Recently I came into possession of some old family photos. They all came from my fathers paternal line, a line I knew very little about. I had to figure out different ways to find the names of my ancestors to go along with their faded faces in these photos. Ancestry would be a good option if I had some leads, unfortunately very little is known about my ancestors from this side so it made it very difficult – especially without a paid Ancestry membership. Here are some tips I found helped me put faces to the names of my past.
1. Using your living relatives as information sources, even if they aren’t right. I sought out my aunt for information about my dad’s side of the family because he knew next to nothing. She gave me all the information that she could recall, using stories from her childhood to help me try to pinpoint names and locations. Sometimes she was wrong with a name or a date, but she would give me what she knew which gave me clues to the correct answer. The information she gave me helped me link multiple families together and painted a more accurate picture of my family.
2. Look for clues within the photos themselves. The clothing the people are wearing, how stiff they present themselves and objects in the background may offer clues as to a potential time period, which may allow you to link that photo with a family member.
3. Double checking for dates or names inscribed on the back. A lot of older photos have inscriptions of who the photo is, what year it was taken and where it was taken. This information would have been documented because generally photography was very expensive.
4. Visually matching relatives from one photo to another. Once you’re able to identify one relative, it makes it easier to try and pin point other relatives in joint photos with the original relative you’ve identified.
5. Researching through other public family trees. Other people are looking for the same ancestors you are. Maybe you will get lucky and find a tree with photos of your relatives that you never knew existed! Using these people as a resource, contacting them, will enable you to discover even more and connect with extended family you never knew you had. Very cool.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series!