Last week's blog urged saving old photographs, even if the identities of the people in the picture are unknown. This week I will focus on documenting pictures that you save. Just because you know the people in the photographs, do not assume that future generations will. When I found the photograph at left of two children clowning with their fingers in their mouths (for unknown reasons), I only had to flip the picture to the reverse side to discover the names of my father and his younger sister.
Without my grandmother having taken the time to write their names on the back of the photograph, I might not have been able to identify the children. With Merle dressed in overalls with her cropped hair style, I might have been confused about whether she was a girl or a boy.
When the subjects of the photograph are lined up in a tidy row, like the sisters in this picture, it is easy to write their names in the same order as the subjects are standing, as someone who identified these four young women did.
In both of these cases, it would have been better to have included the last name as well. As old family photographs are handed down from one generation to the next, first names may be inadequate to identify the subjects of the photographs.
With a photograph of a group of people, it may be necessary to do more than simply put the names on the back of the photograph. Since many people now have home copy machines, a simple way to document those in the picture is to lay the photograph on a blank sheet to make a copy, and then you can use arrows to link each person to the names. In this example both the maiden names and the married names are given, since future generations may not know both. It would have also been helpful to have provided the location of the photograph, which in this case was the Macksville, KS city park. The copy with the names can be stored with the original photograph for future identifications. Some people write names directly on the photograph, which is a clear identification, but it also spoils the photograph.
Today, many photographs are saved on cell phones, computers, and zip drives. If some effort is not taken to document those pictures, they will be lost to future generations. You may think that a graduation photograph or wedding pictures will always be recognized by your descendants, but that is simply not true. Try showing your own high school graduation picture to a grandchild and you may be surprised that they will not realize that it is you!
That is even more true of candid shots. I have inherited boxes and albums of photographs that I cannot identify--and I have done more family research than most anyone else in the family. If it is important to you that family pictures you treasure be passed to your descendants to be treasured by them, take the time to identify them!
I continue to hope for a photograph of Isaac B. Werner, as well as photographs of others taken at his farm. If names and locations were not identified on these old images, it might be impossible to recognize who and where they are more than a century later. However, there are clues that can help identify unlabeled photographs, and next week's blog will share some of those clues.