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Genealogy - Lost and Found Treasures

Updated on July 25, 2014
A mystery photo in my grandmother's album
A mystery photo in my grandmother's album | Source

Who is this?

Have you ever come across a photograph in your genealogical travels that you could not identify? Maybe you have been searching your family tree for years and have yet to come across any photos or mementos.

We hate to think that family treasures such as photos were ever thrown out by our ancestors but things happen and sometimes precious memories become misplaced,

Many times old shops and antique dealers are where many of these items end up. Collecting antique photos is a popular hobby and many online sites such as Ebay and Etsy have thousands of lost family photos for sale.

There are websites devoted to reuniting and identifying antique and lost photos. Most of these sites also allow you to submit your own mystery photos in hopes that someone will recognize someone. I have listed these sites below along with other ways to help you ID a photograph.


The Lost Baby Book

About 20 years ago when I was pregnant with my son, I was browsing an old bookstore in the country looking for baby books, when I came across an old faded baby record book in the discount bin. It was partially filled out and on the first page was a portrait of a beautiful blonde baby boy with masses of curls.

The book had a three generation family tree chart filled out and the pages were full of notes taken during the first two years of the boy’s life. The father was listed as a merchant and the family spent these years traveling to exotic places. The book ended at age two and the rest of the pages were blank.

I wanted to know more. Who was this baby and what became of him and why was this family keepsake at the bottom of a dusty bin?


He was born in the early 1920’s so there was a good chance he was still living. I imagined what it would be like to have someone 60 years later show up with a baby book of mine.

I decided to try to find the family and reunite them with this beautiful book.

This was 15 years before facebook and with so many different countries mentioned in the book It was difficult to know where to start.

I spent a few hours or so a week at the library trying to find any records connected to him. I did find many of his ancestors but nothing that would lead me to him or any descendants. I gave up after about a year and eventually the book was shelved.

A few years ago when I was moving, I came across the book again, I had forgotten about it and it was like finding a lost friend. My interest was once again sparked but 20 years had passed and the chances of him being alive had lowered.

But I now had the power of the internet behind me filled with genealogy sources and people finding aids.

I started a tree for him on ancestry and filled in as much as I could. The hints started coming in for records but nothing on a user's tree.

Finally after a year on ancestry the hint I was waiting for came through and I made contact with his daughter.

I discovered this baby had settled and raised his family not far from where I grew up and that he had passed away just a few years ago. I felt a sense of loss especially after knowing that he was still alive when I first started my search.

She was thrilled to receive the book and had no idea it even existed. She told me her family traveled a lot and the book was probably part of boxes that were lost in storage about 40 years ago. She told me she was having so much fun telling everyone the story of how a stranger took 20 years to return a book.

Tips on Identifying Photos

  • You may be able to more accurately date the photo if you know what kind of photo it is. This site has a list of the most common types
  • Many old photographs have the photographers names stamped or engraved on the photo. If you can find this information it will give you a hint to the location of where the picture was taken. Cyndi's List has a great list of links on Identifying Photographers
  • Try using face recognition software. Many photo editing programs have the ability to sort photos by face matching. When I sort photos this way I am always mistaken for my grandmother and the program puts me in her file. The mystery person might have similar features to a side of your family.


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    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      I am glad you were able to unite the baby book with the family. Kudos!

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 5 years ago from new jersey

      Great and interesting hub. I've been doing family research, and it's both sad and joyous... always a mystery...