Tag Archives: clothing

Fashion Moments – Beret

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss a female garment, fashion trend or influencer from the age of photography (1840s through the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family’s history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived. Period clothing is an important part of that environment from how it affects a person’s movement to their overall lifestyle. This week I introduce you to the beret with thanks to reader Jackie Dinnis with her question about some 1930s berets providing this week’s inspiration.


In basic terms, the beret is a round, brimless hat which generally fits around the crown of the head. It is a soft hat without stiffening. Traditional French and Basque berets are made from felted wool, but different fabrics have been used to create a beret like velvet or cotton. The size and shape of this hat has been adapted and refashioned for millennia. According to several websites, the history of the beret is long and its origins are no longer known. Nowadays, most people think of the French when it comes to berets or elite military groups such as the Green Berets.


Some modern berets (Photograph by the author)


During the 1930s, the French beret became iconic with Hollywood movie starts like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. The beret quickly made its way into popular fashion. While it did not remain in the forefront of fashion, the hat has never completely disappeared in modern times. The style emerged again in the 1950s and 1960s with the beatnik generation.

Further Reading

A great history of the beret from Hat Tales.

More about military beret styles from blueberet.org

An overall history of hats with a descriptive list of some different hat styles from hatbox.com

Thinking of buying a traditional-styled French beret? Check out the website of Laulhère-France! They have included a “Some History” tab with a great review of the beret’s influence and history.

Blog Post from Glamour Daze regarding the French Beret in the 1930s.


Marlene Dietrich, 1933. Image from the German Federal Archives via Wikipedia.

Sears catalog, Fall 1931. Image from Ancestry.com‘s collection of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993.

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/08/02/fashion-moments-beret/

Fashion Moments – Hobble Skirt

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss a female garment, fashion trend or influencer from the age of photography (1840s through the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family’s history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived. Period clothing is an important part of that environment from how it affects a person’s movement to their overall lifestyle. This week I introduce you to the hobble skirt.

Hobble Skirt (1910s)

Between 1910 and the commencement of World War I, women’s skirts were decidedly narrow. Skirts of the previous decade had been full, utilizing generous amounts of fabric. A fitted waist and hip which flared dramatically at the hem marked the first decade of the 20th century. While the silhouette of a 1900 skirt was spectacularly triangular, ten years later, they were positively rectangular. Neoclassicism, romanticism and the mystique of the Orient were some of the artistic aesthetics at play in the fashion world of 1910. In many ways, skirts of the early 1910s resembled Greek or Roman columns.

During this time, the increasingly active lifestyle of women influenced fashion. Skirt hems inched slightly upward. Corsets became less structured. Suffragettes were waging war in London and the United States. Women wanted freedom of movement (as well as the freedom to vote), so why would they confine themselves in a Hobble skirt?

Admittedly, the Hobble skirt was a very short lived trend, and not everyone partook in such foolishness. In essence, the wearer wore a skirt which was so narrow at the hem that the ability to walk was impeded, forcing the wearer to “hobble.” Various methods were employed to prevent the wearer from tearing their skirt (should they take too long of a stride). During the early teens, corsets covered and extended below the hips. Specially corsets which extended to the knees encouraged “hobbling.” [The catalog page below shows typical corsets from 1913, not the specialty ones.]

Fasion - Sears catalog, 1913 corsets

1913 Sears Catalog corsets (Image courtesy of Ancestry.com)

However, the most fascinating device (which was made specifically for Hobble skirts) was the Hobble Garter. Worn below the knees, the garter regulated the walker’s stride to ensure a hobble.

Los Angeles Herald 1910-11-24 Hobble Skirt

Los Angeles Herald, 24 November 1910, p. 12, col. 5-6

Further Reading

An overview from Wikipedia on the Hobble skirt including some later 20th century trends, which were also referred to as Hobble skirts.

Two articles can be found on the Edwardian Promenade blog: Hobble Skirts and Hobble Garters.

Two of the more influential fashion designers during this period were Paul Poiret and Jeanne Paquin.


The three fashion plates are from the Costume Institute Fashion Plates digital collection from the Thomas J. Watson Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art. They are in the public domain.

