PDA

View Full Version : Purpose of Some Old Photos


delosic
15 January 2006, 12:14 AM
Hello fellow Reunion users:

I am a confessed genealogical packrat. I have many, many hundreds of photos that my grandparents took of their various travels in the United States and Mexico. None of these photos contain any people. Mostly they are of various rocks and deserts throughout the southwest.

I have no idea what I am looking at in any of these pictures and since most are 30+ years old I would imagine the scenery has changed somewhat. Is there any reason to hang on to these rather generic photos or should I devote my time and energy to organizing the ones that contain relatives and places of interest to my family?

Thanks from a newbie

conniegene
23 March 2006, 01:24 AM
We just went through thousands of old slides of my parents...if there was no one in them we tossed them. These were all of fairly common places. We decided that we didn't need everyone's trip to Washington DC, etc. We tossed any that were bad of people (but we still had other pictures of them that were good). One can only keep so many pictures!

One set of pictures that we found was quite interesting...it shows my sisters and my brother in law and me ... all taken in a house that none of us recognize...and we were there twice!

Nic Maennling
23 March 2006, 09:42 PM
It is rather sad to read about newcomers to genealogy who start by throwing things out thinking that they are making progress. It is an accepted fact that old family photographs should almost never be thrown out because, although you may have no use for them, future generations of your family may well have. You cannot make the decision for them. This has been proven time and time again. Store them in a box somewhere labelled "unwanted pictures". Please think very carefully about throwing anything out that is connected to your family. Many years ago there were people writing to this list proudly proclaiming that they had thrown out ALL of their photographs because they had scanned them ! Today, even novices to genealogy can see the folly of that.

Nic in Lanark, Ontario, Canada

conniegene
23 March 2006, 10:36 PM
There is definitely a difference between tossing pictures of family members and tossing pictures of people's travels where they took common tourist pictures. Common tourist pictures are just that and that is what is sounds like delosic has to deal with.

Bad pictures of people are just that, bad pictures, particularly if there are good pictures of them also. If they are REALLY old pictures then by today's standards they are bad, but since they may be the only ones then they definintely should be kept!

Nic Maennling
24 March 2006, 06:15 PM
We hear you, and we all been there. Think about this again after being involved with genealogy for about 10 years. I won't go into the myriad of reasons. It seems you have it all figured out.

Nic in Lanark

Pallas76
25 March 2006, 01:12 AM
Hi, Im new to the forum and just noticed this post. I completely understand about having so many photos. But here's something you may be able to do with them, rather than throw them out. many scrappers (like me) and craft buffs, sometimes buy old photos from online auction places, etc. Most of the time, people want photos with people, but there are occasions where people would like photos of landscape etc depending what angle they want their art to go. My suggestion is, if you don't want to go through the hassle of selling online, ask your friend or friends of friends if they might like them to use.

Kim
30 March 2006, 11:32 PM
Another suggestion for travel pictures you don't want. I have hundreds of pictures of things like the Alamo, etc, that my sister, a photography hobbyist, took on her travels. No people that I know...just re-enactors or other tourists. My plan is to offer them to the teachers at the local elementary school.

Zet Retals
23 January 2007, 10:34 PM
We hear you, and we all been there. Think about this again after being involved with genealogy for about 10 years. I won't go into the myriad of reasons. It seems you have it all figured out.This reminds me of the story my dad told about hundreds of 5 x 7" glass plate negatives his dad had carefully stored.

Since the dad was the final parent to pass the kids took possession and cleaned out the house. In the process, my dad who is now 92, threw the glass plates into the cystern.

He is still regretful.

linders
24 January 2007, 11:13 AM
Hello fellow Reunion users:

I am a confessed genealogical packrat. I have many, many hundreds of photos that my grandparents took of their various travels in the United States and Mexico. None of these photos contain any people. Mostly they are of various rocks and deserts throughout the southwest.

I have no idea what I am looking at in any of these pictures and since most are 30+ years old I would imagine the scenery has changed somewhat. Is there any reason to hang on to these rather generic photos or should I devote my time and energy to organizing the ones that contain relatives and places of interest to my family?

