Link: Finding identity in an historical photograph

Following on my last post about massive genealogy research, the Globe and Mail has an interesting story about how genealogical and census information allowed researchers to uncover the probable identity of a young girl pictured in a famous 1913 Toronto photograph: “A little girl in Toronto lost to history – and now found”.

The life of Dorothy Cooperman suddenly comes into focus on the genealogy site Ancestry. A user related to the Coopermans through an in-law has sketched the key moments in Dorothy's life, from her birth in Kiev (then part of the Russian Empire) to her marriage, the births of her children and her death in 1979 in Oak Park, Mich., a suburb of Detroit.

The faces that look out of old photos and paintings are people of the past. All of them are connected to the living, although those connections have often been lost. A large fraction of people in past generations have no living descendants. Others have them, but no full accounting of them exists.

It is part of my profession to recover what science can of the histories of unknown ancient peoples. The individual histories of recent people are no less interesting, and in many cases are unknown.