The catalog page comes from the 1913 Spring Sears catalog, available from Ancestry.com.

The newspaper article is one of many which can be found about the Hobble Garter in 1910. The Library of Congress’ Chronicling America database contains this issue of the Los Angeles Herald.

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/07/19/fashion-moments-hobble-skirt/

Fashion Moments – Madeleine Vionnet

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss female garment, fashion trend or a fashion influence from the age of photograph (1840s through the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family’s history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived. Period clothing was an important part of that environment from how it affected their moments to their daily chores. This week I want to introduce you to Madeleine Vionnet, a French fashion designer from  the beginning of the 20th century.

Madeleine Vionnet

“A woman’s muscles are the best corset one could imagine.” – Madeleine Vionnet

Since there are plenty of books and sources about Madeleine Vionnet’s life, I will not spend much time reciting a biography of her. What I will discuss is her contribution to women’s fashion. If you have any familiarity with sewing, the terms on grain and bias will be meaningful to you. Simply put, the grain of a fabric is parallel to the woven threads (warp and weft). Bias is 45 degrees of the grain.scan0001

If you pull a piece of fabric along the grain lines, you will notice that the fabric is not very stretchy. But if you pull a piece of fabric along its bias, the fabric has a lot of stretch to it.  And as Vionnet discovered, the bias is highly drapeable. She became famous for her “bias cut” dresses which relied on using the bias of the fabric, instead of the straight grain. Throughout her career, Vionnet draped fabric on a small scale dressmaker’s model to create her masterpieces.


Madeleine Vionnet in her studio about 1920 (Image via Wikipedia)

“She was an artist of fashion as Picasso was to painting.” – Edna Woolman Chase and Ilka Chase from Always in Vogue (1954)

Vionnet’s Fashions

While many of our ancestors could not have afforded to buy an original dress from Madeleine Vionnet’s fashion house, they did purchase or sew clothing influenced by her aesthetic (which was most prominent during the 1920s and 1930s).

Dresses from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) from their online database at www.metmueum.org/collection/

Examples From My Collection

My grandmother was a young woman during the 1920s so many of the photographs I have of her show Vionnet’s influence on her fashions, especially in the bias cut of her wedding dress in 1929.

©2015 written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/06/20/fashion-moment-madeleine-vionnet/

Fashion Moments – The Bustle

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss a piece of female clothing or fashion trend from the age of photography (1840s through the the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived, and that includes the clothing they wore.

The Bustle

During the 1870s and 1880s (and even into the 1890s), women continued to wear long skirts which typically included a bustle. There are three distinct phases in appearance and style of the nineteenth century bustle. Being able to identify the bustle phase of a woman’s skirt is a plus for dating photographs.

Phase One (1867-1872)

The 1850s and 1860s were known as the era of hoop skirts. As the Civil War ended, fashion transitioned away from this style of skirt. The steel cages which had previously supported the various layers of petticoats and skirts were phased out. By the end of the 1860s, instead of wearing a structure that encircled the body (diagram on left), the crinoline or bustle evolved into an rear only structure (diagram on right).


This beautiful silk gown from the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is a typical example of the transition style. (Link to the circa 1870 dress in LACMA’s collection). The decoration of the skirt is linear around the bottom half of the hem and the skirt’s volume is full and rounded.


Woman’s Promenade Dress, c. 1870 (LACMA collection)

Phase Two (1869-1876)

The second phase of the bustle overlapped with the transitional phase for a few years. This phase of the bustle was characterized by a draped over skirt which gathered to the back. The overall fullness of the skirt began to diminish. The skirt were generally flatter in front with emphasis shifting to the back bustle. As sewing machines in the home began to be more common, decoration and flounces became increasingly excessive.

Interlude (1876-1881)

By the middle of the 1870s, the bustle dropped out of fashion. Bodices became long and narrow, extending over the hips; they were seamed in the princess style and were also known as the cuirasse bodice. Like their namesake the cuirass (a piece of close-fitting defensive armour), these bodices were made to fit as closely as possible. All over decoration and flounces on the back of the skirt were typical during these years.

