Who is it? – Deciphering old photos

You will be familiar with following situation: While browsing old documents you come across a photo but cannot decipher the persons on it. When doing a genealogy such photos get unusual for the chronicle. Therefore, what should you do with these kind of photos? We have collected some tips, how you might identify the unknown persons after all.


Ask Older Relatives

The best and easiest way to do so is asking someone, who was already alive during the time when the photo was taken. Or someone who knows these particular photos from his own childhood. At this point we will also remind you to encourage older relatives to label all photos and to name the persons on them. As you know, one day this source of information won’t be available and finding out the relevant information then will be very hard.

Narrow Down the Recording Time

You have no idea how old a photo could be? Have a closer look at the clothes and hairdos of the people. Each era has its very own fashion. Therefore, you will be able to estimate approximately how old the photo is. Or maybe you can find some information about the photographer. All that can indicate the recording time.

Knowing the Features of Ancestors

Collect facts about your ancestors. Write down the names, interview older relatives regarding typical features of different ancestors. Were they small or tall? Which hair color did they have? Did any special features exist? Maybe one ancestor was unusually smaller than the rest of his family? Let your relative describe your ancestors. Information like – Grandfather Richard was much taller and slimmer than his brother- will help you identifying these persons.

Use Available Information

Compare labelled photos with unlabeled ones. You may have luck and find the same persons on the labelled photo on another one, which is unlabeled.  If you have detailed information about a particular generation such as the number of their kids, you should consider this while matching the photos with the persons. Therefore, if there is a photo with two adults and five children and you know about one particular generation of your ancestors who had five children this will be also the family at this photo most likely.

Determine the Recording Location

Find out the location where the photo was taken. Many photos not only show persons but also the location. Landmarks of a city or a house with a number on it, are perfect hints. Is there a mountain or a street sign in the background? As you see anything on a phot can be useful for further information. If you are able to narrow down the location of the photo often you will also find a person who can tell you more about it.

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