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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 23 April 2017
What's the Story in this Old Family Photo? The Big Reveal!
Posted by Maureen

It's time to look at the big picture, the whole image and the rest of the details. If you've followed the last two posts, you've heard Mikael Hammerman's family story and seen some of the clues in the picture. 

Let's answer his big question: Is this his great-grandmother's sister and her daughter?



The big sleeves on this woman and her daughter date this picture to the mid- to late-1890s. Sharpeyed individuals will see the fashion plate on the sleeping mother's lap.

 

The hat and the dress style in the fashion plate date from 1897 to circa 1900. Before Mom fell asleep, she was browsing the new fashions.

Also on her lap is a paper that says "Bon-Ton." There was a Gazette du Bon-Ton published in France from 1912 to 1925, but those dates are too late for this image.

This could be an advertisement for Bon-Ton, a department store that debuted in 1898 in York, Pa.

Adding up the Clues
Mike's great-grandmother's sister, Mathilda Ericson (born 1859), immigrated to New York in 1879 when she was 20. By 1899, she'd be 40.  Could this woman be her?

Possibly. The rest of the facts need to add up, including where she lived around the turn of the century.

Could the girl playing the piano be the daughter Mathilda was possibly pregnant with in 1879?

No.

This girl looks to be a lot younger than 20.  Perhaps Mathilda had several children.

What's needed is a timeline of her Mathilda's life from when she moved to the United States until the year this picture was taken. Here are the primary names to trace:

  • Matilda Ericson (born Aug. 25, 1859 in Sweden)
  • Anders J. Carlson (born April 11, 1843, in Sweden)

According to Mikael, they arrived in New York on January 31, 1879, as Auguste J. Carlson and Mathilda Carlson, a married couple. 

Next stop: Digging into genealogy databases for more information. A photo mystery needs more than picture clues. It also relies on family history and good old-fashioned genealogical research.


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
    1890s photos | children | photo-research tips | women
    Sunday, 23 April 2017 17:16:43 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
    # Sunday, 16 April 2017
    How Clues in Your Old Family Photos Can Keep You Out of Trouble
    Posted by Maureen

    It's time for another installment of Mikael Hammerman's mystery photo, which shows a mother and a daughter—and just might shed light on his family legend about a young mother who ran away with her employer to America

    Clues in a picture can keep you from jumping to conclusions about how the photo and a handed-down family story are connected. Before I read readers' email submissions of mystery photos for analysis, I always look at the picture first to see what it says about time period. Only then do I consult your description of the problem. 

    Here are three clues in Hammerman's picture that require more study. I purposefully haven't yet shown you the whole photo—I'm keeping you in suspense!

    1. Examine the image to see if other pictures are displayed in the background.

    In this case, they're on a shelf, but look for photos hung on walls, too. 



    Here's a close-up of the two clusters of pictures:





    You can get a closer look by using a photographer's loupe or by scanning the photo at a high resolution, then zooming in on he digitized image.

    This type of clue would send me running back to my collection of pictures to see if I have any matches to the background photos.   

    2. Look for obvious date clues. 
    The little girl in this picture is seated at a piano. Her hands are on the keys and her eyes are cast downward at sheet music. I'm not musically inclined. Can you read this sheet music and play it? (Unfortunately, the original image resolution doesn't allow a better close-up shot of the music.)     



    Wouldn't it be great to hear what she's playing?  If you can, I'd love to hear a recording of what it sounds like.

    Looking at this picture and hearing the music would bring a new dimension to this photo, and possibly offer a date (based on when the music was released or was popular).

    3. Watch for subtle clues.



    This little chair, decorated with ribbons, occupies a space between the mother and daughter. I wonder why. The problem with older photos is you can't see the original colors—the ribbons could be black (signifying mourning) or bright red. The seat is well-worn. It could be used as a step-stool, or it could memorialize a little child who died. 

    Photo clues come in all varieties. What's the oddest clue you ever seen in a picture? 

    Come back next week for the big reveal about this clue-filled picture!


    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
    children | photo backgrounds | photo-research tips
    Sunday, 16 April 2017 16:49:21 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
    # Sunday, 09 April 2017
    Can an Old Mystery Photo Prove a Passed-Down Family Tale?
    Posted by Maureen

    Don't you love a good story? I do. As genealogists we're trained to listen to the tales told at family gatherings and sort fiction from fact. Pictures not only come with their own set of stories, but they also can be used as proof of a genealogical event. 

    Mikael Hammerman of Sweden sent me a beautiful family photo of a woman and a girl participating in an ordinary activity. He's hoping that the picture can verify a whopper of a immigration story. For the next few posts, we'll explore the details in the picture and see if all the clues add up. 

    Could these two people be part of the following story? Wait and see.



    This mother is in the middle of an afternoon nap. 



    This is her daughter.

    Here's the family story, full of love and intrigue:
    Mike's great-grandmother's sister was born in 1859 in Sweden. She served as a maid and ran off with her employer. They arrived in New York in January 1879. She changed her last name and marital status for the trip, and he used a different last name.
    According to an aunt of Mike's second cousin Doris, the family rumor is that the sister was pregnant when they left.  Her employer left his wife and five children behind. He sold horses and goods to finance their trip.
    Family tales have the sister living alone with her daughter. Even today, rumors swirl in the family. Did she and her lover break up before leaving Sweden? Or did the separation occur once they arrived in New York?

    The man's parents were already in the United States, having arrived in 1869.  The young woman had cousins who immigrated in 1882 and lived in Wisconsin.

    Could Mike's photo be tied to this love story? He's hoping the clues will lead to the woman and girl in this image being the young pregnant relative and her daughter. Mike's also hoping for a little help with his mystery story.

    When faced this type of picture puzzlement, step back and really look at what the photo says. I'll show you how in upcoming blog posts with more details about Mike's photo and the family legend it could shed light on.


    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
    children | unusual photos | women
    Sunday, 09 April 2017 16:13:07 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 02 April 2017
    3 Translation Tips for Foreign-Language Captions on Old Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Ann Sandler's mother-in-law left behind a mystery photo.
     


    The family doesn't know who's in the photo and they can't read the caption on the back. It's in a language they don't recognize.

    Many immigrant families brought with them images of family and friends they'd left behind. Without the translation, the details in this picture and in the family history don't add up. Here's what's known:
    • 1910 appears on the back of the photo. This man's clothing clues—collar, suit and mustache—agree with that time period.
    • The name of the photographer is on the mat. A general Google search for "Makart Portrait" found a 19th-century Austrian painter of the same name. Hans Markart, the painter, died in 1884. Perhaps this photographer was a relative. 
    • The mother-in-law's family wasn't from Austria. They immigrated from Poltava, Russia, in 1910. There are approximately 800 miles between Poltava and Vienna. Perhaps this young man was studying in Vienna.
    Is the date on the photo a coincidence? Probably not, but clues are hidden in the foreign script. What can you do when faced with foreign writing on a photo?
    • Try Google Translate. You can type words into the translator or upload a PDF or Word document.

    • If you can identify the language, find someone who knows it (such as at a research library affiliated with a heritage museum, through an ethnic genealogical society, or through an such as the Association of Professional Genealogists).

    • You can post it on Facebook or on your blog in the hope that someone can read it. That's why I need your help: If you can translate this caption, it'll help Ann place this photo in her family history. Feel free to share this post to reach more people.

    Can't wait to discover what this says. Let's solve this mystery!




    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
    1910s photos | foreign photos
    Sunday, 02 April 2017 15:43:11 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [8]