Phase Three (1881-1889)

The bustle of the 1880s became the fashion nightmare of its day. During the eighties, fashion swung between a desire for simplicity and a tendency towards excess. The bustle of this era looked like a shelf (according to fashion illustrations) built upon the female posterior.

1885 dress

Dress, c.1885, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

By the 1890s, the bustle was on its way out. Some posterior padding continued until 1905, but in general, the bustle was finished. The average female did not engage in excessive bustling. However, the bustle was common enough to be ridiculed and satirized in the newspapers of the day. Most women did have access to fashion magazines such as The Ladies Standard Magazine and a growing number of households acquired sewing machines in the late nineteenth century. Women re-created what they saw in the magazines according to their abilities (and their wallets). Mail order catalogs like Bloomindales sold ready-made clothing. Butterick and McCall sold paper patterns. It would be foolish to assume that our ancestors were out-of-touch with the latest fashions. Whether or not they could afford to replicate them was a different matter entirely.

Some Additional Resources:

English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century by C. Willett Cunnington is a great comprehensive guide of the evolution of fashion during the nineteenth century.

Victorian Fashions & Costumes from Harper’s Bazaar, 1867-1898 edited by Stella Blum

American Victorian Costume in Early Photographs by Priscilla Harris Dalrymple

©2015 written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/06/12/fashion-moments-the-bustle/

Fashion Moments – The Shirtwaist

Fashion Moments by Deborah Sweeney

This is the first in a new weekly series on specific fashion trends. Each week I will present a different garment or piece of female fashion that was prevalent during the 19th and 20th centuries. My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all encounter and struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family history should be aware of the environment in which our ancestors lived, and that includes what clothes they wore.

The Shirtwaist

The shirtwaist was a mainstay of the female wardrobe from the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century. What exactly is a shirtwaist? To understand the evolution of the term, it is necessary to understand the definition of waist to a 19th century person. In modern times, the word waist refers to the part of the human body between the ribs and hips. In the past, waist was another term for the bodice of a woman’s dress.

Waist (wāst) n. The upper part of a garment, extending from the shoulders to the waistline, esp. the bodice of a woman’s dress.

As women became more independent and began working outside the home, their style of dress was modeled after male attire. A well dressed man of business typically wore a white shirt with a turned down collar and cuffs under his coat and/or vest. The term shirtwaist was a combination of the two terms: shirt + waist. Therefore, shirtwaist is a term only used to describe the female version of a male dress shirt.

 Shirtwaist (shȗrt’ wāst) n. A woman’s tailored shirt with details copied from men’s shirts.

A typical shirtwaist was unstructured (no boning or inner lining) and was made from a material such as cotton or linen. Occasionally they were made of silk. Another benefit of the shirtwaist was the ease of laundering. Boned and lined bodices were generally not washed often. Over time, shirtwaists evolved from the simple tailored version of a man’s shirt to beautiful feminine garments embellished with lace and trimmings.

Shirtwaist, c1895, American silk and cotton

Shirtwaist, American, c1895 (silk & cotton). Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Collection

Although introduced as early as the 1860s, shirtwaists became more popular as the 19th century progressed. With illustrators like Charles Dana Gibson regularly drawing sporty and active women, women’s dress was finally changing. However, it would take another twenty or so years before the more natural styles of the 1920s became fashionable. By the mid 1890s, women were no longer being hampered by bustles and hoops as well as obsessive corseting. The movement to promote Aesthetic Dress (which began in England in the 1850s and was led by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, Frederic Leighton and Lawrence Alma-Tadema) also influenced the trend towards healthier and non-restrictive clothing for women. The Aesthetic dress movement rejected the wearing of tight-laced corsets altogether.


A study for “When Women Are Jurors,” by Charles Dana Gibson, 1902 (Image in the Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons)

The term shirtwaist, or waist for short, endured from the early 1890s though the 1920s. The term finally passed out of common usage with shirt and blouse being more commonly used today.

Perhaps one of the most well known events regarding the shirtwaist was the 1911 Triangle Factory fire in New York City. Shirtwaists were very popular and cheap to manufacture. Mail order catalogues as well as clothing stores all sold shirtwaists. See the links below to learn more about the Triangle Factory fire, and PBS’s documentary about this tragedy which killed hundreds of immigrant factory workers. The overwhelming majority of the victims were women.

