IDENTIFYING PHOTOS- Pictures tell us things we canít learn from census records and church documents. Like how cold an Ohio winter can be and why grandma is wearing a heavy coat, boots and a scarf wrapped tight. Or what a depression era farm looked like. Wouldnít it be nice to frame a family tree with photos next to the name? Photos are a source, as well as a goal. But, as in any other phase of genealogy- patience, study and learning are the keys you will need to identify your ancestors in the various "unidentified" photos you have in your collection.

Photographs arenít just pictures of faces; they are short stories of the times. Viewed as a group they create silent narratives shouting out the details and description of their subjects. Genealogists and family historians, wherever possible, should seek out early photographs relating to their families.

Elements of style in a photo can help you to track trends in fashion, thus assisting you in identifying many of your ancestors in the various photos you have in your collection. Turning points in American fashion for example, riveted blue jeans were first found in 1873, sunglasses first worn in 1885, and nylon stockings in the 1940ís. Many times clothing can be matched to accessories in old photos and you may be able to identify those mystery faces.

THE POWER OF THE PEN That faded letter penned by your great-great-grandfather can say a lot! Have you considered using graphology (the study of handwriting) to uncover hidden secrets and details about your ancestorsí personalities? Large capital letters in a signature denote, "see me as important." An underscoring line often can signify self-confidence. Neat, clear signatures speak to candor, while a disguised scrawl (when not written in haste) may reflect a guarded manner.

If you have a diary or journal in your possession from an ancestor, consider yourself very fortunate! Imagine that you have grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of your own. If you donít keep a diary, today is a good time to start. Someday in the future it will tell people who love you all about your life. You will remember many things you have long forgotten as you read the pages from your past. As surprising as it may seem, someday you will be a part of someone elseís history. I hope you find the following pages of this newsletter informative and helpful in your research efforts. Consider being more receptive in using photos and writings as a way of putting "flesh" on your ancestorís bones!

Photographs are the most prominent artifacts associated with genealogy. They reveal the faces to go with the names on family records. Like other families, I have been fascinated with photography through my collection of family photographic portraits. Proper evaluation of family photographs can reveal genealogical information, as well as illustrate the family history. An understanding of the history of photography is very important, because the dates associated with the early processes of photography can help identify the people and places in family pictures. Many physical aspects of ancestors, seen in later photos can help identify family members when they were much younger. Facial features such as the ears, and the nose, retain their shape and form throughout the years. Ears are often called "fingerprints" of the face because each ear is unique, like a fingerprint; making it possible to identify a person as a child, from a photo of that same person as an elderly man or woman. Then, when that child is identified, the type and date of the photographic process might identify the people around them based on their age, dress and location at the time of the photo.

The discovery of photography began with I.J.M. Daguerre in 1839. His process produced the "Daguerreotype," which was an image appearing on a sheet of highly polished silver plated copper, or on a polished sheet of silver. The Ambrotype, began in 1852, was on glass and was invented by Frederick Scott Archer. These two methods were popular up into the 1860s and later. Tin photos began in the late 1850s often referred to as "tintypes." This method was cheap and easy and remained popular up into the 1900s. Another process in the 1860s and 1870s was called Albumen prints involving paper prints on card material and was very popular for many years.

Having a good genealogical account of a family is very important in evaluating and dating your old pictures. Often families took their pictures at the same time, if not as a group, then together as individuals. Family Bible information is especially helpful in this research to assist in making a full account of family memberís birth, marriage and death dates.

Pictures illustrate the dresses and style of the day. Many family photos show the family scenes in keeping with the changing styles of the day. A grandfather in his early days may have a long flowing beard, and later pictures, without the beard, but with a large handlebar mustache. These are small examples of our "styling ancestors!"

Photographs of homes, buildings, farms, countryside, and locales that relate to ancestors are also important. Comparative pictures showing what a home or neighborhood looked like then, and what it looks like now add a sense of reality to your photographic record. {Compiled by, Flora L. VerStraten}

Tracking yesterdayís fashion trends could solve your picture puzzles. The following information can show you how to track your ancestorsí fashion trends to analyze the dress for successful photo identification! Since fashion constantly evolves, and our photos reflect the changing styles, letís examine the clothing for clues in identifying your unidentified images. Sometimes a single accessory could tell you whether youíre looking for your great-grandmother or your great-great grandmother. Begin by using a magnifying glass or by scanning the photo and blowing it up so you can see all the details as clearly as possible. Examine every detail of the subjectís outfit first and then work your way through the accessories worn and the hairstyles you observe. Of course, donít forget the background! A manís coat shape, trouser width, necktie style, facial hair and hairstyle can reveal a lot. Most family portraits show relatives dressed in their "best." Many 19th century magazines advised our women ancestors on what to wear. Look for shawls, pins and hats. Consider your ancestorsí economic circumstances, which did influence their clothing choices, but style differences between classes werenít significant.

changed dramatically through the years, so even the length of a skirt or the shape of a sleeve can help you date an image. Accessories such as gloves, jewelry, hats and fans have fallen in and out of fashion, which means they can aid you in the identification of some photos. Pants werenít popular until the mid 1900s, so women typically wore dresses. Some women would wear two or more dresses to create an outfit reflecting a current style. Be on the lookout for dresses with bodices and skirts made of different materials.

What Women Wore

  • {1840 to 1849} The first photo known as a daguerreotype appeared in the United States in about 1839. Women dressed modestly for moral and religious reasons. They wore restrictive clothing, which often inhibited natural movement. Worn over corsets were back fastening dresses that had long, tight bodices with fan-shaped gatherings. The neckline was wide, shallow, gradually narrowing later in the decade with a high-standing collar. Sleeves were long and tight and popular accessories included fingerless groves, gold watches on long chains, ribbon bracelets and bonnets that extended past the chin. Women wore their hair close to the head, with a center part, long ringlets and large combs.

