Before digital cameras and smart phones with built in cameras (yes there was such a time) we relied on film to capture images of people, places and things. Because film was expensive, a good camera cost a lot of money and developing the pictures once they had been taken cost even more, we were unlikely to waste the limited number of pictures we took on things that seem to proliferate the airwaves of today. We took pictures of the things that really mattered, and a lot of those pictures were of family.
Why am I leading with that you might ask, well we discovered this week that August was National Family History Month and it prompted a train of thought about old pictures, very old pictures and those pictures that were taken by a professional photographer for our relatives back when only a professional photographer could afford to take them. If you are thinking about delving into your family history it is a good idea to begin the hunt at home.
Talk to your parents, grandparents (if they are still with us) and elderly members of your extended family as they are the ones most likely to have pictures of the family from their generation and before.
Ask about photographs and you will be shown albums you perhaps didn’t know existed. Who are the people in the pictures? How do they relate to you? It also helps if you have a family tree (or you can start one as names and relationships are explained to you).
You can of course scan them to create a digital copy, which means they can be shared with family members, or if they are in frames, take a photograph of them using one of your many digital devices. It may not be the best quality but at least you will have a copy.
One of the things we do when we begin a deceased estate, downsizing or decluttering project for a client is to flip through papers and books to make sure there is nothing hidden inside the pages. The number of photographs we discover being used as bookmarks is fascinating. But we’ve also found copies of birth certificates and wills tucked away inside something else – sometimes for safe keeping, and other times just because that’s where they ended up. If we have permission to remove photographs from frames (sometimes the former is required and not the latter because of space requirements) we often find more than one photograph nestling behind the first.
Once we have completed this part of the project we give the treasures back to the family.
Is it time to go treasure hunting?