The adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, rings true for every family history researcher on the prowl for old family photos! You know who you are. ;) I am very blessed – my family tree on ancestry.com now contains well in excess of 5,000 family photographs – gathered and collected over some period of time – and shared with me through the generosity of so many family members both near and far.
As a small child a favorite pastime of mine was to leaf through the family picture albums. Over time the faces in those photographs came to be like old friends to me. I cherished every one of them along with the stories that my parents told me about them. Now as a family researcher, it helps me to put a face to a name. It is a special thrill to come across a family photograph of someone that I have been learning about.
Family photos – whether old or new – are a treasured part of each family’s history. However, and unfortunately for us, most of them don’t come with neatly typed labels on the back detailing the names and dates and places! Your unidentified vintage photograph will surely have a story to tell you and a mystery to solve – but about what? And whom?!
Getting to the bottom of your unidentified photograph may require some persistence, some knowledge of your family’s history and some good old-fashioned detective work. These are some of the things we consider when trying to identify a photograph:
First, where did you get the photo? Does that person have first hand knowledge of the photo’s history? This fact will at least tell you which family line you are dealing with.
What type of photograph is it? Daguerre type? Tin type? (This could pinpoint the time period of the photo.)
Who was the photographer? (This could pinpoint the location of where the photo was taken.)
Does the background or setting give you any hints?
What types of clothes are the subjects wearing? Hair styles? (Again, this could help you pinpoint the time period.)
Good luck !
STRANGER IN THE BOX
Come look with me inside this drawer
In this box I’ve often seen,
at the pictures, black and white,
Faces proud, still and serene.
I wish I knew the people,
These strangers in the box,
Their names and all their memories,
Are lost among my socks.
I wonder what their lives were like,
How did they spend their days?
What about their special times?
I’ll never know their ways.
If only someone had taken time,
To tell, who, what, where and when.
These faces of my heritage,
Would come to life again.
Could this become the fate,
Of the pictures we take today,
The faces and the memories,
Someday to be passed away.
Take time to save your stories
Seize the opportunity when it knocks
Or someday You and Yours,
Could be Strangers in the Box