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Combined Photo Collection Solves Mystery

Sometimes you have photo mysteries, not entirely because your collection isn't labeled, but rather your collection is a small part of a greater whole. This became evident to me when I attempted to determine who was in a photo with my father when he was a young child. Once I had the combine photo collections from several different family lines, I finally was able to piece together the clues that solved the mystery.

The day I received this photo of my father as a young child was such a treasure. It was part of a collection of photos that were sent to me that my Grandma Helen (Zumstein) Geiszler kept but then found their way to her sister-in-law Margie (Geiszler) Wasson's possession.

Mystery Zumstein
Who is this lady?

For some time, this photo gave me great trouble because I didn't know how the woman in the photo with my father was. I noticed the above photo looks like it was taken at the same time as this next photos. 

Robert Geiszler and his mother Helen Zumstein Geiszler
Robert Geiszler and his mother Helen Zumstein Geiszler

Now that lovely lady is my Grandma Helen. As I started comparing the two photos, I came to the conclusion that they were different women. Further confirmation is Grandma not wearing earrings, but the dark jacket woman is. The ladies' hairstyles are different. There are other fine details that are hard to articulate, but my gut tells me they are different. 

So who could the woman in the dark jacket be?  

My guess is that the first is of my dad with an aunt. He had two aunts that were Helen's sisters and one aunt that were his father's sisters. 

The mystery began to unravel as I received more photos from the Geiszler and Zumstein lines from different sources. As great uncles, cousins, and distant cousins opened up their photo collections and scrapbooks, I was able to not only associate a face to the names on my trees, but I was able to solve a few photo mysteries. 

Helen (middle) and her two sisters; Faye to the left
and Dorothy to the right.

My initial hunch was that a Zumstein sister was more likely the woman in the photo because they were very close and Helen was just beginning to know her Geiszler sister-in-law. 

Looking at this photo of the Zumstein sisters in their youth, I place Helen and Dorothy close in age with Faye a noticeable degree younger. In looking at the photos with the young Bob Geiszler, both women look the same age.  So, I'm ruling out Faye based on this educated guess.

Next, I noticed in this photo (and other's I'm not sharing) that Dorothy has a distinctive facial feature. She has a narrow chin compared to her sister Faye. This next photo shows the Zumstein daughters with their spouses- and their chins. 

Wedding Party of Faye Zumstein and Jerome Gaa
Wedding Party of Faye Zumstein and Jerome Gaa
June 1951, Columbus, Franklin, Ohio
Though I don't know the two couples on the outer edges of this photo, I do know the three couples in the middle. From left to right, they are Helen and Bob Geiszler, Faye and Jerome Gaa, and Dorothy and Howard Merritt. 

Can you see the slender build and that narrow chin of Dorothy? Faye had a rounder chin, very similar to her mother, Clementina. Dorothy's had the Zumstein Chin of her daddy.

Just to be sure, I thought I would take a peek at Margie (Geiszler) Wasson. 

Wedding of Harry Dale and Margie (Geiszler) Wasson
June 1946, Columbus, Ohio
Look at Margie's chin. It's rounded!

So, of the three potential aunts, the one that is most likely spending time with my daddy as a toddler is Dorothy (Zumstein) Merritt. 

Mystery Zumstein
Young Robert Paul Geiszler with his Aunt Dorothy Zumstein Merrit.
Now, what was he looking up at?

I love solving mysteries through photos. Now, if I could just be blessed with more photos, I wonder what more I can learn about my relatives!

(BTW... Dorothy is the woman who helped my mother get hooked on genealogy. And guess who got me hooked? In a way, I have this stylish woman to thank for laying the foundation for my passion. And it's nice to know I have a tender moment of her and my daddy!)


  1. Loved your photo detective work, Devon. You gave me a couple of ideas for trying to identify people in my mystery photos. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'm so glad I could help you out. That's why I blog!

  2. I do this instinctively but have never tried to analyze what I do to instruct others. I hope your blog finds its way to people trying to identify their family members in photos. This is a great case study.

    1. You're comments are so kind. I really love helping others and appreciate your support.

  3. I've done the same thing with photos of my maternal grandmother and her sisters (born between 1899 and 1907). I can tell who is who in most photos because I've looked at so many of them so closely. Nice analysis here!

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! I appreciate your continued support.


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