Kim, in Baltimore, enjoying the first day of summer.
I have over one thousand photos stacked in several boxes around my office. I’ve begun to sort them into piles for other members of my family, the majority of them are of my Uncle Roy and his family. My grandmother had seven siblings (Madeleine, Leona, Thomas, Albert, Mildred and Leroy) and two step-siblings (Charles and Annie), so there are quite a few photos to go over.
For the most part, I have enjoyed sifting through them; remembering good times or seeing events from a long ago past. Because my grandmother spoke often of her family, and because I knew most of them, I was able to recognize nearly everyone in the photos.
It was all going quickly until I came across a photo of a woman I didn’t recognize. Then there was another. Soon I had a box just for the unidentified.
I posted them on Facebook hoping someone would know them, but they remain nameless. My work table is now covered with their faces. Every night I sit staring at them, searching for any clue of who they might have been. It troubles me not knowing. Are we all so easily forgotten?
I reexamine group photos hoping to find them in one, but I have yet to discover where they fit in with my family. There are a few I’ve made up my own stories about, others I just shuffle back into their spot. As much as I want to organize and condense the amount of things I have, I am hesitant to part with these photos. The photographs should be cherished. These people were loved and an important part of someone’s life. They must have meant a great deal to my grandmother or else she would not have kept them.
In the evenings over the past week, I’ve gone over the photos I have personally taken and have carefully written the names, places and dates on each one. No one will be forgotten.
Readers, how do you keep your photos? Are they framed or in albums, or is everything digital now?
Mine are mess. Old albums followed by pictures in boxes followed by digital. Sigh. Such a time-consuming challenge!
It truly is a time consuming project, Edith. When I first began I just wanted to put the photos in a more secure box, but then one project led to another. The upside is that I have connected with so many family members I didn’t even realized I had! That and the abundance of new story ideas!
Kim, this was very moving. I’ve been saving a photo that I found in an antique dresser that we inherited from my mother-in-law. It’s a picture of a woman and baby outdoors at what appears to be a day at the park with family in early 1900s? It has a first name on the back. I’ve shown it to everyone I see in my husband’s family, but no one knows who it is. It’s in the type of photo holder that people sometimes slip into a wallet. My husband can’t even guess who it might be. His mother might have known, but she is gone now. She might have been a relative of his father. I’m thinking of submitting it to one of the genealogical writers who has been very active in finding “lost people.”
Reine, that’s a great idea about submitting it to a genealogical site! Why didn’t I think of that? Good luck in your quest.
I have a wealth of old photos, most of them identified due to the work of a distant cousin of my maternal grandmother’s!. Last Christmas I made spiral bound books of photos and information for each of my children. This Christmas I’m planning another similar book spotlighting particularly interesting forebears. I still make prints of the good stuff from digital sources and keep albums going. But like Edith, I still have too many boxes full of photos yet to be cataloged/ identified. Hope to live long enough to get it all done!
That is wonderful that your cousin was able to label the photos. Before my Aunt Betty passed away, she and I would get together and look over a packet of photos. She helped me identify several of them. The problem was, in our family, several people share the same names. We have a couple of Madeleines, two Florences, and several Lindas, so she tended to get them confused at times.
When we moved, I bought acid free plastic boxes to store my photos. (got them at Target) I still need to go through the pictures though. I have lots of black & whites from my childhood, but they are all curled, so I’ll have to make copies sometime.
Ruth, that’s exactly where I bought my boxes! When I get in line the cashier always will ask how my photo project is going. I have many curled photos as well. I have been placing heavy books on the edges to help, but so far they seem insistent on curling.
I’m a big fan of the big Kodak machines at CVS and Walgreen’s for copying and restoring those old B&W and faded color photos. Inexpensive and kind of fun to do.
I am going to check that out. Thanks!
I hate seeing photos an antique stores! When I was in college I went through tons of photos with my grandma putting names on the pack of pictures. But we missed a lot too. Some are tintypes and I always wonder who they are.