Evolution of the Shirtwaist

The style of the shirtwaist changed over the years. When dating photographs, it is important to note the changes to cuffs, collars and necklines as well as the rise and fall of the waistline.

Shirt waist patterns from the Modern Priscilla Magazine, 1906. (Image from the Library of Congress)

For Further Reading:

More about the fashion trends that influenced the Aesthetic Dress Movement:


On the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and Shirtwaists:

©2015 written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/30/fashion-moments-the-shirtwaist/

Identifying Everyday Clues in Photographs, Part IV

Dating PhotographsToday I present the last part of this series focusing on dating the photograph of Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner. My aim was to take the reader through the process of dating a single photograph by using clothing cues. Stay tuned for addition posts on specific fashion trends like the evolution of the sleeve, skirt shapes and hair styles. My goal is to make this a weekly post.

At the end of part three in this series, I said that we would look specifically at the clothing worn by the “granddaughter” in the photograph because it is easier to gauge the styles of the young. Before I do that, I want to focus on Elizabeth. I am lucky because I have several identified pictures of Elizabeth. I want to make a point about using hairstyles to date pictures.

Elizabeth Over Four Decades

The earliest photograph was taken in the 1880s. Elizabeth is standing while her husband, Christian Yegerlehner, is seated. The photograph is a fairly typical of the times.

Christian and Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner, c1880s (Photograph courtesy of Eric Graham)

Christian and Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner, c1880s (Photograph courtesy of Eric Graham)

The next photograph was taken in 1890-1 in front of the Yegerlehner farmhouse. The baby, William Otto Yegerlehner, was born on 8 March 1890. Elizabeth is standing behind the fence. Her two youngest daughters, Matilda and Sophia, stand with their niece, Bertha (the littlest girl with the doll who was about 4-5 years old).

Christian Yegerlehner Family, in 1891, in front of the farmhouse in Clay County, Indiana

Christian Yegerlehner Family, in 1890-1, in front of the farmhouse in Clay County, Indiana

The next photograph of Elizabeth was taken with one of her sisters, possibly Sevilla. It was likely taken in the late 1890s.

Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner and her sister Sevilla Sheneman(Photograph courtesy of Eric Graham)

Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner and her sister Sevilla Sheneman (Photograph courtesy of Eric Graham)

Here again is another photograph of Elizabeth. This time her daughter, Sophia, as well as another un-named sister are in the picture.

Yegerlehner, Elizabeth (Schwartz) with daughter Sophia and sister

Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner with her daughter Sophia and an un-named sister, c1900 (Photograph courtesy of Eric Graham)

A few years later, Elizabeth took another photograph with Sophia. This time Sophia’s son, Russell, is in the picture. Russell was born in 1905 so this photograph was probably taken about 1909. Sophia lived in Indianapolis and she was very fashionably dressed for the times. Her hair is a wonderful example of the style.

Yegerlehner, Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner with Russell & Sophia (Yegerlehner) Thatcher - c1910

Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner with her daughter, Sophia, and grandson, Russell, c.1909. (Photograph courtesy of Eric Graham)

During the 1910s, Elizabeth sat for a photograph with Elizabeth (Krieble) Schiele. Both grandmothers lived with John Henry Yegerlehner and his wife, Lovina (Schiele) Yegerlehner, near the end of their lives. Both women died in 1922.

Elizabeth posed with some of her great grandchildren around 1919. She had only one granddaughter (with three children) by 1922. The only candidate is Mary Anna (Wolfe) Snedeker. Her oldest three children were Walter, Mary and Charles. The youngest was born in 1918. Elizabeth is wearing a white shirtwaist which is very a-typical of her! at least in comparison to her other photographs.

YEG1919 Elizabeth (Schwartz) with possibly Mary Anna (Wolfe) Snedeker and children

The one thing I want to point out about Elizabeth in these pictures is that her hair style did not change for 40 years – a part in the middle with a bun in back. Judging a photograph based on hair alone is NOT a good idea!

 Back to the Photograph!

