Identifying the exact location of houses in family photographs is more than a bricks-and-mortar problem. To read the clues in a residential image, you practically have to be a building inspector—studying structural details and landscape topography. On top of that, you’ll need to be well-acquainted with family history and land records. After examining evidence in a photo of the family abode, you may find yourself doing additional research to unlock your domicile dilemma.
They’re hard to see, but an elderly man and woman are sitting on a bench by the house on the left. (Look by the No. 4, above) He wears a stovepipe hat and she’s coatless in a dress with a small collar. In the foreground, a man in a coat and a stovepipe hat stands at the gate. You can see miniscule details by zooming in on a high-resolution digital image or using a photographer’s loupe to examine a print.
We’ve got a time frame, but where was this picture taken? Monroe’s father told her the property is in New England. Her grandfather Sidney Hinman Monroe was born in Jericho, Vt., in 1843, and eventually moved to Wisconsin. Family oral history suggests folks “back East” sent him this photo. But with ancestors in New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, Monroe has to narrow down the location. These tips can help:
2. Land ho! Compare the pictured landscape to maps.
3. In season. Clothing and foliage are clues to the time of year.
4. Who’s who. Compare ancestors’ birth dates to ages of those pictured.
5. Do documents. Land records describe property and name owners.