Who’s Who in a Photo? Strategies for Finding Out

By Maureen A. Taylor

Last week I discussed Karen Perry’s unidentified photo.

Today I called her to chat about what she’s learned about it since she submitted the image last summer.

She told me showed it to a distant relative, who said he recognized the man in the center but couldn’t remember his name.


Since this relative descends from her paternal grandmother’s side of the family, Karen thought maybe these folks were McClures who lived in northwestern Ohio.

Karen decided to take the picture to her class reunion. The Grover Hill school has a reunion where graduates from all classes gather in one place. Unfortunately, no one recognized anyone in the picture.

She then tried to upload the photos to an Allen County, Ohio, genealogy page, but doesn’t remember which one. The Allen County Genealogy group has a Facebook page that she could join. That’s a good next step. She’d then be able to post the photo.

Members of her Stout, McClure, Parker and Stratton families lived all over northwestern Ohio in Allen, Van Wert, Paulding and Hancock counties. The Ohio Genealogical Society is an active group with an annual conference and chapter meetings. Karen could reach out to chapters in those areas and see if they could show the photo at meetings.

While connecting with someone locally could be helpful in her quest to identify these folks, she could also try posting it on sites such as and In the description, she can list all the possible surnames and locations.

Her mother identified all the other family pictures except this one. Why didn’t she recognize any of these people? That’s a big part of this puzzle. Since this photo dates from circa 1920 and there are likely individuals in their 20s in this picture, several of them could have lived long enough for Karen to meet them as a child.

  • Were they distant cousins who didn’t remain in contact with Karen’s family?
  • Did they live further away and thus weren’t part of the larger family circle for gatherings?

Karen says the man in the middle looks familiar but can’t think why he does. It’s possible he resembles someone else in the family. She wants to figure out who they are and wished she’d asked her mother more about family history. Her sentiment is a common one.

Of course, there is no guarantee that these individuals are family. Our ancestors often sent photos of themselves to friends. Until this mystery is solved, she won’t know if they are relatives or acquaintances.

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