Tag Archives: ancestors photographs

Solving Photo Mysteries

∞ Vicki’s Note – Maureen has given us some efficient steps on how to effectively search for solutions to our unknown ancestors in mystery photographs.  We can find the answer to the “I know they are my ancestors, but I don’t know who they are” quandary.

I have found her books and her BLOG invaluable to find photograph identification answers.  Maureen is one of my genealogy heroes.

 Solving Photo Mysteries

 Maureen A Taylor – photodetective.  FamilyTreeMagazine.com

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Read her full article here –  There’s a Good Chance This Photo Mystery Is Solved!


There’s a Good Chance This Photo Mystery Is Solved!
Posted by Maureen…four steps to tackle a mystery photo:1.    Establish a time frame.

2.    Focus on place.

3.    Search for records.

4.    Watch for matches.

… Based on the clothing clues, I dated the image to circa 1897.

… go through her genealogical material and add a bit more detail to her original query:

  • ….  A more specific location will hopefully make finding a match easier.
  • The last name …. Spelling differences aren’t uncommon….do a broad search of censuses. … don’t filter results to exact spellings.

…estimate the ages of the children in this photo …  In the 1880 census,… 1900 …

Finding a Match

I found …in FamilySearch censuses. In 1880, Joseph F. had children …

Adding 17 years to their ages for an estimated 1897 photo date gives us…  This identification seems to fit the mysterious photo.

Next, I’d encourage Barbara to do “reverse genealogy,” and research forward in time to find descendants of all these children. She then could reach out to find out photographs of them and verify that the faces match.

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




McHenry County IL Genealogical Society Monthly Programs


(MCIGS) McHenry County Illinois Genealogical Society monthly meetings are held at

The Pointe, 5650 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake, IL 60014 (next to Target) at

7:00 pm on the 2nd Thursday each month.

They are free and open to the public.

NOTE: The bus trip to the Black Pointe Estate is for MCIGS members only.

McHenry County Illinois Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 184, Crystal Lake, Illinois 60039-0184
McHenry County IL Genealogical Society
Monthly Programs
A 60-Minute Crash Course: Beginning Genealogy Using Accredited Methods
Marsha Peterson-Maass                                                                                                                   August 11, 2016

This is a fun look at accredited basics and research methodology suitable for everyone. If you’re a beginner you’ll take away a sense of what you need to be doing in your research. If you’re an experienced genealogist you might be surprised to discover how much of the accredited methodology you only “sort of knew” and that knowing the accredited research precepts can actually help revitalize your current search.

Time Travel with Google Earth – This will be a “live” Webinar presentation
Lisa Louise Cooke                                                                                                                     September 8, 2016

Get ready to experience old historic maps, genealogical records, images, and videos coming together to create stunning time travel experiences in the free Google Earth program. We’ll incorporate automated changing boundaries, and uncover historic maps that are built right into Google Earth. Tell time travel stories that will truly excite your non-genealogist relatives! You’ve never seen anything like this class!                                                                  Lisa Louise Cooke is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show at www.GenealogyGems.com.
Resurrecting a Cemetery                                                                                                               Paula Pickrel and Glenda Ziegler                                                                                            October 13, 2016

Using genealogical research methods, dowsing rods and spades, professional cemetery conservators, Paula Pickrel and Glenda Ziegler, have literally unearthed the stories and the graves of several Illinois pioneers. Join the sisters as they share their cemetery experiences and provide tips for digging up your ancestors’ graves. In the past five years, the sisters have completed the restoration and documentation of three abandoned cemeteries, repaired hundreds of headstones and co-authored a gravestone repair manual.

Black Point Estate Tour & Victorian Death and Mourning Program
Bus Trip – Sunday, October 16, 2016, Lake Geneva,WI

A unique private house & garden tour/program at Black Point Estate, Lake Geneva, WI. The house, built on Geneva Lake in 1888 for the Chicago beer Baron, Conrad Seipp, is a Queen Anne Victorian summer cottage that was enjoyed by four generations of his family. The program, “Angels Carried Them Away: Death and Mourning in the Victorian Era, (1876-1912)” will be presented by Steven Person, a local Walworth Township funeral director.

