Reclaiming Family Photographs

The memories we mentally record can be a lifetime recalled but lost in an instant. The mind can play tricks on us stealing vital nuggets of information much like holding it hostage. Perhaps that’s why photographs are one of the most valued objects in our search to glimpse into the lives of our ancestors.

If we are lucky, photography has captured many of our family members from birth through death. Much like a whispered story, photographs depict a life that might otherwise have been a mystery. While we may find some of these valued objects among family treasures there are likely additional family members who remain faceless.

Grandpa Jones during WWII

Grandpa Jones during WWII. This photo was lost but a negative was found in a box of old receipts.

Lost family photographs can occur through various reasons. In my family, many losses were due to a house fire and an unknowing relative clearing out the clutter. But no matter the occurrence, once the photographs are gone it’s a piece of the puzzle we desperately strive to solve.

Here are a few tips to get you on the way to rebuilding a family photograph collection.

Look to family.
Setup a private family photo site for family members to scan, share & swap family photos and the stories behind them. Two free user friendly sites I enjoy are Walgreens and Shutterfly. And best of all, both sites offer specials for prints.

Look locally.
Antique dealers & Flea market sellers obtain their resell goods through estate sells and auctions. The cost of retrieving can very but I love a lazy, sunny day rummaging and bartering.

Look regionally.
Newspaperscan be a valuable photo source and other tidbits of information. With today’s digital microfilm printers you can save a quality photograph onto your flashdrive in a snap.
Clubs, organizations, and business directories often photograph their members. Look for existing groups or check nearby historical societies. Not only may you find photographs, you may uncover further information to add to the family tree.
Government entitiesmay have documented family members from court dealings to registrations. Each government has its own rules of privacy so call ahead before a visit.

Look virtually.
Cyndi at Cyndyi’s List has a long listing of websites dedicated to reuniting photographs with their families. Cyndy’s List is a free, one woman show of links regarding genealogy. You’ll want to visit often so feel free to drop her some gratitude.

Look for alternatives.
Some family members may have not been photographed due to the time period or an economic situation. Saving headstones and paper documents into photographic formats such as TIF and JPG are a great option to include them into family trees and photo books.

Grandpa Jones headstone

Grandpa Jones headstone

Phew, now if this helps you solve a pictureless situation come back and post a comment. I’d love to hear about your photographic problem creativity!

Just leaf’n through life,


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