Genealogy dating photographs

Is it possible to determine whether a photograph was taken in the last years of the nineteenth century or the first few years of the twentieth century? Dating a photograph requires you to use your best genealogical research techniques, but it can be done.

You need to research every photographic clue and follow the leads to uncover the truth that is usually hidden in the elements of the photograph. Photographs offer many clues about ancestral lives, if you know what to look for. Then, using a magnifying glass, sweep across the image making notes of any details.

In addition, clothing, photographer's imprints and even the photographic technique can help you place the photograph in a timeframe.

Since few people can identify all clues in the picture, assigning a date will probably require a trip to the reference department of a large public or academic library.

But to get you started, here are seven tips for dating a photograph, using 1900 as an example.

Internal details are the little things that we take for granted in most pictures -- the objects in the image.

In exterior scenes, are there cars, sports equipment, or signs present?

If so, you can begin to date the photograph to the turn of the century by researching the types of items people used during that time period.

For instance, if there are cars in the photograph it might be one of the first ones manufactured in the new century: The Marlboro or a Waverly Electric runabout.

The Marlboro was first introduced in 1900 by the Marlboro Automobile and Carriage Company of Marlboro, Massachusetts.

The Waverly Electric model 18 Piano-Box style car was only available from 1898-1901. An address with a sign enables you to use city directories to research when a business was at a particular location. There may be products or household fashions visible in the image.

You can research these trends at library using reference books and old magazines to provide yourself with a span of possible dates for the picture.

Look particularly at the drapery styles and room accessories present in the photograph.

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