Clues in Old Photo Postcards, Part 2

By Maureen A. Taylor

Jennifer Bryan sent me a photo-postcard mystery and I featured part one in last week’s post.

This week I’ll share what I learned about the recipient of the postcard, Miss Flossie Howell of Baker City, Ore.


Flossie’s friend Desca wrote:

Hello. Rec’d letter other day ans soon. What are you doing? Still working in store? Its snowing here today and is quite cold. I am feeling pretty good but can’t stand much work. Lee is at work. Will come home soon. Do you like the pictures? Lo Desca.

I’d estimated the date for this card as circa 1910 based on the attire, so I used to search the census for that year. I started my search by thinking that Flossie was a nickname for Florence and didn’t find any good matches. I should have taken the direct approach. I immediately found a match for Flossie Howell in Baker City. The enumerator appears to have written her last name as “Hawell” rather than Howell.


She’s living with Nathaniel B. Starbird, a janitor in a bank, and his wife Ada. Flossie works as a bookkeeper in a grocery store. She was 20 at the time of the census, suggesting a birth year of 1890. You can find this census record using the following link.

Flossie was born in Kansas, but she didn’t know the birthplaces of her parents. The Starbirds were originally from Maine.

Flossie lived in Baker City from circa 1908. She appears in the Baker City, Ore., City Directory for that year, working as a domestic. You can view the city directory on

I’m still working on the identity of Desca, Hazel and Mabel. Desca turns out to have been a somewhat common name.

This week I’m at Who Do You Think You Are Live in London! Each year I share images from the event. I’m taking a few extra days in London, so watch for my images in two weeks.

Next week I’ll write about how I’m helping to identify images from a photo album in a historical society. My new book, The Family Photo Detective, has a whole chapter on unraveling clues in photo albums. It’s one of my favorite types of mysteries.


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
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album