Figuring out Where an Old Family Photo Was Taken

By Maureen A. Taylor

Laura Katz knows that this is picture of her paternal great-grandparents Baruch and Asna Lipitz. They immigrated from Russia in 1906, and Laura wonders if this picture was taken there or in the United States.

Comparing the date the photo was taken to the date of the couple’s immigration should help. The fashion pinpoints a timeframe for the picture. Asna’s square neckline became popular in the WWI period and remained a common design element in the early 1920s. Not every woman in the 1920s was a flapper with dropped-waist dresses. There were styles for the young and fashionable, designs for more conservative dressers and everyone in between.

That’s just one of the variables in dating photos based on clothing styles. For instance, a person may have held onto a dress for a number of years.

Asna wears her hair in the style of the earlier part of the century–piled on her head with a bun at the crown.

The checks in her dress fabric, the natural waistline, and the calf length of the dress suggest a date circa 1919.

Baruch (born 1862) and his wife Asna (born circa 1863) look like they could be in the vicinity of 60 years old.

This looks like a metal photograph popular in that time period. There was a stand attached to the back so it could be propped up for viewing.

The date of the picture clearly indicates they posed for this picture in the United States, years after they arrived here.

It’s a lovely picture taken in the garden. The mystery for me is why Baruch placed his chair in trees, so that leaved saplings shield the lower half of his body.

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