Tag Archives: photographs

Fascinating Headdress – where is this family from?

My post Who’s in that photo? from September received a comment today from Jane, who had a photo she couldn’t figure out as well. She knew the names of the people in the photo (they were her great-grandfather’s sisters), but didn’t understand the significance of the massive bows on their heads. She asked if it was a fashion thing, or perhaps a religious requirement? Someone suggested to her that it might be a Jewish headdress, and thus she was asking here for advice on the photo.

Here’s the photo, one of the more interesting family photos I’ve seen:
Now first let me say, nothing about the bows looked familiar to me. I’m not an expert on Jewish headdress or historical fashion, but I was pretty sure this was not a specifically Jewish headdress.
So what is its significance? Considering all three sisters are wearing the same headdress, my initial guess was that it would not be simply a fleeting fashion choice, but had to have some cultural or religious significance. How many sisters do you know who otherwise would wear the same outfits?
I can’t say for sure that I know the origin of these bows, but I suspect from the research I did that these are in fact Alsatian headdresses called schlupfkàpp (a ‘bow cap’). In the 19th century the region of Alsace-Lorraine developed a unique form of headdress that lasted into the 1940s before mostly disappearing. Early in the 19th century the bows were relatively small, but apparently the bows grew in size until they peaked in size around the turn of the century, exactly when Jane’s photo was taken.
Here are a few examples of the style:
1919 illustration of traditional Alsatian costumes (Wikimedia Commons)
Husband with wife in traditional Alsatian costume, about 1875 (Christ Family)
Three sisters in Alsatian folk dress (Flickr)
Most sources point out that single women wore these bows in specific colors indicating their religion – Protestants wore Black bows, and Catholics wore brightly colored ones, usually Red. Apparently after marriage both Protestants and Catholics would wear black bows. One source I found mentioned that Jews wore Lavender bows, although I haven’t found any other reference for that fact.
I certainly can’t determine the color of the bows in Jane’s photograph since it’s black and white, so even though they seem black to me that might not be the case. I also can’t read the location of the studio where the photograph was taken, although it could have been taken anywhere (although if it is in Alsace-Lorraine that would certainly seem to confirm my guess).
What I would suggest for Jane is to try to contact someone who knows about traditional Alsatian costumes. One other reason to do this, especially if Jane does not know what town her family came from, would be to determine the specific type of headdress her family members were wearing. Apparently the style of the bows varied from village to village, and it might be possible for someone to figure out the region or even the specific town by seeing the style of the bow.
One place to look is the Alsace Tourism web site, which has a section on Alsatian Costume. The web site even has a map showing the origin of specific headdresses in Alsace. The site also links to two different cultural groups and the Alsatian Museum in Strasbourg, all of which might be able to help figure out the specific origin of the bows in Jane’s photo. Another option if Jane doesn’t know where her great-grandfather came from is to track down his origin and seeing if he tracks back to a town in Alsace-Lorraine. If he moved to the US, she can using the techniques I wrote up previously in my article Finding Information on US Immigrants.
Certainly, this is an interesting example of using family photographs to locate the origin of a family. Even if the photo was taken in London or Chicago, it would still point to the family coming from Alsace-Lorraine and may even (with some expert help) point to the specific region or town. Of course, I don’t have a lot of information about the family and could be totally off-base. I’m sure everyone reading this would appreciate if Jane would post in the comments if my guess is right and she confirms the origin of the headdress (and her family) as coming from Alsace-Lorraine.

Friends from Antwerp – and is that a famous Yiddish poet?

My grandfather was born in Vienna, Austria during World War I. His family had fled their homes in Galicia, then a region of Austria, and fled to the capital city to avoid the invading Russian army. His brothers, one born before him in 1911, and one after him in 1921, were both born in the Galician town of Rzeszow, known in Yiddish as Reisha.

In 1927 the family moved to Antwerp, Belgium, seeking a better life and perhaps more stable situation. As I’ve written about before, Antwerp and Belgium in general received many many Jewish immigrants during the interwar years, among them my family (my grandfather’s future wife also made her way around the same time to Antwerp from Rzeszow).

