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One of my greatest thrills is to go through old photographs and puzzle over the people and places.

If it's immediate family, or ancestors from the not-too-distant past, I can recognize them. If not, I can ask my sister or my cousins. If they don't know, I'm stuck.

If I'm lucky, a mystery picture will have a notation on the back, or in the margin, or sometimes, right on the picture itself. If it's in an old album, the names are usually right there, often in white ink on black pages.

Stephens' mysteries
The people on the Stephens side of my family—my father's side—were lax about labeling photos. I have a big box of pictures no one can identify—like these:

Picture of unknown woman in dark dress


Picture of three unknown children

But you can't hide the Hydes
On my mother's side of the family, I find lots of pictures with lots of notes. The Hydes were better about labeling things. These are my mother's parents, James Thomas Hyde and Bess Kile Hyde. It's their wedding picture.

James Thomas Hyde and Bess Kile Hyde

I doubt they ever owned clothes like these. I suppose they were furnished by the photographer.

How old are your photographs?

If you love old photos, as I do, you may find this book interesting and helpful. I did.

Uncovering Your Ancestry through
Family Photographs
























Where is this, and why is there a picture of it? (part 1)

Unknown town with dirt roads, a blacksmith shop, buildings, and a buggy behind a building.

This is a real mystery. I found a board-mounted photograph in a damp, musty box of pictures from my grandparents' house. The box was found on the floor of a porch closet. The roof was leaking. There's no identification—not unusual for pictures from the Stephens family.

I scanned the faded original at very high resolution and improved the contrast to get the image you see above. Right away, I noticed several interesting things about this picture:

I concluded that the picture is probably from the early part of the 20th century, in that period when horses were still an important mode of transportation.

Where is this place? Why is the picture among my family's photographs? Who took the picture, and why?


Go to page 2





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Last update: April 7, 2014