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Aug 24, 2017

Family History in Photographs



Yanceyville (vicinity), N.C. An outdoor picnic being held during the noon intermission of a meeting of ministers and deacons of the Negro church, Digital ID: (digital file from original) ds 01274


As we embark on our journey in family history, we sometimes neglect the resources right within our reach. We spend time online searching for records that may already be in the homes of our extended family. Before you set out to look for resources to document your ancestor, you need to exhaust the resources found at home or in the possession of family members. This is a first in a series of posts on resources for family history in your home.


You would be hard pressed today to find someone who did not own a photo album or digital photographs of family members. Take turns getting together in family member’s homes. Bring a dish or dessert to share, and do not forget your digital camera or mobile device. Plan enough time where whomever is hosting can bring out all their photos.

Allow for time to go through each photo explaining who is included in the picture along with the following basic information:

• Where the photo was taken
• What was the occasion
• Name of the parents, siblings, and spouse of each person pictured
• Tell about any significant events in the person’s life

As each photo is discussed, each person can snap a photo of key individuals with their mobile devices. This eliminates the need for borrowing photos and having to return them later, and everyone interested can have their own copy.

You may be surprised at the new things you will learn about the people in the photos from the family members present. It may be a good idea to turn on the video or sound recording app on your mobile device so that you can catch all the details. Do not interrupt people when they are talking. Jot your questions down, and wait for a break in the conversation or ask questions at a later time.

Storing Photographs

Store the photographs that you take with your electronic device in a safe place. If you have the permission from the original owner, upload the photos of your deceased ancestor to an online family tree to make that person’s record more interesting.

If the photo shared was intended only for your personal use, attach it to your ancestor in your offline family history database. Add stories and details about the photo in whatever place you choose to share the photo. Be sure to include the credit the family member that shared the photo with you. Share a link to your ancestor’s profile or a copy of your family history database with your family members.

You can also upload these photos in the cloud with a free account at and right from your mobile app. If any of the photos are faded or scratched, consider having them enhanced using photo editing software such as Photoshop Elements.

Sharpen the Saw

Schedule a family gathering, and provide for enough space for the person hosting to spread out family photographs to discuss and share. Remind everyone invited to bring a mobile device or camera to take photos. Make sure the lighting is sufficient enough to take good pictures. Take turns meeting in each other’s homes to discuss and share photos.

We want to hear about these gatherings and your success in learning more about family history through photographs. Please come back to the Facebook thread for this blog post to share your success.