Esther's Place

Esther's Place

September 23, 2013

3 Tips to Identify a Photograph

3 Tips to Identify a Photo

 I am very fortunate to have a collection of family photographs dating back into the 1800's.  Unfortunately, not all of them are labeled and the individual's identification is not known.

When I come across a photograph there are three things I do first to attempt to identify the person or people in the photo.

For example:

This small photograph fell out of a letter dated June 1923.  The letter was from Boss Talbott to his mother-in-law Hattie Richardson.  (You can read more about Boss Talbott and the Talbott/Richardson families on my family genealogy blog Are You My Cousin?).

  • Take note of where I find a photograph.  This is a very important step. Is the photograph with other photographs of a known individual or family line?  Is it in a photo album? If so, what position does it occupy?  Who are the others in photographs around the individual? These type of clues can help you determine which family line a photograph belongs to.  In this case, the above photograph was in a letter from Boss Talbott to Hattie Richardson.  I could conclude the child in the  photograph was most likely of the Talbott or Richardson family.
  • Date the photograph.  There are many ways to date a photograph. (We will talk more in depth on this topic another time.) In this case, I was able to keep things simple. The photograph was in a June 1923 letter, but not labeled.  I estimated the photograph was taken in the spring of 1923 since the child appears to be dressed for cool weather and not really cold weather.
  • Ask for help.  Okay, this may sound like cheating, but it is a very important step.  By this point, I was looking for a young girl aged 2-3 years old in 1923 in the Talbott or Richardson family lines. I suspected she was Elma Talbott born in Sept 1920 and the daughter of Boss Talbott and his wife Esther. I couldn't be sure though. I called my Dad.  My dad was able to identify the porch on which the photograph was taken as well as the man leaning against the tree. That was the front porch of Boss Talbott's house and the man was Boss Talbott's father Joe M Talbott. That clenched it.  The little girl in the photograph is Elma Talbott.  This is the earliest known photograph we have of her.
 These are just the first three steps I usually take to identify a person or people in a photograph.  Not all identifications go this easily or quickly.

But it's a start. And well, you have to start somewhere.