Wednesday, June 01, 2016

My Blog Has Moved!

You can find it at

Thursday, March 17, 2016

More New Products at RootsTech: ShotBox

At RootsTech 2015, a company called ShotBox debuted a prototype of a portable photo studio.  At the time they were in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to make their dream a reality. Of course, once I saw what they were up to I ran right over and introduced myself.  I asked if we could test their product using a daguerreotype.  Those shiny reflective images are very difficult to photograph (as are all images with glass).  Lots of pesky reflections find their way into your images of them.

We took a picture of one using the ShotBox and an iPhone.  No special cameras, no super hot studio lights. It was perfect.

This year they were back.  The product is a huge success. Everywhere I looked this year folks were carrying a ShotBox.

They really are portable. Each ShotBox folds up for easy carrying and you can purchase a tote for it as well.

So what can you use a ShotBox for:
  • to photograph cased images
  • to take pictures of anything framed or those curved glass images
  • small family artifacts like jewelry, glassware and silverware
  • family history documents
 There are items that don't photograph or scan well but using a portable photo studio that sits on a counter top or a table is the perfect solution.  You can buy one from ShotBox for 20% off using the code SOCIAL20. The basic kit sells for $129.00 but a better value is the $199. deluxe kit that comes with the Tote, backdrops and the side shot to help maneuver the phone.

Let me know what you want to ShotBox.  Send me an email.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Fall in Love with Find My Past

I think the organizers of RootsTech need to offer prizes for the prettiest booths.  This year Find My Past may have won.   At the conference they announced their U.S. Marriage Record Collection.  The white chairs tied with ribbons looked like a wedding chapel. On the walls of the booth were wedding photos.  The whole atmosphere was lovely.

In honor of Valentine's Day, the Marriage Collection is open free this weekend. Anyone can take the collection for a test drive.  Let me know what you find!

If you love the site, why not consider joining.  They have U.S., U.K. and Canadian records including census documents, military records and more.

There is a 10% discount for anyone who wants to join this weekend. Join HERE and use the coupon code FEBSAVE10.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Colored Pencils Galore

Color matching pencils to the actual nineteenth century engravings was no chore.  I loved every minute of it.  When I walked into my local Blick's with those Victorian fashion magazines, the staff couldn't stop looking at them.  We flipped the pages and tried to find matching colors in two types of colored pencils--the Blicks brand and those made by Prismacolor.  In the front of both Coloring the Past and Victorian Hats, there is a chart that tells you the number and color of the pencils I selected.  You can buy all the Blicks brand pencils separately.  I now own two sets of Prismacolor pencils expressly for making sure those fashion plates ring true.  If you'd like to buy the actual pencils used to create these charts, try the Blicks website

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Holiday Bargains

There are a lot of deals out there this week. Here are a few of my favorites.  They are listed here because I actually use these companies/products.

They are offering 60% off their most popular products.  I use it to protect my new computers.  Very happy with the service and those automatic updates. 
Now's the time to stock up on your favorite genealogy products at this 50% off sale.  The genealogists in your family will love what's in their stocking!

Raise your hand if you color.  Everything you could need to color from pencils to books is on sale on Blicks until Christmas. I picked up a set of 72 pencils for $54.48 that was $40.00 off the list price.  Guess what I'll be doing after dinner!

40% off digitization projects such as slide scanning, film digitization and more until November 29th. Use BLKFRI100 when checking out.

Happy Shopping!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: Mother and Daughter

Collection of author

This unidentified bride and her mother posed circa 1914. The shawl collars on both of their dresses help place them in a time frame. 

