Mystery photo: A genealogy challenge

As a fun genealogy challenge, I occasionally pick up old photos at antique stores and try to track down their identities with the goal of rehoming the photographs back to family members who will appreciate them.

During a recent stop at the Pickety Place antiques shop in Jacksonville, Oregon, I spent $2 on a faded photograph of two women and a young boy standing outside a residence. There was no location or photographer’s name to provide any clues, but names are handwritten on the bottom of the cardboard frame — Sarah Warren, Catherine Jors, Lowell.  I suspected the combination of the three names would be enough for me to track down the correct family.

An old photograph of three people labeled Sarah Warren, Catherine Jors, Lowell

The image is badly faded, but I suspected the combination of the three names would be enough to help me identify the people in the photo.

Since Jors is an unusual name, I started my search by looking for Catherine Jors on My top hit was from Michigan, born in 1918. That didn’t seem right for the woman in this photo, which I guessed was taken around the turn of the century. She appears to be at least 30 years old, so must have been born in the 1800s. Another result was for a Michigan woman born in 1875, which seemed about right, but how would I know if she was the right person? I moved on.

Lowell, the young boy in the photo, didn’t have a last name, but I liked that Lowell is an unusual name, not another John or James. Was one of these women his mother? I searched for Lowell Jors. No luck.

I plugged in Sarah Warren. Without a location or birth year, that was going to be a tough search. I typed in Sarah Warren and checked the box for “lived in” Oregon, and to my surprise, the first result was the 1940 census for a Sarah Warren married to Lowell Warren in Eugene, Oregon. At 42, she was a few years older than Lowell, 37, but that didn’t exactly jibe with the photo of a young boy and a teenage girl or young woman named Sarah.

Still, I was intrigued by this Lowell Warren, born about 1903, so I started hunting for information on him. Found him in the 1910 census in Whatcom County, Washington, with parents Ai and Anna Warren and five siblings, including an 18-year-old sister named Sarah. This was looking very promising! The Sarah Warren in my photo could definitely be an older sister, perhaps about 18 years old if the young boy was 5.

A snip from the 1940 census showing the Warren family in Whatcom County, Washington.

A snip from the 1940 census showing the Warren family in Whatcom County, Washington.

I looked for the Ancestry link that says “Make a Connection: Find others who are researching Lowell Warren in Public Member Trees.”

I found a family tree with a picture of Lowell as an older man, definitely looked like he could be the little boy in my photo.

Portrait of Sarah and Lowell Warren

Photo of Sarah and Lowell Warren from (kathykaiser186).

Then I found a photo of Lowell’s older sister Sarah Anna Warren, who definitely looked like she could be the young lady in my photo.

Sarah Anna Warren and Jacob John Lau from (marywilliamspikewarren).

I searched this family tree for the surname Jors. Success! The tree had an Alvin Jors, b. 1873. And Alvin’s wife was … Catherine Elizabeth Wolfe. Catherine Jors!  She’s the younger sister of Sarah and Lowell’s mother Anna Mary Wolfe. In about 20 minutes, I’d found the right family.

Challenge complete, time for bed.

A portrait of Sarah Warren, Catherine Jors and Lowell Warren.

Meet Sarah Warren, her little brother Lowell, and their aunt Catherine Jors, circa 1910. I adjusted the old image in Photoshop so I could see their faces more clearly.


Sarah Anna Warren1 was born Sept. 11, 1891, in Knoxville, Tennessee, the second child of Ai R. Warren and Anna Mary Wolfe. The family moved to Michigan when Sarah was very young, and then onto Washington state. In the 1910 census, she’s listed as a dressmaker in Whatcom County, Washington. In 1912, she married German immigrant Jacob John Lau, namesake of Lau Court in Oregon City. Sarah worked for the Red Cross auxiliary. She died from pneumonia on Feb. 2, 1919. She’s buried in the Wilson Cemetery in Clackamas County, Oregon.

NOTE: She is not the same person as Sarah Grosz, 1893-1983, who married John Lau in South Dakota. This is a common error I found on many family trees.

Obituary of Sarah Anna Lau from the Oregon City Courier, Feb. 6, 1919, p. 5.

Obituary of Sarah Anna Lau from the Oregon City Courier.

LOWELL O. WARREN, 1904-1985

Lowell Otto Warren was born on Aug. 31, 1904, in Whatcom County, Washington, the seventh child of Ai R. Warren and Anna Mary Wolfe. In the 1930 census, he was married to Lena May Campbell and proprietor of a garage in Sacramento, California. In 1940, he was married to Sarah Amelia Wolfe and was working as a machinist in Eugene, Oregon. He and Sarah divorced in 1945. Lowell died Dec. 6, 1985, in San Bernardino, California. His obituary says he was a resident of Redlands for 20 years, and his widow was Diane.


Catherine Elizabeth Wolfe was born on Jan. 12, 1875, in Indiana, to Henry Joseph Wolfe and Anna Margaret Walther. She married Alvin Jors on Aug. 19, 1914. They had at least three children: Gladys, Donald and Margaret. Catherine died May 3 1962 in Branch County, Michigan. She is buried with son Donald B. Jors in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Coldwater, Michigan.

  1. “Obituaries: Mrs. Sarah Anna Lau,” Oregon City Courier, Oregon City, Oregon, 6 Feb 1919, p. 5, col. 1; digital image, Historic Oregon Newspapers,

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