  • {1850 to 1859} Fashions loosened up a bit and dress sleeves were still narrow but flared at the wrist revealing white undersleeves. Our ancestors wore full, gathered or pleated skirts over hoops with more trim and color. Parted hair in the middle continued and a droop over the ears was worn. You may find hair jewelry, bonnets off the face and tied with a wide ribbon. By mid decade front fastening bodices with broad collars were popular. At the end of the 1850s collars narrowed again, sleeves gathered at the wrist once again.

  • {1860 to 1874} Ruffles were the rage and bodices featured ruffles and large buttons; necklines were high with low standing collars or V-necks with ruffles; some moderate bell-shaped coat sleeves had ruffles. Skirts looked like aprons and bustles and were quite large. Black neck ribbons were worn with brooches or charms, lockets on gold chains, crosses, and long black beaded necklaces with matching earrings. Hair was still parted in the center with braids often at the crown or left streaming down their backs. Small hats and bonnets trimmed with feathers, lace and flowers accented these high full hairstyles.

  • {1875 to 1877} The waistlines lengthened and two-piece dresses were popular. Front-opening low collars and V-necks with ruffles and sleeves narrowed and decorated with trim. Skirts began to lose their fullness and had long overskirts and trains.

  • {1878 to 1882} By the late 1870s the full hoop skirt was gone out of style and the bustle was gone as well. Skirts fell straight from hip to floor. Front buttons adorned tight-fitting bodices. Necklines were high with low-standing collars and sleeves remained narrow. Hair was still parted in the center and short frizzed bangs were worn.

  • {1883 to 1889} Women began entering the work force as secretaries, telephone operators and department-store clerks and demanded less-restrictive clothing. Draped overskirts, often looking like aprons appeared. The bustle returned in 1883 and reached its largest size in 1886 before deflating the next year. Tight bodices were below the wrist, and high necklines with tight three-quarter-length sleeves. They carried lace parasols and wore muffs and novelty jewelry. Hair remained frizzed around the face with a bun in the back. Women wore hats in a variety of styles. Most hats were high-crowned with wide brims and elaborate trim.

  • {1890 to 1900} Less restrictive clothing increased as women began to exercise outdoors. Corsets loosened, shirtwaists came into vogue. Necklines had high collars worn to the chin. In the early 1890s women wore large ballonlike leg-o-mutton sleeves that were tight at the wrist. In 1896 sleeves got smaller and fuller at the shoulder and flared over the hand. Skirts were smooth at the hips but flared. Women wore feather boas, large fans and parasols. At the end of the decade, they accessorized with small earrings, watches pinned to their bosoms, and small decorative combs. Short bangs, worn in small topknots were popular but went out of style by 1896. Women began parting and flattening the hair into waves along the temples. Older women still wore bonnets, most younger women switched to hats with small vertical trim. By the end of the decade, wide-brimmed hats were also popular.

Clothes make the man!
The best clothing clues for men are hats, vests, and shirts, as these garments changed the most over time. Youíll have to look closely for subtle clues!

  • {1840 to 1849} Men wore coats with extra-long, narrow sleeves, tailored white shirts with narrow sleeves and small turned-up collars. They wore dark-colored neckties with bowknots. Smocklike work shirts came in a variety of colors and patterns. Men kept their hair at ear length and parted high on one side. Most were clean-shaven, but some wore fringe beards that framed the jaws. Hat styles included wool stocking caps, black felt bowlers and shiny silk top hats.

  • {1850 to 1859} Narrow sleeves remained stylish in the first part of the 1850s. About 1854, generously cut suit coats worn with vests and wide-legged pants came into style. Shirt collars turned over 2-inch-wide neckties, worn in wide half-bows. They wore fancy starched shirtfronts to dress up their wardrobe and wore long oiled hair on top and combed into a wave at the center of the forehead. Later they grew long enough hair to cover the ears. Young men wore caps that resembled railroad caps. Tall black hats with flat brims were also popular.

  • {1860 to 1869} Menís suits came in a range of new shapes in the 1860s. The most popular was the long oversized sack coat worn with wide-legged pants that were longer at the heel and held up with suspenders. A white, striped or plaid shirt and narrow necktie was the look. Men parted their ear-length hair on the side and grew whiskers, rather than full beards. After the Civil War, they wore military caps to work.

  • {1870 to 1879} The sack coat was shorter and narrower and buttoned only at the top to display a vest and watch chain work underneath. White, striped plaid shirts without collars were worn. The neckties were wide black in color with a loose knot with overlapping ends. Fur hats and coats were also popular.

  • {1880 to 1889} By the mid 1880s, menís coats got even shorter and narrower and closed high at the throat, nearly concealing their necktie. They wore creaseless pants and wide shirts. Neckties were in a variety of widths. Young men wore a variety of wide hats, straw hats, sailor hats, to black homburgs (felt hats dented at the crown and rolled at the brims) which businessmen favored.

  • {1890 to 1900} Narrowwas the key characteristic of the 1890s fashions for men. They wore coats that buttoned to the top, narrow black bow ties and narrow trousers. White shirts had small, stiff pointed collars and at the end of the decade, were high and stiff collars. Men wore short hair and grew large mustaches. Bowlers and derby-style hats were popular and exploded in popularity during this decade!

Before drawing any conclusions about your photos, be sure to add up all the clues, rather than focusing on a single style detail. When in doubt, make a list of an outfitís significant characteristics. Look not only at the shape of a sleeve, but also the width of the cuff. Since most women made their own clothes until the 20th century, you will see some style variations. But watch out for these common elements that are listed above!