Photo Detective: Couple Confusion?
9/25/2009

If you need a reason to check out the new FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum, here's one: Debra MacLaughlan-Dumes asked about her unidentified photos in the Photo Detective Forum, and now her pictures are featured in this Identifying Family Photographs column. You can weigh in on this analysis, too, by responding to Debra's post

The first photo is marked with the names of Andrew and Marie Petersen and a date of 1889. The costume clues support the date: Marie's lace collar, frizzed hair and jacket-shaped bodice date from the late 1880s, as do the details in Andrew's suit. Close-fitting jackets and short hair were all the rage for men at the time.

MacLaughlan-Dumes wants to know if the couple in the first photo is the same as the pair in the second. She knows Andrew Petersen's sister Catharina, owned both pictures. Notice the border on the side of the second image? It suggests this photo on gray cardboard is a copy of the original. Clothing dates this second image between 1876 and 1878, when women wore their hair braided atop the head and bodices extended over the hips.

Based on the couples' features and the date information combined with the likely ages of each couple in the photos, I'd say it's unlikely the photos show the same people.

The photographer's imprint for the first image names a Chicago studio; for the second, the imprint gives a firm in Kenosha, Wis., where the Petersens lived. In 1889, Catharina moved to Chicago—her brother and his wife may have visited her and posed for a cabinet card portrait there. Kenosha and Chicago are less than 70 miles apart.

So who's the couple in the second photo? MacLaughlan-Dumes already owns pictures of Andrew's parents, so she can eliminate them from consideration. Now that she has a date for the portrait, she thinks the two are Marie's parents, a branch on the family tree that she doesn't know much about.

MacLaughlan-Dumes is working on confirming that educated guess. You can keep track of her progress on her inspiring family Web site at sakionline.net/familypage.

Find out how to submit your own picture for possible analysis by Maureen Taylor. E-mail her at mtaylor@taylorandstrong.com.