Dickson back of photoRecently Genealogy Gems Premium member Scott Dickson of Roswell, Georgia, USA, sent me this great story about how an old photo helped him break through a brick wall on his family tree:


You talked about discoveries through revisiting old photos. The first day I ever went to a library to research, back in 1989, I found my grandfather’s grandfather in the census.  That’s the last concrete fact about the Dicksons I had found until this spring.  I traced my g-g-grandfather John H. Dickson all over Alabama, Mississippi, and finally Arkansas.  But he died relatively young and never owned anything, so there were few records. Everywhere he lived, however, there was a family close by that really looked like his sister and her husband. I could never prove it, though. I researched them (the sister’s family), but could not document a connection.

Until I was re-scanning photos this spring.  The old ones were done 20 years ago at too-low resolutions, without the backs, etc.  So I was starting over.  One photo was my great-grandfather Robert H. Dickson Sr with another old guy.  My grandmother had written on back the names.  George Williams and Robert H. Dickson Sr.

My granddad had added “cousins”.  That was the clue that cracked it open.  The only way for George to be Robert’s cousin was for him to be George Collier Williams, son of Mary Dickson & Lorenzo Williams.  Mary was the one I always suspected was the sister to Robert’s father, John.  There were no other cousins down any of the other lines that would have been named Williams and would have been the right age.  Mary and John were for sure siblings.  That puts John into a family and I can continue to make progress.  New doors are open!  So, while it might not be a notarized will naming relations, for me, it’s the connection that I have been looking for for 25 years!

Thanks for your shows.  I continue to enjoy them and get inspired.”

Thanks for sharing your inspiring story with us, Scott! It really can pay to go back and LOOK at the backs of all our old photos. And always put clues from various records together! Though the back of an old picture and an old census record may not seem like matching puzzle pieces, in this case he found that they were!

Learn more about scanning your old family photos in this companion blog post, in which Scott shares his best tips.

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