Archive for category Photo Genealogy

Writing a Family History Using Photographs and Other Images

Posted by on Saturday, 11 April, 2015

This post is another in s series of posts about how to write a family history. I’m hoping this series will inspire some of my regular readers to start writing down their family history. You do not need to have completed all research to start writing about your ancestors, you only need to start. In this post, you will find that you really do not need specific photographs of your ancestor, though it certainly helps. I will again be using my ancestor Edwin Banks for this exercise.

For earlier posts in this series see the following;


One of the easiest way to start writing about your ancestors is to take some photographs or other images which have some meaning about your ancestor and start describing it.

Banks Family, Alfred, Edwin, Edward 1850

This depiction is the earliest image known to exist about my ancestor Edwin A Banks. It does not appear to be a photograph nor did it appear to me to be a painting. It must have been some other media. The twin boys Edwin and Edward are standing around their father Alfred. It is not known which boy is which. They boys appear to me to be about three or four years making the image from about 1849 -1850. Notice the buys and their father are dressed in very fine clothes. Being that their father was a tailor in Seneca, Ontario County, New York, one might wonder if Alfred made these fine clothes.

If you have series of images about your ancestor, you can show how your ancestor has grown and aged over time.

Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

This photograph of Edwin Alfred Banks is from about 1895 – 1900. You can see how his appearance changes within a matter of five to ten years from this photograph to the next one pictured below. Notice his receding hair line and more pronounced wrinkles in the second photograph.

Edwin A Banks & Mary Ann McKeown

In the photograph above, Edwin A Banks is standing next to his wife Mary Ann McKeown. The date of the photograph is unknown, but is must have occurred prior to May 19. 1909. That is the date which Edwin’s wife died. They are both dressed in what is likely their finest clothes or clothes perhaps borrowed at the photographers they went to. It appears that Edwin and Mary are perhaps in their late 50’s of early sixties which would date the photograph in about 1905.

You can put in a picture of two of your ancestors children.

Minnie Bell Banks 1873 Hartford Connecticut

This photograph is of Minnie Bell Banks from about 1873. Minnie is the oldest of Edwin’s three children (Minnie, Alfred, Charles).

You do not have to have photos or other images with your ancestors in them. Find or take a photo from the place your ancestor lived, even if that place is not the same as today. You can look in old city directories for buildings or street scenes from where your ancestor lived. Perhaps there’s a photograph from the civil war unit your ancestor served in. That’s a great way to introduce your ancestors civil war service.

Fitch's Home for Soldiers Darien Conencticut

The Fitch Home For Soldiers in Darien, Connecticut is where Edwin spent the last part of his life. Edwin was living there when the 1920 United State Census was taken. He died there on July 3, 1921.


1845 New York City Store Front

The image above was depicted in the 1845 New York City Directory. The image does not have any relation to my ancestor Edwin Banks, but it’s just a short walk from where my ancestor Dr. Henry L. Sanders lived. Other buildings shown in the directory have a similar structure and composition. This is the New York City that my ancestor would have known.

1) Depiction of Alfred, Edwin and Edward in possession of author’s mother.
2) Photograph of Edwin and Bank in the possession of the author.
3) 1845 NYC Directory

Photo Genealogy – Part 4

Posted by on Sunday, 25 March, 2012

Old Photo Identification

Six weeks ago we started a series of posts regarding photo genealogy. For those of you who have been following along, you know the background. For those who are just seeing this blog series for the 1st time; I acquired a 19th century photo album of my own family. It has pictures from the 1860s to about 1930. This series of posts have documented what I’ve done to identify at least sme of the people in the photos. This week will be the last of this series. This post will be about a number of photos which are still unidentified.

Below are some relevant links to the series of blog posts from the prior weeks.

This first unidentified photo is an interesting story. Normally the photographers imprint will be a good indication for dating a photograph. You must be aware however that even back in the late 19th century some photos were copies. This photo is one of those. Notice of the front of the photo it says “COPIED FROM A PICTURE”. Not all photos copied from a picture will have this note on the photo.
Sanders-Fryher Photo Book Image 9 - Front - New Britain, CT
Sanders-Fryher Photo Book Image 9 - Back - New Britain, CT

This next photo is another unidentified photo. The photo apprear to be from about 1900-1905, but what was the occasion? Are the two people both women or is the one on the right a man? Why would the person on the right be holding a suitcasse and an unbrella? As you examine your photos you need to look at the details and decipher . It has been suggeted to me that this photo may be an ad to some type of play.

Sanders-Fryher Photo Book Image 37 - New Britain, CT

Take a look at the next three photos. If you’re lucky enough to have inherited an old photo album, the placement of the photos may offer some clues. The three photos below are the 19th, 20th and 21st photo in the album. Each of the photos have exactly three women in the photos. Are they the same women at slightly different times in their lives? If they are not the same then who are they? In this case perhaps they are three women on the Sanders Side or three women on the Fraher side. There were three and only three Fraher sisters (Mary, Elizabeth and Sarah). There were five Sanders sisters (Frances, Sarah, Ann, Ada and Edith).

