Even photo sleuths get stumped sometimes. This week, it’s your turn to help me. I’m hoping that someone will recognize the people in these pictures, the only two images of my father’s family that I own. The photos don’t provide many clues, so I haven’t been able to identify the majority of the people in the images. But here’s what I do know about one of the group portraits (Figure 1).
I know that this picture (and Figure 2) once belonged to my paternal grandparents. My father claims that my grandfather identified some of the people in Figure 1. For instance, the man in the center with the cap and cigar is my great-grandfather George Edward Taylor (b. 1856). The boy in the center behind the man with the whole watermelon is Al, one of George’s sons. My father thinks that the boy in the back row is my grandfather. I have no idea who any of the other people in this image are, and neither does my father. Supposedly, there are a few family members in my father’s generation who are still living, but I haven’t been able to locate them.
The gentleman with the bowler, mustache and cigarette at the front left bears a strong resemblance to my great-grandfather, but who could he be? As a child, George lost his mother, and his father remarried and had three other children. This could be either of George’s half-brothers: Lawrence (b. 1862) or Allen Peter (b. 1871). If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see four sets of fathers and sons. But their identities are unknown. The man on the front left is wearing a badge, but it’s blurry. It could signify his occupation or membership in a group.
If the child in the back row is my grandfather and he was approximately ten years old when the picture was taken, then the photo dates to about 1900. The men’s clothing is from that time period, so this date makes sense. My great-grandfather would have been in his mid-40s. He appears a little older than that, but his appearance could be the result of working outdoors as a house painter.
Unfortunately, the reason for the picture is also unclear. I’ve found nothing written about the image, and there’s no photographer’s imprint. I know that the photo was taken in Rhode Island, since that’s where the family was living at the time the picture was taken. The occasion is a summer outing for a men’s club or perhaps a family gathering just for men. There are no women present in either image. One man is holding a set of oars, and there is a baseball bat in the foreground, as well as several watermelons. But without any insignia or other identifying clues, it’s impossible to narrow down the occasion.
Researching the Taylor family has been a struggle. For example, George’s father listed at least four different places of birth on various documents. If anyone wants to give me a holiday present, I’d love to know something new about the men in these group portraits.
While you might not be able to help me solve my picture puzzle, a relative might hold the key to your mysterious images. Make sure that you take advantage of family gatherings and have relatives look at your unidentified photographs.