Sibling Portrait Rivalry: 11/9/00  
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Sibling Portrait Rivalry
by Maureen Taylor

Irene Uffrecht-Peters knows the names of the boys, but not the girls, in this captivating photograph of the Schiff children taken in Germany. Family lore identifies the little boy left front as her great-grandfather Ludwig Schiff (born 1864). His other brothers Felix (1854) and Paul (1862) are most likely the other two male members of the family. One child is missing from the image. The names of the female members of the family are unknown. Uffrecht-Peters would like to narrow down the time frame to place names with the faces.

There are several items of significance in this portrait. The symbols of family are very apparent in this photograph. The unity and closeness of the children are apparent in the matching costumes of the younger boys and the two oldest girls. The two oldest siblings dominate the picture because of their pose. In fact, they are placed in spots usually reserved for a mother and father. The eldest son is leaning on a volume that appears to be a family Bible while the oldest daughter is seated leaning towards her brother and holding a book. The book in her hands may signify that the family is educated and the women literate. The sister standing between them is actually in the background of the picture. The two young boys balance the photograph by being on either side of the eldest children. The youngest girl sits very close to her eldest sister in a pose that suggests a close relationship between the two.

Once again it is the clothing that dates the image. The entire family is dressed in the latest fashion for the early to mid-1870s. The girls' neck ribbons suggest a date close to 1873. All the girls are wearing wide ribbons around their necks, and the two oldest have cameos with matching bracelets. Their dresses feature an overskirt and trim typical for the period. Their hair is braided and piled high on the crown of their heads. This may be their own hair or may be enhanced with a hairpiece as was the fashion.

Working with a date of 1873, Ludwig on the lower left would be 9, his older brother Paul 11 and the eldest Felix 19. The costume clues in this image confirm that her great-grandfather is the boy on the left. This information provides the basis for further genealogical research to assign names to the remaining siblings in this charming portrait.

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

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, 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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