Thanks from a newbie

I believe any old picture without a person should be tossed. You seen one tree you've seen them all. I also believe you should identify all the people in the pictures so your grandchildren won't say "who is this and why should we keep them".

genealogist.lily
24 January 2007, 08:26 PM
I believe any old picture without a person should be tossed. You seen one tree you've seen them all. I also believe you should identify all the people in the pictures so your grandchildren won't say "who is this and why should we keep them".

Ouch. Tossing old pictures without names may lead to a tidy house but TODAY is the worst possible time to throw out unknown photos. Through the internet, new cousins are being found - around the world - and "their" gr grandmother may have assiduously put names on the back of every photo - including her copies of the ones you propose to throw out. You see photography was a marvelous novelty "back when" and people often had copies of cabinet portraits made which they mailed proudly to relatives. Put those old pix in an acid free box and wait for someone to identify them. Even if they don't have the exact same photo - they may have others that are identified and show faces clearly - and they may be a match. It does happen!
Lily
in Canada

linders
25 January 2007, 12:37 PM
Ouch. Tossing old pictures without names may lead to a tidy house but TODAY is the worst possible time to throw out unknown photos. in Canada

I said without people in the pictures. I would never throw out pictures of people even if there were no names and I didn't know who they were. I have a number of family pictures posted all over the net trying to find out who they are. Maybe someday I'll get an answer.

msdebbiep
25 January 2007, 02:03 PM
another thing to consider is the value of these images to those outside of the genealogy loop. Just look at the photos being used today to show the difference in our climate. Historians of an area might think the photos are a gold mine. Or perhaps it is geography teacher or.. the possibilities are endless.
Although I am a packrat who knows that many things should be tossed, I'd still suggest putting them in a labelled box for future knowledge seekers to find.

John M. Leggett
26 January 2007, 01:26 AM
My perspective on the issue of whether to save or toss old photographs that we obtain through relatives takes into account the fact that once we toss them, we can never get them back.

I am also aware that some people may find keeping them a major problem--or at least it seems that way. If space is a problem, the answer might be to scan them, save the scans (and a backup file or two on an external drive) and then toss them if you must.

About 15 years ago, after my mother died, I watched my nieces go through my mother's things and toss everything they felt had no value. So don't worry that keeping old photos will severely burden your descendants. If they consider them to be of no value, it won't take long for the old photos to be tossed. On the other hand, they may be eternally grateful that you didn't toss that part of the family history.

Among my mother's old photos that I rescued from my nieces' destructive bent was one of a very old, somewhat rundown house on a gravel road. So I guess I should have tossed it as there were no people in it.

But seven years ago when I visited with my 95 year old aunt who lives about 2000 miles away, I took some of my mother's photos with me to see if she could help with identifying some of the people in them. Among the photos was the 'house' one. When she saw it she exclaimed, "Where did you get that? I didn't even know such a picture existed. John, that's the house in East Tennessee that your mother and all us kids were born in and grew up in!"

Paul Reitz
26 January 2007, 10:28 AM
My perspective on the issue of whether to save or toss old photographs that we obtain through relatives takes into account the fact that once we toss them, we can never get them back.

I am also aware that some people may find keeping them a major problem--or at least it seems that way. If space is a problem, the answer might be to scan them, save the scans (and a backup file or two on an external drive) and then toss them if you must.



John, your first point is certainly true, the second one is problematic, but my challenge is this: what useful thing can be done with them? Of course that depends on circumstances, but my situation is probably not unique, and I need ideas.

I received some photos of my grandmother and her friends from when they were teens, ca. 1900, from a living elderly uncle. None of the photos have names, just "my pals" or such. Her generation, and as far as I know, virtually all of the next generation are long since dead. She moved far from the region where the photos were taken, so my aunts/uncles would not have met them. I am convinced there is no living person who would directly recognize these people; that the most likely means of identification would be through family historians or genealogists of these unnamed people.

A few years ago I learned of an annual picnic of related families in the area where my grandmother was raised. I showed them there, concentrating on the older attendees and one well-known historian/genealogist of the area's families. No one could ID them.

