Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lessons From Old Photographs

My mother-in-law passed away last week.  Her death was not unexpected, and was, in many ways, a blessing.  She'd broken her hip about a year and a half ago and her health had been steadily declining ever since.  The funeral was over the weekend.

It seems that these are the moments when there is a renewed interest in those old family photo albums, and my in-laws have dozens of those.  There are albums going back to the 1940s and maybe even earlier (FIL was born in 1931; MIL in 1927).  There aren't many photos of MIL from her childhood as the family didn't own a camera.  There are a few of my FIL on the farm in Minnesota, but most of those come from when he was older.

Lots of these photos are in albums that are falling apart!  They're on those old newsprint-type pages (though heavier than that) or on black pages.  One book is stitched together and is still holding up fairly well, while another has the pages simply falling out.  The oldest photos were put in albums using photo corners, which means that they're easy to remove and scan, but it also means that the photos fall out.  Of course, those that are glued down face issues with the glue, and you can't read the back.

A couple of lessons....

1.  Put FULL NAMES on photos.  We found many with captions that read "Me and my 5 daughters," or "Stanley and Harold; ushers at the wedding."  Okay....who's ME?  What wedding?  Stanley?  Harold?  There are 7 Stanleys in the family.  Another one read "Mr. Groom, Mrs. Groom, Bride, Groom, Mrs. Bride, Mr. Bride."  Do the parents have first names?  I'm sure they do!

2.  Put DATES on the photos.  Again, what wedding?

3.  If you're into genealogy, put the photos WITH your research.  My FIL has done extensive work on his family history, so he's got all the tables and charts and such.  But, if those aren't actually with the photos, it doesn't help much.  We were cross-referencing back and forth to find dates and names and such.  (Yes, we did figure out what wedding and just who the couple's parents were because there was ONE first name listed, so we went from there).

4.  Talk to your older family members now about these things.  Sometimes it can be a pain, hearing the same story over and over again, or realizing that it really is true that the first born has more photos, but you'll be glad you did down the road.

5.  Try to write carefully.  We had one photo of some "Oyster"something roosters (oysterloop--apparently it's a breed) and other's where we tried, and failed, to decipher the handwriting.

One other lesson.....What we do is important.  People want to see the pictures and hear the stories.  Our scrapbooks make that possible, so keep it up!

Oh, and one last thing.  There weren't many pictures of MIL in the later years, after the kids grew up.  She didn't want to be in the pictures because she didn't like the way she looked.  Some of the family (including grandchildren) only saw her every few years.  The youngest of these are 12 and they won't have many memories of Grandma.  They won't have many pictures of her either.  So, please, get out from behind the camera and smile, even when you feel "ugly."  I promise, the kids won't see you that way.  They'll say, "Hey!  I remember that day!"

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