When I was at the Brown family reunion the last weekend in June, I was given a bunch of old family photos that pertained to my branch of the family. Some were duplicates of ones I already had (from the big box of photos my mother gave me). Some I’d never seen before. I was delighted to receive them.
One photo in particular brought home an important lesson: Don’t take the labels on the back of photos as the gospel truth. When a picture has an identifying label I tend to assume that the label is accurate, in the absence of any information to the contrary. But that’s not necessarily the case.
I was given this photo of a little girl.
I know that it’s a photo of my mother, because I’ve seen many photos of my mother as a child. She also recognizes it as a photo of herself. My mother’s name when she was a girl was Betty Sue Brown.
This is what’s written on the back of the photo.
My mother’s grandmother was Alice Jeffries. I’m assuming that the label was some sort of direction to share the photo with Alice. But it sure seems like it’s identifying the photo, doesn’t it?
Now, I think most people would assume the girl in the photo isn’t married and therefore isn’t Mrs. Jeffries. But what if the label had said “Alice Jeffries” rather than “Mrs. Jeffries?” Then someone who didn’t know what my mother looked like as a child might assume the little girl in the photo was Alice Jeffries.
This is an important reminder to apply critical thinking when looking at photo labels. Don’t take them at face value; rather, try to find a few other clues to help verify the accuracy of the label, if you don’t know the people in the photos. In this example, Alice was born in 1885, so the attire in the photo would be a clue that it’s not a photo of her. Taking that extra step might help avoid misidentificaton.