Mystery Photos in an Old Family Album

By Maureen A. Taylor

Whenever I see a old photo album, I want to curl up in a cozy chair and read it like a favorite book. That’s because every album tells a story based on who put it together, who’s included (and who’s not!), and when it was laid out.

One of the keys to “reading” a mysterious photo album is to identify the person on the first page and the next two pages. Generally, they were the most important people to the album’s owner.

This two-part photo mystery involves an album owned by Jim Te Vogt’s family in Minnesota. I don’t know the layout of the album, but in this case that’s not as important as where these images were taken. Eight of the photos were taken by studios in San Francisco. The only Darcy relatives to live in the area were the family of Edward Darcy. So who’s in these photos and why were they taken?

Could this be Hugh Darcy (1858-1902)? Here’s how the clues add up:

  • Jim already researched the photography studio, New York Gallery. It operated at 25 Third St. from 1869 to 1887.
  • In the late 1860s and early 1870s, velvet collars and pointed lapels were common for jackets. It’s a style that gradually faded out by the latter part of the decade.
  • Beginning in about 1880, men started wearing their hair parted in the center and the era of the full mustache had arrived.
  • There is another clue in this picture. It’s the pin on the collar of his vest.

This is the symbol for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows identifying this man as a member of a fraternal organization. Several years ago, I wrote an article about another Odd Fellows image. The group’s slogan, “Friendship, Love, Truth” is represented in the three rings.

If this image was taken about 1874, then Hugh Darcy would be 16. This man looks older than that. Since dating fashion can be flexible based on factors such as where a person lived, perhaps it was taken as late as 1880, when Darcy would be 22. The big question is “how old does this man look?” What do you think?

Are you looking for family photos? Find tips for locating pictures online and offline in Searching for Family Photos.

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