Help us date a mystery picture and potentially identify its subject
June 11, 2006 7:28 AM   Subscribe

We dropped a photo on the floor, and the frame broke. Out fell two pictures: the one we knew about, and this one which was behind the original:

The photos we knew about was of a relative. The second photo is of a woman unknow to us or our immediate relatives, but who has somewhat of a family resemblance.

We know the photo was taken in Ballymena by Young Photographers. How can we ascertain the date as accurately as possible, and the age of the woman as accurately as possible, and then potentially match this up with our extensive family tree database?

Please explain any dating methods you suggest or apply...
posted by blue_wardrobe to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Hair and clothes are a good clue. Looks to me that the picture dates to the from the (earliest) 20s to the early 30s just based on the style - but you probably already assumed that.

The next thing you could do is contact the Ballymena (I assume the one in the UK) to see if they have a history center or archives. Ask them to look into the Young Photographers and see when they were in business.

Also show the picture to any relatives that might recognize who she might be based on the age of the photo and any other clues you might find.

Also, take a look into other frames that may have been from the same person or time frame. Also look at the frame to see if it can give you any clues.

That's all I can come up with from here. Good luck!
posted by qwip at 7:48 AM on June 11, 2006

Oh, and here is an email for the Ballymena Museum:

And, to be more clear on the UK reference, the one I refer to is in Northern Ireland.
posted by qwip at 7:54 AM on June 11, 2006

Pretty much what Qwip has said and done, do.

Otherwise, take this into consideration:

Who possessed the frame originally? What pictures do you have of that side of the family? Have you scanned those pictures to see if you can find the same woman, albeit younger or older? Go through your family tree from that part of the family, and see whose pictures you can match up to names that you know, then see who is left over. Lastly, is there anyone alive in your family that you might feel would have some idea of a relative who lived at least in the 1920's and early 1930's (and unless an early death, probably into the 50's).
posted by Atreides at 8:11 AM on June 11, 2006

Sorry -- more detail -- we know it's Ballymena in Antrim in Northern Ireland, and in a few weeks a copy of the photo will be traveling to Ballymena with another family member, who will investigate a little.

What we were wondering in the meantime, was if the hairstyle / clothing provided anymore precise date cues than 1920s -- 1930s? Maybe not.

Similarly, are there any clues as to a precise age for the woman. I can't tell someone's age within ten years either way -- I could say anything between 25-45 for this woman, but maybe some MeFites have ways of pinpointing age more precisely.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 8:13 AM on June 11, 2006

Atreides: we've scanned through all the photos, and find no one that matches -- younger or older. The strange thing is that the woman bears an uncanny resemblance to people in the current generation, but not from the generation of photos she's from.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 8:15 AM on June 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Obviously one of the yet-to-be-born generation will discover the secrets of time travel! Congrats!
posted by Scram at 9:20 AM on June 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Since you have the photo on Flickr, use the vast resources of people there too.

Tag your picture with the info you have. I would at least add a tag of Ballymena. Flickr members are worldwide so someone from there might be able to help. If privacy isn't an issue, any of the known family names would also be helpful.

See if there is a group for Identifications or genealogy that you could join and then add the picture to the group. They would be able to point to hairstyle or clothing and give a more specific date.
posted by krossbow at 9:46 AM on June 11, 2006

[T]he woman bears an uncanny resemblance to people in the current generation, but not from the generation of photos she's from.

Go back one generation, then. Many genetic attributes skip a generation before expressing themselves again.
posted by SPrintF at 10:34 AM on June 11, 2006

krossbow: I think the Flickr suggestion (to which I am new, and only used as a vehicle to post the picture) is a good suggestion.

I have this kind of mental problem with tagging: knowing what to tag, and knowing how extreme to be. But your suggestions are good. Thanks.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 11:39 AM on June 11, 2006

This is a good site that can help you date a photo by using hairstyles and clothing to compare it with other photos that ARE dated.

Good luck, it 's a lovely find!
posted by Biblio at 12:12 PM on June 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Biblio: good one! The examples from 1933 / 1934 are most similar, in that the cloud background and overall impression are very similar.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 2:15 PM on June 11, 2006

If the photographer is out of business check the library of the town and ask if the photographer may have left them any negatives.
posted by Gungho at 8:06 PM on June 11, 2006

My first impression is mid-20's based on the dress and hairstyle. I'm no expert, although I spent my entire teenage years studying this crap, but the hair is really no help - your basic finger wave. The dress however, is early to mid 20's. In fact, I have a similar dress that my great-grandmother got married in, in the early 20's. It has tucks instead of flower details down the front, but same cut, etc.

Oh, and I have a large collection of vintage photos, and as far as I can tell, the backgrounds + photo style dates back to the 1910's so I don't think you could base it on that as much.

Hope that helps.
posted by othersomethings at 10:04 PM on June 11, 2006

Photographers Listing
John Young Photography
26 Henry Street
Ballymoney BT53 6HX

This may be someone else, but hey, its a start...
posted by Izzmeister at 1:01 AM on June 12, 2006

I've posted your query on a very popular blog in Northern Ireland - Slugger O'Toole. Maybe someone there will recognize it? You never know..

If you go here, you can see any responses..
posted by ascullion at 7:24 AM on June 24, 2006

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