Dating a family photograph is a refining process where pulling from family history, genealogy, notes on the backs of photos, photo quality, photo paper and yes, clothing and hairstyles all are used to come up with a reasonable date range.
Nearly 20 years of studying fashion history has helped me refine dates down to a few years (but I can still be off by 5-10 years, if the clothing and hairstyles are significantly older than the photo.)
While I am happy to take a quick look at your family photos to give you a date range I do have several good resources here on VintageDancer to help you make your own educated guess.
I suggest starting with photographs:
Most of my fashion history article include catalog images because they are in color and easier to see the overall look of a decade. But illustrations do take artistic liberties and do not necessarily look the same as a clothing in a black and white photographs.
Next Look at Hairstyles
Women and Men’s hairstyles often do a better job of indicating a decade or year(s). Young women and men are the trendiest dressers with the most current hairstyles. In a group photo, look at the youngest adult’s hairstyle and match it up to a decade.
Women’s Vintage Hairstyles:
1900-1910s hairstyles, coming soon
Men’s Vintage Hairstyles:
From here you should have a good idea of at least the decade your photograph is. To refine it even more pick out one item of clothing such as a woman’s dress, a men’s shirt and collar (suits can be 10 or more years old), and maybe shoes and look at the fashion history article for that decade and item.
Use the search bar at the top of this page to find articles.
Debbie Sessions has been teaching fashion history and helping people dress for vintage themed events since 2009. She has turned a hobby into VintageDancer.com with hundreds of well researched articles and hand picked links to vintage inspired clothing online. She aims to make dressing accurately (or not) an affordable option for all. Oh, and she dances too.