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September 17, 2014

Who is This Kid and Why is She in My Photo Album?

I spent yesterday going through box after box of old papers and family photos from my mother's vast collection. There are a lot of wonderful pictures of friends and family here, some dating back to the 1800s. What a find!

Unfortunately, much of the time I have no idea who these people are. In some cases, the subjects' names are written on the back of the photo or on the border. Sometimes there is just a date. Most of the time, nothing.

I'm sure that the people who saved these photos knew exactly who was in the picture, where they were, and when it was taken. It never occurred to them that someday their descendants, unable to figure it out, might simply discard photos that had become meaningless. They might as well be pictures of strangers purchased at a thrift shop for the frames.

Who are these elderly ladies?
Even when someone who once knew something about the picture is available to ask, identification can be extremely difficult. After a while, all babies start to look alike. Kids grow up, adults age, memory gets weaker. After a few generations have passed, there is little hope. Could this possibly be my grandfather before he lost his hair? Or is it his brother? Are these three children from 1934 related to me? Which elderly aunt was this, and who was with her at that tea party? Whose dog? What house? I give up.

Please, label those photos now, so they can be appreciated in the future. Otherwise, your family history may end up in a landfill.
 
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2 fabulous comments:

  1. I had the same problem when I went through my Grandmother's things. She had many photos and albums that were complete mysteries to me. Sometimes she wrote a comment like "a day at the beach" or "Mike's visit". This was not very helpful to me. I would say that just writing first names is not enough because there may be other people with the same name, or it's someone from the past that aren't known to the younger generation. How I wish she had done this.

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  2. I could swear those old ladies are the same ones in my mom's album. Stacks of old photos that I don't know who they are.

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