Mind-Bending Photo Mystery

By Maureen A. Taylor


Isn’t this a nice picture? It seems so innocuous. Yet this picture is BIG photo mystery that has a couple puzzled: I met Pam and Art Crawford at last month’s RootsTech conference. Using my iPad as a voice recorder, I interviewed them about this picture. You can listen to the recording here.

Pam’s grandmother gave her the image in 1975, in the family photo album. She was told it was Grandma and Grandpa Jones. Pam’s grandmother was alive at the same time as the couple depicted, so she would have known them.

Thomas Jefferson Jones was born Nov. 8, 1843, in Christy Twp., Laurence Co., Ill. He married Mary Jane Williams in Lawrence Co. in 1865. Mary Jane was born May 4, 1850, in Covington, Kenton Co., Ky., and moved to Lawrence Co., Illinois as a child.

Thomas died March 1, 1934, and Mary Jane died Dec. 24, 1916. Both died in Bonpas Twp., Richland Co., Ill.

Here’s the mystery:
A few months ago, Art’s cousin started a Facebook group, “Descendants of David Crawford.” Art joined the group and saw this photo, identified as Nathaniel Alpheus Crawford. When he showed it to Pam, she said, “I know that photo!”

Nathaniel Crawford was born Oct. 21, 1861, in Summerville, Chattooga Co., Ga. He married Lois Viola Henley in 1891. She was born May 27, 1871, in Georgia. They both died in Chattooga Co., Nathaniel on Sept. 13, 1937, and Lois on Aug. 4, 1956.

Obviously there are multiple mysteries:

  • Who’s really in the photo?
  • How did it end up in both families?
  • Is there a relationship between Pam and Art’s family?

It’s a real stumper. Let’s start with the picture: It’s a 20th-century photo—after World War I, based the design of the woman’s collar.

I’m off to the library to figure out the rest of the clues and double-check a few things. I’ll be back next week with more details.

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