Baby Pictures: 6/26/00  
     
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Identifying Family Photos: Baby Pictures
by Maureen Taylor


Dianne Beetler is trying to determine if these two baby pictures were taken of the same child at different times or of two different children. Identifying photographs of individuals taken at various points in their lives is one of the challenges of photo identification. You can do this by comparing each facial feature. However it becomes more difficult to match photographs when there are changes in appearance due to the addition of facial hair, illness or accident. The easiest identifications involve individuals who have distinct features or markings such as moles or scars. These two baby photos present a unique challenge because they were taken within the first 18 months of life and lack unusual characteristics.

Baby Picture No. 1Baby Picture No. 2

Other than costume clues, there is very little information in the pictures. Each child is dressed in the typical long white gown fashionable for babies from the late 19th century to the early part of the 20th century. In the first image (Baby Picture No. 1) the child is several months old, but not yet able to walk, while the child in the second image (Baby Picture No. 2) is older and mobile. The key is the length of the dress. It was shortened so it would not interfere with an older child's walking and crawling. Both boys and girls wore this costume until they were young toddlers. In each image, the lack of significant hair makes it difficult to determine the sex of either child. It is usually possible to tell the sex of a child by the placement of the part in the hair: center parts for girls and parts on the side for boys.

While the oral tradition in the Beetler family is that both children are from the Learned family, members of the family could not positively identify either image. It is possible, given the clothing and dates of birth, that these babies could be either Dianne's grandmother born in 1900 or one of her brothers.

The major facial features appear to be similar in both images. The shape of the ears, eyes, nose, mouth and spacing of the eyes could be the same child or at least a close relative. What is apparent is that if the two images are of the same child they were taken only a few months apart, probably between 8 and 15 months. In order to try to identify the children, I asked Ms. Beetler for additional images of both her grandmother and great uncle. When you study the expression, facial features and hair qualities it is apparent that the first photo is a picture of George Holland Learned, born Aug. 15, 1894 (right). After comparing the second baby picture to the image of the older George, it does not appear to be another photograph of him as a baby. Clothing clues suggest that it might be Louise Learned, born Oct. 20, 1900. Unfortunately, the second image is out of focus so that it is not possible to make an exact identification. What do you think?

An online reunion?

Last week a person contacted me who claimed to have a similar image of one of the photographs featured in an earlier column. I've put the two individuals in touch with each other. This could be a family reunion—be sure to watch this column for more details.

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




Maureen A. Taylor, owner of Taylor & Strong, combines her background in history, genealogy, photography and library science to assist individuals and institutions with research and project management. She is the author of several genealogical books and articles including the upcoming Preserving Your Family Photographs and the recent Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs. She also is project manager for BostonFamilyHistory.com, a site that lets visitors plan a genealogical research trip to the Boston area.

Her current book, Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs, provides the reader with proven methods of photo analysis and interpretation. With Taylor's help, the mystery surrounding many old family pictures can at last be unraveled, enabling these photographs to assume their proper place among treasured family memorabilia.
 
 

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