I am constantly asked if I can figure out the age of an old photograph that is brought in for restoration.  There are many clues that will help you date your ancestor’s images.  Techniques I suggest are:

Who is in the image?  If you know that your great-grandparent is an infant in the photo and they were 56 years of age at their death in 1939, this would indicate a photo made around 1883.  When trying to guess the age of adults, it helps to know about their lifestyle.  Up till the early 1930’s many people looked older than people of the same age today.  Those that farmed or worked in factories may look a bit weathered by today’s standards.  A women in her early 30’s may have given birth and raised 5 or more children and worked in the fields without the comforts we take for granted.

 Clothing Styles.  Women, in particular will have distinct fashion styles that can be dated.  You can search fashion styles of any time period on the internet to help narrow your photo’s age.  Pay close attention to collar, button spacing and certain patterns that may have been popular for a short time.  For example, there was a particular check patterned dress that was popular for young girls between 1889 and 1893.

On men’s clothing the cut of a jacket can help, but a popular style that was common from the 1870’s till well into the 20th century may make it difficult to determine the time line.  Tie styles and the way knots were tied can help narrow the date.
Hair Styles – Bangs on children were popular from the earliest photos, but for adult women you don’t usually see bangs till around 1910.  Facial hair on men will go through style changes over the years also.
Save the past!  We preserve history one image at a time.