Photo Detective: Portraits From Overseas

Photo Detective: Portraits From Overseas

Here's proof that your immigrant ancestors sent photographs of themselves to family back home. Angelika Tanterl of Munich, Germany, submitted this picture of her great-aunt Pauline with a series of questions. Boy or Girl Q. My great aunt Pauline Scholz was 19 years in 1905, when she moved to the...

Here’s proof that your immigrant ancestors sent photographs of themselves to family back home. Angelika Tanterl of Munich, Germany, submitted this picture of her great-aunt Pauline with a series of questions.

Boy or Girl
Q. My great aunt Pauline Scholz was 19 years in 1905, when she moved to the United States with her brother Gustav. She should be about 22 years old in this photo. I’m not sure when this picture was taken because of her clothes and haistyle, and also the hairstyle of the child shown with her—is it a boy or a girl?

A. You usually can tell the difference between young boys and girls (who dressed similarly) by the way the hair is parted—girls in the middle and boys on the side. It’s too bad this child doesn’t have a part. Both boys and girls wore short hair from about 1910 on, so this picture could have been taken earlier. The woman’s hair resembles the appearance of a young woman on page 78 of Marian I. Doyle’s An Illustrated History of Hairstyles, 1830-1930 (Schiffer, $39.95). That photo was taken about 1914-1916.

The length of the woman’s dress confirms the time period. Women’s dresses got shorter in the 20th century. Pauline’s skirt is slightly above the ankle, suggesting this picture was taken around 1915. This date agrees with the hairstyle analysis of both individuals.

Mystery Girl
Q. The big mystery in this photo is the girl. On the back is a caption, “Pauline with daughter Eleanor, about 1908.” As far as my mother remembers, the writing isn’t Pauline’s, but my grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s—which means there could be a mistake. Pauline married Frank Tingelhoff in 1909 a and had a daughter, Irma, in 1923. Irma isn’t shown in this photo, and no one in the family recognizes this child. So I’ve concluded that either the child in the photo might be illegitimate, might have died young or isn’t Pauline’s child. If it’s not her child, why would Pauline send this picture to her mother?

A. There’s another reason that Pauline posed with this child. Immigrants tended to travel together and settle in the same area—Pauline and her brother Gustav may have joined other relatives or friends in Nebraska. This child could belong to a distant relative or be part of a group of family friends. Pauline may have sent this photo home because her mother knew the child’s parents. I’d begin by looking at the other Scholz families living in Nebraska during the 1910 and 1920 census, to see if any of them has a child old enough to be the one in your picture. I found several families with that surname in HeritageQuest.com’s online census index (available at libraries that subscribe to HeritageQuest Online).

With a Little Help…

Q. I posted this photo on Dead Fred and Ancient Faces some months ago, but I don’t really believe it’ll help me find out the identity of the child.

A. Posting images online actually is a great way to get pictures identified. In addition to the sites you’ve used, try posting it on a Nebraska-specific site such as the Ancestor’s Sharing Center (hosted on Nebraska’s US GenWeb site). Another option is to post queries about the family on free message boards such as those on Ancestry.com .

You mention in your note that your American and European relatives lost contact during World War II when the family had to leave Silesia (now mostly part of Poland and Czechoslovakia). This photograph may actually help you re-connect with those “lost” American branches.

If any readers have information about this photograph or the Scholz family that settled in Nebraska, please send an email to me at mtaylor@taylorandstrong.com.

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