Who’s Who in an Old Family Gathering Photo?

By Maureen A. Taylor

Last week’s column explored some of the identification clues in this family gathering. Heidi Thibodeau thinks it depicts members of the Tibbetts and Hodgson family of Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.

Bessie Mabel Hodgdon, born in 1877, owned the picture, and it was handed down to her granddaughter (Heidi’s first cousin once removed). This photo dates from July 6, 1890. If Bessie were in this picture, she’d be approximately 13 years of age. Only two young women in this picture appear the right age to be Bessie.

They flank this older man who sits in the center of the group. That’s a place of prominence. I wonder if they’re his daughters or granddaughters. Bessie had a sister Ella, born 1881, who became Heidi’s great-grandmother. Their mother died in 1886. Their father, Albert, born in 1856, would be only 34 at the time of this photo, far too young to be the man shown above.

The sisters’ maternal grandfather, Noah Lord, born in 1830, would be 60 years of age at the time of this picture. Heidi sent me photos of him (from a private source so I can’t reproduce them here). The man in this picture doesn’t look like Noah Lord.

Could this man be the sisters’ paternal grandfather? Perhaps. I’m going to ask Heidi if she has any photos of him.

Heidi has another picture of Bessie and Ella from 1905, depicting the Tibbetts Family. Bessie sits on the left in the center row, and her sister Ella Hodgdon Tibbitts is on the right.

Let’s look at the girls and women side by side. The images pixelate when enlarged due to low resolution.

It looks like the girl with her eyes closed could be either Bessie or Ella. The girl on the lower left is hard to see for comparison purposes.

Given the history of ownership of this picture, the group on the porch in 1890 could be either the Lord family or the Hodgsons. One of the only ways to determine who’s who is to compare other photos of any members of those families alive in 1890 to those faces in the big group picture. It’s a process of elimination.

This photo mystery isn’t solved but with a little time and research the answer may be clearer. I’m hoping Heidi and her cousins have more pictures for another blog post.

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