17 August 2015

Have any old family photos, tintypes, portraits, or other likenesses? 52Q W11

This week we will focus on the question -

Do you have any old family photos, tintypes, portraits, or other likenesses?

Other questions that go with this question are:
Can you put a name to a face in your family pictures?
What type of enclosure are your pictures in?
How are your family members dressed in the pictures?
Do you have the original of the picture?


Unless your ancestor was very wealthy, and artist or knew an artist it is not common to have many portrait paintings. However for your ancestors born before 1750 this is your best chance to see what they may have looked like.

I have an image of a painting of my 5th great-grandfather Gen. Joseph Bartholomew. It is the only portrait I know of him. His story is for another blog post.

Even more rare than paintings of your ancestors are sculptures of them. Most people can trace one of their family lines to royalty or a famous figure. These are the best opportunities for a sculpture of a family member.

I have several drawings, sketches and renderings of family members. My post about The Story of the Sensational Shooting in Springfield several of my relatives pictures were drawn for the paper.

Victorian Silhouettes  (1790 to 1840)

During Victorian times Silhouettes became very popular. Although you cannot see their faces some silhouettes give a sense of what they were like.

Daguerreotypes (1839 - 1870)
Daguerreotype of Nauvoo Temple after restoration

Daguerreotypes are early images formed on a polished silver surface. The above image is of the Nauvoo Temple. Very few images of the temple were ever taken and few of those survive till today. This was found in Cedar City and had been donated to the Cedar City chapter of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. One of the archivists for the LDS Church noticed it hanging on the wall.

Daguerreotype of Nauvoo Temple before restoration

Both the Iron Mission Museum where the image was hung and the Daughters of the Utah pioneers thought this was a mirror. Scott Christensen notices the etchings and brought the image back to view. This image played a key role in the design and reconstruction of the temple in Nauvoo. He said the thing that first drew his attention was that the frame was very nice and he couldn't understand why it would hold a mirror.

Calotypes (1845 - 1855)
Calotypes ate early photographs using paper coated with silver. The exposure for the image was near an hour until a chemical process sped up the time. However the image was not as clear as the Daguerreotype so the process never became prominently used.

John Crompton

Ambrotypes (1854 to the end of the Civil War)
Photographs set to glass. These images were very clear but the glass could be easily broken. They are usually encased in a frame or box. My mother has a couple of these on the walls in her home.

Tintypes (1856 to W.W.II)
The tintype was essentially a variant of the ambrotype, replacing the glass with a thin sheet of metal. Ambrotypes often exhibit some flaking of their black back coating, cracking or detachment of the image, but the image layer on a tintype has proven to be typically very durable.

William and Sarah Orton
Cabinet Cards (1866 - 1906)
This style of photograph was mounted on a card. It is said to have been the most common family picture.