Photo Detective: Help Identify This Photo
Here's a chance for all you budding photo detectives to help out a fellow genealogist. Paul Murphy sent me this photograph of a girl holding a copy of a 19th-century children's magazine, The Nickell. Here's what we know and what we'd like to find out.

What we know:
The Nickell, which was published in Boston from 1895 to 1905, gives us a time frame for the picture. First I needed to know whether all the covers of the magazine the same or is the one this girl is holding unique? Murphy found that each issue had a different cover, thus narrowing the time frame of his photo from a decade (1895 to 1905) to a single year. She's posed with an issue of the magazine from April 1899.

Further support for this evidence is the girl's clothing. The bow in her hair and the high collar and inset yoke in the bodice of her dress also date the picture to around 1900.

Since the magazine was published in Boston, Murphy suspects the girl is a member of either his Noonan or Murphy family. One relative, Eva Murphy, was 6 years old and living in Boston in 1899. This girl looks like she's 10, so if it is Eva, the magazine may be a prop the photographer kept in his studio. But it's just as likely the magazine has some other significance. Suppose the girl won a contest sponsored by the magazine? It seemed like an easy question to answer with a quick visit to a library.

How you can help (and win!)
Online research told us only a few libraries in the country have The Nickell. The Newberry Library in Chicago, The Yale University Library in New Haven, Connecticut, Harvard University, The New York Public Library, and the Cleveland Public Library seem to be the only facilities with 1899 issues. A couple of other libraries have miscellaneous copies , and issues of the Nickell might be in smaller libraries whose contents aren't cataloged online. I'm hoping one of you lives in an area with a library that has the magazine. We need someone to search 1899 issues for:

  • A copy of this photograph published in the magazine. (If The Nickell doesn't publish photographs, please let us know)
  • A story relating to a contest and who won it. (We're hoping Eva's name will appear in that case)

    We need your help to find the answers. Check the magazine and send me an e-mail at to say where and when you looked at the 1899 issues, plus what you learned about Eva. Please photocopy any relevant magazine pages, write the volume and page numbers, and send them to Family Tree Magazine, Identifying Family Photographs, 4700 East Galbraith Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45236. The first person who searches the issues and reports the results to us will receives the revised edition of my book, Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs (due soon in bookstores and at

    We'll follow up on this photo mystery in a future Identifying Family Photographs. Thank you for your help!