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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 25 June 2017
Does This Old Photo Have a Hidden Message?
Posted by Maureen


Houston County, TN Archive


Historical societies all over the country have old mystery photos of local citizens. The picture above is from the Houston County, Tenn., archives. Thank you to Archivist/Records Manager Melissa Barker for submitting this image.

Melissa knows from the photographers imprint it was taken by
Edward E. Collison, Jr., who was born April 16, 1859, and died June 15, 1907. Collison was also the inventor of the Instantaneous Shutter for camera, and received patent #341,887 on May 18, 1886.

 

Mom and Dad are cool under pressure. The photographer captured the baby mid-wail. 

When this photo was taken isn't the mystery: Mom provides the time frame.

  

The peaked shoulder seams on her dress and her short bangs date the image to circa 1890.

The mysterious part of this image is the father.

 

I don't think he's holding his hand this way just because. Its position suggests there's more to this. I know I've seen this hand position in photos before, but I can't find an example. I wonder if it's symbolic of membership in a fraternal or other organization. It doesn't appear to be Masonic or signify that the father was interested in Phrenology (a school of thought based on measurements of the human skull).

Any thoughts on how this dad posed his hand? Maybe Melissa knows of specific groups active in Houston County.


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 | props in photos | unusual photos
    Sunday, 25 June 2017 22:25:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
    # Sunday, 18 June 2017
    Our Ancestors' Photo-Ready Family Record Sheets
    Posted by Maureen

    Family milestones are well-known as photo occasions. Births, marriages and even deaths show up in family photo collections. 

    There's another family photo op in your family history: The purchase of a photo album or a family record like the one below.


    c. 1886, Library of Congress

    Family records suitable for framing were a way of documenting family history, similar to the center pages of a family Bible. The 1886 lithograph above has places to write down births, marriages and deaths, but in the center, oval spaces are meant to be cut out for photos. For this particular page, the buyer needed a picture of his or her parents together, as well as one of him/herself and spouse. 

    Many varieties of these family records were created, including some in full color. You can view an assortment on the Library of Congress website.  If you have one in your family, can you share it on our Facebook page?

    Can't wait to see the treasures your ancestors created by merging photos and family information!

    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


  • unusual photos
    Sunday, 18 June 2017 16:12:39 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [5]
    # Sunday, 11 June 2017
    How to Figure out Which Holiday Is Shown in Old Family Photos
    Posted by Maureen

    Here's a picture problem that family photo historians often encounter: Photos of an unnamed, unknown celebrations. It could be local event, a national holiday, or a gathering of relatives for some family event. All too frequently, it's unclear.

    For instance, let's look at Flag Day. 

    Flag Day, June 14, commemorates the adoption of our flag on June 14, 1777. Flag Day wasn't an official occasion until 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation.


    Library of Congress

    Above, a crowd of thousands gathers around the Washington Monument for a Flag Day ceremony in 1918. 

    Flag Day isn't a federal holiday, but some cities still celebrate the day with parades, including Fairfield, Wash.; Appleton, Wis.; Quincy, Mass.; Troy, NY; and Three Oaks, Mich.

    Flags and bunting are common during other holidays, too, such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Veterans Day, so it can be difficult to determine the occasion for a patriotic picture. Here are a few tips:
    • Watch for signs and banners in parade photos. You may need to use a photographer's loupe, or scan the photo at high resolution and zoom in on your computer screen.
    • Search newspaper websites and local history sites to see how the towns in which your ancestor lived celebrated the day. You might find an article about the very event shown in the photo.
    • School children were often photographed carrying flags in schoolyards for Flag Day.
    • If you see a flag in the photo, count the stars. Every time a new state joined the Union, the flag gained a star (Hawaii was the last state, in 1959), helping you date the photo. Visit USFlag.org for photos of flags over the years.


    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 | Flag Day | photo-research tips
    Sunday, 11 June 2017 21:48:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 04 June 2017
    3 Clues to Solve an Old Photo Mystery
    Posted by Maureen



    When a family member won't talk about a person in a picture, it makes you wonder why. It also leaves you with an unidentified family photo. 

    Dale Wheeler's father never spoke about the woman in this photo. Dale has three possible identities for this young woman:
    • Julia Ann (Stewart) Wheeler (1853-1931)
    • Sarah (Cunningham) Linville (1842-1917)
    • Gertrude (Linville) Wheeler (1886-1924)

    This colorized tintype contains clues that help narrow the time frame. 

    • The chair: Fringed photography studio chairs first appear in the mid-1860s.
    • Her clothing: The wide bow, heavy beads and belted waist suggest a date in the late 1860s to circa 1870. 

    The tentative date for the image eliminates Gertrude Wheeler from consideration. Now take a good look at this woman's face and estimate how old she is.



    This woman looks young. If this picture was taken in 1869, Julia Ann would be 16, and Sarah, 27. I think this image depicts Julia Ann. 

    There is one other clothing clue that supports this conclusion—her hemline.



    The skirt is short, not floor-length. This is a dress length worn by girls, not grown women.  

    The provenance (history of ownership) of this image also needs to be confirmed, with these considerations in mind: 
    • Who is Julia Ann in relation to Dale's father? 
    • Dale's father was born in 1926 and would've been a toddler when Julia Ann died. Did he know her?
    • Do relatives have any photos known to be Julia Ann for comparison? 

    In this case, the three clues of fashion, props and age suggest a identity for this woman.


    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 | Tintypes | women
    Sunday, 04 June 2017 14:37:06 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]