In 1927 my grandfather was of course 12 years old, and he lived in Antwerp until 1940, when he was 25. Those were, no doubt, formative years for him. I know many stories about his time there, and have found documents hinting at others in the Police des Étrangers files I’ve found. I know just a couple of years after he arrived, after his father died, he ran a watch shop near the docks of the Antwerp port, helping support his family even though he was only 14 at the time. I know he used his US citizenship to travel to Nazi Germany in the 1930s and helped younger cousins get out of the country, as the Germans still respected a US passport (they probably hoped the US would side with them in the upcoming war). One thing I don’t really know about, however, is what kind of social life he had. Some years ago he told me he bumped into an elementary school classmate of his from Belgium in New York, and he had recognized my grandfather even all those years later. He later sent my grandfather a class photo showing both of them. When researching family we sometimes forget that our relatives spent much of their time, especially when they were teenagers and young adults, with their friends instead of their family. It’s part of what defined them and made them who they were.

In this light, some recent photographs I discovered at my grandfather’s apartment are particularly interesting. I have no idea who anyone in the photos are other than my grandfather. If you had relatives born during WWI and who lived in Antwerp in the 1930s, perhaps they’re among the people in these photos.

My grandfather is sitting on the bottom right

 

My grandfather in the middle with the white shirt

 

My grandfather isn’t in this photo, but it was together with the others

 

My grandfather is on the right. The man on the left was his friend.

 

Is this Baden in Germany? or is that booth to buy a ticket? My grandfather in on the left.

 

My grandfather sitting in the front

Know anyone in these photos?

Concerning the last photo, it raises an interesting question. Do you you think the man on the top right looks like Itzik Manger, the famous Yiddish poet? Here’s a side by side, showing a close-up of the above person, and a photo of Itzik Manger from the YIVO Encyclopedia:

Right, Itzik Manger. Left, Maybe Manger?

I’m not an expert on Yiddish poets, and would never have thought of it, except in researching a distant cousin Golda I discovered she had once been married to (and divorced from) this famous poet from Romania. I never knew if this cousin even knew my grandfather, but if this Itzik Manger, perhaps this is evidence. Therefore is it possible that the woman he’s got his arm on is Golda, my grandfather’s cousin? or one of the other women in the photo? Here’s a picture of Golda:

Golda, my grandfather’s second cousin once-removed

So what do you think? Is that Itzik Manger? Is that my grandfather’s cousin with him on the beach, possibly in Knokke, a favorite vacation spot? The picture of Golda is obviously of an older woman than in the photo on the beach, but that makes sense sine the photo of Golda was taken in 1939, when she was 35 (she was born in 1904). In the beach photo my grandfather looks like a teenager, so it could have been 1930 or shortly thereafter.

Itzik Manger survived the war and eventually moved to Israel. My grandfather’s cousin, however, likely died during the war, although I’ve found no direct evidence of that. All I know is she shows up in the first register of Jews in Belgium in 1940 after the Germans invaded, but not in the later registration done in 1942. She doesn’t show up in deportation lists, which recorded all those deported from Belgium to Auschwitz, so she either escaped Belgium or was killed. If she escaped, perhaps she changed her name and the trail was lost, or perhaps she escaped from Belgium only to be killed later in the war – certainly a possibility.

L’Shana Tova (from 1948)

As Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) begins tonight, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a happy and healthy new year, or more traditionally L’Shana Tova (for a good year).

I also wanted to share a great new years card I found when scanning a cousin’s photographs. The card was sent from a cousin who lived in Israel to a cousin who lived in Europe. The card was sent in 1948. Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, and Rosh Hashanah that year started the evening of October 3. This card, which depicts the moment of the Declaration of Independence with David Ben Gurion in the middle (under the portrait of Theodor Herzl), was probably a popular card that year.
Rosh Hashanah card from Israel in 1948
So to everyone who reads this blog, happy new year from Israel 64 years later.

Who’s in that photo?

It’s a common problem for those researching their family history. You find an album or a box of photos, and you have no idea who the people in the photos are, or even how to go about finding out. In many cases, you may not even know if the people in the photos are related to you at all.

In my own family research, where I’ve spent considerable time reaching out to relatives to try to collect family photos, it’s not uncommon to find a cousin with photos of people they don’t know anything about. Sometimes I’ve only figured out who people are by finding the same photo, or a photo of the same person, in the possession of other distant cousins who might have a labeled photo. Sometimes you need to do a bit of detective work, such as if the photo has a studio stamp on the back showing where it was taken, which can help you figure out which cousins to ask about them (i.e. if the studio was in Rzeszow, Poland and you have only one branch of your family you know lived there, then start by sending the photo to other descendants of that branch and asking if they’ve seen the photo or otherwise know who the people are).

I’ve had some luck in researching photos in that I have a few 90+ year old relatives who remember who many of the people are, but sometimes you run into a picture that nobody knows about. My guess in many of these cases the photos are of people related to the person who saved the photo, but not to you. In other words, from the other side of the preserver’s family.

