Dating old photographs family history

Understanding the history to cartes de visite CDV and cabinet cards will also help you narrow down a timeframe. There are plenty of websites that can guide you.

1840s Hairstyles

Just as with format, sizes for prints changed over time. Again, look online to find guides on sizes of photographic prints. Many CDVs include the name of the photography studio.

Although usually long gone, you may be able to find them listed in directories. There are also websites that collect details of photographers. For the 19th century, sleeves can be quite a good starting point. Again, look online for different sleeve shapes through the ages and try to find ones that match those in the photograph. For the 20th century, dress length can be quite revealing.

How to Date Old Photos in 6 Easy to Follow Quick Steps

Always judge by the younger women in the photograph if possible. Older women are much more likely to be conservative and still be wearing a favourite dress from ten years ago!


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This can be difficult as there were whole decades of the 19th century when women had a centre parting but when a new fashion comes in with hairstyle it is quicker for people to update than clothing. Of course, it is worth looking at everything that the men in the photograph are wearing but how you tied your cravat or the shape of your collar was something that was cheaper and easier to update than a whole suit, so more likely to reflect the date of the photograph. Dating military photographs can often lead to relatively precise results and this is when people with expert knowledge really come into their own.

How to spot dating clues in old photos

Live event at Olympia in February. You never know, another family member might have a named photograph in their collection that matches one of the sitters. This might seem obvious, but if a photograph is stuck in an old album or framed up on the wall, it may be that nobody has looked on the back for years. Always be very careful when removing a photograph that has been stuck into an album.

19th Century Photo Types: A Breakdown to Help You Date Old Family Pictures

If you've got other tips on photo dating that you'd like to share, then post your comments below. Good luck and happy hunting! You might also be interested in: Leave a comment Uncategorized. Knowing how to identify Victorian era female hairstyles can be one of the most surefire ways of dating old family photos.

Preserving and Editing Old Photographs: The Overson Collection - James Tanner

Remember, however, that the descriptions below are generalities and you very well could stumble upon exceptions to these rules. What to look for: Ringlets and coils with ears hidden by puffs, with hair parted down the center. Topknots were also worn toward the back of the head as opposed to the front an s style.


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  6. If you see a female child with hair parted on the side from this time period, it was likely a boy dressed as a girl. In the s, photography was still considered a new technology. But as photo processes became more advanced and less expensive with the introduction of ambrotype portraits, women wanted to look more sophisticated in their photos.

    Hair parted in the front with a bun set back halfway.

    Victorian Era Hairstyle Types by Decade

    Sides of hair should be smoothly waved and ears still hidden by puffs. Puffs were worn bigger in the evenings with thin ringlets coming out of the bun at times. Look also for modestly-sized caps with flowers and ribbons dangling from the bun, as well as flat-lace caps set back far on the head with tapered ends and long tails on the sides.

    Hair parted down the center with hair drawn behind the years tightly into a bun worn at the back of the head, sometimes with lace, flowers, netting or arranged in braids and loops. Bangs were also obsolete. Female children wore their hair similarly at times, but with just one side curled and puffed, held in place with grease. As the s progressed, the front of these hairstyles began to lose their parts, with hair falling around the face and curled into ringlets then combed.

    Formal hairstyles were rounder and fuller in the back and the sides, often enhanced with false animal hair, ribbons, silver, gold and other embellishments. In the s, women took elegant, feminine fashion cues from Queen Victoria and well-known actresses as the decade advanced. Shorter styles were also introduced, but knots, ringlets and additions of false hair supplemented the shorter styles. Bangs also came back. Elaborate hairstyles with lace, ribbons and flowers.