Photo Detective: Families in Focus
9/26/2009
Our readers solved their photo puzzles—and so can you. Make identifying your old family pictures a snap with the lessons from others' photo success stories.
Do you believe that one photograph can really help you with your family history? For all the skeptics out there, the answer is yes.

In two previous articles in Family Tree Magazine, "Picture Puzzles" (August 2000) and "Getting the Picture" (April 2001), I offered advice on identifying family photographs and building a photograph collection: talk with relatives, do your research and use online resources. Does that simple three-step approach work? In the magazine and in my online photo-identification column, I asked readers to send me photo success stories. An amazing number of you responded.

If you don't believe that those three simple steps can lead you to photo-identification and family-history breakthroughs, just listen to what your fellow reader had to say.

Airport connection
The most unusual photo success story we found was purely coincidental but reminiscent of suspense thrillers. Margo Wayman decided as a young woman to visit Scotland, the land of her birth. When trying to get home, she found herself stranded in the Atlanta airport. It was her first solo trip and she was broke, alone and jet-lagged. She began to cry. A stranger approached, asked whether she was all right and even bought her a meal. Wayman recalls: "I chatted away about my family, where I was from and why I had gone to Scotland. He told me his name, and finally, after six hours, we were able to board our flight. When the plane arrived at our destination, I wanted to tell him thanks, but he wasn't on the flight. I found that odd, but went home and slept.

"A week later, a package came from Scotland. I took it over to my mother's house as soon as I saw it was photos. We dumped the package out and started looking through them. She pointed out who each of the people were. She held one of them up and told me that here was a man whose picture she'd seen many times before but never knew who he was. I nearly passed out. It was the man from the airport! We looked up his name in our genealogy and there he was. Because of this, I had this great desire to find his family. I began researching and soon found his birth and all his family and went back dozens of generations. Photographs can make a difference!" Wayman has no idea why this man didn't identify himself as family, but she's grateful for everything he's done.

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