A Family Through the Decades


On a Friday morning in late June, I found myself with a stack of piles and boxes at my aunt and uncle’s dining room table. Just to set the scene a bit further, i wasn’t uncovering treasures just anywhere. It was at one of my very favorite historic houses - a  Hoosier homestead built in 1885. I’ve always loved this house and it kind of makes looking at equally old photos (like the wedding shot from 1880 below) even more surreal. 

So I'm at the dining room table, opening boxes that my aunt has carefully labeled and divided into categories when I see the above photo. To me, this is like finding gold! From the clothing I can date it to the Edwardian era, probably around 1910. Then I ask my uncle Walt if he recognizes anyone and he immediately points out the woman second from the left. “That’s grandma Kramer!” He says.  

Carl Stoppenhagen and Wilhelmina (Minna) Kramer post for their wedding portrait in 1880.

With this clue I’m able to start comparing labeled photos and start connecting the dots. Of course it’s Wilhelmina Kramer Stoppenhagen! She’s my second great grandmother (or Dorothy’s grandma) her face is easy to pick out in the dozen photos I’ve found of her so next I aim to put a name to the rest of the faces in the portrait.  

Because there are three other women and three men, my next assumption is that she’s posing with her children, husband and grandkids. If I look closer at the woman in a dark hat and dress, I can pick out the smile of my great grandma Mary (see her wedding portrait below). When I look at records, I can also see she would have had three daughters when this photograph was made - Minnie born 1903, Hilda born 1907 and Edith both 1908. I also think the blurry little boy behind them is her son Arnold, who was born in 1910 and is being held by her father Carl Stoppenhagen. 

Mary Katherine Stoppenhagen and Charles Nicholas Werling pose for their wedding portrait in 1902.

So who else had children by 1910? Her sister (first woman on the right) Minnie! Thanks to additional records I found at Barb and Walt’s house, I could date Minnie’s children - Paul born 1908 and Gerhert born 1911. Those kids look roughly like they are three and under a year! 

By taking into consideration the youngest child together with the next to be born (Mary is not visibly pregnant with her next child who would be born in March 1912) I’m ninety nine percent sure this was taken in the summer of 1911! 

The younger woman on the far left would have been the youngest - Lydia. She would have been seventeen. Although she’s wearing a woman’s dress, check out the enormous hair bow she’s wearing in her hair. This indicates so me she might still have been treated as the baby of the family. Or maybe it was popular with the other girls in her class?! Who knows! 

Lastly are the two men on the left and right of the photo. Those would have been the brothers Fred and Charles, but they were only born two years apart - one man would be 24 and the other 26. I’m really guessing on this but the man on the left in the bowler hat looks a little older so I think that’s Fred which makes the man on the right brother Charles. 

So that’s the family! Next I’m going to try to compare this to Minna and Charles Sr’s 50th wedding anniversary photo taken in 1930 (below) to try to match younger and older faces of the same people. My grandmother Dorothy is the second child from the left in the front row! Mary and Charles Werling are standing on the right side just behind the seated elderly couple and I'm pretty sure Charles' twin August is standing just a few people to the left of them! 


Have you ever aimed to date photos? I love using my costume history background to give it my best shot! I’d love to see links to your posts or photos of your family too!