Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Who are you?" said the Caterpillar.

My treasure trove of documents and photos from my grandparents has yielded up a mystery.

Yes, that's right, the dreaded un-identified old photo.

It's especially frustrating because these photos are likely from 2 family lines that have been difficult for me to find much information on (AKINS and KIRBY). My grandparents don't know or can't remember who these people might be.

So I'm asking for help here - can anyone recommend good resources (books or websites) to help me at least narrow down the timeframe for these photos?

My very uneducated guess is that I'm looking at the edwardian period here based on the soft hairstyles of the ladies, but really I have no idea, and I'd like to know where a good place is to start learning is!

Any suggestions are welcome!!!

Looking at the business name in the bottom right of the above photo, I did find a Johann Oberholtzer who was a photographer and lived in Waverly in the 1900 NY Federal census. A quick search did not yield him in the 1910, but he could be hidden around somewhere.

Looking at the bottom right of the above photo, I did see that the place was referred to as "Watkins" and not "Watkins Glen". Watkins Glen in Schuyler Co., NY changed its name from "Watkins" to "Watkins Glen" in 1926.

It seems that the above photo was hand-tinted (the rosy cheeks).

The gentleman in the front in the above photo just doesn't look like a guy from the Finger Lakes region of New York in the late 1800s or early 1900s. This seems like maybe a picture of first generation immigrants or a photo of family "back home". I just don't know though!!!

Any suggestions of where I can start researching how to date these photos?


  1. I have the same problem with at least two really neat photographs....I have no idea who the people are! Although I cannot help you, the photographs are wonderful and you are lucky to have them. Hopefully someone will be able to lead you in the right direction to solve the mysteries of who these people are!Good luck and thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Leah: For what it's worth, I'll do my best to provide some quick provisional date estimates for you.

    The first three mounted prints and the fifth photo, also mounted, look to me to be all from the first decade of the 20th Century, although I'm afraid I can't really be more specific than that. The fifth, showing a landscape view of a large group, is possibly a little earlier than the others, say 1900-1905.

    The loose tintype portrait of a young man may be a bit earlier, from around 1880-1895. I find mens' clothing difficult to date but the very broad collar may provide some hints to narrow it down a little.

    The other loose tintype studio portrait of the group of five is, judging by the shape of the sleeves of the woman on the right, from the very early 1890s, say between 1890 and 1893. The hat worn by the man seated at right strongly suggests Eastern European immigrant family to me (but what do I know!). Tintypes were very common in the United States, but far less so in Europe, so I suspect this was taken in the US.

    I hope this will be of some help in tracking down who they might be.

    Regards, Brett

  3. Brett, thank you SO MUCH!! This gives me at least a start, I really can't thank you enough!!