Finding clues from old photos

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British Military3.jpg
You may find several research clues from old photos.[1]

Types of Clues


  • A war uniform may indicate what war your ancestor served in.  You can research military records from the era for more information.
  • Other uniforms may indicate your ancestor's occupation,leading to business records.
  • Clothing may lead you to a specific town or area an ancestor was from.
    Yannis Ramnalis-15B15D.jpg
    For example, native costumes in Greece vary slightly from town to town, indicating what town or area your ancestor was from.
  • Ribbons or badges may indicate societies or groups your ancestor belonged to, leading to records from that society or group.
  • General clothing may indicate the time period of the photo. [2]


There are several websites which give clues about photo dating

Some websites have old photos by year so you can compare clothing and hairstyles.
  • www.forensicgenealogy.info: This is Colleen Fitzpatrick's website on using forensic science to gather clues from old photos.[3]
  • genealogy.about.com/od/photo-dating/ss/identification.htm: This website discusses steps for identifying people in old photos, looking at the type of photo, photographer, scene and setting, clothes and haristyle, and matching the clues with your knowledge of the family.
  • genealogy.about.com/cs/photodating/tp/dating_photos.htm: This website lists books which may help you identify clues about family photos.
  • A website with several old photographs you can use to help date your family photo.
  • A list of links directly to online photo sites, some informational articles that provide guidance as to how to find and analyze old photos, as well as other articles that contain links to individual states and other jurisdictions.
  1. Vail, Jacob Eli, “The Silent Stories,” Historical Messages from Old Photographs, New York: St. Clair and Briggs, 2008, 76. In print.
  2. Vail, Jacob Eli. “The Silent Stories.” Historical Messages from Old Photographs. New York; St. Clair and Briggs, 2008. 76. Print.
  3. Vail, Jacob Eli, “The Silent Stories,” Historical Messages from Old Photographs, New York: St. Clair and Briggs, 2008, 76. In print.