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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To be or not to be…illegitimate?

Just a few nights ago, I watched Blossoms in the Dust, a 1941 documentary of Mrs. Edna Gladney and her fight for civil rights of orphaned children in Texas. Not only was this movie enlightening, it sparked my interest in the birth records of these orphans and their effect throughout adulthood.

Over the course of family researching, have you come across notations or ink stamps highlighting legitimacy on a birth certificate or register entry? Let’s take a moment and look into that particular question imposed.

(click image to see full view)
This birth register entry is of the unnamed child of Rita Harris (Missouri, 1884), considered illegitimate.

Notice the notation of illegitimacy is written under the column regarding the father.

This birth notice of the unnamed child of Merodith (Texas, 1905) strikes out legitimate indicating the child is out of wedlock. Notice the mother’s surname is omitted.

Other standardized forms may contain an ink stamped “ILLEGITIMATE” on it’s face.

Studying various laws for the time period can bring further focus on the purpose of knowing legitimacy and particularly regarding children’s rights to inheritance. If a child was born within the confines of marriage, then he was the legitimate child of the couple and entitled to full rights of inheritance of both father and mother. If the child was born outside of wedlock, many states retricted claims of inheritance from those proven to have been from an illegitimate union. Some states allowed these children to inherit from their mother and maternal next of kin but overwhelmingly, the father’s inheritance was not awarded.

The branding status of legitamacy on birth certificates spawned movements for amending birth certificates to prevent children marked for life. Amended and sealed birth certificates of today reflect this movement in courthouses across the country. And in some instances, children noted at birth as illegitimate could become legitimate upon the marriage of the parents; the original birth replaced.

Now, I can go on and on discussing this issue but perhaps offering a couple google book references below can move you to reinvestigate your family birth registrations in a new light. ;)

Principles of the law of real property by Joshua Williams (1845)
Illegitimacy laws of the United States by Ernst Freund (1919)

Just leaf’n through life,

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Hello & Thanks for dropping by The Leafseeker!

As a window into my world pertaining to genealogy & historic preservation, this blog is an extention of the leafseeker website. I hope the tips and adventures soon to post here will help in your ventures!

Raking up those lost leaves,

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