I think everyone has pictures tucked away somewhere who have not even identified who are in the pictures. We plan to do it someday, and time gets away. Or maybe you figure you know who they are, but you think no one else really cares to know. I have such an album that my grandmother-in-law had. Since it's not my side of the family, I have no clue who most of the people are. "Skeletons in the closet" kept the family apart for many years, both figuratively and physically. Part of the family moved away and did not keep in touch with Grandma in latter years.
Of course, now, all the pertinent people who would know have all passed away and I have little recourse in tracking down the identity of these people.
I have an even older album full of tin types from my mother's side of the family and less than 25% of those are identified. What can you do when you have a situation like this? Well, you have to become somewhat of a detective. First to be determind is - are they family member or friends of the family. The album that they are in, to begin with, might give you a clue. My older album is marked Friends. So, there's a good possibility that these are not relatives. On the other hand, it could be they didn't restrict the pictures to only friends, human beings that we are. That will always be a lingering doubt.
OK - so what are we to do. Begin by researching the following:
1. What type of picture is this (tin type, poloroid, deckled edge...)? This will help determine a time period.
2.What are the style of clothes? This also helps with time setting.
3. How old do the people in the picture look to be?
4. Who in your family fits that time period and approximate age?
5. Is it a Man or Woman?
6. If the studio is printed somewhere on the picture, that will give you a location. Minnesota, for example. (Sometimes, you can contact the studio and get information, if they are still in existence.)
7. Who do you know lived in Minnesota, looks to be about 30, a woman, in the late 1800's? Maybe it's __________________.
8. Do you have other, similar photos that are identified?
9. One tip I read that I thought was especially helpful, is check the ears, if you can see them. Every person's ears have a unique design that never changes from baby and childhood to adulthood. If you are able to see the ear (harder on women's pictures), you might be able to identify the person with 99% certainty.
I have a very large portrait that was in my parents attic and my mother never told me who it is; or if she did I never remembered it. In fact, I didn't even remember or know it was there until I went to clean out their house after both of them were gone. AAAGGGHHH!
What research I have done (time period was obvious, no studio given), I am 98% sure that it is one of two sisters of my greatgrandfather. At the moment (as I write this), I don't remember which of the two sisters I decided on, but I was able to see the lower part of the ear in more than one picture of the girls and that was the biggest help in deciding who I was pretty sure of whom the picture is.
I'll have to admit I haven't pursued the Van Gorder Album marked "Friends" - but that is one my projects to work on when I retire. Hopefully my own tips I've learned will help me figure out these nameless folk!
Happy Ghost Busting!