find an indoor photo in your collection, take a good look around. It's a glimpse into the everyday life of your ancestors.

In the days before HGTV, decorating ideas came from magazines, which included instructions on how to make table scarves and wall hangings.  Sometimes you can spot photos of other family members hanging on the wall.

Have you spotted the frame on the left side?



Unfortunately we can't enlarge it to see the picture itself. It looks like a group portrait—there are multiple heads.

My favorite part of this picture is this duo (father and son?) staring into each others eyes in the foreground. So cute!



Family group portraits are a challenge worth trying to solve.


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
    1900-1910 photos | group photos | unusual photos
    Sunday, 27 November 2016 20:30:56 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 20 November 2016
    Colorizing Old Photos: A 1923 Thanksgiving Tablescape
    Posted by Maureen



    Our Ancestors' Thanksgiving

    Happy Thanksgiving! This 1920s table is set for a holiday meal. In 1923, the Underwood Co., publisher of stereoviews, sold this image. I'm not sure the intent of the picture, but perhaps it shows a model for our ancestors' idea of the perfect holiday meal.

    You can tell a story with a single picture. What do you see in this image?
    • two chairs
    • two candles
    • two place settings
    • a turkey (or perhaps a large chicken)
    • a cloth table covering
    • a basket cornucopia of fruits and vegetables (the centerpiece)

    Besides the table, this room has a hanging lamp, a couple of pictures on the wall and a combination sideboard/hutch (on the right).

    This picture gives us insight into the holiday festivities for this mythical couple. It's a time capsule of Thanksgiving in 1923.

    This particular image tells us that only two people were at dinner and that the turkey/chicken was the main part of the meal.

    Have you ever taken a picture of your holiday table before everyone sits down? I have. It helps me remember what we had for dinner that year, how I decorated the table (now called a "tablescape" on the decorating shows), how many people came, and who brought what dish.

    Colorize Old Pictures for a Look at Your Ancestor's World

    It's easy to imagine our ancestors' world as black and white, but of course they were surrounded by color. Algorithmia is a free site that helps you colorize black-and-white pictures to bring them closer to a real-life view.

    It's easy to use. Upload a picture to the site and see a comparison of the image in black and white, and color. You can move the purple line to see where the tinting happens. In this case, the stark-looking setting becomes a warm dining room. 




    Here's the colored image. Notice that not all of the items on the table were colorized. This isn't a professionally Photoshopped colorization with historically accurate shades, but it does enable you to quickly take a different look at your pictures.

    You can download the comparison and the final colorized image, albeit with the site's watermark.

     

    This Thanksgiving, take a break from the after-dinner clean-up and see  how this site transforms your old family photos. The dishes can wait.

    See others' colorized photos and share your favorite colorized photo with us on the Family Tree Magazine Facebook page. We'd love to see 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

  • SaveSave
    1920s photos | facebook | Photo fun | thanksgiving
    Sunday, 20 November 2016 16:59:49 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 13 November 2016
    Behind the Scenes in Old Photos: How Your Ancestors Got The Thanksgiving Turkey
    Posted by Diane


    Few tables in America are without a turkey on Thanksgiving Day. It's an old tradition to roast a bird (although whether a turkey was actually at the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving is unknown).

    This father, accompanied by his young son, went to pick out a turkey big enough for their family gathering. (See the picture larger here.) In the middle of the photo, the poultry farmer weighs a turkey on a scale. The two men on the right of the image may be buying that particular specimen. Behind them are a lot of turkey's already cleaned and ready for purchase.  Doesn't look like they sell gravy and potatoes like the farm I used to go to though!

    The Bain News Agency took this image around 1910-1915. It's a great everyday scene captured for a newspaper. The George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress contains thousands of images of newsworthy pictures.

    This photo connects us to our ancestors. For years I visited a turkey farm to purchase the main course, but most nowadays get a frozen or fresh turkey from the grocery store. Our ancestors either shot one, took one from their own poultry stock or bought one in a setting like this. They were also available in city butcher shops.

    While shopping is usually done by women in the family, from this image it appears that obtaining the turkey was man's work. It was usually Mom's job to pluck and clean the bird.

    Preserve your Thanksgiving celebration by making like a news photographer:
    • If you buy your turkey at a farm, take a picture. That farm may not always be around. By doing so you're documenting a bit of local history.

    • I'm not sure how a grocery store would feel about you taking pictures as you shop, but imagine your grandchildren looking back on that image years from now. What would be familiar or foreign to them?

    • Using a video app on your smart phone, make a movie of a relative preparing a traditional side-dish or dessert. If they'd rather not be photographed, try zooming in on their hands and the ingredients.
    • Take pictures of guests. You can also delegate that responsibility to a younger member of the family, and have the child ask each person a family history question.

    The StoryCorps Great American Thanksgiving Listen encourages families to share stories this holiday. You may be asked by a student in your family for an interview. If not, be the person to bring up family history!


    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
    1900-1910 photos | storycorps | thanksgiving
    Sunday, 13 November 2016 18:54:04 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 06 November 2016
    Clues in a 1900s Mystery Photo of the Old Family Farm
    Posted by Maureen



    Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Planning a menu for that important family meal makes me think about how all that food ended up on my grandmother's table. There are no farmers in my family history, so I love to see reader's photos of rural life. 

    Darlene Sampley has this lovely picture of an unidentified farm family. Dad sits on horse-drawn sickle mower, pointing at something.[Thank you to reader Jim TeVogt for identifying the mower.] He's in the front yard with a team of horses. The barns—it looks like there are two—are in front of him. Anyone recognize the farm equipment?

    A Google Image search for farming equipment 1900 (about when the photo was taken—see below) turned up plows with similar wide metal wheels.

    The house has three chimneys. The attached building on the left could be the kitchen.

    What else do you see?

    This is a poor-quality image. I've enhanced this copy by playing with contrast and sharpening features in Adobe PhotoShop Elements. It looks better with these variations of color than a pure grayscale version did.

    Did you spot the boy and his dog in the foreground?



    How many children are on the porch?




    (Left to right) Mom stands holding an older baby/toddler, an older sister stands to the right and next to her a little girl.

    We know several things about this family: There are four children (at least one boy) ranging in age from about 1 year to preteen. They live on a farm. I've estimated that this picture was taken about 1900. It's hard to see the details, but from the scant clothing clues this could fit the time frame.

    A next step would be examining the 1900 census for any matches in Darlene's family tree. There's a statistical table for agriculture with the 1900 census but it lacks the specific details, including farm owners' names, present in earlier agricultural censuses.

    I'm hoping Darlene can put names with these fuzzy faces. Can you add anything to this story?


    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
    1900-1910 photos | enhanced images | farming | group photos
    Sunday, 06 November 2016 21:35:53 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [1]