Dan Curtis ~ Professional Personal Historian

How to Identify Old Family Photographs.

February 10, 2010 · Leave a Comment

In a previous article,  How to Make Your Life Story Workshop Memorable, I showed the  photo below from my personal collection.

from Dan Curtis photo collection

I suggested that an interesting workshop exercise would be to make copies of this photo, hand them out to the participants, and then  have them write  what they thought was the story behind the  photo. After people shared stories, I’d reveal the actual story. I haven’t yet used this exercise  but for those of you who read last week’s post and are curious  to know the real story, here it is.

The man second from the right in the group is my father. It was 1941 and he was sailing from England back to Canada on a merchant ship, the Port Freemantle. He was a radio operator and  navigator with the Ferry Command. The men surrounding him were fellow airmen who had recently flown bombers to England from Canada as part of the war effort. What I find interesting is how formally the men are dressed with their ties and jackets. You wouldn’t see that today!

All of this is a way of introducing you to the wonderful world of photo identification. This is fascinating and highly skilled work and no one does it better than Maureen Taylor, also known as The Photo Detective. The Wall Street Journal has called her “the nation’s foremost historical photo detective”. If you attended last year’s Association of Personal Historians conference, you would have had the privilege of hearing and meeting Maureen in person. If you’re not familiar with her work, check out her blog and her articles in Family Tree Magazine. If you have an old photo whose history is long lost, you can send your mystery photo to Maureen and for a fee she’ll work on identifying it.

For those of you who want to do it yourself,  here are some resources to get you started.

***Be sure not to miss Cyndi’s List: Photographs and Memories. It’s an amazing collection of sites that will keep you busy for a long, long time!***

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Categories: Ancestors · How to · Personal historian · Photos · Resources · Tips
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