Round Three: Clues in a Nineteenth Century Family Gathering

By Maureen A. Taylor

Heidi Thibodeau is determined to identify the folks in that July group portrait. It’s a key to other unidentified photos she may find.


It can take time to solve a photo mystery. The clues stack up, but making that right match often involves re-examining photos in your collection or asking cousins to look for pictures as well. DNA matches are good for picture clues too. The individuals you’re genetically related to may have photos relating to your picture mystery.

Two previous blog posts explore the identity of these individuals in particular the man in the center of the image. He’s a person that whole family posed around, an elder member of that clan.

The first post looked at the general evidence of clothing and props to support the 1890 date on the image.

The second post explored whether or not Bessie Hodgdon was in the image. She could be one of these two girls. Bessie once owned the original.

Heidi was able to rule out Noah Lord, the girls maternal grandfather, as this man, and wonders if he could be the girls’ paternal grandfather William Hodgdon (1821-1902), but there are no pictures of him.

There is a picture of Bessie and Ella’s brother Chester. It would be best to find a photo of any of William’s siblings for comparison, but there is a resemblance between the man in the group and this man holding a kettle and pan of potatoes.

To solve this mystery I’d reach out to anyone else related to William in case one of the descendants has a photo. I’d locate these descendants through the mega genealogy sites like, and FamilySearch.

Once Heidi is able to identify the man between the two girls, it’s possible the rest of the identities will fall into place. It’s a lot like falling dominoes—topple one and the rest fall down.

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