I have a number of boxes in my family history closet that are full of old photos. I sort through them from time to time, scanning a few more during each pass and add the images to family histories I write or as attachments to records in my database. That is good. Photos truly do add context and broader knowledge to the 'facts' about a person or family.
Let's face it. Most of us are visual learners and photos not only grab our attention but entertain us long enough to stay engaged in reading raw text.
Some of the folks in the images are pretty funny looking though.
My grandchildren see photos of me in my teen years and laugh out loud at the slightly longer hair, plaid pants that sometimes had bell bottoms. I guess you just had to be there to appreciate the times. I was just a quiet kid from a small town and could be described as the definition of 'average' or 'clean cut'. Secretly, I have to agree with the laughter though. I looked funny compared to the styles today.
No wonder we think the folks in the old photos are dressed so strangely. They looked normal in their time and place, but that time and place isn't our current time and style.
The old photos add context to the stories of their lives though. My grandfather and his older sibling brothers buttoned the top button on their suit jackets and left the rest unbuttoned. Their pants were shorter than the style worn today. The shoes they wore in the photos were usually boots. Boots worn long and hard and rarely polished, even for the photos.
My great grandmothers wore dresses that were dark in color, often black. The dresses seemingly had hundreds of buttons and were heavily embroidered with dark thread or accessorized with fancy lace. I'm sure that there were many layer of petticoats under them as well as other long undergarments. I still don't know how the ladies didn't pass out from heat stroke after being buried under all of the layers of clothing.
Carefully tipping photos forward as I browse through the rest of the box, I see photos with no names on the back and many faces that don't look even slightly familiar to any other face on other photos in the box. Who are these folks? I know the images would be precious to someone, maybe even me if I only knew who they were.
I inherited many of the photos, was given many others, found some in garage sales, others in antique shops, etc. You can't just trash these treasures even though some people have done just that. What is the best way to share them with the greatest number of people hoping that someone can identify them?
I've chosen to scan them in high resolution and post them on the web in two places. One is on my website on my "Most Wanted" "Mystery Photos" page and the other is on Footnote.com. The Footnote site says that they are the world's shoe box, so I'm taking them up on it. I post the photos with titles that include a probable location the photo was taken and an approximate year in the title. I also annotate each photo so it is easily searchable.
One of the great things about Footnote is that if you spotlight photo or document and add some intelligent text to the name and description of the text, they are indexed by Google (usually overnight) and are available to anyone searching for old photos by area or name who use the Google search engine.
A simple search for Charles Logie in Google brings up not only his headstone but the annotations that I've made on many headstone photos and other records. Other researchers are finding my postings of headstones and other photos on Footnote. I know because they either leave comments or send me notes and ask for copies or want to communicate about the images.
Do you have old photos of 'unknown' people and places in your files too? If so, scan them, post them on Footnote using a free or subscription account and share them with the world. I know how excited I've been when I have found photos pertaining to my ancestral families that were posted by acts of genealogical kindness by others.
Be a 'Santa' and take the opportunity to give someone else an early Christmas present. Scan your old photos and post them. The effort is all just part of "Paying It Forward".