Photo Detective: An Afternoon Outside

By Maureen A. Taylor Premium


A beautiful day was perfect for someone to take a snapshot of this family in Kansas City, Kan. On days like this, our ancestors would pull their chairs outside to enjoy the breeze. The women dressed for warm weather in cotton print dresses; the child on Mom’s lap is barefoot. 

Bradley Richardson’s mother inherited this picture from her parents. She knew it came from her Allan or Love branches, and other, already-identified images helped name some of these folks. Richardson found them in the 1905 Kansas state census, when the family consisted of William H. Allan, an expressman (who works in cargo delivery), 35; Alta E. Allan, 33; Thelma Allan, 7; Harry Allan, 5; Harold Allan, 4 months; Abe Allan, 65; Lois Love, 23; and Laura Love, 19. 


Richardson tracked the Allans in online city directories using the father’s name and occupation. Like many families in this period, they moved frequently. According to the 1901 and 1902 city directories, the family lived in Kansas City, Mo., at the time, at 1204 West 25th Street—a match to the address on the front of this house.

The children are key to the pinpointing the year this photograph was taken. The estimated ages of Thelma, born in 1898, and her brother Harry, born in 1900, suggest a date of 1902. They would’ve been 4 and 2 that summer. 

The young women in back could be Lois and Laura Love, about ages 20 and 16 in 1902. They lived with William and Alta in 1905, but their names are absent from the 1901 and 1902 Kansas City directories. 

Who’s in the rocking chair on the right? That’s likely Abraham Allan, William’s father, a Scottish immigrant who lived with his son’s family after the death of his wife. The only family member not in this picture is William. He’s likely the photographer.

Few photo mysteries can be solved this quickly. Finding answers usually takes a lot longer. It depends both on the picture evidence and the available records for the individuals shown.  

Your Turn

Have you found an old mystery photo? Submit the image and your story following the instructions at <>. It may appear on the Photo Detective Blog