Clues Your Old Photo Was Taken in Summer

Clues Your Old Photo Was Taken in Summer

Unless your ancestors are posing on a beach in swimsuits, can you tell if an old photo was taken in the summer? Yes! Here are some clues to look for.

Here in New England where winters are long, we embrace summer and often carry cameras to capture moments in the sunshine. When you think about picture-taking patterns in your family, don’t disregard the seasons. In this post I’m revisiting some of my older columns to show you how to spot scenes of summer in your family photo collection.

By the “Seashore”

Last year, a reader sent this photo of a family in front of a seashore backdrop, a clue that perhaps the group lived near the shore or visited on holidays. The children’s lightweight white dresses indicate warm weather. The mother’s hat actually suggested a season, too—a similar hat appeared in the August 1885 Peterson’s Magazine.

The children's lightweight white dresses indicate warm weather.

Flags and Festivities

Clothes also indicate a summer get-together in this photo. The women’s dresses look like lawn cloth (a light fabric), while the men shed their jackets and rolled up their sleeves. Counting stars in the flag provided a time frame of 1908 to 1912. Patriotic decorations could show up for events at various times of year, but combined with the summer attire, they suggest this is an Independence Day celebration.

Clothes also indicate a summer get-together in this photo—the women’s dresses look like lawn cloth (a light fabric), while the men shed their jackets and rolled up their sleeves.

Sitting Pretty

The dresses on the four girls sitting near the railroad tracks in this candid snapshot date it to about 1900. The lush foliage on the trees across the tracks narrows the time of year to summer.

The dresses on the four girls sitting near the railroad tracks in this candid snapshot date it to about 1900.

Summer Snapshot

Here is a similar group portrait, also taken by an amateur photographer. It is clearly another summer snapshot—you can tell from the white dresses and leaves on the young trees in the background.

A summer snapshot, as you can tell from the white dresses and leaves on the young trees in the background.

Go through your photos and look for clues. Find women and children in white, men and boys in straw boaters (a popular summer accessory) and trees and gardens in full bloom.

Maureen A. Taylor is Family Tree Magazine‘s Photo Detective blogger. She is an internationally known photo identification expert and genealogist. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, and on the Today Show, The View, and MSNBC.  Learn more at her website, Maureen Taylor: The Photo Detective.