3 Next Steps in Photo Identification

By Maureen A. Taylor

Last week’s How to Tell Men’s Faces Apart in Old Photos examined two photos thought to be the same man. Two branches of the family identified him as Patrick Sheridan, but the facial clues didn’t add up.

When looking at pictures, it’s important to examine other family history details as well. Here are three:

Family Stories
According to family members, one of Patrick’s granddaughters remembered seeing him when she was young. The feature she recalled was his curly white hair.

Another story circulates among his Fayette County, Ohio, descendants. Passed down from generation to generation, it claims that he was a stowaway on a ship that arrived in New Orleans.

A transcription of an obit (the original hasn’t been located) states that on his deathbed he mentioned a brother he hadn’t seen in 20 years. The family is working on proving this.

Family Data
Photos can become a stumbling block even for genealogists who know every detail of an ancestor’s life. Pat Dwyer has accumulated a lot of material on Patrick. This is an overview of what she learned:

  • Patrick’s naturalization papers from Mason County, Ky., state that he was under 18 when his arrived. He was naturalized April 11, 1853. He must have been in the U.S. by 1848. No age is mentioned in these papers.
  • He lived in Maysville, Mason County, Ky. He was from Cavan County, Ireland.
  • He was either 60 or 70 when he died in Clinton County, Ohio, in 1888. The obit says one and his headstone, the other.
  • In the 1860 census for Maysville, a Patrick Sherdon is a wagoner. If his age is correct, then he was born in 1828. That fact then helps determine his age at immigration (15) and death (60). More census data and other records could dispute or confirm that exact year.

Family Connections
The notes on the back of the older man’s photo says Wes’ grandfather. Wesley, was the son of William. When someone bought Wesley’s farm, the new owners found a box of photos in the barn and brought it to the one man in town with the Sheridan surname.

Last year, Pat Dwyer visited this Ohio branch of the family and is still overwhelmed by all the documents and information she collected.

Patrick Sheridan had 12 children. It’s possible that the descendants of each one of them have details about his life. Tracking down those individuals could tie all the stories together, plus give Pat even more photos and documents. She’s descended from Patrick’s son, George. As she reaches out to cousins, she discovers that many of them also have copies of the picture of Patrick as an older man. The younger man is still a mystery.

It seems that every picture solution opens another avenue worth exploring. Pat Dwyer is going to be busy for years to come.

Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now