Liven Your Family History With Images
Mike Karsen                                                                                                                                   November 10, 2016

Family histories can contain phenomenal research with every event documented and sourced with precision but yet no one is interested in reading it. This is because they need to be more than just names and dates, they need to be vehicles for “Time Travel” taking us back to the days when our grandparents and great-grandparents lived and raised their families. These images to bring them to life and make the story real. This presentation illustrates how to “liven up” your family history with images of people, places, and events that will make the reader keep flipping the pages to be drawn back in time.


Blue eyes and White Wedding Dresses did Not show in Old Photographs

(Vicki’s note – find out how early photographers solved the technical problems of Blue eyes and White Wedding Dresses Not showing in Old Photographs.  See this article

Ownership is a clue to who’s in a mystery photo. The problem is while most people know who gave them a picture—such as an aunt, parent or grandparent—but before that, ownership information may be unknown.

Debra Allison can trace the provenance (ownership) of this picture back to her great-grandmother Antoinette “Nettie” Fichter Mader (1856-1938).  Nettie gave the picture to her daughter, and then her granddaughter (who expanded the caption on the back) gave it to Debra.

This photo has a caption on the back that offers ID clues both helpful and frustrating. This week, we’ll focus on the front of the photo.

Debra knows that Nettie Fichter immigrated to the US in 1881 and that she brought her nephews August and Phillipp Letzelter with her. She was the youngest member of her family.

Should be easy to figure out who’s in this photo, right?  Not so fast.

Debra sent me a page-long chart that included the names of everyone she found who had a family relationship to Nettie. It lists the person’s name, their relationship to Nettie, their date and place of birth, date of immigration, marriage and death dates and their place of death. Whew! That’s a whole lot of research.

A family would often pose for a group portrait before someone immigrated to create a memento both for the immigrant and for the family left behind. It also was common for family members to pose for a group portrait after the fact to send to the immigrant.

Let’s look at who’s in the this picture. There’s a husband (the mustached man) and wife (the woman next to him). The wife has her hand on the older woman’s shoulder. A daughter would do this. The older woman occupies the center, the most important spot in the photo. To our left are three children, two boys and a girl. To our far right is a young man with his hand on his mother’s shoulder.

Who might they be? 

According to Debra’s chart, Katherine Fichter Letzelter, the mother of August and Phillip, had eight children. There are only four children in this photo, three boys and a girl. Katherine’s mother Elisabeth was born in 1814 didn’t die until 1888.

The clothing clues in this picture, such as the husband’s under-the-collar tie and the wife’s jacket-like bodice and pleated hem, suggest a date in the 1880s. The dark cardstock mat was also popular in that time frame.

Take a closer look at the picture. The photographer put a dark dot in the center of each of their eyes. Blue/light colored eyes often paled in pictures so darkening them for portraits was common. It’s quite possible that members of this family all had blue eyes.

(And in her book –

Family Photo Detective

Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries

By Maureen A. Taylor

Family photos capture some of the most meaningful moments in life—wedding, babies, graduations, military service, and holidays. Your old family photos are full of important family history clues. Family Photo Detective helps you identify and research these clues that can further your genealogy research. Photo identification expert and genealogist Maureen A. Taylor, author of the Family Tree Magazine’s Photo Detective blog and magazine column, shows you how to put names to faces and recapture the lost stories of your old family photos.

Inside, you’ll learn how to:

  • Determine the type of image you have—from common paper prints to stereographs to historical daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes
  • Use clothing, accessories, and hairstyles to date the image in the correct decade
  • Research photographer imprints to narrow down when and where the photo was taken
  • Compare facial features in multiple photos to confirm identity and family resemblance
  • Interview family members to gather more information about the image
  • Identify props in the photo to create context for the image

Each chapter includes dozens of historical photos to illustrate key points and provide clear examples. Charts, timelines and resource lists make it easy to find the exact information you need. Dozens of case studies show you how to apply the techniques in the book to real-life photo research projects. This completely updated third edition (previously published as Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs) features more than 10 new case studies, information on digital photography, and a new chapter on photograph albums.

This is the definitive how-to book on historical photo identification. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the valuable tips you’ll find in Family Photo Detective:

  • Often, a photographer’s imprint will mention a partnership or the prior owner of the studio. This will assist you in trying to locate the dates of operation. Partnerships were usually short-lived and photographers, unless they had a steady clientele and solid reputation, moved around looking for better economic opportunities.
  •  Wedding photographs in the nineteenth century do not resemble the wedding photographs of today. White gowns were generally not worn because they were an unnecessary expense. Even if a bride wore a formal white gown, she would not be photographed in it, because early cameras could not photograph bright colors in any detail. Wedding portraits usually show the married couple in regular clothes or in their traveling garments.
  • Dating and identifying exterior scenes is not a subjective process; you will be able to date many of the visible details through library research. Use a magnifying glass to examine the image for particular items that can be dated, such as business signs and architectural and technological elements. Each one of these details can be researched further and provide irrefutable evidence of a time period. Signage can be verified by consulting city directories. This will tell you when a company was in business and where it was located.

