Posted by Ancestry Team on August 19, 2016 in In The Community

These pictures depict a timeless moment. Six people went on a sight seeing trip on a hazy summer day in the mid-1940s. One brought along a camera and they posed for candid photos. The photographer went home, had the pictures developed and placed them in an album. I bet your family did something like this as well. Collecting photographic memories was a popular pastime.

Now fast-forward seventy years. The album is gone. It was taken apart for resale. These four images are all that’s left. In the antiques world, each photo is usually worth more than the sum total of whole album of unnamed individuals. It’s quite likely the owner of the album never wrote their name in it or identified the people in the pictures. Why would they? The person who put it together knew who was in the pictures. No need to write it down.

Solving the Riddle 

These four pictures are part of a special group of photo mysteries that rely on finding the right person with the right set of facts. There is no context for these images. No family names. No extra information from relatives. They are lost and considered worthless until proven otherwise.

Solving this type of visual enigma is part research and part connecting with a person or organization. Every one of us has knowledge based on our lives—where we lived, our interests or the people we’ve known. Time and patience are often necessary ingredients too. In the movie Jurassic World (spoiler alert) there is a scene where the younger brother says, “More teeth.” He’s referring to needing a bigger dinosaur to win the battle. In these photo instances, finding the answer relies on more eyes seeing the pictures. That’s the case with this group of images.

Counting the Clues

These four snapshots once occupied a place in a black paper family album. The paper is still glued to the back. They’ve had a hard life. There is even a dirty fingerprint visible on one of them.

Each picture has an irregular deckle edge border. A clue, but it’s not a definitive one. Deckle, also called feathering, was common from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth century. Other photo details determine a date for an image such as picture type and clothing.

Each of these snapshots are 3 ¼ x 4 ¼. “ There were several different cameras capable of producing pictures with this image size. A few of the possible cameras were first introduced in the early 1900s. Remarkably, Kodak kept producing film for some of these cameras until circa 1961.

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In the 1940s, women tied their hair in a bandanna like the woman on the right of the first picture. She wears pants like the woman in the middle, a not unusual fashion choice for women in the 1940s.

These three women posed in a different location on the same overlook. There is a city behind them. A puff of smoke behind the head of the woman in the head wrap could signify a factory.

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What’s clear from studying these pictures is that these are not random pairings of people. Look closely at these four images. The woman in the middle seated on the rocks is the same one standing to the left of the man in suspenders with an older woman (possibly his mother) to his right. The same man in suspenders stands with a younger man in a tie in another image. The younger man stands next to a woman in a striped dress in the fourth picture.

The foliage, hazy sky and choice of clothing suggest it was summer. They weren’t hiking. Two of the women wear heels and the men have dress shoes. It was likely an auto trip to see the sights. They may have taken turns taking pictures with the same camera or there was another person present.

To study the details in your pictures, scan them at a high resolution then play with the contrast using a photo-editing program. Darkening or lightening certain areas will draw attention to details.

It’s a two-fold mystery.

Who are they and where are they standing?

The river in the background should be familiar to someone. It’s likely this scenic overlook is still a popular picture taking location. If it’s beside a road, it’s quite possibly fenced in to prevent visitors from getting as close to the edge as these individuals did. It looks familiar but I can’t place it.   No matches immediately popped up in Google images, so I’m hoping some of you have ideas about this location.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely we’ll ever know who they are, but if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the answers usually come as a surprise. Random coincidences stack up.

Please show this image to as many people as you can. Friends, members of your genealogy group, and share it through social media.   Share your thoughts in the comments section. If you have pictures that provide proof, please share them as well.

Take a good look. You might be the one. The identifier. The one who can identify the place (and maybe a family).


  1. Chip

    That definitely looks like the Tennessee River winding up next to and going around Lookout Mountain overlooking Chattanooga. I agree with Nikki and Linda

  2. Alice Allen

    This looks like the view from the top of what we’ve always called “Cabbage Hill” in eastern Oregon, east of Pendleton. Its official name is “Emigrant Hill,” and this web site features a photo that shows the Columbia River in the background with a similar curve.

    Fortunately this is now a 4-lane highway, but still can be treacherous.

  3. Charles Mashburn

    I have family pictures that also show the same portion of the Tennessee River looking from atop Look Out Mountain, TN. If a couple of the photos would help prove the location I would be glad to forward them.