I love the tin photos and have several as well. It’s funny, but I know who most of the people are in those. When I owned my shop, there was an artist who created greeting cards from old black and white photos. She told me she had bought the majority of them at a yard sale. I couldn’t imagine selling my family photos! What would it be like to walk into a shop where your relatives graced the cover of a $4 birthday card? Odd.
Those nameless photos are so sad. We found lots of them after my husband’s mom passed, and she was the only one left of her generation who could have identified them. I still can’t part with them! All I can do now is go into the boxes, albums, and files I have and start tagging.
I keep thinking that someone must remember these people. They had lives and families and I really feel a duty to them. It’s like an unsolved case.
Everything since, oh, 2004 is digital. Before that, anything I took is in an album. But my husband has boxes and boxes of old photographs. Most of them are of people he knows, but I’m sure there are some unknowns in there. We keep saying we’re going to organize and put them in albums, but it’s so time consuming.
Get him to put the names of the people he knows before too much time passes. I wish I’d sat with my grandparents and aunties when I had the chance.
I have both–albums I’ve put together that tell a complete narrative, and boxes of photos inherited from my parents. Some of those old photos are in albums (my grandmother at summer camp during World War I) and some are floating free. The camp friends are all called Bitsy and Stinky and the like, so no real idea who they are, either.
I love Bitsy and Stinky!! Why don’t people have nicknames like that anymore? My family photos are filled with Spike, Pal, Butch, Bootsie, Bosie, and Tootsies.
I have an old photo of my grandmother in a beautiful outdoor family portrait taken in Salem Massachusetts. It’s not our family, however, and I have no idea who they are. She gave it to me when I was 8 or 9, because I liked it so much. She died a couple of years later, so I was glad to have the picture. Originally, though, I wanted it because a boy in the photo looks like Spin in the “Spin and Marty” Disney series on TV way, way too long ago!
I’ve finally put all my print photos in archival plastic boxes, but before that there are slides (we couldn’t afford prints!), and after that there is digital.There are about a thousand prints, only vaguely labeled. My grandparents and great-grandparents took very few pictures, so I can’t say there are many unidentified people, but there are too many people missing altogether. I do occasionally adopt orphaned photos at flea markets, usually because the faces are so interesting.
We have a box of slides that I have no idea what to do with them. I feel that people in these old photos had much more interesting faces then than we do know. The photo of the woman I have included in my post is one of them. I love her. I have a story in my mind of who I believe she was and now I’m almost hoping I don’t discover her identity because it will ruin my version of her.
I have some non-digital photos around here somewhere. But for the most part, I keep my photos digitally on my computer. My screen saver is my pictures going by randomly. I don’t see them very much since I’m usually on my computer or ignoring it completely, but I’ll see a few every day, and it’s more than I’d see if they weren’t digital. I’d probably see none if that were the case.
I think that’s a good way to keep photos and am thinking of making my collection of unknowns a screen saver so I can always remember these faces.
Organizing the photos has been on my list of things to do, like, forever. I know I should eat that elephant one bite at a time, just work on the project 15 minutes a day. But it’s hard to get started. Maybe I’ll get a couple of my sisters over here and make them help me… Kudos to anyone who has this part of her/his life under control 🙂
I started by saying I would on go through on box at a time. That proved impossible. Once I started organizing I needed to see what was in every box in order to put the photos together properly. Invite your sisters over for the weekend, it’s definitely a two day project. Good luck!
Although I have a lot of photos in albums, several years ago I purchased a bunch of photo boxes at A.C Moore, there were 2 for $5.00. I thought that was a great bargin and it makes it easy to store photos. Lately I haven’t really been taking a ton of photos to print. But, I still enjoy looking at the memories.
p.s. I am glad I am not the only one who has some photos of people I don’t know. Not sure how that worked?
I really wish I had gone over the photos more completely with my grandmother. I am guessing many of my mystery people were friends of her older siblings or maybe relatives of her mother’s. Discovering who they are has been both fun and draining. Your photo boxes sound like an excellent idea…and deal!
I am so bad with photos – but most of ours are digital now. This was a great post – I hope you find the names to go with the faces!
Thanks, Liz! I am working on finding everyone’s names.
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