I was talking to a friend last night about family history and shared a photo of my paternal grandparents. This was taken at their 50th wedding anniversary dinner in 1964. I’m fairly certain of the year as the baby in the foreground is my older brother John. Next to him is our Mother. In the back is my Aunt Kay, her husband Francis, and her brother Eber.
Only in the past 2 years have I had access once more to the family photo album. And when I say album, I mean a box of photographic slides, as my Dad didn’t take much stock in photos per se, though he did have more than one Kodak camera. It apparently seemed easier to document the family history on slides, so that they could be more easily seen using a projector. This wasn’t the only instance of this predilection in my family, my Aunt Kay and Uncle Francis did the same thing when they traveled throughout the United States in their Airstream trailer.
The reason I shared the photo in the first place was my friend shared several photos of her family. It got me thinking about the photos I have of mine, and how I didn’t have access to them for a long time. That was due to when my brother and I cleaned out our family home in 1992, he opted to take our father’s desk, which just happened to have the family slides in a bottom drawer. By the time I remembered they were there, it took a herculean effort over a period of 30 years to get them back. To his credit, at least he kept them, and didn’t let them deteriorate, or just throw them out as if he didn’t want them (or worse yet, just leave them in the desk to be sold whenever he eventually got rid of it). So they’re in my possession now. I took the time to digitally scan them and save them on a hard drive, as well as a Dropbox, so they’re easily accessible by both of us. Granted they mean nothing to anyone else, since the people in the pictures (with the exception of both of us) are mostly deceased, except for the majority of our classmates.
Even so, beyond the whole who’s who in pictures, it got me thinking about past histories, and who can be there to remember you when you’re gone. Sure, your immediate family will remember you, but once they’ve passed on, will most of us be remembered fondly, or even just plain remembered? Physical photographs we’ve learned over the years last a lot longer than digital copies. People that have saved their family albums on DVDs, and even things like Zip drives, hard drives and so on will be devastated to learn they’re not as durable as the old tried and true photograph. Even photographic slides deteriorate over time. Case in point.
This is a picture from my family’s album, it was taken some time in the 1950’s. I can approximate the time frame as I can identify my adoptive parents, though I have no idea who the other couple is. My parents married in 1955, and this appears to be at a time when they were dating. The slide was stored with the other ones in color that were taken 10-20 years later, but the colors are significantly blown out and deteriorated. I expect they could be resurrected with the assistance of some apps that have become available in the past year or so, but the original colors I think are pretty much lost to history. If I had the negatives, and they were well preserved, I might be able to have the photograph resurrected, but I think the expense would far outweigh the historical value of the print. I suppose it’s enough at this point just to have the slide/picture as it is.
What it all boils down to is, do your best to protect your family history, and your past any way you can. Be certain that your heirs know that there’s something to be saved, and something to remember you by, and your ancestors as well. Who knows who might be looking through your history in 100 years, let alone several hundred or even a thousand. We all can’t have our family history embroidered and/or chiseled into marble or stone.