Grace Wolf & Elizabeth (Schwartz) YegerlehnerSo far, I have written down every noticeable detail about the clothing in the photograph. I created age ranges based upon the possible candidates for Elizabeth’s grand-daughter. To recap, there are seven possible women:

  • 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)

Around 1910, fashion began moving away from from the trends of the 19th century. The women’s silhouette became more columnar, and excessive curves of the late 1890s and early 1900s became straighter. One result was skirts became less full, using less fabric. Instead of being triangular (narrow at the hips, wide at the base), skirts were more rectangular. The hobble skirt, a short lived fashion trend from 1910-1913 was the epitome of the straight and narrow. While I doubt that my unknown Indiana farm girl indulged in such fashion, it is important to know what was happening in the fashion world. Another result of the shift in fashion was the elevation of the waist line.

On the other side of Indiana in 1913, my great grandparents, Robert and Sara (Troxell) McGraw, celebrated their 50th anniversary. They had a large family and many friends came to celebrate the occasion. They all posed for a photograph. I am showing this photograph because they were of a similar socioeconomic status as my Yegerlehner relations. They also lived within 150 hundred miles of each other. Notice the waistlines on the women – young and old. The majority of the women are wearing dresses or shirtwaists and skirts that are higher than the natural waist.

McGraw 50th Anniversary (40) 200 bw

Robert and Sara McGraw 50th Anniversary, 1913, Fayette County, Indiana

Our mystery Wolf woman is wearing a dress that sits at her natural waist. I would deduce that my photograph was taken before 1910. Therefore this eliminates Pearl and Sophie Grace as likely candidates for the mystery girl. The earliest date in their ranges occurs after 1910. I would also point out (based upon the photograph of Elizabeth with her great grandchildren) that the mystery woman does not look like Mary Anna (Wolfe) Snedeker. So Mary is probably not the mystery girl either. So we are left with Emma, Bertha Wolfe, Minnie and Bertha Steuernagel as possible candidates. The remaining girls have ranges that are virtually identical so I am not likely to determine who the mystery girl is. My only hope at this point is to find a relative from the Wolfe or Steuernagel branches who can identify her.

The Years 1900-1910

Our mystery girl’s silhouette reminds me very much of the Gibson girl. Charles Dana Gibson was an illustrator from the 1890s onward. His illustration “Love in a Garden” was published in 1901.


Love in a Garden by Charles Dana Gibson, 1901 (Image via Wikipedia Commons in the public domain)

In 1901, fashionable women were still piling their hair on top of their heads. Our mystery girl’s hair is not. She has fullness at the side of her head instead of on top. Here are some factory workers in 1908 in Indianapolis with some more realistic hair styles:

Lewis Hine Collection. Library of Congress. Young People in An Indianapolis Cotton Mill, Noon, Aug., 1908

I would also point out that several of the young woman are wearing half sleeves and their shirtwaists are collarless, in particular the woman in the front row with the checkered pattern.


Ultimately, we can only do our best to date photographs. Fashion is not static. We can learn the trends but we can not always account for all the variables. While I would estimate that this photograph was taken mid decade, I could be off by a couple years in either direction. There are many resources out there and many are free! If you are interested in honing your photography skills, check out Mauren Taylor’s website: http://www.maureentaylor.com/ She covers additional photo identifying techniques beyond clothing.

Come back next week to find out more about a specific fashion trend! If you have a topic that you would like me to cover, leave a comment below.

If you missed the first three posts in the series:




 ©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/23/identifying-everyday-clues-in-photographs-part-iv/

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):

Monthly Update – May 14, 2015

Dear Mother, Love Daddy coverDear Mother, Love Daddy

I have not set up a book giveaway this month so I am trying something new. I figured out how to offer discounts directly through the Create Space publishing website.  For a limited time, using coupon code: 6AVMLLGB, Dear Mother, Love Daddy will be $12.99. The purchase must be through the Create Space store (not Amazon). Use the link to go directly to the book: https://www.createspace.com/4935415 Please let me know if you encounter any difficulties using this method.

My newest shipment of books has arrived. Exclusively through me, I am offering autographed copies of the book for $20. Priority mail shipping is included. Send me a message through the contact form on the website. For anyone attending Jamboree in southern California in June, I will have a few copies for sale for $15.

