Do you have a collection of old family photographs? Have you ever looked at one and wondered just who is in this photo?
You may have these photos either tucked away in drawers or you may be more organized and have them in photo albums.
Love looking at these old photos?
If you are like me then you love getting them out from time to time and having a look at them.
But you may not know who everyone is in your photos.
Well, then please read on as this post will help you with that question.
Inheriting old photographs!
As I have become more interested in my genealogy I have inherited a lot of family heirlooms including old photographs. These have mostly been from my father.
You may also be interested in your family history and have acquired your collection of photos.
These could have been from your grandparents, aunts, or uncles.
Or, if you’re lucky you may have received them from an old friend of the family.
Discussed in this post:
- Do You Know Who’s In All These Photos?
- Pay Your Relatives A Visit
- 4 Tips To Help Identify Your Ancestors
- My Final Thoughts
Do You Know Who’s In All These Photos?
If you are ‘fortunate‘ then someone may have written some details on the back of the photograph.
These details could include who is in the photo, the date that it was taken, and also what the occasion was.
I say ‘fortunate‘ because believe it or not the ink that has been used may actually have damaged the photo, (or may likely cause damage in the future).
The writer may have even penetrated the front of the photo if they were particularly hard baring with a pen. I know that I am like that.
If your old family photographs are in an album then there may be some description added to the side of the photos.
But what if there are no clues?
What do you do next?
Do you just give up and forget about them?
Of course not. You want to get on with your research and learn more about your ancestors.
Visit Your Relatives!
In this post, I will cover four main tips that will help you to identify just who is in your family photos. But before you read on I would like to suggest to you that you first ask your relatives for help.
If your family does know who is in these photos then they will be a great help to you.
They will help save you the time and energy that you would otherwise have spent.
There may also be a message written on the back. Using this clue your relative may be able to discern who is in the photo.
So, please take the time and visit them.
You may also be surprised as to the stories, anecdotes, and any information that they may tell to you.
Check out my Top 20 Family History Interview Questions post that will help you conduct a thorough interview and get the most from it.
4 Tips To Help Identify Your Ancestors!
Being able to see the clues in your photographs is all part of the process to identify your ancestors. You can use just one, a few, or all of the following tips to help you with this task.
1. Do you recognize anyone else?
During this post’s introduction, I explained that you may be ‘fortunate‘ if someone has written on the back of the photograph.
If a photograph has no details on the reverse you could first check to see if there is a similar photo with a description added to it.
If this fails then you could ask yourself the question of whether you recognize anyone else in the photograph.
So, if the photograph has a few people in it then try to see if you do recognize any of them.
Comparing with other photos may also help you with this process. Different photos of the mystery individual may include ancestors that you do recognize.
If you’re familiar with your family tree then you could work out who the person is.
So, have your tree to the side when figuring this out.
If you know the date of the photograph then this can also help you identify your relative.
If you can tell how old the person is and when the photo was taken then this will narrow down your search.
My How To Date An Old Photo post can help you identify photographs that were taken during the 19th Century.
2. Do you recognize a family heirloom?
If the photograph was taken at home then there may be several family heirlooms in the background.
Have a closer look at the photograph and see if you recognize any of them. Is there anything that particularly stands out?
You may have one of these heirlooms in your home and you may know the story behind them. Because of hearing family stories, you may even know the person that the heirloom belonged to.
Your relatives may still have a number of these heirlooms in their homes.
So, as I have suggested before it would be worthwhile to visit them.
Take your old photo collection with you and see what you can find.
3. Do you recognize the location of the photograph?
The photograph may have been taken outside. This fact should also help you with your research.
If you are familiar with your ancestors and where they lived you may recognize key features in the background of the photograph.
These could be old buildings, a hill in the background, a famous landmark, or any other possible key feature. The landscape itself may also give you a clue as to the identity of the individual.
And as I keep suggesting, try asking your relatives for help!
Again the date of the photograph can also help you.
If you know where your ancestors lived and know the time then you can work out who is in the photo with these two clues.
4. Use the process of elimination!
You have now gone through the first three tips to help you identify who is in your old family photograph.
The last tip that you can use is the process of elimination. By knowing your family tree well you can start to eliminate your ancestors.
There are other clues besides what I have already discussed that can help you along the way.
The following clues will help you further to identify who is in your photo.
Clues you can use:
- The clothing,
- The hairstyles,
- Type of the photograph and also the studio that the photograph was taken in.
Both the clothing and the hairstyles in the photograph can help you to identify the date that it was taken.
Also, the type of photograph can be of use to you in identifying the individual.
The name of the studio may also appear on the front or the back of the photograph. This clue can help you tell which ancestor went to the studio to have their photo taken.
Although if you know that a few family groups lived near a studio you may then need to use other clues to help you.
A local historian may help you to identify where the studio was located.
And also if numbers appear on the photo this can give you the date that it was taken.
My Final Thoughts
Using your old family photographs for your genealogy research doesn’t need to be a headache for you.
The tips that I have outlined above can help you greatly piece together your family tree.
And ultimately put names to those faces.
Once you have figured out who is who then you can add these pictures to your genealogy software program.
Scanning your photos will be the next step for you to take in this process. My How To Scan My Photos? post will help you.
You may also like to head on over to Techverse where you will get invaluable tips and tricks on How To Identify An Unknown Person Using A Photograph.
A different technique is used where you upload a picture to Google and see what results come up.
You may or may not get results this way. It’s worth checking out anyway.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
I hope you enjoyed this post helping you to answer the question, “Who is in this photo?“. If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below.
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