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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 26 February 2017
Old Movies: Study These Three Clues. Tell the Story.
Posted by Maureen

 
Romney, WV, March 1938. Library of Congress.


Another Oscar statuette has been bestowed upon a movie of the year (not withstanding some painful-to-watch onstage confusion when the presenters announced the wrong Best Picture winner due to an envelope mixup).

My family has a long history of being film buffs. My mother recalls Saturday double-features with her siblings. Even now, there's nothing she likes better than a good film (new or old). Do you know about your family connections with movie viewing? Here are some clues to look for:

Trinkets and Treasures
My grandmother collected an entire set of dishes from viewing movies at the local cinema. It wasn't until I was older that I learned the story behind those dinner plates. You might have a souvenir from an old movie in your family collection. It might be dinnerware, a trinket or a still. My Dad managed to get Boris Karloff's autograph. Unfortunately, he never told us the full story of that moment. It would've been a good one.

Fashion Facts
Movie stars were fashion trendsetters. The smokey eye make-up of the silent films became common place for our female ancestors, as did short hair thanks to the influence of Gloria Swanson and Theda Bara. That dark shadow and lipstick made their facial features more visible in black-and-white films. In 1915, Maybelline, Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden all offered women a way to look star-like.

Look at family pictures from the early movie period to today. See if you can spot the fashion trends that first appeared in the movies.

Movie-Making Relatives
No one in my family ever participated in a professional film, but someone in your family might've had the opportunity. I met a man in September who told me of an ancestor who had starring roles in old westerns. He was fascinated by this untold tale and he had the pictures to prove it.

Movies weren't always made in New York and Hollywood. In the early years, there were studios in small towns and large cities all over the country. For instance, there were several in my little home state of Rhode Island. 

Much of movie history is lost. The films, stories and the stills are missing.  Use Google to search for lost films. You'll find links to a list of lost films on Wikipedia (including many from a 1937 Fox vault fire caused by combustible nitrate film) as well as a list of rediscovered gems.

If your ancestor ran a movie theater, it's possible that tucked away in a box is movie memorabilia or even one of these missing films. You might own movie ephemera that a local museum would love to have in its collection. 

Family history and film.  It has a nice ring. This is one of the stories that need to be documented before the persons connected to them are gone. 


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
    1910s photos | movies
    Sunday, 26 February 2017 18:38:03 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [7]
    # Sunday, 19 February 2017
    3 Clues to Identify the Ancestors in Old Wedding Photos
    Posted by Maureen




    Dr. William Davis dated this photo in his collection to sometime between 1860 and 1890.  It once hung in his parents' house, but he can't remember which side of the family it represents. 
     
    The photo documents the wedding of one of Dr. Davis' ancestors, but which one? 

    If you find yourself wondering the same thing about an old wedding photograph, keep reading. Pictures that depict a bride and groom often contain specific clues to help you figure out more about the image and the individuals.

    Wedding photos also can hold the key to missing family information including where the wedding took place, the couple's religion, and their ethnicity. I have several questions about this image.

    Study the clothing
    Two young women in my family are currently planning weddings.  One stated she'd like to wear her mother's gown. The other one said the same thing, but in her case, her mother's gown also was worn by two earlier generations of women, beginning in 1890. Each bride updated the look of the dress, but kept the original bodice. 

    This is a cautionary tale: Not all brides wore a brand-new dress and veil.  Dresses could be re-made and veils were often inherited.

    Study all the clothing worn in the picture to make sure that all the facts add up. By the time Dr. Davis wrote to me, he'd already determined that this picture could have been taken in the 1880s. He's right. 

    The dress with its center pleats in the skirt, the fitted bodice and the bustle all suggest the 1880s.  The man's close-fitting jacket with narrow collar are from the same period.

    I love the bride's mantilla-style veil and the pearls around her ruff collared neck and her wrist. Lovely!  Look closely, you can see her simple shoes.

    Their matching white gloves suggest that this was a formal wedding.

    Notice that the veil is white, but the dress is a different color.  It could be dark ivory, or one of the popular colors in the 1880s—a rust tone or a reddish shade. Many different colors were worn for weddings in that decade. Sometimes newspaper announcements for weddings of prominent community members mentioned details of the bride's gown. 

