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Photo Detective: Oh, Boy … or Girl?
12/1/2006
That's right — once upon a time, little boys wore long hair and skirts. Use our photo pro's secrets to practice some genealogical gender discrimination.
During the 1960s, older folks used to say it was hard to tell the boys from the girls because of the unisex fashion trends and long hairstyles. But the same can be said for your youthful ancestors in family photos from the late 1800s and early 1900s: Both boys and girls wore curly locks and skirts, like the tyke shown at right, so it's not hard to make a gender-bending mistake. If you can't tell whether you've got a picture of Aunt Ethel or Uncle Bert, use these head-to-toe tips for distinguishing the males from the females.

Hair it is

Many a genealogist looks at a photo, sees a skirt and long hair on the subject, and immediately — often incorrectly — concludes it's another picture of Great-grandma Mabel. But looks can be deceiving, so rely on this identification tip that's so simple it's hard to believe: Check out where the child's hair is parted. Mothers parted their daughters' hair in the center and their sons' hair on the side. (For the record, the child shown on this page is a boy.) When boys reached school age, they usually started sporting shorter haircuts.

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