Today’s launch day for PICTURE THEM DEAD, the third in my Family History Mystery series featuring genealogist duo, Sophreena McClure and Esme Sabatier.  If you like family history or mysteries, I hope you’ll check it out.  Right now there’s a giveaway to win this book over at Amazon.  Please hop over to the above link and enter to win.

FHM Covers 1-2-3



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Guest Post and Book Giveaway

IMG_3914_2A Day in the Life of Sophreena McClure by Brynn Bonner
I did a fun guest blog for Dru’s Book Musings that goes live today. It chronicles a day in the life of my genealogist protagonist, Sophreena. Plus, there’s a giveway for the 3rd book in my Family History Mystery Series which will be released on June 1. Go on over to Dru’s place and leave a comment to win.
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Picture Them Dead, Release date June 30

My nice UPS man has brought me copies of my new book, PICTURE THEM DEAD, the third installment in my Family History Mystery series.   I’m excited that this one will be released in mass market paperback format and I hope that means it will get into the hands of more readers.   It’s such a fun series to write and I’m hoping it will inspire some people to take up a search of their own family histories.


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I’m participating in another afternoon for mystery readers with writing buddies Margaret Maron and Sarah Shaber at Southeast Regional Library this Sunday at 2 p.m. Y’all come out to see us.
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Death in Reel Time launches today!


I’ll be at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Ridgewood Shopping Center, Raleigh on Thursday night, March 13 at 7:30 p.m. to talk about my new book in the Family History Mystery series, DEATH IN REEL TIME.  Join me if you can!

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Had a great interview with Cathy over at her Kittling:Books blog.  Thanks, Cathy.

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I’ve started a new website over at to encourage us all to work on family history for a few minutes each day (or maybe four times a week, let’s be realistic).  Come on over for frequent prompts and organizational tips to help you write your family’s story–one little chunk at a time


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This should be a fun event! Join us!

This should be a fun event!  Join us!

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The 5-Minute Family-History Break-Pick an Object!

Writing the history of a family isn’t all about visiting graveyards, or sneezing your way through hours of research in dusty archives.  For most of us family history is around us everyday, but few of us think to get out our butterfly nets and capture it for those who’ll come along after.  It needn’t be an overwhelming task if you break it down into small chunks.  I’ll be posting prompts from time to time here to get you going.  So get out a new fresh notebook and let’s begin our 5-minute family-history break.  You can do this while you have your morning coffee.

We all live among things.  Some of those things become imbued with special meaning.  They’re associated with people or events, they engender curiosity, sentimentality or can even become talismans of sorts.  This is why a family will sometimes be in perfect harmony about splitting stocks and bonds, but fall into a squabble over a chipped cookie jar.

ImageOne of the family artifacts my children fixated on was a card shuffler, an item that came down from my husband’s grandparents.  They loved feeding the cards through it and watching it shuffle.  This provided an opportunity for hubby to share something about their great-grandmother who played bridge with her friends every week and to tell them what that activity (and those friends) had meant to her life.

So for today’s assignment, pick an artifact (either one that has come down to you from your family or one that you’ve procured in HOPES of making it a family heirloom for future generations).  Write everything you know about that object:  what it is, how it came into the family, what it was used for, any memories of events or routines that involved the object, if it has monetarily value, etc.  Write for 5 or 10 minutes.

There, in a short time you’ve captured a bit of family history.   You can put the butterfly net away until next time.

Just sent in the copy edits for DEATH IN REEL TIME, featuring my genealogist duo, Sophreena and Esme.  It’s due for publication in March 2014.

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What a Card!

Chances are if you have an old box of family photos there are a few cards de visite and/or cabinet cards in there.   These paper prints started to appear in the U. S. right around the beginning of the Civil war and quickly became popular, pushing aside the Dagguerotype.

Cards de visite were small and meant to be used as calling cards and exchanged with friends.  They were the equivalent of our modern day school-picture wallets.

Old Photo-Familly Group-Cabinet card

Shortly after the Civil War larger sized prints became popular, the most common being the cabinet card, so named because the stiff backing and larger size (4 ½ x 6 ½) made it possible to display the photographs in a cabinet.

These were first used in the horizontal or landscape mode and featured family groups and were later adapted for portraits.   The cabinet card passed out of fashion in the early days of the 1900s as personal cameras became more readily available and candid photographs were favored.


Old Photo-Familly Group-Cabinet card_2

Judging by the clothing (more on this in subsequent posts) and the embossing on the cabinet card’s backing this photograph was probably produced in 1895-1905, toward the end of the cabinet card era.

Most early cabinet cards were albumen prints made with egg white and they will display a sepia tone or a greenish cast.   True black and white cabinet cards were produced using other photographic methods. These are likely to have been produced toward the end of the century.

Some VERY general guidelines for dating cabinet cards:

Characteristics of the card-stock backing:

  • 1866-1890-Likely to be plain cut
  • 1890-1900-Rounded corners or beveled edges
  • 1885-1900s-Scalloped edges

The Borders:

  • 1866-1900-There may be none
  • 1866-1880-single or double line
  • 1870-1880s-Thick gilt border line
  • 1895-1900s-Embossed patterns
  • 1886-onward-Graphic ornamentation lines, perhaps separating the photographer’s name/locating from the image

The back side:

First of all always check the back carefully for anything that might be written there, perhaps in pencil, or faded ink.  Use a jeweler’s loupe to check as your naked eye may miss it.

Generally speaking, if the backside contains an advertisement for the photographic studio, the larger and more ornate it is, the later it was produced.  Up until about 1890s this ad would only have taken up about half the card.  Thereafter it might have covered the entire back.

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