So do the flowers.
Edwardian era bouquets were large with trailing ribbons, vines or flowers. Large lilies dominate the greenery. On her head this bride wears a type cap of flowers with a long veil.  Her mother's corsage consists of a single piece of greenery, perhaps a fern, with an accent bud.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tech Tuesday: Atlas of the Rhode Island Book Trade

 It's fascinating how online tools can expand our knowledge of a period/topic and how  easy it is  to share those discoveries.  My little state of Rhode Island has a long history of printing--newspapers, one sheet broadsides and pamphlets.  The Rhode Island Historical Society using Google Maps, an interactive timeline and lots of data compiled by bibliographers created an online Atlas of the RI Book Trade
  • Scroll through the timeline to see what's available.
  • The star system identifies whether detail locations are available for printers.
  • To see the exact locations of these printers zoom into the map.
  • Click on one of those blue balloons to see details about a printer.
An easy to use guide helps users understand how to get the most out of this interesting project. Here's a fun tip. Use the page full screen then click "view with historical overlays" to view the locations on historical maps from the RIHS collections. 
overlay with 1777 map of Newport

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: Decorated with Flowers

Collection of the author
A. M.Estrella of Fall River, Massachusetts took this photograph in the first decade of the twentieth century. There is something really charming about the enhancements on this image. The pink flowers with green leaves were stamped on the image with ink. 

The bride wears a lovely striped silk dress with a full veil.  Her groom holds a pair of gloves in his hands.  Could the couple have requested this all over green and red pattern or was this a specialty of the photographer?  I'm looking for other examples of his work.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tech Tuesday: A Chance Encounter and a Photo Mystery Solved

Years ago I bought an interesting image at a photo show.  It was completely unidentified--no name and no photographer's markings. 

I'd never gotten around to researching the image. Last summer I included it in one of my talks at the International Jewish Genealogical Society conference in Boston.  As soon as I put it up on the screen, a man called out that he knew the identity of this soldier.  He told me that this was Field Marshal von Moltke, a Prussian military expert.  

This was a great test for Google Images. To see if there are matches to a particular image you can either cut and paste a URL in the search box or upload an image to the search box.  I choose the latter.

In this case, there was an exact match on the website.

Google Images isn't 100% effective.  It provides you with exact matches and then visually similar pictures. For the purpose of this search, Google found other carte des visite images of people posed like von Moltke and some that don't have much in common with the image I searched.  

Identity confirmed. Case closed.  Thank you to Paul Silverstone for positively identifying an image from my collection.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Kodak Craze circa 1893

Thank you to Lori Parkinson who found this clipping in the front of a family scrapbook circa 1893. The woman attended Mt. Carmel (Illinois) High School and Northwestern.  Today's parents worry about the inappropriateness of photographs their teenagers post on Facebook, but this worry is nothing new.  Parents worried about the influence of photography on their children more than a century ago.

I don't have the whole clipping and I haven't been able to find the newspaper source of the clipping.

She said that since Mt. Carmel had become possessed of the Kodac craze a number of young ladies of this city had been photographed in some very unconventional attitudes, and that if any of the boys got hold of the pictures they would have more fun with them than a barrel of monkeys. Groups were the favorites: One girl would dress in her most fetching "nightie." Beside her, seated on the bed would be a girl chum, dressed in a suit of male clothing, one arm encircling the girl in the robe de nuit.The snapshots of course were taken by some other girl. Birdie says the picture sare lovely, but just a trifle realistic, and that if the mothers of the girls ever get a squint at them, those girls will get a bumping that will make them eat standing up for the next ten days. 


Friday, June 13, 2014

A Thankful Moment

Years ago I met genealogist Joyce M. Bowden and we chatted about the connection between family history and photography.  A few months ago she sent me a copy of the book she'd been writing.
It's a beautiful written book full of charts and photos.  One of Joyce's ancestors Fletcher Connor became a photographer. One of the most interesting photos is a composite of more than forty family members on a single carte de visite in the collection of the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina. 

Bravo Joyce!   I'm not related to the Connors but I found her book so interesting I couldn't put it down. In case you want a copy you can contact Joyce through White Poppy Press.

