Teaming Up with Cousins to Solve Photo Mysteries

By Maureen A. Taylor

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The bond with your cousins may be stronger than you think. They have photos. You have photos. It’s the overlap in collections that can solve a photo.

Dennis Daniels received a copy of this photo from his cousin. His cousin was hoping Dennis would recognize some of these people. They might even be the same children as in the second image. They know that the Sarah Daniels image dates from the early 1880s.

Proving this case, it’s important to put the images in timeline order. There is one from the 1880s and depicts a brother and two sisters, but what about the larger family group.


cousins photo mysteries
Sarah Daniels picture, early 1880s
cousins photo mysteries

This depicts parents and their children. A girl of about 5 sits to the far left. Her older brother is on the right. In the middle are a younger brother and a child of indeterminate gender. Boys and girls often dressed alike at young ages. There is also a possibility that Mom is with child. She looks quite full around the waist.

The little girl’s dress dates the picture. The ruffled skirt suggests a date in the 1870s.

There are questions to answer:


  • Who’s in the 1880s image?
  • What’s the family structure in the 1880 and 1870 census?
  • Did any of their siblings die as young children?
  • How many children are in the family?
  • How old are the children in 1870 and 1880?

Family history information is a key part of every photo identification issue. I’m hoping Dennis can answer some of them.

I think it’s quite likely that the three youngest children are in the 1880s image. Here’s a comparison of their faces.

cousins photo mysteries

What do you think?

Want to become a photo detective? Our Family Photo Detective book will teach readers how to identify and verify people in family photographs by comparing facial features in a collection of photos.