Identifying Old Photographs with the Photo Detective

Photo Detective is the blog of photo historian Maureen Taylor, author of “Uncovering Your Ancestry Through Family Photographs.”

She helps readers play detective with their photographs for free. The details are usually in the photograph such as the hairstyle, clothing, location, signs, and the tiny details we often miss.

In her post, ““Downton Abbey” and Family Photos,” she discusses the popular television show’s dedication to emulating the period clothing. The show depicts the struggles of an aristocratic family from before World War I through the war. The clothing styles for both men and women shift and changed during that time period, as did class lines and values.

While she (and all of us) talked about how much she is enjoying the visual and historical eye candy of the show, she brings it back around to the details that are so important to dating and researching a photograph for family history.

Photo identification and dating an image relies on information. What a person wears is helpful, but not the whole story. Pictorial context is important–where was it taken, who took the image and what else is visible. Adding up the clues can solve the mystery, date the image and identify the person.

Taylor has published several books on preservation and researching family photographs, as well as historical fashion styles. If you have a mystery photograph, consider submitting it to her or studying her site for tips and tricks to help you identify your own.

I’ve got a few that I’m struggling to identify, including those in my Do You Know These People? category. Lately, I’ve been working on identifying photographs of the USS Arizona from my grandfather’s scrapbook and Coast Guard Insignias and Ranks to help me identify the rank and time period of photographs of my grandfather in military uniform. Identifying photographs goes beyond just faces and places.

Here are some other articles of Taylor’s worth reading.

Most Recent Articles by Lorelle VanFossen


About Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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