When I opened the book I saw that she'd autographed the copy: "For Maureen, with many thanks for getting me started with family photographs."  Thank you Joyce!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Oldest Living Revolutionary Widows

As of June 30, 1898 five women appeared on the pension rolls as widows of Revolutionary War soldiers.
Esther Damon of Plymouth Union, Vermont age 84
Nancy Jones of Jonesboro, Tennessee age 84
Rebecca Mayo of Newbern, Virginia age 85
Mary Snead of Parksley, Virginia age 82
Nancy Weatherman of Lineback, Tennessee age 88

I've searched for years for images of these women. Esther Damon appears in volume 1 of the Last Muster Series and I'm aware of newspaper photos of Rebecca Mayo, but photos of the other women may not exist. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: A Couple from the Mid-1890s and Crayon Swindlers

collection of the author

The spectacle of the Kim Kardashian/Kanye West wedding is outside the pocketbooks of modern brides, nineteenth century high society wedding with white gowns, diamonds and multi-course reception meals were too expensive and frivolous for most of our ancestors as well. It was pretty typical for a man to purchase a wedding suit to be married in and for his bride to wear a new dress for the event. It was usually a dress the bride could wear again.  

Spotting a wedding involves reading the matrimonial clues in a portrait. In this case, the couple formally holds hands and both wear corsages.  The tell-tale wedding veil confirms it's a wedding.  There are cases where the bride doesn't wear a veil. Sometimes, women just wore a scarf of white fabric wrapped around their collar.
This bride wears fingerless mitts instead of long gloves. Her full upper sleeves dates the picture to the mid-1890s. 

While the image was taken in Minneapolis, the studio called itself the New York Portrait Company which had studios in New York, San Diego, New Haven and Minneapolis (and probably other large cities as well). They advertised their services in newspapers and bragged about their ability to produce pastel and charcoal enlargements known as crayon portraits.  

In the 1890s the popularity of these prints and the well-known reputation of the New York Portrait Company provided an opportunity for scam artists, aka crayon swindlers,  to separate our ancestors from a little cash.  A man falsely representing himself as an agent for the New York Portrait Co. would approach a house when just women were home. He'd appeal to their desire for an enlargement of a treasured family photo. A deposit of one or two dollars was required as a deposit.  The woman would hand over the image and the cash and never hear from the man or see the promised product. 

Source: Anthonys Photographic Bulletin volume XXIII, 1892, 223.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tech Tuesday: Listen to Historical Figures Speaki

There's a new treat for users of wikipedia.  Voice recordings.  That's right. Along with biographies the BBC has shared voice recordings from some of their programs. Take a listen to Emma Thompson, from The Film Programme, November 28, 2013 or Jane Goodall from BBC Radio 4 programme Woman's Hour January 26, 2010. Unfortunately the links don't work in this blog format. You can listen by searching for their names on Wikipedia.

What does this have to do with genealogy? Not much, but it lovely to listen to these women.  Can't wait to see what else will be available.

The BBC is a public broadcasting station. On January 24, 2014 they held an event allowing attendees to capture audio from some Radio 4 broadcasts. You can read more about the BBC Voice Project here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: General William Tecumseh Sherman's Daughter Minnie

When Maria Ewing Sherman married Thomas William Fitch on October 1, 1874.
Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division. 
Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman and his wife, Ellen Boyle Ewing  had several children including their oldest, Maria who was known as Minnie.  Her marriage to Naval Lieutenant Thomas William Fitch was a Washington social event attended by President and Mrs. Grant. It was covered by newspapers across the country. The bride and groom wed at 9:30 am at St. Aloysius Catholic Church. Wax lights and gas jets illuminated the interior of the church. Minnie wore a heavy white silk dress with a long train decorated with satin ribbons and orange blossoms. According to the finding aid for family papers at Villanova, Minnie received a four strand diamond necklace and matching earrings.

Following the ceremony, guests were entertained at a reception at General Sherman's home. 

