Photo Identification: Names, Dates and Places

By Maureen A. Taylor

Names, dates, and places can make a big difference to a photo identification problem. Linda Long Karlson supplied all three.

She found this unidentified tintype in the Long Family bible. It’s not surprising that it was there. Bibles acted as a safekeeping places for pictures and papers. The heavy tomes were also good for preserving flowers. Some bibles included pre-printed blank pages for keeping track of family. The date of the bible is a clue to who owned it and when. The Long Bible has a publication date of 1860.


Another key piece of information for photo ID is provenance, i.e. history of ownership. Linda has that too.

photo identification

According to Linda: John W Long was born November 17, 1798 in Clint, North Yorkshire, England and arrived with his family Elizabeth, Ann, John James, and William James in the United States after 1840. John W died 22 April 1879 possibly in Illinois. He is buried at Northfield Oakwood Cemetery in Northbrook, Cook, Illinois along with his wife Elizabeth (Strangeway) Long 1799-1877 and with some children Ann (Long) Bulter 1832-1886, William James Long 1838-1912, and their adopted son Henry Scribbens Long 1850-1924.

The bible was passed down to William James son of James William 1870-1929 and his wife Nellie (Bogenschultz) Long 1876-1972. Then passed down to James and Nellie’s second son Warren Tickner Long 1904-1987 and passed down to his son Donald Warren Long 1929-living.

So who’s in the picture?

It’s definitely a tintype. You can see the rusty edges of the iron image in this scan. Tintypes date from after 1856.

It’s of a youngish man wearing a bow tie. He wears his hair full.

I think it dates from the 1870s, based on the jacket, tie, and hair. If that’s the case it could depict one of the sons. Let’s say the picture dates from 1875. In that year William James would be 37 and Henry would be 25.

It’s not the father who would be too old to be this man. It must be one of the sons.

She doesn’t have any family photos of John W, Elizabeth, Ann, William or Henry, which makes facial comparisons difficult. However, their children may resemble them.


I’d start by looking for descendants of these children on all the major genealogy sites.

It makes sense for the picture to be William since he inherited the bible, but that might not be the case. The tin could depict one of his other brothers. Only by studying the details of their lives and finding descendants will the answer become clearer.

Want to become a photo detective? Our Family Photo Detective book will teach readers how to identify and verify people in family photographs by comparing facial features in a collection of photos.

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