Adding photographs of your relatives and their environment can add realism and a touch of class to your family tree. But how do you make sure that you are putting the correct face with the name? There are many clues in the picture that can help put the appropriate age to a photograph. Be sure to use the same methodical approach to dating the picture that you use in the researching of your family tree and be sure to document everything.
First the physical photograph is a clue. Was it made with the tin-type or older method, or a paper print? How heavy is the paper it is printed on? In the case of a portrait, are there any identification marks or labels from the photographer’s studio?
Next, if you enlarge the print either digitally or with a magnifying glass, what is in the background? A newspaper headline or better yet a date may be seen. An advertisement in a store window or the population count on a city limit sign can give the approximate age of the photo. Are there automobiles, or horses, on the street? Of course, if the family homestead is the backdrop, a definite assumption can be made.
The style of clothing is one of the best ways to date a picture. The style of women’s hats, the hairstyle, the sleeve style of a dress, the neckline, or the style of the collar, are all clues.
With men, hairstyle can be a hint. The width of the necktie, the cut of a suit, again, as with women, the collar of a shirt, maybe a military uniform.
Unfortunately, all babies in pictures look alike, unless they are of my adorable grandchildren, so you may have to rely on the other people in the picture or the background.
Comparing what you believe about the age of the photograph and the approximate age of the subject, with what you know about the person in your family tree, is not 100% accurate. But, you can be pretty sure you have matched the name to the face.
Other photographs, the homestead, the ship they arrived in America on, school yearbook pictures, wedding portraits all add realism and a touch of class to your family’s story.