Four Times the Mystery

By Maureen A. Taylor

There is so much to love in this photo collage–the smiling face, the cute baby, and the timeless shot of a mother and child. The problem is that Michael Thompson has no idea who she is.
Thompson editUnknown002.jpg

Each image is tiny, only about an inch in size. They were all glued to a single square photo mount. It’s definitely a photo collage. So who is she?

He’s not sure, but instead of letting this image gather dust in a box of other unidentified photos, he’s created a family website using Joomla. He’s added a plug-in called Joaktree that takes a GEDCOM file and extracts it. The end result…well take a look at Thompson’s site and see what you think. I thought it was pretty neat.

There are ways to determine her identity.

  • First date the picture. Her hairstyle is twentieth century. It’s known as the Wavy Shingle. It was popular with women who had a permanent wave put in their hair or those who curled it in the Marcel style. Those waves are a key identifier of a Marcel wave. This hairstyle was particularly popular circa 1929. The top two pictures depict her in short wavy hair. In the bottom left image, she’s let her hair grow out and it’s smooth rather than wavy. That adorable baby would specifically date this picture.
  • Determine ownership. Who owned this picture? His grand-uncle owns this picture but he can’t remember who’s in the picture. It could be a friend of the family and not a relative.
  • Make a few assumptions.
    • Suppose this young woman was about twenty years of age in 1929? Then she would be born circa 1909.
    • Suppose the baby was born circa 1930?

Take these two assumptions and test them by fitting that information into the birth date of the grand uncle. He may have known her as an older woman or his parent’s knew her.

Showing the grand-uncle a list of all family members born circa 1930 might trigger his memory.

I’ll be looking at the unknown images on Thompson’s website to see if there are any matches. Another identified picture of her might exist in his family collection. A positive ID could result from comparing her round face and smile to other images.

The final ID will come from testing the facts and comparing pictures.

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