I came across a box of my grandpa’s old family photos. Some faces are familiar, but many are not. And most have no date recorded.
My only clues come from inside the faded black and white photos. I can see hints of clothing styles, old-model cars and a different way of life.
What can we do when there are no names or dates on old family photos?
If there is no one around to ask, how do you know who is in the image, where and when it was taken and if it was a special occasion?
Some suggestions include looking at:
- Familiar faces: Is there anyone you recognize? If so you can try to guess their age based on other photos you may have.
- Background: Is there anything that can tell you where they are? Old buildings, a familiar house, street corner, or a tourist spot.
- Body language: Is it a formal portrait, or a fun family get-together? Sometimes personalities come through in images too.
- Date stamps or writing on the back. If you get lucky you may come across a photo with a month and year stamp, this could help to date others if it was together with similar photos (and the photos seem to be well organized).
- Is there anyone around that may know who some of these people are? Perhaps relatives or family friends may be able to shed some light.
The article 5 Steps for Identifying People in Old Family Photographs offers some helpful advice on dating photos – all from looking at the actual type of photo to estimating the decade based on clothing and hair styles.
I came across the article Interpreting Old Family Photos as a Source of Genealogical Information. It offered some advice and suggested making up your own story of what may be happening in the photo. By looking at mannerisms and body language you can make some guesses, one is if people are related or married.
The fact is that we may never really know who’s actually in the photos.
I think the lesson for us is to try and keep our own photos in order for future generations!