Expert guide dating victorian family photographs

The ladies here wear fine daywear – handsome, dark-coloured costumes typical of the late 1880s.

Key dating features are the extremely close-fitting bodices displaying high, tight collars, narrow sleeves ending just above the wrist and the residual bustle projection at the back of the skirt.

We probably know more about old houses and New England architecture than we realize.

Because we see houses every day and know them from our history lessons, most of us carry around in our heads a subconscious inventory of house forms.

Professional dress historian, portrait specialist and photo ‘detective’, Jayne is familiar to family historians and costume enthusiasts world-wide through her photograph books and fashion history guides; expertise in dating photos from the Victorian and Edwardian periods and later; regular photo dating and dress history columns in genealogy, family history and social history magazines; monthly photograph blogs for the genealogy website Findmypast; and her attendance at a range of events, including expert photo dating at the annual Who Do You Think You Are? With a BA (Hons) degree in History, a MA degree in the History of Dress (Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London) and seven years’ curatorial experience at the National Portrait Gallery, London, Jayne is a highly-qualified, academically-trained historian and portrait (artworks and photographs) specialist.David Cutterage sent in this photo and asked: Hello, I would be grateful for any thoughts you have on this photo. Jayne says: As we see, this is a formal photograph taken by a professional photographer in a commercial studio.The scan submitted to Findmypast only shows the picture, so I haven’t seen the mount, which quite likely gives the name and address of the studio and might also bear a printed design on the reverse that can be dated.You have used such a variety of methods in dating the featured photos that we thought you’d like to share them in one place and help out those who are new to the ‘craft’.For instance, do you date photos from: the clothing people are wearing; the cars you see; the progress of building construction; the appearance of telegraph poles; an historic event…or something unusual?From a research point of view, if you don’t have the original photograph in your possession, it would be very helpful for you to request from the owner a view of the whole mount and, ideally, of the back of the card, where the most detailed information was generally displayed.


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