Identifying Everyday Clues in Photographs, Part III

Dating PhotographsSo far in this series, I have gone through the process of identifying details in a photograph of my 2X great grandmother, Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner. In the second post, I provided some resources for identifying period silhouettes. While narrowing down a period silhouette and fashion details can be tricky, finding a probable range for a photograph’s date is oftentimes more simple, especially if you have solid genealogy data to support it. If you are lucky, the range will not be too large, for example, a ten years versus twenty years. The narrower the range the easier it becomes to date a photograph, especially if one is lacks familiarity with fashion trends. Once a range is establish-ed, research within a period silhouette can be pinpointed.

 Step Three is Determining a Timeline using genealogical knowledge:

In the first step, I identified the older woman in the photograph as Elizabeth. I am fairly certain that she is the older woman because I have several photographs of her which have been verified by people who knew her, including my great Uncle Floyd. The young woman has previously been named as Grace Wolfe or possibly one of her sisters, Anna or Pearl. And just because the younger woman was assumed to be a Wolfe granddaughter, does not necessarily make it true. Be sure to check the extended family members to eliminate other possibilities. The worst case scenario would be if the younger woman was not even a family member but had just been assumed to be so.

Grace Wolf & Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner

Elizabeth Yegerlehner and her granddaughter

Elizabeth was born in Bern, Switzerland, in 1843. She immigrated to the United States with her parents and siblings in 1852; they sailed on the ship Hungarian from Le Havre, France, to New York City. Upon arrival, they traveled to Holmes County, Ohio, which had a thriving community of Swiss expatriots. In 1861, Elizabeth married Christian Yegerlehner. Soon thereafter, they moved to Owen County, Indiana, where they lived until Christian bought land in adjoining Clay County. Elizabeth and Christian were the parents of ten children. Their oldest child and first daughter was Rosina E. Yegerlehner. Born in Marion Mills (Owen County), Indiana, during the spring of 1863, Rosina married Henry A. Wolfe at the age of nineteen. Rosina and Henry had eight children, six of whom were girls: Emma, Mary Anna, Bertha, Minnie, Pearl and Sophie Grace. Elizabeth had three other granddaughters who were plausible candidates for the woman in the photograph: Roberta Yegerlehner (born 1892), Bertha Steuernagel (born 1886) and Alberta Yegerlehner (born 1893). Of these three, I am eliminating Roberta and Alberta because I have photographs of both women and they do not appear to be the same as the unidentified woman.

  • Emma, born 1883, married James Hamilton (1914)
  • Mary Anna, born 1885, married Roscoe Snedeker (1914)
  • Bertha, born 1886, never married
  • Minnie, born 1888, died 1917, never married
  • Pearl, born 1895, married Elmer Blanton (c1920)
  • Sophie Grace, born 1897, married Eugene Miller (c1921)
  • Bertha Steuernagel, born 1886, died 1911, never married

Step Four is to Construct Date Ranges based upon time lines of targeted individuals:

Since Elizabeth died in 1922, this genealogical fact creates a finite end to the photograph’s date range. However, based upon the clothing the two women were wearing, the photograph was taken much earlier than 1922 as most women wore shorter skirts and a heavy corset was no longer worn by that time.

In the original assessment of the photograph, I gave the Wolfe woman an age range from 16-25 years old. Dating young woman can be difficult. If you have glanced at young women at the mall or around your local high school lately, you will know what I mean. Puberty strikes in mysterious ways. In this case, the young woman in the photograph is old enough to be wearing long skirts and her hair is worn up. A young girl or pre-teen in the early years of the 20th century would have worn shorter skirts and her hair would have been down or possibly tied back or in braids. The Wolfe woman is also as tall as Elizabeth if not slightly taller, which can be an indication of her age. She had possibly reached her full height. My 14 year old daughter still has quite a few inches to go before she is as tall as me. However, she has friends who are almost my height (and I am tall).

Always remember that the age range is an educated estimate! The person could be a few years younger or older.

  • Emma’s range (1899-1908)
  • Mary Anna’s range (1901-1910)
  • Bertha’s range (1902-1911)
  • Minnie’s range (1904-1913)
  • Pearl’s range (1911-1920)
  • Sophie Grace (1913-1922)
  • Bertha Steuernagel’s range (1902-1911)

The estimated range for this photograph is 1899 to 1922. Next week, I will focus on the clothing of the younger woman to narrow down the range. Why the younger woman? While Elizabeth’s clothing offers some clues, it is generally the styles of youth that reflect the newest fashion trends.

Evolution of the shirtwaist (or blouse):

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