I have contacted a few World War II museums including the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. Since Roscoe served in the Pacific, this museum was responsive to receiving a donated copy of the book for their archives. The number of museums and libraries I have contacted who have not responded has been slightly disheartening.  If you are aware of any museums, libraries, veterans’ groups, or military organizations who might be interested in receiving a donated copy of Dear Mother, Love Daddy, please leave a comment below or send me a message through the contact form.

Alfred M. Dicks Cover #3 (front)Alfred M. Dicks of Crawford County, Illinois

I have not done much to market my first book as I felt the audience was very small. The book’s target audience is the descendants of Alfred and his extended family (his siblings, their descendants, etc). Since very few records about Alfred exist and he was a migrant, his descendants have been trying to break through the brick wall of his ancestry for over a generation. The book provides a good example of a proof argument for anyone looking to expand their genealogical writing skills. Since I am trying to reach a specific target audience, I donated a few copies to several genealogy libraries, including the National Genealogical Society’s library in St. Louis. As a thank you to their members for donating books, the National Genealogical Society publishes brief synopses of donated books in their quarterly magazine, the NGS Magazine. The latest issue (April-June 2015) features a synopsis of Alfred M. Dicks of Crawford County, Illinois (p. 9). As a result, I am seeing a slight increase in sales of this book (which is a completely unexpected benefit of the donation).

Professional Learning

I have been told that my ProGen certificate is in the process of being signed by all my mentors. Angela McGhie has passed on the certificates to Barbara Mathews, C.G. Rest assured, I will be posting a copy of the certificate when it finally arrives on my doorstep!

I still haven’t decided what new coursework to take on yet. It’s been rather nice not having to worry about a homework assignment though.

Genealogy Programs Summer Sac LibraryLocal News

This last weekend I met with the volunteer coordinator at my library branch. Hopefully, by the end of the month, we will have our own Ask A Genealogist program up and running. Tentatively, I will be volunteering one Saturday afternoon a month to help mentor people with their genealogy problems. The library will handle booking the time slots and the advertising.

This summer one of my BU classmates, Jim Walton, will be giving a presentation at the main branch of the Sacramento Library. Jim’s lecture will be based (I think) upon some of the research he did on his Walton line. His article “John Walton, English Immigrant, New Hampshire Native, or Phantom?” was published in the December 2014 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.


Painted by Deborah Sweeney

Painted by Deborah Sweeney

I continue to pin clothing from the 19th and early 20th century on Pinterest. Each board covers clothing from one decade, beginning with the 1820s through the 1920s. Future boards will be for the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. I have published two articles in my series “Identifying Everyday Clues in Photographs.” The next article will begin to put together period silhouettes and timelines of individuals. My newest Pinterest board is Genealogy and Fashion. Links to all the articles in the Identifying Everyday Clues series are pinned there.


 Book Review

I am continuing to work on this part of the blog, but it is one of the most time consuming aspects! While I love to read, finding the time can be hard. Many of you may not know that I am a die hard bookworm. I love mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, YA/teen literature and historical fiction. For the past few years, I have participated in an annual book challenge. One of my college friends is a children’s librarian in Massachusetts and her library runs the challenge. Previously, the contest was all about how many books could one read in a year. The goal was 50. Some years I made it while others I did not. This year the challenge has evolved to categories instead of a book count. I am currently working on my “Trilogy” requirement. I am on the last book in Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches series. While I am enjoying the series very much, I will not be reviewing on my blog. The next book I am in the process of reading for a book review is Disaster & Triumph: Sacramento Women, Gold Rush Through the Civil War by Cheryl Anne Stapp. The book focuses on six women who lived in the Sacramento area during the Gold Rush years. The author has used many historical resources to build and tell their stories. I am hoping to finish reading this book in the next few weeks.

Looking Ahead

Hobert, Nathaniel - gravestone

Gravestone of Nathaniel Hobert. Future subject of a Register article?

