5 Brick Wall Busters for Old Mystery Photos

By Maureen A. Taylor

Give yourself a present this holiday season by taking time to solve one of your unidentified-photo mysteries. Here are five proven ways to break down that pictorial brick wall:

1. Broadcast your picture. Take it to family gatherings, post it on your social media pages and share it in Facebook groups related to your family history, such as surname pages or location-specific pages.

2. Study the clues (again). Try to forget that you’ve ever seen that picture before. Start with a clean slate and re-examine the clues—the photographer’s work dates, clothing clues, props and whatever else is present in the image. Combine it with information from your family history research.

3. Broaden your search. Photographs don’t always go to family. Just because an image was in your great-grandmother’s collection, doesn’t mean it’s a picture of her. It could be a collateral relative or a friend.

4. Look for family patterns. Think about your family photographs as documents and fit them into a timeline of a person’s life. You might be surprised to see how those images line up with historical and genealogical data.

5. Submit your mystery to this blog. Fifty-two blog posts plus three Photo Detective Family Tree Magazine columns per year means a lot of people are taking advantage of this free way to get expert advice on their pictures. Your photo might be one selected for publication. All you have to do is follow the guidelines for submissions. Can’t wait to see what’s in your photo shoebox!

Looking for more tips on solving picture puzzles? Check out my book Family Photo Detective.

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books 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
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album