Old Photos: Are These Sisters or Family Friends?

By Maureen A. Taylor

A few weeks ago I featured Jim Cat’s picture of women seated on the stoop in front of their house.


He recently wrote to tell me more about the women in the picture. His grandmother Mary Florence Filichia Catanzaro was born in Chicago on Feb. 18, 1894.


Mary had four sisters: Rose (born July 1892), Jennie (born 1900), Virginia (born circa 1902) and Constance (born circa 1906).

Based on the style of the women’s dresses and hair in this image, and a tentative date of circa 1910, only the oldest sisters, Rose and Mary, could be depicted here. The other sisters would be too young.

If this image was taken at mid-decade, about 1915, the hairstyle of the woman seated second from left would be outdated, but not necessarily those of her companions. By 1915, Jennie was 15. If she’s posed with her older sisters here, she’d be the youngest member of this group.

Clothing and hairstyles changed radically in the second decade of the 20th century. By 1920, many women had shorter hair and wore loose-fitting dresses with shorter hemlines than in recent years.

Assuming two of these women are sisters, the other two are likely friends. Despite the grainy quality of this type of tintype it should be possible to determine who’s who by comparing later photographs of the sisters to this image.

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