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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Sunday, 23 October 2016
How to ID Strange Faces in Six Kinds of Old Group Photos
Posted by Maureen

Whether an old family photo has two or 20 people (or more), it's considered a group portrait. When you find one in your collection, it may generate a groan rather than a cheer. Solving those types of picture mysteries is a challenge and a some might say a curse. You have to figure out the identity of all of those people!

Let's look at several types of group portraits.

Sporting Groups


This group of tennis players posed between 1870 and 1880. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Our ancestors participated in sports: tennis, baseball, basketball and football, to name a few. When you see an ancestor with equipment or in uniforms, you might need help figuring out what sport was being played.  Start by looking at city directory listings for clubs and organizations in your ancestor's hometown.

Family Reunions and Gatherings



Family group portraits cover everything from picnics to weddings to family reunions.

Joseph Martin's family gathered at Belle Island Park outside Detroit. In my  Four Tips to Identify Group Portraits, you'll find techniques to sort out who's who in a family gathering photo. Figuring out time and place and matching up faces are just parts of the puzzle. Use a chart to track how old people were in relevant years, then use the picture as bait to get cousins involved in the search.

School Pictures
I have one and you might, too—a class photo. While you might not remember all the names of your classmates, posting the image on social media can help you renew friendships and connections. If it's a class photo from an earlier generation, social media is still a good option. Photographers sold copies, so it's likely you're not the only one with the picture. 

Work Photos
A group portrait might be several people posed at work. Use your family history research to determine where your ancestor found employment.  Census documents and city directories are a good beginning.

Organizational Dinners
Fraternal organizations and social groups often gathered for dinners in hotels. These yard-long pictures are often rolled up in a box. You don't necessarily need to know the names of everyone in those pictures, but it would be great to find your relatives. Looking for their faces in the crowd requires patience and a good magnifying glass.

Military Images
Men and women in uniform often posed for big group pictures of the people they served with. Some are informal snapshots taken by one of the group while others are formal pictures to document their unit.




I'm still trying to identify these women. If you know of any women who served in the transportation corp at Montgomery Air Force base in World War II, let me know. This is one of five snapshots I have of these women.



Identify your old mystery family photos with these guides by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Photo-Organizing Practices
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Searching for Family History Photos: How to Get Them Now

  • Save
    group photos | women | World War II
    Sunday, 23 October 2016 18:09:04 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
    # Sunday, 14 September 2014
    World War II Victory Corps
    Posted by Maureen

    When I was looking for images of students for this space, I stumbled across a World War II program called the Victory Corps. Have you heard of it?



    My Dad and several of my uncles were WWII veterans, but no one ever mentioned this school-based program. This image from the Library of Congress shows a teacher at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles supervising a student using a lathe in September/October 1942.

    Photographer Alfred T. Palmer took this picture for the Farm Security Administration. If you want to see the collection, go to the Library of Congress collection using this link.  

    John W. Studebaker, the US Commissioner of Education, established the program Sept. 25, 1942. The goal was to train students in key areas relevant to the war effort, such as physical fitness, mathematics and science. As seen here, school also taught students how to operate machinery.

    It's possible that someone in your family participated in the Victory Corps.  If it's not too late, ask them about what they did during World War II. Wartime contributions included a lot more than military service. Kids collected scrap metal and women tended Victory Gardens, and it appears high school students learned new skills to support the war.

    Today the National World War II Museum in New Orleans offers a Victory Corps program for kids who volunteer at the museum. They learn more about that era of history, get to handle real artifacts and pass their knowledge on to visitors. Sounds like fun!

    If you have pictures and stories relating to the WWII Victory Corps, please submit them and I'll run a second installment.


    Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Family Photo Detective: Learn How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries
  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album

  • 1940s photos | students | World War II
    Sunday, 14 September 2014 16:15:32 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]