    Look at your family tree
    Davis thinks this photo could be William Issac Carrigan and Sarah Ann Hutton, who married Sept. 4, 1884, in Carrollton, Greene County, Ill. He could be right. It all depends on who else in the family married in the early 1880s.

    According to the census, Carrigan and Hutton both were born in Illinois.

    They posed in an elaborate studio, one with real furniture and a gorgeous painted backdrop. This couple's attire suggests they have some means. Does this fit what Davis knows about Carrigan and Hutton?

    I'm hoping Davis has other wedding suspects on his short list of people married in the 1880s.  While it's possible this picture shows William and Sarah, I'd like to know more about their families' status in society before saying yes. 



    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
    1880s photos | wedding
    Sunday, 19 February 2017 20:50:58 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [10]
    # Monday, 13 February 2017
    How to Take the Headache Out Of Old Confusing Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Carol Tear has a photos that's full of contradictions. It's enough to give a genealogist a headache, but it doesn't have to.

    She thinks this is Hannah Marquart Obenshain (born in 1788, dies sometime between 1850 and 1860). With a bit of research and family data, some of the identity confusion should disappear. Here's how you can do it:



     
    1. Study the history of ownership.
    A two times great grandmother, Edmonia, once owned the picture. Edmonia's father and grandparent's once lived with Hannah's eldest son.

    Seems good, right?

    Here's the problem: The picture bears the name of a photographer, W.B. Atkins, in West Virginia. West Virginia didn't become a state until 1863. Carol wonders how it's possible for this photographer to take this picture years after Hannah's death.

    There's another problem with her photo. The white cardstock it's printed on dates from the 1890s. That tells us that this image is a copy of a much earlier picture.

    2. Study the image.
    This is a wonderful photo. Hannah wears a daycap under her headscarf. The caps ruffles frame her face in the style of the early 19th century. She clasps her hands together perhaps to keep her still.

    Don't you love her glasses?  They could be a tarnished brass. That style and material was common in the mid-19th century. There is an interesting article on historic eyeglasses online, History on Your Face. Glasses stayed pretty much the same from 1835 until 1870.  

    When did Hannah sit for her portrait?  I'd estimate circa 1860. 

    3. Research the photographer

    W. B. Atkins first appears in the Bluefield Daily Telegram newspaper beginning in 1896. In the 1920s, he's referred to as the town's pioneering photographer. You can find this paper online at Newspapers.com.

    Now Carol has another question to answer: Who in her family was living in Bluefield and took an old photo of Hannah to Atkins to have a copy made? 

    In this instance, the clues of ownership and the photographer help clear up some of the puzzling features of this 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

  • Save
    1860s photos | 1890s photos | women
    Monday, 13 February 2017 01:40:06 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, 05 February 2017
    3 Old Photo Stories You Can Tell Today
    Posted by Maureen




    What are you going to do with all your old photos? You can tuck them away for safekeeping or you can use them to tell your family about their ancestors. Or, you can do both. 

    Your original prints belong in acid- and lignin-free boxes, but you can use the high-resolution scans to study details and write about the people depicted. Here are three tools to help you:
    • Twile.com won last year's RootsTech conference Innovator Challenge. On this site, you can create a free timeline of pictures and events for people in your family tree (uploads are limited for basic memberships). Share that information with relatives and, for an annual fee, encourage them to tell their side of the story on Twile. It's effortless collaboration. 
    • MyCanvas.com, a photo book and poster site, has been around for a bit. The page templates here are geared more toward genealogy than other photo book sites'. I'm working on a book for a friend (a surprise for her granddaughter), and it's easy and fun. You can create your book online and download PDFs of pages for free, and order professionally printed books. Watch your page count, though, because those extra pages can add up.
    • Scrivener is a app/program costing about $45 that works on both OS and Windows, as well as on your tablet/phone. Used by professional authors, this writing tool helps you organize your notes, develop an outline and add pictures. When you're done, you'll have a project you can print for the family. There is a learning curve, but my colleagues who use this regularly tell me it's worth the time. See Family Tree Magazine's review of Scrivener here.
    I'll be explore the expo hall at this week's RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, looking for new ways to use photos in genealogy. Of course, I'll share my favorite finds with you!


    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
    Photo fun | photo-research tips | Photo-sharing sites
    Sunday, 05 February 2017 22:59:17 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]