Success Stories

It Started with a Photograph

An entire family history on the back of a single photograph.

When an elderly matriarch passed away, she took her family history with her. The back of a family photo held the only clue to her paternal family. HeirSearch’s genealogy research services were put to the test.


A 90-year-old woman passed away, leaving few remaining relatives who knew anything about their family history. Early attempts to find records for the decedent’s father using his given name had failed. HeirSearch needed to locate the woman’s paternal family, and the only lasting evidence of her family history was on the back of an old photograph. 

The photo showed a large, formal dining room, with seven people sitting around a table. On the back of the photograph, someone had written the name of each person depicted.

After a lengthy investigation, the HeirSearch team made a breakthrough. They discovered that surnames on both the paternal and maternal sides had changed when the families immigrated to America. Modern-day relatives had no idea that their family names had ever changed.

Genealogy research services with international reach

After many interviews, HeirSearch found a distant relative who knew the original surname, which was completely different from the “new” surname. Our experts began investigating the individuals listed on the photograph, searching through all available records and making connections between family members.

HeirSearch discovered that the paternal family line came from Russia, and found records documenting their arrival using the original surname. As a result, we were able to complete the search with this information. Once we located the decedent’s paternal family members, they received notice of the family death. With only a photograph to work with, HeirSearch’s expert team was able to solve this international genealogical mystery.


Disclaimer: Although accurate in scope, all identifying information such as names, dates and locations have been changed in order to protect the privacy of individuals.