Ancestor Photos Reimagined

I’ve always wondered and imagined what the sepia-toned photos of my ancestors looked like in color. I started with my grandparents a while back and picked the project back up recently. I’ve extended it to include my husband’s side of the family too. Disclaimer for any relatives, the colors are of my own invention and informed by a bit of historical research. They are in no way definitive. I am always open to suggestion! The quality of these photos ranges from the perfectly preserved to the slightly damaged and from the detailed high-quality print to the soft reprint of a print. I tackled them all and had a great time doing it.

Family Portraits

Schlochtermeyer family around the 1890s in Washington MO

This one has to be one of my favorites because of the age and also the clothing. I was very challenged by the four sisters wearing the exact same style of dress and all of them dark. I imagine that they made these dresses at home with the same pattern/style. Surely they would have chosen their own individual colors! So I chose the colors that coordinated with the obviously black blouses. Some restoration was required but was mostly from dust and scratches since this was a quality print with lots of information.


Moritz family around the early 1900s in St. Louis MO

This is from my husband’s side of the family. It required the most restoration. Unfortunately the lower right side had to be left as is and I am thankful that no faces were ruined. I also removed my grandmother-in-law’s beautiful handwriting of her family member’s names. Overall the photo is dark and has lost much information. So I concentrated on illuminating the faces. It truly is a wonderful thing to see the people in these images come to life. It seems as though I get to know them a bit from this discovery.


Beuke family around the late 1930s in Washington MO

Of all the family photos, this is the one that I’ve had the pleasure to know most of the people pictured. My grandmother’s side of the family still hosts yearly reunions although most of the siblings have passed on. The reunion is hosted at my great-grandmother’s homeplace. So I feel a special connection and I had a wonderful time imagining what colors my great aunts and uncles would choose for their photo op.


Tobben Family around the late 1930s in Washington MO

This photo of my paternal Grandfather’s family presented a big challenge with the background elements. I struggled with the wallpaper for a while until a bit of research turned up a full color wallpaper sample from a similar time frame. So, I feel strongly that if this wasn’t the exact color palette, it was something very close to it.


Strubberg family in the late 1930s to early 1940s in Union MO

I feel as though this family photo of my maternal Grandmother’s family is the most successful effort in bringing the color back to reality. One of the reasons is the high quality print and scan I started with. All the information was there and I simply had to highlight it in color. I also had a wonderful time getting input on colors of the aunts dresses from my family members!


VanCoutren family in the 1950s in St. Louis MO

Unfortunately this image of my mother-in-law’s family is from a low quality print. I did my best to make up for the softer edges with vibrant color and realistic skin tones. I couldn’t resist trying to re-imagine this one since it is so adorable to start with. I hope I did it some justice.


Individual Portraits

Joseph in the 1890s in St. Louis MO
Martin in the early 1910s in Krakow MO
Gilmore and Clifford around 1916 in Union MO
Josephine in the early-1920s in St. Louis MO
Evelyn in the mid-1930s in Washington MO
Lawrence in the mid 1930s in Washington MO
Veronica in the mid-1930s in Union MO
Thomas in the mid-1930’s in St. Louis, MO