Genealogy sleuth to share photographic clues

Ava Cohn
Ava Cohn

Ava Cohn, aka Sherlock Cohn, will present “Clued-In: The Stories are in the Details” at the March 10 meeting of the Southern Arizona Jewish Genealogy Society, 1 p.m. at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

Cohn specializes in the dating, identification, and interpretation of family photographs. She is the only recognized photo expert to concentrate almost exclusively on Jewish photographs, using a multidisciplinary approach that combines knowledge of immigrant and European cultures and traditions along with research-based fashion, family histories, and vital records to tell the stories within our heirloom photographs.

She has an extensive knowledge of period fashions and hairstyles, decorative objects, furniture, cars, and other items found in old photos, as well as turn-of-the-century photography methods and studios in locales in the United States and Europe. Additionally, she has the ability to match facial characteristics for photo identification.

“I first became interested in genealogy and photography as a child. I was one of those geeky kids who, when other kids were outside playing on a nice summer day, I’d be inside looking at the old photographs of my family. They fascinated me,” says Cohn.

“Perhaps photographs are our most important records,” she says. “Not only can you see what your ancestors looked like, which is enormously exciting, but you’ll find clues about their relationships, their lifestyle choices, even sometimes what physical ailments they had. There are lots of clues if we know how to look for them and how to interpret them.

“Photographs also are tremendously powerful tools in reconnecting with lost family,” she adds. Cohn recently discovered a new branch of her own family because someone sent her a photo for analysis that turned out to be a photograph of her great-grandfather and her great uncle and his family.

Cohn is a graduate of Brandeis University and has studied decorative arts, art history, and costume history at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. She is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, The Genealogical Speaker’s Guild and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois. She has presented at numerous International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conferences and other venues, and has published in Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy and other publications.

Admission is free for SAJGS members and $5 for non-members. For more information, contact Andy Rosen at or 237-6470.