I don't want to throw them out, they don't take up much space, but the likelihood of identification decreases. What useful thing can be done with them?

-Paul

John M. Leggett
26 January 2007, 08:05 PM
John, your first point is certainly true, the second one is problematic, but my challenge is this: what useful thing can be done with them? Of course that depends on circumstances, but my situation is probably not unique, and I need ideas.

A few years ago I learned of an annual picnic of related families in the area where my grandmother was raised. I showed them there, concentrating on the older attendees and one well-known historian/genealogist of the area's families. No one could ID them.

I don't want to throw them out, they don't take up much space, but the likelihood of identification decreases. What useful thing can be done with them?Admittedly the situation is something like buying a lottery ticket. The chances of them (old photos and lottery tickets) being of any value is very small. But there are tens of millions of people who buy lottery tickets every week.

A lot of us hang on to old photos for the same reason people buy lottery tickets. The chances of winning with any one ticket may be very small but there is no chance at all if you never buy a ticket. I will never win the lottery as I never buy a ticket.

But with old photos it's another story. Even with everyone dead who could possibly make identification from memory, there still remain ways to identify people in old photos. For example, I have identified some people in photos left by my mother by comparing them with other photos with names on the back.

Since it doesn't cost me anything to keep all those old photos, what have I got to lose by hanging on to them forever? Tossing them means the loss of any and all chances that I might at some point find one very valuable to me.

The difference with the lottery is that a small chance to win does cost something that for some folks adds up to a lot of money over time.

baddorfdeb
26 January 2007, 08:09 PM
No one could ID them.
I don't want to throw them out, they don't take up much space, but the likelihood of identification decreases. What useful thing can be done with them?Costume historians may be interested in the clothes in the photo.
Place historians might like to see that location at that time from history.
A school might like the photos as generic artwork for students to use.

Just throwing out a few "maybes"....
Deb Baddorf

Nic Maennling
26 January 2007, 08:20 PM
I don't want to throw them out, they don't take up much space, but the likelihood of identification decreases. What useful thing can be done with them?-PaulThe most useful thing to with these photographs is to keep them. Why ? Because you just never know when you will need them.

Nic Maennling
Lanark, Ontario, Canada

Jay Kay
26 January 2007, 09:38 PM
John, your first point is certainly true, the second one is problematic, but my challenge is this: what useful thing can be done with them? Of course that depends on circumstances, but my situation is probably not unique, and I need ideas.
<<<snip>>>
I don't want to throw them out, they don't take up much space, but the likelihood of identification decreases. What useful thing can be done with them?

-Paul


The only thing I can suggest is a sort of website heaven - if there is such a thing. Could they be scanned and uploaded to a website for the world to see, and possibly identify? Though taking them to the local area didn't get anywhere, maybe the people/person who would know has themselves moved away.

Failing that a newspaper article?

Jay

Kim
26 January 2007, 10:49 PM
The only thing I can suggest is a sort of website heaven - if there is such a thing. Could they be scanned and uploaded to a website for the world to see, and possibly identify? Though taking them to the local area didn't get anywhere, maybe the people/person who would know has themselves moved away.

Failing that a newspaper article?

Jay

There are indeed such 'website heavens'....places where old photos go to be ID's. Here is one place that lists several such sites. There are others.

http://honoringourancestors.com/orphanphotos.html

Another possibility is to give them the local library. Most counties in the US have at least one public library with a historical slant. Some are creating online pictoral histories, concentrating as much on general life as individuals. Others might include them in their vertical file. If you really don't want to store them, you can at least offer them to a library or historical society. You never know when Ken Burns may come to call.

Agnes E. Cloninger
26 January 2007, 11:27 PM
Another possibility is to give them the local library. Most counties in the US have at least one public library with a historical slant. Some are creating online pictoral histories, concentrating as much on general life as individuals. Others might include them in their vertical file. If you really don't want to store them, you can at least offer them to a library or historical society. You never know when Ken Burns may come to call.Excellent suggestion - do give them to a library, or Historical Society. I would go another step or two and donate them to a facility that is in the area where they were taken.