Free Family Genealogy Charts

Here is a great website from Cyndi’s list that may have the family chart(s) (and other genealogy forms)  that you need:


I have not found the chart that I am looking for yet. I have been looking for a particular type of family genealogy chart which does not seem to exist, so I will be creating one.  My family is making a unique family history book that will be mostly photographs of ancestors and descendants.  My sisters and I are right in the middle of the generations that will be depicted, and we will have a chart in the middle of the large (12″ x 18″ ??) book that opens onto both pages showing ancestors and descendants of our parents.  My Mom’s ancestors will be on one side of the book, at the top of a page, and my Dad’s ancestors on the other side of the book on the top of that page.

My best way to describe the family chart that I am looking for is an angel-shaped chart (without the head.)  It will have 6 or 7 generations of ancestors as a wing from our Mom’s family, and another from our Dad’s family.  I don’t like the fan charts, as I don’t like standing on my head to read the names and dates, so their ancestors will be shown as 2 landscape hourglass wings.

The descendants will be split on both sides of the bottom of the pages, with (my) three siblings on one page and four on the other side.  Then the grandchildren, and great grandchildren will continue as the “skirt” of the angel. (Although – looking at  it, I may have to make it a two/five split to balance, because my own individual family has the most grandchildren/ great grandchildren.)  I’m not sure if it will include the descendant’s spouses yet; but I will include the dob, dom, dod, and places of birth for the ancestors, so that I can show the countries of origin.

It will look something like this, with the spine groove of the book in the middle, open to the center of the book. (I did this on Excel.)

Angel Family Chart

There will be more generations back, even if some of the names are blank. I want to get back far enough to show the diversity of the countries that our ancestors came from- Germany, Ireland, Scotland, French, Welsh, English, and (??)

So there will be bigger “wings’ and less “skirt”, unless we take too long and need more room for descendants.  The book will be (self) published years before that, but maybe I will leave room for more descendant names to be written in later as some of the grandchildren have not yet had children that are in our (unplanned near) future.

Happy Easter to all of you, and enjoy celebrating your families on this holiday, and everyday.


Be a Photo Detective with Your Old Photographs: Wed.Nov 18, 2015 7 pm Burlington Genealogical Society

Be a Photo Detective with Your Old Photographs
Free workshop
Wed. Nov 18, 2015 7-9 pm
Public invited.
Burlington Genealogical Society
Gateway Building, Burlington, WI

Here’s a photo that needs detective help…
all that is known: 2nd row from left, second person is Ida Paulsen Jensen, third person is Jens Jensen or Kaae or Coe.
They were married.Both lived in Racine, immigrated about 1880. Photo was taken here. Could this be a Danish group? When, where?

Burlington Photo Detective

You are invited to bring 1-2 photos, postcards, or maps that have been scanned to a thumb drive or DVD (high resolution best.)
The photos will be projected onto the big screen for detective work/fun looking for more details, clues, information, etc.
Please make sure your scans are easy to find on the thumb drive to save time in the workshop, and have your name and the Image names
written clearly on a slip of paper to go with the thumb drive.

Details about the workshop:



Come see the “What Your Ancestors Wore When” Display at the Beloit Public Library


This Display is at the Library, behind the Circulation Check-Out desk, until

the Friday, September 11, 2015  10 a.m. – noon Program

presentation for the Stateline Genealogy Club at Beloit Public Library.

“Contemporary Fashion Through the Decades, How to Tell Your Ancestors’ Timelines by What They Wore”,

an original program created by Vicki Ruthe Hahn.

Fashion display

You may see these historic fashions up close and personal in the Library meeting room during the Program.

Please bring any historic clothing items, or photographs of your ancestors

to see if we can identify your ancestor’s timelines by their clothing.

Learn more about the history of fashions, hairstyles, hats, significant inventions, historic influences, and

photographic methods that all give clues as to the “when” of our ancestors lives.

See how important is is for us to label our photographs to keep track of who and when.