  4. john

    I agree that this is taken from Point Park located at the point of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga Tennessee. There is now railing to keep people from getting too close to the bluff. My mother in law spent her summers living at the park, as her grand father Abel Connor McGill was the first park superintendent. From Google images —

    This picture even shows the rock with Moccasin Bend to the left and downtown Chattanooga to the right

  5. Cindi Allen Schmerber

    It looks like Lookout Mountain to me, too. I have similar pictures of my husband’s grandparents posing there after going to The Church of God of Prophecy’s summer gatherings nearby in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

  6. Barbara

    I think Chip’s photo clinches it. Note the narrowing of the river and the clump of trees over the woman’s shoulder in the photo where the women are seated on the boulder. It’s a topographical match. I’m amazed at how fast you got your answer!

  7. Brenda

    When I saw the photos (and before I read the comments), my first thought was Lookout Mountain. Looks like others saw the same thing. I hope posting these and the input you receive from others brings you closer to answers. Too bad there isn’t a clearing house to help all of us with similar pictures of unknown family members.

  8. Lisa Rex

    This 360 panoramic from Google Maps seems to match all photos (your first need to rotate the image to see the river),+TN+37350,+USA/@35.01081,-85.343836,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1s-H6kYg6tFXwU%2FVghXegFLG4I%2FAAAAAAAANY0%2FYVEhDa64ywUmywdOLaxJ4Yvp4MKU832NQCLIB!2e4!3e11!!7i8192!8i3332!4m5!3m4!1s0x88605c7f3c96749d:0x323769a94b1a2b4f!8m2!3d34.9942422!4d-85.3494027!6m1!1e1?hl=en

    If you go to the Google Earth view you can see the rocks of the viewpoint.

    I’m a tiny bit hesitant because the rocks in the old photos have a different texture, but that could be down to the difference in photography.

  9. Barbara

    I think you have found your location, as you look at the various poses, the river behind them corresponds to the position from which the photographer was taking the picture. The pictures from Google Earth show a walking trail, one which might be navigated in high heels. So, the pictures could have been taken from various positions along the walking trail which might explains the variations in the depth of field (the distance from the camera lens) as well as the angles at which the river curves behind the figures.

  10. Pat Kennedy

    Our family has a large old family Bible, that was lost in ND in ca 1940s. Tossed on the side of a road in Oregon, picked up and given to a Genealogy Soc in WA…….later, the last name entered into the Bible, was researched and the info about this person and living family were found through The Old Family Bible was then returned to the family ca 70 years later and the Biblle is now used in the family marriages etc…. So look for the answers in lost photos, Bibles, old letters etc etc….

  11. Paula

    What a terrific story and example of how modern technology can come to the rescue! Just yesterday, Google Earth located the home of some distant cousins in the 1940s in the city of Columbus, Ohio–where I now live! I’m taking a field trip this week! 🙂

  12. Elhura

    Not sure this is the right place for this comment, but any venue to reach Ancestry is important regarding a glitch that needs immediate attention. Is anyone aware that recently began to credit the original submssion of photos and stories to the latest “save to my tree” Ancestry user? This totally obliterates the name and user contact ID of the original submitter of any photo or other information. I am seeing this in all “saves” from tree-to-tree, in all photos and stories. I just found the same photo attributed “originally” to at least three users – all the same photo and captions – all saved in 2016. Not only does this discredit the original submitter, but puts a screeching halt to future communications with someone who might be knowledgable of family info. Check it out and let Ancestry know of your concerns.

