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Follow the Clues in a Photo



Who doesn’t have a stack of vintage unlabeled photos? You need some ideas to assist labeling who, when and where in the image.

Take each one and exam it carefully. You just might then notice a certain physical family characteristic. Compare with known images of relatives. I did just that when I located a photo of my father when he was 9 years old. I had not known younger photos of him only had seen ones when he was an adult. By studying the image very carefully, scanning and enlarging the ears, eyes, jawline, I felt for sure this was my father when he was a child.  

Examine what else is in the photo, such as furniture (of course if the photo was taken in a studio it could be a studio item). Also exam anything in their hand such as a book, paper, another photo, etc. That could be a clue.

Look up and enlarge any jewelry worn by females or even a watch or pin by a male. If you have seen that piece of jewelry, you now have a start as to figuring out maybe which family branch at least the image is from.

If the image was taken outside, by a barn, a store, a house, etc., that will be a great clue. Find out who in the family owned a farm or had a store.

Educate yourself on hair styles and clothing styles during certain time periods. Just knowing the fashion worn could not have appeared before 1890 helps you to know that image was not taken in 1870.

Make a scanned copy of the photo and send it to the hometown / home county historical museum. Many have files of information and photo on local residents and they just might have your family. Make your request to see if they can help identify the person in the photo. If it is a location, same thing, see if they have anything similar. Do include a donation to the Museum for their time and effort.

Next, make a point to label all the known photos. Don’t assume just because you know the person is your grandmother Louise Wallace, that future generations will know it also.

Photos: Examples of photos, comparing jewelry, locations and appearances.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Awesome Photos

American Photos 1935-1945

Just One Photo

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