Narrowing the List of Suspects: Identifying 2 Women

Narrowing the List of Suspects: Identifying 2 Women

For the last month, Photo Detective Maureen A. Taylor has been investigating three photo submitted by a reader. The final step is to narrow down the list of her ancestors to find possible matches.

old photo identification

Last week, I looked at Sandy Eichelberger’s wedding photo and suggested some avenues to solve her picture riddle. This week let’s examine her other two pictures and see if there are possible matches in her family tree.

Winter Wear

The woman in the heavy winter coat and scarf likely lived in Buffalo, home to the Mueller family. I’d estimated that she was about 45 years of age in 1910 giving her a possible year of birth of 1865.

There are a few possibilities. Barbara Schoemann, Sandy’s mother’s paternal grandmother, was born in 1857 while Sandy’s mother Marie’s maternal grandmother Kathryn Weisenheimer Weis was born in 1865. Either of these woman are candidates to be the woman in the coat.

Action StepsAction Steps

  • So whom does she look like?   Sandy may have other images of their families for comparison.
  • This could depict one of these grandmothers’, one of their siblings, or even a friend.  Start by looking for other images of these two women.
  • Make a list of other family members who could be the right age to be in this image, such as sisters and cousins.

The history of ownership of this image could hold a clue. Did the Mueller’s maintain a relationship with the Schoemann’s or the Weis family? Not all families remain close after marriage. Life interferes. People move. Couples often favor one family over another due to proximity. Sandy knows the pictures came from her mother, but I wonder if anyone is still alive who remembers who gave them to her Mom.

old photo identification

Pale Eyed Woman

The last of Sandy’s images depicted a young woman possibly 30 years of age in circa 1864.

Sandy supplied an outline of information on the Mueller’s, and the Schoemann’s that’s helped with possible identifications for the other two images. In the family data, there is one possibility on the Schoemann side of the family. Susana Veith Schoemann, Barbara’s mother, was born in 1834.

The big question is which family line had light-colored eyes. That one little detail might narrow down the list of possible family members.

Action Steps

Rather than jump to conclusions Sandy should think again about the line of descent of these three images:

  • Go back through the family tree and make a list of all women born circa 1834. This could be a direct descendant or a collateral one.
  • Who does she look like?  A woman born in 1834 could have lived to the end of the century.  There might even be another picture of her in the family collection.

While the evidence in the photos compares to the family information, it’s important to go slowly.   Since it’s uncertain exactly who originally owned these pictures before Sandy’s mother, it’s unclear which branches of the family are depicted.

Our family photo collections are often a mix of family and friends.

I can’t wait for the next challenge! You can submit your photos to ftmedit@fwmedia.com.


Want to become a photo detective? Our Family Photo Detective book will teach readers how to identify and verify people in family photographs by comparing facial features in a collection of photos.

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