As for keeping them in case they become useful - so you make arrangements for donation to be done at the time of the settlement of your estate.

STEVE
27 January 2007, 06:32 AM
I don't want to throw them [pictures] out, they don't take up much space, but the likelihood of identification decreases. What useful thing can be done with them?National Database of Family Photographs. A central repository for scanned images, both with and without identification of the contents. Special recognition software catagorizes, sorts, and attempts to identify images without identification. Matches are posted and interested parties are notified.

No, it doesn't exist --- yet. But the idea is well within our capabilities today. I guess I'm trying to say that if looking at magical images sent to you by parents, grandparents, siblings, friends doesn't interest you, then perhaps the future will show a useage we haven't even considered. As you say, they aren't much trouble to store --- so why not?

My Uncle had a bunch of photographs that we all didn't recognize. He drug them out one evening and showed them to our Great-Aunt Mollie. Shazam! She spent hours on tape identifying people in the pictures and telling us about their lives and spinning tales about the photographs and the people in them. A box full of junk photographs suddenly became priceless.

STEVE

Karen Peters
27 January 2007, 07:06 PM
I'm usually a tosser and I don't hold onto junk, but would I keep all the photos. Maybe my inner packrat is struggling to get out.

I would just suggest that it is a good idea to sort the "unknown" photos from the "known" photos and to label photos as much as possible.

My concern is that "known" photos might get lost or accidentally tossed with "unknown" photos by a future generation.

S. Kennedy
27 January 2007, 09:47 PM
This is a topic dear to my heart because I have many hundreds, probably thousands of old family photos. Many of these date back to the 1860s. Many of these are unidentified and likely will never be but I definitely would not throw away any of recognizable people, structures or historic locations.

One of the heartbreaks is when the pictures have fallen loose in an album and the IDs were printed on the pages and not on the picturtes themselves. A note of caution to current scrapbookers.

I have been able to identify a number of unknowns by comparing with known pictures of the same era, either mine or relatives. It takes a lot of detective work but it is worth it when one makes a find. Doing this via email helps immensely.

But the bottom line is to try to stop the problem now by identifying those in pictures where you have the names. For digitized pictures I have been printing the names on the picture directly similar to what is below a newspaper picture. I don't trust that notes attached to digital pictures will remain attached down the road. And of course there is the problem of keeping your digitized information up to date with technology.

Now if I could just do what I suggest I might catch up someday, that is if I stop taking pictures.

Skid Kennedy

Karen Peters
28 January 2007, 10:19 AM
For digitized pictures I have been printing the names on the picture directly similar to what is below a newspaper picture. I don't trust that notes attached to digital pictures will remain attached down the road.
Skid Kennedy

Now that's a good idea. I've been using the filenames to identify the picture, but those are too easy to change. I really didn't want to put the names directly on the picture. I never thought about expanding the canvas and putting the name below the picture. Thanks!

roxannjohn
29 January 2007, 06:58 PM
You might check appropriate county sites of the USGenWeb organization. I coordinate TXGenWeb sites for Fayette and Lavaca Counties and have unidentified photos online organized by photographers and I've seen similar pages elsewhere. (I don't accept photos if they can't be positively linked to the county.) We have had a few successes.

I've had amazing success identifying my own family's old photos by showing them to as many relatives as possible, through my family websites, e-mail, and personal visits. I also try to network with researchers who are not related to me, but research in the same locales or are related to the spouses of my relatives. I've even found my extended family's photos in local museums and antique shops.

Don't throw them away if they are good clear photos that someone some day might be able to identify.

Rox Ann Johnson
www.heinsohnfamily.org
www.pagelfamily.org
www.rootsweb.com/~txfayett
www.rootsweb.com/~txlavaca


The only thing I can suggest is a sort of website heaven - if there is such a thing. Could they be scanned and uploaded to a website for the world to see, and possibly identify? Though taking them to the local area didn't get anywhere, maybe the people/person who would know has themselves moved away.

Failing that a newspaper article?

