Tips from the Pros: How Identified Is It?

John Ufkes steer, 1933from Michael John Neill

The picture said only John Ufkes 4H Steer 1933, and it got me to thinking. Have we really identified our photographs? The 1933 photograph only included my grandfather’s steer. The only human part of the picture was part of a leg and a shoe. The photograph was included in a collection of other photographs of my grandfather and was taken in front of their home. I knew the house was the one in which my grandfather grew up and never really doubted whose steer was in the picture. But what about in fifty years?

My grandfather had two first cousins with the same first and last name. If the photograph had been separate from other pictures I would not have had any context in which to place it. The home that was standing in 1933 is in disrepair and it is only a matter of time before firsthand knowledge of its appearance fades from human memory. It could very well be that in fifty years the “identity” of the picture will not be as certain as it is today.

What can be done? Identify in full the name of the individual in the picture. Consider including a year of birth and death or the name of the parents to distinguish from other individuals with the same name. If the location in the photograph is known, include that information as well.

I’m now going back and considering how “identified” my pictures are. I have long known to avoid identifications like “Grandpa’s steer 1933” (recognizing that names are better than relationships), but now realize that complete identification may require a few more details than I originally thought.

A better identifier might be:
       John H. Ufkes steer 1933, at Fred J. Ufkes farm, Basco, Illinois

The picture is not big enough for me to write a complete biography, so brevity while still being descriptive is necessary. Are there pictures in your collection with identifications that are not as clear as you think?

Note: I don’t know the name of the steer. If the picture had been from my paternal side of the family and the name of the animal was known, I might have been able to trace the animal’s pedigree at (I saw pedigrees on livestock before I even knew they existed for humans.)

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7 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: How Identified Is It?

  1. I use labels for the back of all my pictures (now). On a regular size mailing label I can list much information and there is no danger of the ink or printing ‘bleeding’ onto the front of the picture. J.R. Crow

  2. I wish my parents would have identified photos. I am going
    through my own and the ones that will be of no interest to anyone after I am gone are being tossed.

  3. Martha
    I enjoyed your advice on the labeling of photographs. I have two suggestions.

    1. At Wal-Mart in the arts and crafts section they have special pens to label photographs that will not bleed through or fade.

    2. Dont dispose of those pictures you feel are not of sentimental value after your demise. Put a message on the message board at or, or ask family members of the ones in the portrait. Its a shame to see any photograph be destroyed.
    If your “friends in the photograph” have children or grandchildren make a small scrapbook and give it to them with short stories as a special gift. You could also donate the couple of pages of photographs with a short story as to whom the parents are, where they lived etc and donate it to your genealogy society.

    Dee Haas

  4. I know this is off topic but in case Martha Krusemark comes back to this site: I am trying to help a friend locate her mother, a Martha Krusemark. This friend is in a wheel chair and her name is Lisa. So Martha, if you’re the right one, please email me at Thank you

  5. That is wonderful advice I have some info on my pic’s but not that much. I do think the labels are the best, if glue does not “seep” through .Is there archival labels?

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