GENEALOGY and Vintage Photographs

One thing I've discovered since I began this blog is how many genealogists are naturally drawn to vintage photographs. Obvious path for them to take since it's all about research and ultimately many are interested in not just tracing a linear family tree, but they also want to put faces and personal histories attached to that tree.

I am not a genealogist though I took some interest many years ago and have a brief line on my maternal side going back to the late 1800s in Pennsylvania. I purchased some genealogy software over a decade ago, but found it cumbersome and confusing. Plus, I just wasn't interested in creating linear trees as my goal. I'm interested in the individuals and their stories and the software was just too complicated for what I wanted to do.

Now I've started organizing my old files using Sort Your Story, a new, inexpensive, easy and fun to use, small program that fits my needs created by a friend of mine. It does exactly what I need and if I ever choose to use one of the larger programs again I'll have all of my files organized in a way that makes sense to me.

I wanted to introduce you to the program with this Sepia Saturday post because you might find it useful. I know, this seems like a shameless plug, and in a way it is, but I get no monetary gain by recommending this program. I'm doing this because I believe in the program and think that it would be perfect for families and individuals wanting to get started doing their own genealogy, sorting the images and documents they've collected. It's also an excellent program for grandparents and their grandchildren. If you have a grandchild who shows no interest in genealogy this might just be the program to spark their interest.

Visit the Sort Your Story website and the Sort Your Story Facebook page to see a tutorial video.

As for this weeks sepia image, it's another fine vintage photo from the collection Bert gave me.

Click on image to see it larger.

This family portrait was taken in St. Paul, Minnesota by Youngberg at the Camera Art Studios. When I researched Youngberg in Minnesota several different studios were listed all bearing the Youngberg name. I don't know if these were all relatives competing against each other or just a coincidence.

The Youngberg that took this photo, or at least the name listed as the studio proprietor, was David C. Youngberg. The studio had two locations in St. Paul: Saint Peter Street and 412 Cedar Street. The listing shows that the "dates of operation" was 1918 and the "decades worked in Minnesota" was 1910s. You can click here to see this listing and the two other Youngberg listings. If you click here you'll see a bit more information including the fact that David C. Youngberg had two other partners, C. E. Richter and W. G. Greene. There is also a reference to the fact that the studio was the "Official Photographers for the Saint Paul Winter Carnival."

To see two more photos taken by David C. Youngberg click here and here.

I have no information about the subjects of the portrait. The husband does look older than the wife. Perhaps she was a mail order bride from the old country. Who knows. We can create any story we want.

I do find the backdrop a bit unusual. It seems to have a slight Spanish or New Orleans influence with the palm and the wrought iron balcony. Seems a very strange backdrop for St. Paul and their large Scandinavian community. A bit more exotic than I'd have expected.

Perhaps somewhere someone knows these people and their stories. It would be fun to have the pieces of the puzzle solved.


  1. This is such a wonderful photograph of this family. I hope one of your readers recognizes an ancestor and contacts you! I agree about the unusual background but I think the family looks Scandanavian (if it's possible to tell that by appearances...). Thanks for sharing the info about Sort Your Story.

  2. That is good info you have given. I use Family Tree Maker and it works with Ancestry. Com., but I am going to check this one out. Is this photograph a tintype? It is indeed a fine photo. Thanks for sharing

  3. She used to be a tight wire artist with the circus. When it came to Sven's town he was smitten. She was ready to settle down so, here they are. The oldest daughter in the back has her father's eyes but her mother's temperament and it's only a matter of time before she does something impetuous. The daughter leaning on her mother's chair will be their rock in old age. She and her husband will take over the family business and it will flourish. Unfortunately the other two children don't live to adulthood.

  4. Nancy, I agree that they are most likely Scandinavian because of the St. Paul ties. I find it a fascinating portrait because of the triangular shaped pose. The father seems to have a large head and he really is the focus of the shot.

    Daylily, the photo is not a tintype. It's actually rather large measuring 6.75" x 9.5"

    Okay Kristin. You've woven a wonderful tale. I won't be looking at these folks the same anymore.

  5. I have never really got into genealogy.Partly because of (what I feel to be)a very complicated & fragmented Family.My Dad's Polish roots always seemed impenetrable.+ my mother's scottish family were full of half-uncles & third-aunts!
    Also.As with you, Family -Trees seem a bit like Railway Timetables! I have always been more interested in the human aspects of a persons life.Subjectivity Rules!
    Thanks for the tip about Sort your Life,. I will investigate it & see if it overcomes my phobia!

  6. Love that photo but agree the palm frond seems out of place for St Paul. Besides the predominant Norwegians, there were many Germans in the area too. I have gotten back with Ancestry.com after an absence of years and have enjoyed posting, my tree has many branches as does hubby's; I especially like to consider what was happening in the area historically when searching for the anncestral data. What a great photo, pity not to know them, but the story could be invented easily.

  7. I am very much into genealogy. Learning who my ancestors were and searching for their story.
    Now about the photo. What a beautiful photo and I agree he does look older than the wife.

  8. I think he looks older because he is turning grey! He may be ten years older than she is..that is pretty common! I also think that the backdrop is pretty fancy..but this was the big city of St Paul...but it really looks tropical..and Minnesota is not tropical..well maybe in July! :)

  9. Very nice photograph. Definitely unique compared to all other family photographs I've been able to grab. It's like it wants to tell a story.

  10. There is such strength in that photograph, a classic of its type. And thanks for the tip about Sort Your Story - I'll certainly take a look.