Let’s take a look at the ways old photos of your family’s homes can help you identify and visualize your family history, while providing clues to your own genealogy!
Do you have old photos of your home or your ancestors’ homes?
Sometimes old photographs contain important family information like the one above, but many times there is no additional data to help you in your research. The next step would be to show the pictures to relatives and ask for help in identifying people and places in the photos.
Chances are that someone in your family can provide you with more information. Write this information down using a pencil or archival pen and include it when you are archivally storing your old photographs and documents.
Photographs of your extended family’s homes reveal a lot about how—not just where—your relatives lived! Sometimes they also show the trials and tribulations they went through such as fires and floods.
The two snapshots below, each framed by the exterior of a house, offer some interesting opportunities for diving deeper into your family history.
The cyanotype above has writing on it that identifies the people and location in the photograph. The date of the photo can be estimated by the ages of the people in it, the style of their clothes, and by knowing when the family lived at the Eddy farmhouse in Mattawan, Michigan.
The photograph of the man with the horse is a different story, as there is no information written on the front or back of this snapshot. I was able to decipher who this individual was by recognizing the house behind him that I had seen in other identified snapshots in a family album.
Once I knew where this individual lived I was quickly able to find him in other snapshots where he was named and voila! – he turns out to be one of my grandfather’s uncles named Arthur Bromwell.
Front porches and stoops have long been a popular location for family portraits and snapshots. One reason was that in the early days of snapshot photography cameras didn’t have flashes. You got better results when shooting outside with natural light.
Before air conditioning people spent more time outside on their front porches where it was often cooler than inside. Also, people were often proud of their home and wanted to photograph it, with and without people in the foreground.
If you can identify the house in the picture it can often lead you to identify the person photographed. In the case of your contemporary photos, remember to use an archival pen or pencil to record the who, when, and where on the back of the print.
Like exteriors, old and new photographs of the interior of your family’s various homes can tell you a lot about who they were and how they lived.
Old photographs and snapshots from the family archive come in many sizes and styles, but the rule of thumb that applies to all the different types of photographs you may have is actually quite simple–store them using verified archival storage materials.
No matter what style acid-free 3-Ring Pages you choose, make sure you place them in an archival Binder. Standard office supply store binders are made with cheap materials that can actually harm your irreplaceable photographs over time, so never use them!
Light is extremely damaging to photos and collectibles of all kinds. To safely frame any photo or artifact, use UV-filtering glass or acrylic glazing in conjunction with an archival window mat and backing board. Be sure to hang your photo out of direct sunlight.
While we’ve discussed individual photographs, don’t forget to archivally protect and preserve your photo albums and your negatives. These are also wonderful and important family history and genealogy resources!
While sorting through your family or genealogy collections you will likely come across old negatives.
Never throw them out! Many times these negative contain images of which no print exists, so take a look at them, scan and print the good ones, and then archivally store them in a correctly-sized sleeve such as the Side Lock Film Sleeve or in one of the all-in-one archival kits.
The 4 x 6 Archive 900 Kit comes with Archive Envelopes. These envelopes feature a two-pocket design similar to the old photo processing lab envelopes. The main pocket holds prints and the front pocket can hold the corresponding negatives. The big difference is our envelopes are archival!
In closing, just as your relatives made and kept photographs of their homes over the years, so should you! Don’t take your home for granted. Periodically photograph the interior and exterior and make prints! Then label these prints using archival pens or pencils. Someday you and your descendants will be glad you did!
If you have any additional questions on preserving your old photos and anything else in your collection, or would you like more information on any of our museum-quality archival storage and presentation materials, please contact us here at Archival Methods. We’re always there to help with any archiving, storage, or presentation questions you may have.