Labeling Old Photos: A Good Deed

By Maureen A. Taylor

Along the bottom edge of this photo someone wrote: “Noland…Ohio.” One of the problems is that on the back Melanie Ohm’s mother and aunt wrote that this image depicts Martha Ann Noland Hammond (1843-1870), George Hammond and Mary Hammond as well as a statement: “This would be the Noland family background.” Melanie recognized their handwriting. It’s a good idea to include your name and date when labeling images so that future generations will know who wrote them.

Melanie suspects her aunt was guessing. If this photo dates from circa 1860, then it could be an image of her Noland ancestors who had three siblings.

Unfortunately it’s not from the 1860s. Here are three fashion clues that help pinpoint a time frame. The size and format of the photo are not typical for the 1860s either.

The neck scarves worn by the women date from the late 1870s to the early 1880s. The man’s tie is also typical for that period.

That places the photo around ten years after the death of Martha Ann. It’s obvious that Melanie’s aunt believed that this photo represented the Noland family. There must have been something about the image that led her to that conclusion.

I can’t wait to hear from Melanie to see if this new date identifies the folks in this family portrait. The 1880 census might offer clues to their identity. It’s searchable on and

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