members interacted and celebrated family gatherings. They also speak volumes by showing us which family members are not in the photos.
The problem with these family photos as genealogy resources is that our ancestors often took the pictures, but did not take the time to share when, where or why the photos were taken and who was pictured in the photo. This can be frustrating for the genealogist. Never fear. I have a technique that I will share with you to help! I am going to use an old family photo below to illustrate the technique. I recommend you utilize the following steps:
· First, look closely at all of the people in the photo and identify as many of them as you can. Utilizing the photo below, I was able to identify all of my family members.
· The second step is to identify which family member in the photo passed away first. In this case, it was my great-grandfather Casper John Phillip Horn who died on 21 May 1941. Now I knew that the photo was taken prior to that date.
· The next step is to identify the birth date of the youngest child in the photo. In this case, it is my second cousin William Casper Horn born 22 December 1935. In the photo, Bill appears to be about 2 years old. So I know the photo was taken before 21 May 1941 and approximately December 1937.
· Step four is to identify where the photo was taken. I happen to recognize the location because I was there every Sunday as a youngster. It is mygrandparent’s dining room on Diamond Street in Alton Illinois. Usually familyphotos are taken at some family member’s home so look for clues.
· Step five is to try to determine why the photo was taken. From the candles on the table and the festive sweaters being worn by the younger children, it looks like this was taken on Christmas. As you examine your old family photos, look for clues like this and if the photo was taken outside, look for clues to indicate the time of year based on flowers, snow, leaves on the
I am relatively sure, based on the technique described above, that this family photo was taken on Christmas day 1937 in my grandparent’s dining room!
But there is more. Who took the picture? My uncle Charlie Horn in not in the photo so it is likely that he took the picture.
The final step is to think about living family members not in the photo. I this case, my grandfather’s brother Charlie and his entire family are pictured in the photo as well as his parents. Also, my grandmother’s parents and living siblings and spouses are in the photo as well. The only living relatives not in the photo are my grandfather’s brother Louis and his wife Alvena. My father has shared with me that there was friction among his uncle Lou and the rest of the family and it looks like they were not invited or at least did not attend the Christmas festivities in 1937.
Have fun with old family photos. They can teach you a great deal about your family history!