”I found a box of photos when I cleaned out my mom’s attic [mom is deceased]. None of them are labeled. Do you have any suggestions on how I can figure out who these people are?”
- Bring the photos to any relatives that live nearby to see if someone can help you identify them
- Scan the photos and send them to every relative you know that doesn’t live close by (and has a computer) to take a look at them
- Upload the scans to DeadFred with as much info as you know (where the photos were found, who had possession of them last, any possible surnames)
- If your family has been in the same area for a long time bring the photos to a local genealogical society meeting and see if anyone can help
- Knowing how old the photos are can help you narrow down who in your family they could be. If the photos are daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, Cartes de Vistes or cabinet cards then PhotoTree can help you. If there are some real photo postcards then KwikTips: Real Photo Postcards is what you need. If they are newer than that you will have to rely on the clothing and background. Forensic Genealogy and The Dead Horse Investigation: Forensic Photo Analysis for Everyone both by Colleen Fitzpatrick and Family Photo Detective: Lean How to Find Genealogy Clues in Old Photos and Solve Family Photo Mysteries by Maureen Taylor are a good place to start.
William [named changed for privacy] asks:
”My Great-Aunt Matilda [named changed for privacy] refuses to talk to me about our family. She is the oldest living member of the family and her mind is sharp as a tack. I know that she knows a lot of things but I can’t get her to talk about any of it. She just says that the past is the past and its nobody’s business. I am so frustrated! I don’t know what else to do. The only thing I can think is that there is some big family secret she is trying to hide.”
There isn’t a lot you can do. You can’t force her to talk about things that she doesn’t want to. You can try giving it a rest for a while and then approach her again. You can tell her what all you know and see if she is willing to contradict or add to what you tell her. You can ask her if she has any old photos and that you would like to see them. She might let some little tidbits slip when she is telling you who is in the photos (if she is even willing to show them to you). There might not be a deep, dark family secret. Some people just aren’t interested in talking about the past. Maybe if you explained your intentions she will start talking. Maybe she is afraid you are going to publish a book or something.
Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis