A Well-Dressed Couple

By Maureen A. Taylor

Old pictures have a tendency to turn up unexpectedly. For Amir Evenchik, this photo was recently found at his parent’s house. It’s the usual story: No one knows the identity of the couple or where they posed for this lovely formal portrait.

Dating this photo is the easy part. Determining where an image was taken is a matter of matching up image clues with family history. Below are four clues (I’ve used to create a numbered collage of the evidence):

  • Photos 1 and 3: In the early years of the 20th century, women wore their hair swept up in an exaggerated puff in front of the head. The goal was the S-shaped head-to-toe curve that was popular circa 1905. Undergarments helped women achieve this curve.

Mid-decade, women wore little jackets over their dresses. This is a very fashionably dressed woman, whose outfit is complete with long gloves and a fan.

  • Photo 2: The woman’s companion wears his mustache in the style of the late 1890s, when waxing facial hair created extreme twirls. It’s a fad that remained common into the 20th century. Notice how the front of his hair has a wave. This was typical at the turn of the century.

  • Photo 4: Looking at a background can help you place a photo. This could be a unique, hand-painted design. The photographer probably used the same backdrop in many portraits. Locating other images taken in the same area with the same background could help determine where the couple is from.

Other factors to consider in identifying this image:

  • Does the couple look like any other family members?
  • Based on their appearance, this is a couple of financial means.
  • Evenchik should estimate the couple’s ages, then find couples on his family tree of the right ages around the time this photo was taken.

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