Meet The Photo Detective Who Can Help You Solve Your Family Photo Mysteries

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As part of our ongoing partnership with experts in the family history community, our team reached out to Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective who can help you solve your family photo mysteries. She’s not only a genealogist, she’s also a veritable Sherlock Holmes of family photographs. In this post, Taylor shares her tips to discovering clues that tell a deeper story about a particular photo. In fact, this vintage family photo was one of the most popular ever featured on the Save Family Photos community Instagram feed! Below you can discover more about the photo and the history of the Kelly family.


A photo tells a story. Each and every one of them shares with the viewer clues to the tale. As the Photo Detective, I study not only the photograph but also the context of the picture in family, local or national history. By studying the clothing clues, signage and family history present in this picture, it’s possible to tell a piece of the story of the Kelly family.

Margaret (Kelly) Birkenback, second from the right is posing with her older sister Katie (on the far left). Margaret was the youngest member of this group. All the girls posed in caps and with banners, “The Liquor Traffic Must Go.” The slogan on their pennants represented the battle cry of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), a Christian group founded in 1873 to support temperance and the suffrage movement. The members combined their secular and religious missions.

In February 1914, The Broadway Christian Church of Lexington, Kentucky commemorated the life of one of the former presidents of the WCTU, Frances Willard. [“Beautiful Memorial to Frances Willard,” Lexington Herald, February 16, 1914, p. 1] She was a temperance advocate and women’s rights activist. The highlight of the day was “the demonstration of one hundred children, wearing pennants, caps and buttons of red, white and blue. The pennants bore the inscription “The Liquor Traffic Must Go.”

Events like this were held from coast to coast by Sunday school groups and at meetings of the WCTU. A key part of these meetings were children dressed for the occasion, wearing patriotic colors, felt hats and carrying pennants. They were junior campaigners.

These six girls posed in the summer, amongst the warm weather foliage, standing on grass dressed in support of a similar demonstration. With smiles on their faces, they proudly carry the blue and gold pennant proclaiming the WCTU slogan. It’s not difficult to imagine red caps on their heads and most of the girls in white attire. Their dress reflects the political and religious beliefs of their parents.

The oldest girl in the group stands in the center, in a long dress signifying her young adult status. Margaret, the youngest of the group, wears a shorter skirt that’s indicative of a younger girl. The birth years of the two Kelly girls provide a timeframe for the picture of circa 1915. It may be possible to narrow this to a single day and year by studying local newspapers and church records.

What’s the story behind your family pictures?

presenter-1437824405About the Author: Maureen Taylor, known as the Photo Detective, finds the family history in your picture mysteries. She’s been featured in top media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Today Show. Ready to discover some stories behind your favorite family photos? Find out how you can by visiting her website today!


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