Thoughts about family photos…


All across the world people have been developing an interest in genealogy. Whether it is for your own use or a more global purpose, identifying and telling stories with your photos can be a great gift for future generations.

The problem is that most often when historical socibecky Taft - 1eties receive letters or photos or even photo albums there’s not much info with them. Let me give you some scenarios.

First scenario: This photo is in your stack of photos, years pass and it arrives at the historical society with no name or identifying information. Sure it’s a cute photo of a child enjoying the a day at the shore. Its nice but probably won’t be kept for any collection because there’s no history with it.

Scenario two: There’s a first name and date and place on the back, i.e. Becky, 1969. That’s a little more helpful and if that’s a family member it might be worth keeping, but there’s not much that will be of interest beyond that.

Scenario three: There’s a small paragraph attached to the back of the photo. Becky’s first wade in ocean waters. Lincoln City, Oregon, May 17, 1969. For your family this would at least tell you the basics of who, when and where.

Scenario four: (For those who love to write and give history to the photo)-May 17, 1969, Lincoln City, Oregon. We had moved back to Oregon from California to be near my family just two weeks earlier. My parents had purchased a small house as a rental for us. Even though we had barely gotten moved in my husband, our two young daughters and I drove to the beach for the weekend. It was a delight to watch my youngest daughter, Becky, experience wet sand between her toes for the first time. The tide was out in the small bay so it was safe for her to play at the edge of the water. Her innocent joy was the best part of the trip. She had no way of understanding that the reason we took the small vacation was that her father, who was in the Air Force at the time, was leaving in two days for Viet Nam and it would be an entire year before we would have another such weekend. It was a precious time for our little family. (This is the true story behind this photo.)

When you take a photo you are freezing a moment in history. Those moments will never come again so it’s important to document the world around that photo, especially if it involves a family member.

I used to give tours to the school children who visit the Polk County Museum and I always told them that whether they know it or not, they are part of history. By just living each day we become a part of the past. Someday someone may wonder what it was like to be us, live like we did and what the world was like back in our day.  If we can leave something behind like photos with good narratives, they may have a better idea of our times.


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