Just One Photo



One Pic-mystery-IMAG0022Your family history is more than names and dates; it is the stories, travels, events, tragedies, and celebrations that all people have throughout their life. The problem can be learning about those personal events, especially for those relatives that have passed away. Finding those special stories or events can be a challenge.

Here is one method. Go back over the family collection of photos — any time frame or family branch. If you do not have any, ask to go over the photos held by a relative.

All it takes is just one photo that will catch your ‘eye’ — appeal to your sense of curiosity. You might know who is in the photo, but where was it taken, are there others you don’t recognize, is there a vehicle or equipment that you need answers about, is the clothing worn very unusual, or is there also an animal (pet) in the photo.

For example, if the person is wearing a heavy fur coat and they had lived their whole life in Florida, right there you have a mystery. Where were they and why were they wearing a heavy coat?

Make a digital copy or a photo copy of the photo, especially if it belongs to another family member. Do the same for one other unusual or interesting photo you find.

Now with these two challenging images become a ‘detective’. Share the photo, one at a time, with other family members. Keep a log of all their answers even if they are not sure. Ask for estimates of time frames, locations and what is happening. If there are other people in the photo, see who they are, learning that could become very important in learning more information.

Next using social media, post the image on Facebook, especially for a site of a possible location or hometown. Ask if anyone recognizes the surrounding area or the person. Even if you do know it is you Uncle Robert Harrison, just see what kind of responses you get. Post it also on Facebook pages for specific surnames, especially if is an unusual name.

Send a copy either by email or regular mail (enclose a SASE to get a reply) to a local museum where you think the photo was taken.  One pic-1901~Shen,W

Look closely at the photo for any badges being worn – that could be a main clue. If it is a police badge – wow – there might be an occupation you never knew about. Any buildings around, enlarge the image to see if a name of a business, street, or town is visible.

A whole investigating avenue can be available by re-examining some forgotten photos. It is amazing what clues can be found by just taking the time to concentrate on just one photo to create the family memoirs, one piece at a time.

An example is the following. One pic -1933-earhart-waltersThe photo here has alot of things happening. The two people in the center, one is known to be Richard Walters, my mother’s cousin. The woman behind him looks familiar, but not a family member. Checking with some people, they seem to agree it looks like Amelia Earhart, the famous aviator of the 1920s into the 1930s. With that information, I investigated the web sites on Amelia Earhart. At Purdue University Library is the George Palmer Putman collection of Earhart photos. Sure enough Earhart had been to a hot air balloon exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair in June 1932.  One pic-1933-June-Earhart-balloonA photo of her up in a balloon was in the collection. Researching such balloon exhibits, there was Capt. Richard Walters, the vendor of that very exhibit. Earhart interested in aviation and that would include balloons, she was getting a special tour by Capt. Walters.

Photos: Uncle Musselman with two Miami Beach showgirls in 1930, Cousin William Shenberger as a fireman in 1901 and two Amelia Earhart with Capt Richard Walters in 1932.

Related FamilyTree.com genealogy blogs:

Family Memoirs

Skeletons in the Family Closet

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