Question about “17th century” photographs #photographs


Paula J. Freedman
 

I’m wondering if you can help me understand something. 

 

In researching my Rappaport/Rapoport family on Ancestry, I’ve lately seen a number of family tree records that include portrait photographs purported to be of people who were born (and died) well before photography was invented — some as far back as the 1600s! I attempted to contact the person who I believe originated these records, but he hasn’t responded, as is his right. Still, I’m stumped as to what to make of it, and whether to trust any other part of these records. Any idea what might have been intended here? I’ve considered that the photos could be of descendants of these people, but there’s no information attached to the photos themselves. 

 

Thanks in advance for your insights. 

 

Paula

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Paula J. Freedman
New York, NY


Gary Katz
 

I am familiar with the family trees to which you refer, as well as the Rappaport family, and am myself related to that family via the Kukla/Spinner families.

These photos are representative of what are ancestors might have looked like and not to be confused with their actual likeness. Photography indeed wasn’t invented until 1826. The family tree originator you are likely trying to reach would advise that any photographs before 1850 are representative and most likely not the actual likeness of that individual.

All the best,

Gary Katz


Martyn Woolf
 

It is obvious that the photos are not genuine and may indicate that you should not trust any of the information connected with them. Provided that you do your own checking, the information may, however,  allow you to get to a trustworthy source more quickly.

 

Regards,

 

Martyn Woolf

 

Sent from Mail for Windows

 


Eva Lawrence
 

I once posted a portrait of my ancestor, Jette Baruch,  online. It was a photograph of a realistic drawing made around the time Jette married but the resolution isn't good enough to make that clear. I have inherited both the original drawing and several photos of it.  The photos would have been made for her descendants when the family separated. I imagine that this was quite a common scenario.

Eva Lawrence

St Albans, UK

 


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Eva Lawrence
St Albans, UK.


Ava (Sherlock) Cohn
 

Your question is a bit complicated since we cannot see the actual "portrait photographs" you are referring to. Though photography was invented in 1826, portraits of individuals were not commonly taken until 1839. So the earliest possible photographic images of people were of those born in the mid to late 1700s. Of course, painted images have existed for a long time before that. When photography was in its early stages, often daguerrotypes were taken of those previously painted images. As the years went on these daguerreotypes were re-photographed and developed onto paper prints. My inclination would be to approach your situation first with trust that the person who had these "portrait photographs" could be correct. Only by examining them,  determining on what media the images exist and what the dates of the original images are based on clothing and other clues, can you determine if these are photographs of painted images and the person who posted them is correct or misguided. I have a presentation that I recorded for last year's IAJGS Conference that explains the early photographic images. The presentation is free. Contact me if you'd like a copy.

Ava (Sherlock) Cohn
North Barrington, IL
sherlock.cohn@...


Paula J. Freedman
 

Thank you, Ava and all who responded publicly or privately. Several people made the point that some realistic paintings can be confused for photos. It’ a good reminder in general. In the specific cases I’m talking about however, the photos show people with typical early 20th century clothes and hairstyles, and the lighting is consistent with photography. 

It’s been made clear to me that the person who originally posted these pictures only intended them to be representative of how these ancestors may have looked. I’ve now seen a video of him saying as much. That answers my question, so I’m inclined to drop the subject. 

Thanks again to this community. 

best, 
Paula
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Paula J. Freedman
New York, NY