Jay

J. Morrow
30 January 2007, 06:39 PM
Now that's a good idea. I've been using the filenames to identify the picture, but those are too easy to change. I really didn't want to put the names directly on the picture. I never thought about expanding the canvas and putting the name below the picture. Thanks!

If you want to print a picture, with a newspaper type caption neatly centered under the picture, and the picture centered on a page with a white border, try using Graphic Convert. Open the picture in Graphic Converter and under File Menu select Edit File Info (IPTC) and select Caption. Type in your desired caption. Don't worry about trying to format anything here, other than what is on each lines of text. Each line will be centered in the printing process. At this point you can record for posterity a lot of other details regarding the picture which will not appear on the printed copy but will be retained with the file copy, if you Save It. Go to Graphic Converter File Menu and select Print. A window will appear where you can make a lot of adjustments as to how the picture will be printed on the page, with a display of the picture. Make certain Print IPTC Caption (if available) is checked. Click OK. Select PDF and then Save as PDF, in the Print Window. The resulting saved picture with caption can be saved to a CD or printed for distribution, but keep the original picture in case you ever need to change the caption, and to retain any other info you may want to keep regarding the origin of the picture. Any one with Adobe Reader can open the PDF pictures. I haven't tried it yet but I suspect that you can record your captioned pictures into a slide show, using iDVD, so that they can be shown on a TV set from a DVD player.

Kim
31 January 2007, 01:30 AM
If you want to print a picture, with a newspaper type caption neatly centered under the picture, and the picture centered on a page with a white border, try using Graphic Convert. Open the picture in Graphic Converter and under File Menu select Edit File Info (IPTC) and select Caption. Type in your desired caption. Don't worry about trying to format anything here, other than what is on each lines of text. Each line will be centered in the printing process. At this point you can record for posterity a lot of other details regarding the picture which will not appear on the printed copy but will be retained with the file copy, if you Save It. Go to Graphic Converter File Menu and select Print. A window will appear where you can make a lot of adjustments as to how the picture will be printed on the page, with a display of the picture. Make certain Print IPTC Caption (if available) is checked. Click OK. Select PDF and then Save as PDF, in the Print Window. The resulting saved picture with caption can be saved to a CD or printed for distribution, but keep the original picture in case you ever need to change the caption, and to retain any other info you may want to keep regarding the origin of the picture. Any one with Adobe Reader can open the PDF pictures. I haven't tried it yet but I suspect that you can record your captioned pictures into a slide show, using iDVD, so that they can be shown on a TV set from a DVD player.

I kind of wonder about all the effort here. If the idea is that you don't won't the caption separated from the image, then wouldn't the other comments not printed with the picture be at risk. But I think the idea is good.

I import all my photos into a 'heritage' iPhoto library. Then add comments and sources, etc. As much detail as I have. My plan at some point is to make a 'photo' book in iPod...not for publication...but I can save the pages as a PDF file and print them. The photos will appear with comments that way. This is what I do when I have unidentified photos, or photos I need more details on. I can print a page or 2 and pass it on to my aunt or mother, and listen to their stories. And then, of course, revise my comments.

Pat Bell
12 February 2007, 05:30 PM
We just went through thousands of old slides of my parents...if there was no one in them we tossed them. These were all of fairly common places. We decided that we didn't need everyone's trip to Washington DC, etc. We tossed any that were bad of people (but we still had other pictures of them that were good). One can only keep so many pictures!

One set of pictures that we found was quite interesting...it shows my sisters and my brother in law and me ... all taken in a house that none of us recognize...and we were there twice!

When I was going through my late parents' things, among them I found a lot of pictures from their European trips (part of tour groups). None of the family was involved so I pitched them.

Didn't keep me from feeling like I'd thrown a good part of their lives away, though.

Pat Bell
12 February 2007, 05:35 PM
I subscribe to an excellent e-mail genealogy newsletter (RootsWeb Review) and the suggestion made there regarding a "resting place" for your family history and papers, etc., was to make sure the library you're considering giving to is interested in genealogical materials. Not all are -- they may not have the staff to cope properly with it.

But I do like the idea of a library or genealogical society repository for papers, pictures, newspaper articles, etc.