Sanders-Fryher Photo Book Image 19 - New Britain, CT
Sanders-Fryher Photo Book Image 20 - New Britain, CT
Sanders-Fryher Photo Book Image 21 - New Britain, CT

Well it’s been quite a journey to try to identify the photos in this old album. If you have any clues or information to add about these photos I would love to hear from you. Perhaps you can provide an estimated date when the photo took place. On Wednesdays I will continue to post additonal unidentified photos if you’d like to see some interesting old photos and to help date and identify them. My task to identify the photos continues…

Photo Genealogy – Part 3

Posted by on Sunday, 11 March, 2012

Old Photo Identification

Four weeks ago we started a series of posts regarding photo genealogy. For those of you who have been following along, you know the background. For those who are just seeing this blog series for the 1st time; I acquired a 19th century photo album of my own family. It has pictures from the 1860s to about 1930. This series of posts have documented what I’ve done to identify at least sme of the people in the photos.

Below are some relevant links to the series of blog posts.

Part 1 contains a detailed overview of the background and family group sheets. Part 2 contains a good portion of how to go about dating and determining who is in the pictures. The other posts are still unidentified photos of people from the album. This post will go through a number of additional images and how to go about identifying them.

The cabinet card below is that of a young man in a sailor’s uniform. An unusual feature in this image was that it was located with a locket of red hair. Since we already knew the family groups involved it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the most likely subject depicted within this photo.
Joseph James Sanders
The photo is almost certainly that of Joseph James Sanders. This was the only son of Joseph Charles Sanders and Mary Agnes Fraher to be in the Navy. The only way to get a good indication of who is in this picture was to have a good understanding and to have done genealogical homework regarding the family.

The next photo has an interesting story. It appears to me to be a picture of a father and son. The man standing is obviously much older than the younger man sitting. Tucked right behind the image in the photo album was an anti-tobacco pledge card from 1903. It just goes to show you that even back in 1903 people must have known smokng wasn’t good for you.
Joseph James Sanders

Joseph James Sanders

The anti-tobacco card was signed by Joseph (James) Sanders on May 19, 1903. He must be the younger man sitting. The facial features seem to match the young man in the sailor uniform to me which is additional confirmation. The older man must be Joseph Charles Sanders, which is Joseph James Sanders father. The ironic thing about the anti-tobacco pledge is that Jospeh James Sanders grandfather John Charles Sanders owned and ran a tobacco shop in New Britain for many years before he died in 1901. With all these common names James, Joseph, John, Charles, Sanders, it’s gets to be almost a tongue twister keeping the family straight.

Above we just used another good method to help identify your old photos. You can gather all the photos which have already been marked or identified. Compare the photos which have been marked to unknown subjects in other photos.

Now let’s look at the picture below. Look closely at the facial features. Pay particular attention to the eyes, nose and ears. The man below appears to be the same man as the man standing in the picture above. If you have pictures which appear to be the same person and you’re not 100% sure who they are, make sure you mark them, print out a copy and put them in a folder (digital and/or hard copy).
Sanders, Fryher - New Britain, Connecticut
Notice the photographers imprint on the photograph. It’s Knight Studio. Knight Studio started operating around 1890 and was in operation until at least 1908. The photographers imprint is a really good aid to date your photographs.

Knowing all that you can know about the potential family members in a photo can pay off when trying to identify likely subjects within a photo. Take the following photo and photographers imprint.
Sanders, Fryher - New Britain, Connecticut
Sanders, Fryher - New Britain, Connecticut
There’s nothing really unusual about the photo or distingusiable. However, the photographers imprint says Sanfrancisco, California. This is very unusual as the home of all the family members in question was New Britiain, Connecticut, which is 3,000 miles away. One family member was known to be in San Francisco for a period of time. Joseph James Sanders (the same as the sailor pictured above) was in San Francisco for a period of time during his time in the Navy. Though not 100% sure, Joseph is the likely person in this photo.

Photo identification is going to be a lot about process of elimination as well as positively identifying the subject in the photo. Some of the photos in this post I’m not 100% sure of the subjects. We’ve gone through s process of elimination and determined the most likely subjects. I’ve been contacting some 2nd cousins of mine who are known to descend from Joseph James Sanders and who’ve had an interest in genealogy. Hopefully they will have a couple of photos of Joesph James Sanders at various ages and then we can be 100% sure.

We’ve covered a few more photos this week and gone through some methods of identification. In two weeks the next and last in this series of posts will be published. It will focus in on some still unidentified photos and the on-going process to identify them. Also don’t forget to look at the Wordless Wednesday posts. These posts will also have photos from this album.

Photo Genealogy Part 2

Posted by on Sunday, 26 February, 2012

Old Photo Identification

Two weeks ago was the first part of the photo genealogy series of posts. The series is about trying to identify photos in a 19th century photo album. This process can be applied to your own photos. This week we will explore in more detail how you can date and identify your old photos. But first, below are a few links to the previous posts.

The first post above provides a good background. It contains family group sheets for three families who are possible subjects of the photos in t he book. We will pick up where the last post left off. The other two posts are pictures which are still unidentified from the photo album.

One thing you must do to identify your pictures is to narrow down the branch of the family which are the likely subjects within the pictures. Were these picturess in a box from your maternal grandmothers items? Is there a family trait that stands out such as big wide ears such as my Sanders had? Luckily for me, the inscription in the photo album clearly identified the branch of the family. It was the Sanders – Fryher side from New Britain, CT. There were various types of pictures in the photo album tin types, carte-de-visite, cabinet cards and more.

The photo identification process will be as much about the process of elimination as it will be about positively identifying the subject. The pictures in the album were taken anywhere from about the 1860s until about the 1930s. Clearly in order to figure out who was in individual pictures I was going to have to try to put a date to each of the pictures. A good way to start this dating process is to determine the type of photograph it was.

The chart below shows some of the common types of photos popular from the beginning of photography up until about the beginning of the 20th century. A brief overview about the photo media type is written and approximately when the media type was popular. For a more in depth discussion, you can refer to one of Maureen Taylor’s books.

Daguerrotypes – from about 1840 – 1860

Daguerrotypes were the first major photographic media which still survives today. They are small metal photographics normally found in a case. They must be held at a particular angle to see the picture.

Ambrotypes – from about 1854 – 1881

Ambrotypes are a glass negative. These are nearly always in a case with a dark background.

Tintypes – from about 1856 – 1930

Tintypes were very popular for a long period of time in part because of it’s durability. Due to the many years this media was used, it sometimes makes it difficult to put a date to it. Tintypes are an image on a thin sheet of metal.  Bescause of the process, tin types were printed in reverse. 

Albumen prints – from about 1856 – 1900

Albumen prints are a thin paper print mounted on cardboard stock. There is a wide variety of sizes which were produced.

  • Carte-de_visite were introduced in about 1859. They are roughly 4 1/4 inches by 2 1/2 inches.

  • Cabinet Cards were introduced in about 1866. They are roughly 4 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches.

  • Victoria Cards were introduced in about 1870. They are roughly 3 1/4 inches by 5 inches.

  • Stereo Cards were introduced in about 1859. They are roughly 3 inches by 7 inches.

Most of the pictures in this book were either a Tintype or an Albumen print of various sizes. One of the most helpful characteristics of the Albumem prints was the cardstock they were mounted on. The photographer’s imprint was often printed on this cardstock, sometimes with an address. This helped me identify the baby picture below.

Florence Sanders - 1899

This is almost certainly my Aunt Florence Sanders as a baby. The picture is a cabinet card. It measures 4 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches. Notice the photographers imprint. It is Cottage Studios and lists an address. Using the New Britain City Directories I found that Cottage Studios was only at this address between 1896 and 1898. The only child of Joseph and Mary with the right birth date to fit the timeframe is Florence. This is also the only baby picture in the album.

The photographers imprint will be one of the best methods to date a picture. You need to find when the studios were in business. The city or town directories will aid you in this. I had a lot of pictures from the City of New Britain from various Studios. With this in mind, I created a spreadsheet and a timeline when each studio was operating. I kept track of addresses and dates of operations. Using this information it was easy to date the picture and determine who is most likely the subject of the picture.

Another good method to help in identifying your pictures is to compare the features from a known identified picture to some pictures you’re trying to identify. Take the following image. It’s a Civil War Photo of my ancestor Patrick Fraher.

Patrick Fraher - Civil War

A cousin of mine I met on the internet through a message board. Took the known image above and compared it to the male in the following photo in the image below.

Patrick Fyaher and Sarah Hayes

He took the head of each shot and put it into the same scale. He then super imposed the pictures varying the intensity of each picture. The facial features were identical. The man sitting with the woman is clearly Patrick Fryher. The woman sitting with him must be his wife Sarah Hayes.

Another good process to help date photos is to look at the clothes and accessories within the photo. I need to confess, I’m not the best at this method to date photos, but there are a number of good resource books out there which you can consult with. Maureen Taylor’s book Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs is among the best I’ve seen and used. There’s a number of pages within this book dedicated to dating costumes for both men and woman. The following photo has been dated to around 1900. Although the date of the phot has been identified, I’ve been unable to find an individual who would fit the timeframe and age of the woman in this photo.

Sanders Photo Book - image 01

This is the first photo in the book. I orginally thought this picture might have been Mary Fryher’s Wedding Photo to Joseph Charles Sanders. However, they were married in 1886, so this could not be Mary’s wedding photo. The woman in this photo remains a mystery at this point.

The following image is image number 11 within the book.

Sanders Photo Book - image 11

I have not definitively identified this photo, but I suspect the man in the photo above is the same as the man in the photo below. Look closely at the mans facial features. He has a somewhat elongated head and large proturding ears which seem to be consistent.

John Charles Sanders about 1900

There are a number of websites where you can post your pictures to help date and restore your pictures. One of the best forums I’ve come across is Photo Restoration and Dating at Rootschat . If you have any old photos, check them out.

This is where I will leave the post for this week. On the next two Wednesdays, I will post another unidentified photo from the album in the Wordless Wednesday Post. Next Sunday will be a new topic, but in two weeks on Sunday March, 11, I will post another update on identification of the old photos in this album.