Start with What You Know
Compile all your photos and any letters or memorabilia that may offer clues. If you're researching an entire stack or album of unlabeled photos, it can be helpful to create a data sheet to organize your findings. Many genealogy Web sites offer free downloadable forms and charts.
Check the Date
There are several ways to deduce the date of a photo or at least narrow down the time frame. Without a handwritten date or a date stamped by the photo developer, check the back of picture frames or within photo albums where a picture was once stored.
Also study the elements in the photo that link it to a time period, such as cars, store signs, household items, clothing, and hairstyles. Additionally, the Web is a great source for birth and immigration information that may help you estimate a photo's date.
SOURCES: Patterned paper, chipboard: Daisy D's Paper Co. Fonts: Anitque Type (title) off the Internet, Chestnut (journaling) by Two Peas in a Bucket. Rubber stamps: EK Success. Ink: Ranger Industries. Sticker, postcard: Me and My Big Ideas. Ribbon: Li'l Davis Designs. Paper flowers: Prima. Design: Tricia Rubens.
Everyone from your oldest living relative to your mom can be a source. Show photos to family members; make and send copies to those you can't interview in person. Ask if they know any of the people in the photo. Do they know the time period? Where was the picture taken and why? Who was the photographer? Do they recognize anything in the background? Do they have any theories, no matter how uncertain, about the photo?
SOURCES: Cardstock: Prism Papers. Patterned paper, stickers: BasicGrey. Font: Post Master by Autumn Leaves. Ink: Ranger Industries. Rub-ons: Chatterbox. Photo corner, metal-rim tag: Making Memories. Ribbon: Adornment. Design: Dana Smith.
Even without background information, you can still include a heritage shot in your scrapbook. Your family members will learn about their descendants from your thoughtful recording. Journal everything you know about the photo, no matter how little. You might even relay the tales of your fact-finding mission.
Creatively set the stage for your mystery photos. Theme papers, die cuts, stickers, and clip art can represent situations apparent in the photo, such as a wedding. Reference the time period of the photo with appropriate icons.
SOURCES: Patterned paper: My Mind's Eye (floral), K&Company (leather). Fonts: Times New Roman (journaling), Any Time (dates) by Autumn Leaves. Acrylic paint: Delta. Chipboard letters: Heidi Swapp. Brads: K&Company. Conchos: Scrapworks. Ribbon: Offray. Vintage images: Sense and Sensibility. Design: Patricia Anderson.