With Christmas coming up and families gathering together, I was thinking that spending time looking at old family photos together with your family might be a wonderful activity to share! The holidays and family gatherings might be a perfect time to pull out a box of old photos and go through them with your relatives or even just your own children. If you are lucky enough to still have your parents with you and have other family members in your life, particularly older ones, see how many photos they can identify for you of people from the past. When you get out the boxes of random old photos you probably have in an closet somewhere, you most likely will find a lot of them with no names or dates on the back.
Recently a relative sent me a box of random photos that she found going through things in her mother-in-law’s house. She was able to identify that this batch of photos belonged to my maternal grandmother and sent them to me. What a surprise and thrill to get these old photos, even though I already have plenty!
As much as I think it is a good idea to have scrapbooks and albums and some kind of organization for any photos, looking through just a random assortment of photos is really fun! Just in this box of photos I received, there are very old photos of relatives, probably at least early 1900’s, then maybe pictures of my brother and me as babies, then back to some older relative, then pictures in my other grandma’s backyard with both grandmas, then a toy my grandpa built for my brother, then probably the house my grandpa grew up in in Chicago, then maybe a photo Christmas card of my mother’s friend’s children, and then back to my brother’s confirmation or my parents’ wedding photos. So fun! I would say that most of them have no names or dates on them. A lot of them I can at least identify the people but have no idea of the dates or sometimes places.
Some of the older photos are printed on the backside of a postcard! But except for one or two, there is no writing on the postcard!
Speaking of handwriting, because I can recognize my mother’s handwriting or my grandparents, I can decipher if a photo just says “Mother” on the back and I know it’s my mother’s handwriting, then I know that’s an old photo of my grandmother! I just hate that people are ashamed of their “bad” handwriting or that these days there isn’t even much handwriting with computers, yet I feel something viscerally when I see someone’s handwriting that I recognize. I think handwriting is so special, and I don’t think many people appreciate that! We’re missing something as a generation when we email everything or print out labels on the computer or order Christmas cards with family names already printed on them and no note, no handwritten signature.
Another thing I treasure in these old photos, is getting a glimpse inside my great-grandmother’s living room, or my grandma’s kitchen, or my great-aunt’s backyard! Even though the photo is almost always about the person in the picture, it’s the background in the photo that sometimes is the fascinating part! In some cases, I now have that lamp or that table or candy dish in my own house. I love the reminder of what my grandparents’ houses or the house I grew up in looked like on the inside!
Think about the photos you have right now, whether printed out or scanned or on a “device”. Think about your grandchildren or great-grandchildren looking at these exact photos 75 or 100 years from now. What are those people going to know or learn about your photos? Do any of them identify the subjects in the photo or have any dates? It’s a big task to keep up with all this, but think about someone coming across a box in your attic of all your photo albums, scrapbooks, or random photos thrown in a photo box from the craft store years and years from now. What will you want them to know about these photos if you aren’t there to explain them?
Whether you choose traditional scrapbooking or something like Project Life or some other system or organizing and identifying your photos, do something. If you have your relatives with your over the holidays, let them look through some old photos and identify the subjects or even just tell you the stories that they know. (And I would daresay write it down because you will not remember everything!) If it is just your children, let them look through the photos with you so perhaps they can get a sense of their ancestors or even just their own baby or growing up photos and tell them the stories while YOU remember!
Just some things to think about if you are going to be with relatives and family members over the holidays! You might be surprised how much some might enjoy looking at your old photos, bringing back memories or hearing or relating the old stories. If you don’t have old photos, go through your own photos, because someday your photos are going to be the vintage ones!