Pictures of Piety
2/1/2004
Old family photos may hold hints to your ancestors' religious heritage.
 
Your old family photos may hold hints to your ancestors' religious heritage — and the most faithful clue may be a color. Pictures of girls dressed in white frills, babies in their christening gowns or boys doming white bows on their arms, for example, signal your ancestors' spiritual beliefs and practices.

As with all photography, dating and identifying religious images involves talking with relatives, recognizing the photographic method, discovering when a photographer was in business, following costume history and researching clues within the image, such as props (see our to-step photo-identification guide in the September 2002 Preserving Your Memories, a special issue of Family Tree Magazine). Religious photo clues a so can help you discover new genealogical documents and information.

Before you start researching photo details, talk with relatives. Show them your unidentified images and ask if they know who's in the pictures and what the photos represent. Inquire about your ancestors' religious habits. Showing family members a photograph car trigger memories in ways that other documents can't. Don't forget to ask if they have any similar photographs in their own collections. Their pictures might provide additional clues to your family's religious background.