If I Only Knew Their Names

For a junior genealogist like myself, who enjoys prying into the previous lives of my ancestors, discovering a new name to add to my family’s growing tree is a feeling like no other.  It gives an identity to those previously unknown.   A researcher is doubly blessed if they are lucky enough to posses actual photographs of their ancestors and can add a face to a name. Such photographs also document the history of early photography and add an extra layer to the family story.  For me peering into the eyes of an ancestor adds an even bigger excitement and vintage photographs are genuine gifts.  Last year I attended a lecture given by photo detective Maureen Taylor.  I find it amazing that if you know what you are looking for a picture surely does speak a thousand words, but for me it is not always easy to hear them! Picking up visual cues in old photo’s is a welcomed challenge for me. I am lucky enough to have some vintage family photographs from my mother’s side of the family, but I am also unlucky to have so many unidentified photographs that remain “nameless”  Many of the photo’s were marked in ink but the author referred to them as “sons and daughters of” only deepening the mystery of these lost family members and friends.  I thought I would share some of these faces with you today, in the hopes that my fellow photograph detective’s might be able to catch some clues.

John Plummer's daughter #1

This is a photograph of my 3rd cousin (daughter of my great grandmother’s brother) I love the flapper style of clothing which would date the photograph to about the 1920’s. If I knew enough about cars, I could probably learn a lot about the photo from the car parked in the background.  I am of course intrigued by the tropical looking trees.  This family was from England, but this photograph may have been taken on a holiday.

John Plummer and Family2

My Great,Great Uncle John Plummer ( pictured above center)  is the father of the My unknown 3rd cousin.  This photograph was simply marked “brother John family and friends.” The mountains in the background offer beauty, but not many clues as to location.

I wish I knew

Finally, this photograph was found with the same book of photo’s.  This appears much younger than the rest and is one of few color photographs in the album. “The Mad Men” clothing style and home interior give this photograph an early 60’s feel.   After that, this photo and all those in it are a complete mystery, and I will be honest, I didn’t notice the dog….until now.

Do you have any mysterious family photographs?  Do you find photographs to be an exciting tool for genealogists?  I would love to hear from you!


9 thoughts on “If I Only Knew Their Names

  1. Beautiful photos. I have so many, some I can identify, some are a mystery. Both sides of my family, great grandparents, aunts and uncles I never knew, and some who never learned to speak English, but lived out their later years in Jasper, Indiana, where my Mom and Pop Goetz were born and lived before moving to this area and having my dad. They are such a treasure to have. I will have to invite my cousin to write that series of posts for me though, since she’s the genealogist on my dad’s side of the family.


  2. Oh, I love. And I have an interesting tidbit from today, actually! I’ve hired a grad student to trace the genealogy of some people who were buried in a mass grave on the grounds of the hospital where I work. She’s been building tons of family trees on ancestry.com and just this morning she received a message from someone who was letting her know “I’m not quite dead yet!” She was elderly and the student had mistakenly marked her as having died earlier this year! Apparently the woman found it hilarious. Good sense of humor, that one.


    • What a great tidbit indeed! At least the woman had a good sense of humor about it! Probably the reason she is living a longer life! LOL It is amazing how much I have learned just by using a lap top computer and websites like ancestory.com and others. Even Google has given me some stories. It is a good thing what you are doing, trying to identify those lost souls!


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