Friday, September 16, 2016

Photo Friday-Mystery Man, Who Are You? Solving a photo mystery

Saturday I was able to attend a full day seminar put on by the San Diego Genealogical Society where Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective was the guest speaker.  I also had the privilege of a 15 minute private session prior to the seminar with Maureen.

One of the photos I brought to review with Maureen was this photo;

Mystery Man
What I know;
My Dad’s cousin Geri sent me a copy of this photo and said she believed it was either the father or one of the brothers of my paternal Great Grandmother Sarah Rowan King.

One of the important things Maureen talked about was the research on the people you think may be in the photo.  When and where did they live?  What did they do as a profession?  What do you know about them?

I know that Sarah’s father was John William Rowan who was born in 1846, reportedly in Troy, ?.  John died in 1897 in Brooklyn, NY.
Sarah had 2 brothers that lived to adulthood-Joseph and William.
    • Joseph Valentine Rowan was born in 1871, reportedly in Pennsylvania and died in 1940 (at the age of 69) in Brooklyn, NY.  He married his wife Irene Tehune in 1899.  Irene passed away in 1932.  They had 2 children Emily (b. 1901) and John (b. 1902).  Joseph was by trade an Engineer in Construction work according to his death certificate.
    • William Rowan was born in 1872, reportedly in Pennsylvania.  I believe he died in 1901 (at the age of 29) in Bronx, NY. William was a butcher according to his death certificate found on line. (waiting for a copy of the original).  I have not been able to find any information yet on his wife or any children but I know he was married.
Maureen talked about researching the photographer of the picture.  When and where did they live.  Where was their studio.
  • Unfortunately I have no information on the photographer but I am guessing the picture was taken in Brooklyn, NY. 
Maureen thought the picture was from about 1925 to maybe 1935. 
  • Based on the year of the picture that would narrow down the list of possible men to Joseph Rowan since Sarah’s father John and brother William had already passed away by then. 
Maureen also talked about looking at how old the person in the photo is.
  • I would guess the man in the photo is in his 50s maybe 60s??  Joseph would have been 54 in 1925.
She could tell that the gentleman had blue eyes.  She asked me to send her a copy of the picture so she could investigate a little more.  She noticed the rolled up pants and the unusually shaped chair he’s sitting on with the animal skin to the side.

With Maureen Taylor
Another of Maureen’s r recommendations to us when we don’t know who is in a photo are to post the photo on Facebook, Dead Fred, a blog, etc. to get the photo out there to see if someone else might see it and recognize the photo
Be sure to check out Maureen’s blog for Family Tree Magazine.
So, do you see a family resemblance?  I am hoping I followed Maureen’s suggestions correctly along with her amazing detective work to reach the conclusion that this is a photo of Joseph Rowan.  Now I need to find some of his descendants.
Rowan hughes
If the photo on the left is Joseph V. Rowan then the woman on the right is his mother Sarah Hughes Rowan.
A special thank-you to Maureen Taylor for helping me figure out who the man in the photo is.  While I can’t prove it I think I have made a good guess based on her help and suggestions.  Maybe Maureen will have some additional suggestions for me.
If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,


  1. Very Interesting clues to help in identifying who is in the photo.

    1. There is so much to learn and so many small clues to pay attention to.

  2. It certainly was a good seminar. I still have work to do on my pics too. Love the way you've outlined your thoughts. And of course - great photo of you and Maureen.

  3. Thank-you Diane! I really enjoyed meeting and talking with Maureen. Writing out my thoughts helped me come up with a, hopefully logical, conclusion.