The couple had seven children but only four lived to be adults. Minnie died in 1913.

Source: "A Brilliant Affair--The Crowds, The Flowers, The Dresses, Etc.," St. Alban's Messenger (Vermont), October 9, 1872,2.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Tech Tuesday: Daguerreobase

A big thank you to Facebook friend Dick Bolt for telling me about this Facebook page for European daguerreotypes.

A daguerreotype is a shiny reflective image on a silver coated copper plate. You have to hold it at a 45 degree angle to view it.  This year is the 175th anniversary of these lovely cased image.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Fashionable Folks Hairstyles versus Hairstyles 1840-1900

If you go to (or my website) you'll see two titles by me on the same subject. 

This is the old edition.  I'm going to retire this title on July 1st.  It's all black and white.

This is the new edition with all color layouts, new information and about fifty percent more pictures--of men, women and children.There is even a short section on unusual hair.

I've noticed that there have been several orders for the older version. Since I don't want my customers to get confused about which edition they are ordering, I'm discontinuing the black and white version. Color printing makes these nineteenth century photos look so much better than those in gray scale.

This book inspired my lecture Hairsteria: Ancestral Photos and Their Celebrity Look-alikes.  I love the sound of laughter from the audience when I show off these images.  It can be combined with my lecture on hats for Hairsteria and Mad as a Hatter. 

Monday, May 05, 2014

Hairstyles Has A New Look

If you liked my book, Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles, you're going to LOVE the new one simply called Hairstyles 1840-1900.  It's updated and revised and best of all in COLOR.  I've spent the last few years collecting new pictures and information to feature.  Big pages, big pictures and more great hairstyles.  This time I've included more men (and their hairy facial hair foibles), children and a few very unusual looks. 

It will be available at in my booth at NGS so stop by and browse.  The conference price is $20.00 (regular price $25.00)

If you're not going to Richmond, sign up for my newsletter through my website to get a special coupon offer just for subscribers plus a transcript of some of the AskMaureen preservation questions. 

Friday, May 02, 2014

NGS Happenings: Out of the Box Sessions

I love national conferences.  You get to meet folks you haven't seen in a year or more.  Make new acquaintances and oh yeah....learn new things.  Stop by booth #620 for even more ideas on how to solve genealogy problems, share your knowledge and care for your photos.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Celebrity Wedding: Tom Thumb and Lavinia Warren, 1863

No doubt about it. P.T. Barnum was a showman extraordinaire.  He knew how to get attention. In April 1863, two of his stars General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) and Minnie (Lorinia) Warren married.  These well-known celebrities were well known to the American public.  
A re-enactment of the original wedding scene. Different versions of it were used as a lithograph on sheet music. Smithsonian.

Their wedding was a spectacle. Warren's dress was designed and made by Madame Demorest, at her establishment in New York City. Demorset was a fashion trend-setter with her magazine, "Demorest's." Two thousand people witnessed them exchange vows. Instead of reception at home, Stratton and Warren held their event at a hotel. Barnum paid all the expenses. Unlike other weddings of the time which were private affairs, the media was present for these nuptials. The New York Times and newspapers around the country published the details.

The couple posed for multiple images that were later sold by E. & H.T. Anthony under the title of "The Fairy Wedding." Individuals purchased carte des visite images of the couple in their wedding attire, the bridal party, and even scenes in the church.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wedding Wednesday

It's not a great photo.  Some of the folks moved and blurred the shot. The left and right sides are over exposed by the flash.  It's on cheap gray card stock. Despite all the shortcomings of this image it was likely treasured by the family.
Wedding circa 1902

There are so many great details in this image.
  • A grass mat covers the floor.
  • The two women on the left wear ethnic style vests.
  • Everyone is solemn except the guy on the right. He's smiling. 
  • The bride's head piece entwined by vines is very interesting.
  • Is that the maid of honor and the best man seated in front?  It appears so. She holds a pair of gloves while he holds a cigar.
  • The group is so large it exceeds the edges of the backdrop and a piece of studio equipment is visible on the right. 
  • The odd framing of the picture in that irregular shape is odd. 
Here's close-ups of these items plus a few more.
 The maid of honors dress helps date the photo. The silhouette of her dress is the typical s-curve of the early years of the twentieth century. Billowy front with a narrow waist and a full skirt. Her corset would have emphasized the curve.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hey! Don't I know you?