  13. Monika

    Hi, Elhura, Nice hearing from you again! Yes, your information is correct. You may have noticed my message in the blog on “Ancestry Product Update: Life Story Changes” from July 8, 2016, where I am sharing an e-mail I received from ACOM on the subject of credit given to people who share their photos and stories. Here is a direct quote from ACOM “….We understand your concerns with how ancestry displays who is the original contributor of media that has been uploaded. As it is currently designed, Ancestry can only determine that a member is not the original contributor of a photo if it was already on an existing tree and then saved to another tree through the options available on the site. If a member uploads a photo from their computer to ancestry, that member is not necessarily claiming that they were the original contributor, IT IS SIMPLY HOW ANCESTRY WAS DESIGNED TO DISPLAY THIS UPLOADED MEDIA. (Italics added by me!) We apologize that this feature does not currently meet your expectations!” It is not that I am not willing to share data. I have traveled throughout the United States and taken pictures of grave sites and other things and have created a public tree that I named “For All Who Can Use This Data” which includes information and pictures of people–some of whom are in my trees, some of whom I know nothing about, but in my travels came across this information that others might find helpful. But it does bother me when I e.g., drive for several days to make it to Iowa and I take pictures of graves, or of data that I found in Archives, historical societies and libraries, and then drive to the State of Washington to do the same thing there and –after I put this data on my personal trees I get hints shortly afterwards. Then, when I look at those hints I discover that they are my pictures and my research with somebody else’s name given as the original contributor. While Family History is about sharing, it does not mean that “sharing” means other people (who have not spent thousands of dollars to travel to distant places where their ancestors were born and lived) should get credit for my efforts. The same with pictures or data that you may find in a bible you discover in your attic, or black and white pictures you find in a box at your mother-in-laws home after she passed away. These have emotional value and when others now show as “original contributors” of it, it renders a disservice to all ACOM members. Because e.g., if I still showed as the original contributor of grandma’s picture and someone would like to have more detailed information about grandma they could get it from me. The person who now shows as the “original contributor” of that picture is most likely the “second cousin of the father in law….” and not an immediate family member or (s)he would not have had to get that picture from my trees.

  14. It look less than 24 hours for the followers of this blog to identify the location of this photo. The Google link shows all sides of the view from Lookout Mountain, TN. The three women posed on one side, the rest of the folks stood on the other side. There is now a visitor center there. Thank you for the help.,+TN+37350,+USA/@35.01081,-85.343836,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1s-H6kYg6tFXwU%2FVghXegFLG4I%2FAAAAAAAANY0%2FYVEhDa64ywUmywdOLaxJ4Yvp4MKU832NQCLIB!2e4!3e11!!7i8192!8i3332!4m5!3m4!1s0x88605c7f3c96749d:0x323769a94b1a2b4f!8m2!3d34.9942422!4d-85.3494027!6m1!1e1?hl=en

  15. Elhura

    Hi, Monika, Nice hearing from you again, too! The ACOM response you shared is interesting: ” Ancestry can only determine that a member is not the original contributor of a photo if it was already on an existing tree and then saved to another tree through the options available on the site. If a member uploads a photo from their computer to Ancestry, that member is not necessarily claiming that they were the original contributor, IT IS SIMPLY HOW ANCESTRY WAS DESIGNED TO DISPLAY THIS UPLOADED MEDIA.”.

    It sounds as though Ancestry acknowledges the issue only if a photo is downloaded to your computer and then uploaded back onto Ancestry by the person making the download.

    This is NOT the way it is functioning, however. If I save a photo from another tree to my tree “through the options available”, I automatically become the original contributor. Likewise, any photos I have originally contributed become the “original” of the next person who saves through the conventional manner to their tree. This is happening to my self-written stories as well.

    It is disconcerting to see your work (and treasured family photos that you are glad to share) attributed to someone else. It also completely looses the identity of the original contributor, stopping all possiblity of future contact by anyone.

    Sounds as if Ancestry needs to revisit how they are “DESIGNED TO DISPLAY THIS UPLOADED MEDIA” (AS WELL AS THAT SAVED BY THE OPTIONS AVAILABLE). I do hope they will!

  16. Monika

    Hi, Elhura, How can you be sure that the people who took a picture off your tree did not download it from your tree onto their computer first before they put it on their tree? Did you ask them this question? Either way, I agree with you, Ancestry needs to revisit this issue. In an e-mail prior to that one that I shared, they simply told me ‘if you don’t like it just make your trees private’. So, they are really missing the point. It is not about us being ‘unwillling to share’. It is about “right and wrong”! And it is about others not being able to reach the original contributor for more detailed information.

  17. Elhura

    Hi Monika, You are right on target. It’s an error Ancestry, in the name of correctness and fairness, should amend. In answer to your question, I have not contacted those who are now shown as the original contributor of my media, but I do know the last several photos I have saved to my own tree directly from another tree now show me as the original contributor. I also checked trees of at least three persons from about ten who had either saved or downloaded one of my original photos. All three were now shown respectively as the original contributor. Without knowning for certain, I would think the odds that that many people bothered to save my photo to their computer first would be unlikely – not when it is so easy to “save to my tree” and move on. At any rate, it is a problem and a true concern for those of us who take genealogy – and the resource that over the years has been able to offer – seriously.

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