I am contemplating writing an article for the “new” New England Historical and Genealogical Register. The Register was been published for 170 years and is one of the top journals of genealogy scholarship in the country. I have many New England stories I want to tell and the journal would be a perfect place to see them published. I have a couple ancestors that I used in my ProGen research and assignments so I can not really use them for my BCG portfolio (as they have already been reviewed).

And of course, I am counting down the days until Jamboree. I have started looking at the schedules to see which lectures I am interested in attending. Some lectures will be live-streamed so I could watch them later when I get home. For a list of speakers and the schedule, check out the Jamboree website:


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©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/14/monthly-update-may-14-2015/

Identifying Everyday Clues in Photographs, Part II

Dating PhotographsIn my first post in this series, I set out to date a photograph of my 2X great grandmother, Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner and one of her granddaughters, an unidentified Wolfe. I went through the process of identifying clues in the photograph that would provide me with usable information. Each woman was broken down by age and by the various parts of her clothing.

Before we proceed further, I want to add a few fashion warnings. Dating photographs is never a precise process, and oftentimes, without other documentary evidence, may never be completely accurate. My goal is to help the average genealogist or vintage photography enthusiast to understand and recognize fashion trends as well as to give advice for finding resources.

  • Older people may not change their clothing fashions as quickly as younger persons do or be inclined to adopt new trends, however this is not always the case. A great example would be in the costumes of Downton Abbey. The Dowager Duchess was wealthy enough to buy new clothing every season but her clothing style evolved more slowly than some of the younger characters like those of her granddaughters: Mary, Edith and Sybil.
  • People from metropolitan areas are more fashionable than rural areas (sometimes!). With the advent of ladies and fashion periodicals, like Godey’s Lady’s Book, country women were able to see the latest fashions more quickly. Mail order catalogues, like Sears, Roebuck & Co. and the National Cloak & Suit Co., allowed women away from the big cities to purchase the latest fashions. Even if they made their own clothing, they could be inspired by the fashion plates. Pattern companies, like McCall’s and Butterick, also sold high fashion to rural customers.
  • Working class people dressed differently than wealthier people. One must always consider class when dating a photograph. The “best” dress for a poorer woman might last for many years while the “best” dress for a wealthy woman might last one season. People tended to hold onto clothing, and remade dresses year after year, as well as handing them down to young folk.

The second step is to Identify the Period Silhouette:

What is a period silhouette, you might ask? A handout from the The Secret Life of Costumes by Canada’s National Art Centre describes it thus….

“A silhouette provides an uncluttered outline of the basic shape of a person from a particular period in history as dictated by the clothing worn. Each shape is different from any in the century either before or after. The outline of your body wearing today’s styles would be very different from your great grandmother’s or grandfather’s shape at the same age.”

The pdf article contains wonderful advice as well as a fun activity for identifying some different silhouettes. Make sure you download it for future reference!

Fashion silhouettes can change very rapidly. They can also overlap as evidenced by my first point above. A woman from 1880 will have a different silhouette from a woman in 1860 or 1900. In both of my costume history courses, I was required to keep a sketchbook of period silhouettes for every century from the 1st through the 20th, for men and women. Within a hundred year period, fashion silhouettes can change a dozen times or more. Just for fun, I’m including two costume renderings from two different time periods, about 100 years apart. Try guessing the decades of the two pictures, and leave your answer in the comments!

Learning the intricacies of fashion trends takes time, and requires paying attention to little details.

There are many great resources for learning about historical fashion trends, in contemporary documents. Here are a few:

A couple sources for Godey’s Lady’s Book

Ancestry has many Sears catalogs available for searching from 1896-1993. To find them, go to Ancestry’s main catalogue and search under Sears. You can browse by year. Many years had more than one to chose from (spring/fall).

Ancestry screen shot

Internet Archive has many old catalogs and magazines in their collection. Here is a National Cloak & Suit Co. catalogue  from 1907: https://archive.org/details/newyorkfashions00nati

Dover books sells reprints of old fashion catalogues. Be careful of some of their “costume” books as they are secondary sources.

Dated photographs are great resources since fashion plates are not always realistically drawn.

The Library of Congress has a Civil War Collection: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cwp/

The website PhotoTree has thousands of dated photographs:

Several museums have clothing collections.

