Unidentified Family Photos? Solve the mysteries!

Do you have old, unidentified family photos? Though they say a picture is worth 1000 words, a family picture without a caption may not even be worth 100 words. A lot of the value of our old pictures is knowing who they are and what they’re about.

That’s why I wrote the book Family Photo Detective: Learn how to find genealogy clues in old photos and solve family photo mysteries. Pictures often contain clues within themselves that can tell you who it is.

  1. Try to determine a range of dates for when the photograph was taken. Do this by comparing what a picture’s subjects are wearing (or their hairstyles or headgear) with fashions from the time period. Determine what type of photograph it is and/or who took it.
  2. Look for clues about the occasion of the photograph. Was it taken in mourning? (Perhaps after a loved one’s passing or a soldier’s death in the Civil War?) The clothing and other special cues may tell you if this is the case. Was it a wedding?
  3. Look for family resemblances. If the picture shows more than one person, look for clues about how they are related, whether they were married or single, how old they were, how wealthy they were and more.
  4. Match the range of possible dates with the possible occasions and people represented. For example, “Who would have constituted this working-class family of five, with a babe in arms and a photo of a recently-deceased woman?”

Learn tons of tips on how to do all these steps and more in my book Family Photo Detective. See if you can solve some family history mysteries!