Hey! Don't I know you?

How good are you at recognizing faces?  Researchers found that 1 in 50 have some version of face blindness. Watch the video and take the test.  You might be surprised. 

Tech Tuesday: Shuttersong

I saw this lovely app, Shuttersong, mentioned in a column in Better Homes and Gardens.  Can't wait to try it, but can't seem to download it for either Apple or Android.  It allows you to add music to photos or a voice over.  

Maybe it hasn't officially launched yet?   I've search the app store for my iPad and the Google Play store for my Android.

Anyone currently using it?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Saving a Slice of Family History

Family history is so much more than a collection of documents. It's also in the holiday traditions passed down from generation to generation.

In my husband's family one of these traditions features a special Easter cake made by his mother.  A lamb with a jelly bean necklace. Over the years she'd perfected the recipe and the appearance of this symbolic cake creation.  Unfortunately, she's no longer able to make that cake.

 Yesterday we wanted to make the day special for her.  She's had a rough time lately and we thought the lamb cake would make her smile.  The only problem was that we couldn't find the mold for it.  My sister-in-laws looked high and low in her kitchen.  We discussed the possibility that my father-in-law had thrown it out (gasp!).  A few weeks ago, we packed up her kitchen and discovered the mold in the cabinet with the mixing bowls and plastic storage containers.  There was so much whooping that the movers thought we were crazed. We were cake crazed.

I took the challenge and decided to try my hand at recreating it.  Oh the pressure!  Do you have any idea how many disastrous lamb cakes are on Pinterest?  Enough to make me sweat.  I searched the web for instructions.  The end result was far from perfect.
I didn't have her cake recipe. I decided not to use her beloved 7 minute icing recipe from the Joy of Cooking.  Oops! I baked it in two pieces instead of one. Those web directions were WRONG.  A little green Easter basket grass around the edges of the plate would make it look better.  Toothpicks held the two halves together.

Thank goodness I snapped pictures of it and sent them to my sister-in-law's. When I went upstairs to change my clothes I overheard my daughter say, "Oh...Mom is going to be really upset."
Yup.  The neck broke and the head fell off.  We took it to dinner anyway and my mother-in-law smiled. Seems that very thing often happened to her cake.
My husband looked at our daughter and said with a smirk on his face, "you better pay attention, it's your job to pass it on to your children." You can imagine that wide eyed stare. 

Next year I'll try again. My resolutions are to make a one piece cake, use her icing recipe and edible green coconut.  No way am I picking all that artificial grass out of the servings hoping no one got a toothpick.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Weekend at the Museum: Concord Museum and the Shot Heard 'Round the World

On April 19, 1775 colonists and British troops skirmished at the North Bridge.  It was the "shot heard 'round the world."  The momentous events of that day are taught to school children across the United States.  The details of what is known called Patriot's Day seem like dusty national memory until you visit the Concord Museum's new exhibit. The real bits of history are on display in a chronological accounting of events.
 Among the items you can see:
William Diamond's Drum

  • Paul Revere's Lantern
  • William Diamond’s drum that summoned the Lexington militia to the Common 
  •  James Hayward’s powder horn, pierced by the bullet that killed him
  • a mirror broken by the British and passed down in a family with a handwritten note until given to a museum. 
History is comprised of the actions of ordinary people and viewed through the articles they've left behind. 

