Posted by: chlost | May 16, 2011

I remember them

The past week or so has been chock full of family. A wedding, a baby, out of state cousins as guests.

My husband and his brother recently purchased a scanner to digitize many of the old family photos. It has made me think of some of the old photos that I have sitting in boxes, stuck in photo albums, and framed and hung on the wall.  The older photos include relatives my children have never met. There are photos of relatives that my parents told me about, but of whom I have very limited recollection.

It happens in all families, I imagine.

The loss of the family history.

I know that many people begin to research their geneology once they retire. My dad wrote a long piece about his memories of growing up. Those memories included life on a farm in Wisconsin, years in South Carolina, and the father who died when my father was 10 years old.

Photographs have only been common for the past 100 years or so. Two generations. Even so, the photos seem to get lost in the shuffle of life. Unless someone has identified the people in the photograph, it is likely that these individuals will be forgotten within one generation. My children will remember their grandparents. They were either too young to remember their great grandparents, or the great grandparents died before my children’s birth.

I have heard a saying that we are alive so long as someone remembers us.

I have blogged on this in the past. It is on my mind again. Family occasions have a way of doing that-making you think of those who are gone.

Their lives are a mystery.  Their adult lives were separate from my childhood. Children were not included in the adults’ lives as is common today. These relatives’ childhoods were shared in anecdotes, sometime with pictures,  chosen and embellished at the whim of the adult sharing the story.

What did families do before photography was commonly available?

Here are a couple of photos that I have on my computer, thanks to my sister’s scanning. It is still a bit of a struggle for me to get the photos to scan correctly, but these have worked.

Let’s just say that I want to be sure these family members are still alive.

Because I remember them.

My dad, Dale, circa 1950 (?)

My sister, Kathleen

Aunt Grace



  1. Computers are a wonderful way to perserve memories. I have worked my scanner to death. Good idea to back up what your store there however.
    Blogging is also a wonderful way to introduce our distant next of kin to their past which is our present.
    In my mother’s day, it was just word of mouth and memory to carry on the history.

    • Yes, I have an off-site back up service. My daughter hooked it up for me. The oral history gets forgotten and twisted. I love being able to see the faces of my ancestors.

  2. I am hoping soon to set aside to scan a bunch of old photos.

    • It takes a lot of time, but it is worth it.

  3. I wrote a post about family photographs in 2007 that was published on The Time Goes By Elder Storytelling Place:

    My father died about a year ago and I inherited yet more pictures without IDs on the back. I have been trying to write what I know on the backs of a few…but…

    I also scanned a few and put one on a blog post this past year.

    • Thanks for the link to your story. I have always found it profoundly sad to see old photos in thrift stores or antique marts. I look at a proud mother with a small baby, a smiling graduate, newlyweds surrounded by friends and family and wonder if they would have ever guessed that strangers are buying their photos to use as……who knows? My son’s friends would use oddball photos to grace their college bathroom walls as a joke, and I have seen similar use in many restaurants. That writing on the back is key. I am slowly trying to do this as well.

  4. I have scanned acres of photographs, and I am thinking of scanning my own pre digital things next. They sit here in boxes by the year….10 boxes next to my computer. I want to finish the current quilt next. Then scan.

    • My husband is in the process of scanning his childhood and family photos. My sister scanned many of our family slides and photos. It is a big job.

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