Imagine finding a group of family photos preserved by your third cousin’s grandfather, whom you are related to, and one photo out of the group ends up being his wife’s family’s photo. You could contact a hundred of your distant cousins and never find a match for the photo because simply, the photo is of people not related to you.

One that I think falls into this category is the following photo, which I found among my first cousin twice-removed (i.e. my grandfather’s first cousin)’s photos:

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Family Photo – 19th century? Poland, probably. Click to enlarge.

Now it’s a great photo, right? Probably 19th century. Most likely taken in Poland. I have no idea who any of the people are. The relative who shared this photo with me, now deceased, had no idea who was in the photo. I’m related to his father, and have a lot of other photos of our mutual family, but not these people. So perhaps they’re connected to his mother’s family? Could be, but I’m not in touch with any of them, so I don’t know. That family’s name is Augenblick, in case you might be related. Then again, they could be from another branch entirely. It could be his mother’s mother’s family, whose name I don’t know, or could be people not related at all.

If you’ve seen this photo, or any of the people in it, certainly be in touch. Also, if you’ve seen the prop the man on the left is leaning on in any of your family photos, let me know. If you know what town it was taken in by identifying the prop or the background, then that can help figure out what family this might be. I actually have two other photos taken in the same studio with the same prop, both around WWI, and while I knew who the people were, I only knew the location of one of the photos. By noticing the same prop and background in both photos, it let me figure out the location of the photo. Interestingly enough the photos each showed by great-grandfathers, but before their children married each other some 30 years after the photos were taken.

One interesting thing about the photo is that the man on the left, presumably the father, is not in the same photo as the other people. If you’re confused, take a closer look and you’ll notice that he’s a cut-out from a different photo. The easiest place to see it is on the bottom left where the table leg is partly colored in to match, and the floor under the table changes color. Also, his left foot (right side in the photo) has a clear white line that comes to a point, showing where the negative was presumably spliced.

Are the other four people his children? Is one of them a spouse? Was this put together after the father died? Where is the mother? I don’t know the answers to these questions.

I have a lot of family photos which I’ve collected over many years from many relatives, but I don’t have too many photos from the 19th century. True, this could be early 20th century, but in any case I think I can say with certainty that it’s over a hundred years old. After years of trying to figure out who is in the photo, I’m fairly convinced that this is not my family. The question then remains as to how much energy I should put into figuring out who is in it, when I don’t think they’re related to me. I’d love to be able to share the photo with whomever’s family this is, but at the end of the day there are only so many hours one can put into research, and this kind of research take a lot of time and effort that I’d rather put into the many other mysteries in my tree. In the end, this post has led me to reach out to a few possible relatives of the family this photo MIGHT be from, and if I get any positive responses, perhaps I can find a match, and if not it will likely sit on this web page until someone else recognizes someone in the photo and contacts me.

When I started this post I actually intended on taking a look at a few other photos I recently discovered, but those will have to wait for another post, as this one seemed too interesting to combine with others.

Israel Through Photographs

A recent article in the recently-launched Times of Israel website covers, briefly, the story of Nadav Mann, who has been spending many years criss-crossing Israel to scan private collections of photographs from the early years of the State of Israel (and the years leading up to its foundation). This collection is incredibly important and offers a unique view of the growth of communities within pre-state Israel.

The article is written by Matti Friedman and is titled A lost world in black and white. The article includes a selection of the more than 100,000 photographs that Nadav Mann has collected over the years, but also helpfully links to a series of online albums [these now seem to be gone, sorry] that Nadav Mann has published via Google (which include thousands of photos, but certainly not all of them).

While the descriptions of the photos in the Google albums are all in Hebrew, just browsing through them without being able to read the captions is still incredibly powerful. Of course, if you find a photograph with someone you know, you should leave a comment on the photo – as not everyone in each photo is known, and you might be able to help improve the collection by pointing out who someone is in a photo.

An easier look in English at many of the photos can be found in Nadav Mann’s regular articles highlighting photos from his collection on Ynet’s English site (Ynet is the online publication of Israel’s largest newspaper, Yediot Achranot).

A few photos from the collection:
[UPDATE: Sorry, but it seems Nadav Mann has removed the photo albums he had posted online, and the photos in this article were from that album so are also now gone. Check out the article A lost world in black and white and Nadav Mann’s other articles in Ynet.]

Maccabi Girls Trip in 1930 in Poland
1936 Class Photo from Herzaliya Gymnasium
Building an irrigation system connect to the Yarmouk River in 1940
Kibbutz Dalia Dance Festival, during holiday of Shavuot in 1944