An ancillary exhibit of images from my Last Muster Project shows viewers the faces of the men and women who lived in Revolutionary times. Museum visitors were struck by the intensity of the portraits and the life stories of these individuals. Thank you to Carol Haines and Sara Lundberg for their support of this project.

I hope you'll take your children and grandchildren on a field trip to see these exhibits. They are on display until September 21, 2014. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: Collage

I'm having a great time playing with   The evidence is this collage that focuses on the details in this wedding portrait. It's another unidentified bride and groom from images I've collected.

On April 6th, The New York Times included a story, "With Grandma's Ring, I Thee Wed," on the resurgence of interest in vintage wedding rings.  Not those bought in jewelry stores, but those passed down in the family. I wonder if the rings worn by the couple in this collage are still in their family.

If you have vintage rings, the New York Times would like to see them for an online Instagram album.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: A White House Affair

President and Mrs. Cleveland, Littleton View Co., 1886.

In 1886, 21-year-old Frances Folsom married 49-year-old President Grover Cleveland, a bachelor. Frances became an instant style maven with young women copying her hairstyle. 

She was the daughter of one of Cleveland's friends, Oscar Folsom. At the time of the wedding,  Cleveland was the executor of her father's estate and was guiding her upbringing. Her mother approved of the marriage and so did the American public.   Frances was the youngest first lady.  

This stereoview commemorates their wedding. Littleton View Company of Littleton, New Hampshire and their distributor, Underwood and Underwood sold their cards around the world. The card's caption appears in both English and Spanish. 

Here's an interesting historical tidbit relating to the couple:
During the 1884 presidential campaign against James G. Blaine, Cleveland admitted paying child support to Maria Crofts Halpin for her son Oscar Folsom Cleveland.  It's an interesting name since it's a combination of his friend Oscar's name and the Cleveland surname. 

Library of Congress
Detractors of Cleveland's used this against him with a phrase, "Ma, Ma, Where's my pa?"


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Thank you to the Maine Genealogical Society and the Maine Historical Society

A great big thank you to everyone who attended yesterday's Maine Genealogical Society Spring Conference held in Augusta. I have a new appreciation for that part of the state.  It was my first trip to the state capitol and I hope to get back there at some point. The Maine Historical Society was a co-sponsor of the day.

I spent Friday at an antique mall and picked up a few stereographs for future projects.  Here's a homemade one.
These folks were clowning for the camera--drinking and dozing.  It's from the late 1890s.  Don't you love the portrait on the wall?  This was on the back of a image of snowy owls.  The family photographer re-purposed a purchase stereo card.

Dinner at The Senator with MGC Board members was outstanding. Good food and great company.  I have a lot of food allergies so it's always a bonus when a restaurant has a dessert that's wheat, dairy and nut-free. Take a look at this!
It was a good as it looks. Raspberry sorbet in a meringue shell. 

Saturday's weather started out cloudy and rainy, but the atmosphere at the Elks Club was cheery. There was no confusion about where the event was going to be held.  This sign was on the main road.

The four lectures of the day were: Photo Detecting 101 (with a special emphasis on Civil War images), Photo Preservation, The Last Muster, and Hairsteria/Mad as a Hatter.   The hats and hair lecture kept everyone laughing after lunch.

Thank you again!  Can't wait to go back to Maine.  It was a very relaxing train ride from Boston.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Wedding Wednesdays: 1890 Veil

Wedding circa 1890
In the late 1880s to early 1890s brides wore headdresses and long veils. Leaves and seed pearls piled high on top of up-swept hair was the fashion. Long trailing ribbons of pearls and greenery frame her face. The groom wears a matching corsage.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Weekend at the Museum: Silver in the Family

Not just photographs tell us things about our ancestors and their lives. Their artifacts tell stories as well.  Anyone living in the Palm Beach Florida area still has time to visit a lovely exhibit at the Flagler Museum.  It's called Stories in Sterling: Four Centuries of Silver in New York.

For those of us not able to visit Florida, don't worry.  The exhibit is also online.
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