A Double Mystery: Twins in the Family

By Maureen A. Taylor


This cute-as-a-button toddler duo is a big family history problem for Laura Cook. Who are they?

The cabinet card was once owned by her paternal grandmother—a trail of ownership that at least eliminates her mother’s family from consideration.

Laura asked her father if he could remember any twins in his family, and he didn’t. However, in his confirmation Bible appeared a mention to his cousins Catherine and Dorothy Scheuerman.

Laura asked me, “Could this photograph depict the Scheuerman girls, born in 1918?” Here’s how the evidence stacks up.

Dark-colored cabinet card mats—brown and green—were usually common in the 1880s, not in the early 20th century. In the circa-1920 period, photographs usually appear in an enclosure.

Props can also help date an image. In this case, the grass on the floor and the faux wall that the children are posed with could be from the 1880s as well.

The style of the interlocking initials of this photographer’s imprint also suggests a time frame. The presence of gold stamped letters on an image can place the picture in the late 1880s to early 1890s.


Laura can use city directories and census records to research the business dates for the photographer, who according to this imprint, was based in Baltimore, Md. She also can type the name of the photographer and the city into Google to see if any hits pop up. An alternative would be to see if the Baltimore Public Library has a directory of photographers.

The identically dressed pair are likely twins, but sometimes cousins would dress their similarly aged children alike and pose them for a picture.

There is a lot more research to be done. I’d start with the photographer’s work dates and then focus on children born in the family at the time, likely during the 1880s.

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album