Monday, January 18, 2010

Mystery Monday - Can you date this photo? - Mystery Solved!

Today I'm reaching out to my readers for a bit of help. 

I have had this picture in my possession for quite some time, and I've always assumed it to be my maternal grandmother, Mary Thomas.  However, even though it looks exactly like her, I've always been a bit bothered by two things:  First, her clothing doesn't seem quite right to me for the time period of the age she looks to be in this photo.  And secondly, no one in my family knows who the man is, although if this is my grandmother, there's a chance that this could have been her first husband, who died not long after they married.

I don't want to give any details about my grandmother's age, etc., because I'm hoping that some of the "experts" out there will take a look at the photo and leave me comments with suggestions of the approximate date, or even the decade, that is was likely to have been taken.  That way, I can more definitively say that this is my grandmother, and if not, I'm sure it must've been her mother (and her father). 

Thanks, in advance, and please feel free to pass the link to this post on to any photo experts you may know!


Addendum:  January 18, 2010 - 7:10 p.m.
Wow!  What a great community this is!  Thomas, you are right on the money!  I came in this afternoon from a jaunt across the water (local lingo meaning across the Hampton Roads Bridge tunnel to Norfolk) where I went to check out the cemetery where I've learned that my grandmother, and several of my other maternal ancestors are buried.  I wasn't able to find her grave, as the cemetery was humongous, and the office was closed for the holiday.  However, while I was over there, I remember that I had in my possession my grandmother's old tin box with all of her important papers, and I thought I recalled seeing something in there about the cemetery. 
When I got home, I read your comment and posted it to the blog, and because of it (and how much I trust your knowledge and judgement) I'd decided that this had to be my grandmother, Mary Thomas, and not her mother.  The dates you gave for the clothing match perfectly with the age that my grandmother would have been at the time the picture was taken - somewhere between about 18 to 25 years old.  With that solved, I was also going with the assumption that the man would have been Allen Walker, my grandmother's first husband, but I didn't know for sure, until....
I decided to grab the old tin box to look for the information about the cemetery, and as these things go, I started perusing the other documents in the box.  One of the first things I found was the actual marriage certificate for my grandmother and Allen.  From this I got his full name, place of birth, parents' names, so occupation, and I added all of this to my tree on Ancestry.com.  While there, I decided to go on and do a search on him, and I found a couple of documents, but none more important than the one below - his WWII Draft Registration.  As you will see, this document describes the man in the picture to the tee, and so now I know for sure that the beautiful picture above is of my grandmother, Mary and her first husband, whom I'm told she loved dearly, Allen Walker. 

Mary and Allen's marriage was cut short, sometime after 1920, but before 1924, when he was killed in an accident while working on the railroad.

So, as often happens, mysteries are quickly solved when shared with others.  Although the ancestors lined things up for me today to be able to find some of the answers myself, Thomas' assertations about the period of the clothing served to solidify my conclusions about the subjects in the picture - my grandmother and her first love, Allen Walker.



  1. Beautiful photo! Here is my impression as to the date:

    It seems to be between 1915 and the early 1920s. Why? Looking at the fashions mainly (and I think others will add their info too):

    Your grandmother's outfit isn't quite the streamlined dress of the 1920s (think flapper) but isn't the long skirt and white blouse of the 1900-1915 period.

    Also I notice the tie the gentleman is wearing (I assume it is your grandfather) along with the starched collar is more the late 1910s/early 1920s.

  2. Lovely photo! I'm afraid I don't have anything to add. I just wanted to subscribe to the comments and see what others had to say. I had to comment myself to do so. Hopefully you get some feedback.

  3. Well, well, well, it appears after our AM chat your B-day good karma continued! Congrats for having a short-lived mystery & a well deserved answer!

    The Ancestors are on the job!:-)

  4. Wow, Renate. An excellent day's work!! Congrats!


  5. WOW I am stunned - I think your grandmother's spirit was calling to you from that tin box! Sometimes it seems we just need to stir up the activity on an ancestor like post a photo, make a comment and then BANG! They sense that activity and give us more clues!

    I am so happy for you right now and that you were able to find the records you needed.

  6. Now that is what I call teamwork! Congratulations on tearing down one more brick wall!

  7. Once again the blogging/genealogy community to the rescue.

  8. Thanks everyone. Since that day, I've run across several other photos which I'd love to get some opinions on. I'll post them in one place at some point, and will return to all of you for your "expert" opinions!

    Oh, and by the way, I've pulled some maternal-side DRAMA out of that same tin box! Look for it in future posts!


  9. Great detective work and a Beautiful photograph of your grandmother.