One of my favorite is the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Here is an example of a shirtwaist, dated 1899-1902:

©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/09/identifying-everyday-clues-in-photographs-part-ii/

Identifying Everyday Clues in Photographs, Part I

Dating PhotographsHow many of us have received boxes or albums of photographs from relatives, only to be dismayed to find them unlabeled and undated? This is a concept familiar to many genealogists. Even if our ancestors did not properly annotate their treasured photographs, clues can still be found to help date them. Trends in clothing and hairstyles can be used to narrow down time frames. The type of photography used and the imprints of long gone photographers on cardboard frames offer further evidence of when and where a photograph was taken. Knowing an ancestor’s lifespan and their family’s unique dynamics helps to fill additional puzzle pieces.

This is the first in a series of posts on using clothing and hairstyles to identify and date photographs. My first career was in the field of costume design and history. I studied many fashion trends during my years as a costumer. I still love anything related to textiles – from vintage clothes to sewing reproduction garments. In many ways, studying the history of clothing helps me to visualize  my ancestors with greater depth and clarity. My aim with this series is to help the average genealogist recognize fashion trends in their own photographs and to provide resources for further study.

Today, let’s start with a typical photograph that anyone might have in their collection. In this case, the photograph is of my 2X great grandmother, Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner, and one of her granddaughters. I have had this particular photograph in my collection for many years. When I received it from my uncle Mark (yes, that Mark from the letters!), he was in the process of photographing some of the family’s older photographs. He was generous in giving copies to all the relatives who wanted them. This was prior to scanning and high quality color photocopies. Over the years I was led to believe that the younger woman was Grace Wolfe, one of Elizabeth’s grandchildren. I have heard in the intervening years the woman might have been one of Grace’s older sisters.  This definitely put a spin on my original dating of the photograph! But it did clear up some of the inconsistencies that I could not rectify.

Grace Wolf & Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner

The first step is to Identify and Describe the people in the picture:

During this step, write down everything you observe in the photograph. Even the smallest of details could be important. The background of this photograph does not provide any identification, such as buildings, cars, farm animals, etc. In this case, however, I am fairly certain that the photograph was taken on the Yegerlehner farm, or one of the farms owned by extended family members. However, this information is not relevant to dating the photograph at present. If the photograph had an identifiable background, listing the visible features would be another step in the  process.

Older Woman –

  • Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner (I know this because I have seen other pictures of her so I am familiar with her appearance).
  • Lived 1843-1922
  • Wearing dark clothes, possibly black
  • Elizabeth was widowed in 1903
  • Her bodice has a yoke, with lace or other adornment
  • Sleeves caps are small
  • Sleeves are narrow, but not tight fitting, with cuffs at wrists
  • Bodice does not appear to close in front
  • Long skirt which ends 2-3 off the ground
  • Skirt is plain, with no adornment
  • Long narrow pin at base of neck
  • Bodice has a low or non-existent collar
  • Although her hands cover waist, there is possibly a belt which hits right under her bosom
  • Hair is pulled tight in a bun, with center part

Younger Woman –

  • Most likely one of the Wolfe girls (Emma, b. 1883; Mary, b. 1885; Bertha, b. 1886; Minnie, b. 1888; Pearl, b. 1895; and Grace, b. 1897)
  • Wears long skirt, a couple inches of the ground, striped material, possibly cotton
  • Bodice of same material as the skirt
  • Bodice has ¾ length sleeves, with cuffs below elbows
  • Sleeve caps are slightly puffy, as gathers are evident
  • Sleeves are narrower, but not tight fitting, for “ease of movement”
  • Bodice blouses out at waistline
  • No collar
  • Bodice does not close in front
  • No jewelry
  • No adornment on bodice or skirt
  • Skirt is smoother across hips, and wider at bottom
  • Age between 16-25, old enough to wear long skirts
  • Hair in bun at back, although there is fullness over the ears which mostly covers them; hair appears to be parted in the center but only at the front
  • Working clothes vs. high fashion “good occasion” clothes
  • Clothes likely homemade and not purchased from a catalogue

In the next installment, we will look at fashion trends at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.

©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/02/identifying-everyday-clues-in-photographs-part-i/