When we were in middle school, we discovered three old photo albums stashed away in a drawer at our grandfather's house. He gave them to us and we took them home and looked through them, but at that time never asked him to tell us more about who was in them. Oh, how we wish we had! About a month ago, we dug them out of our parents' basement and looked through them again for the first time since we got them. We were thrilled to see that two of the three were labeled, and though it took some work deciphering the handwriting, we were able to figure out what some of the names and labels said. Unfortunately, much of the time that we could read the names, we had no clue who the person was or how or even if they were actually related to us.
As our research into our family history has progressed, we've gradually begun to match personal histories with all those individual names in the albums, and identify their relationships to the other people in the pictures, and to ourselves. It's so exciting when a name we're seen only on the back of an old photo suddenly pops up on another branch of our family tree. That was the case with these two little boys, Francis and Jack.
Francis and Jack, 1923.
One of the albums we have is from our great-aunt M and though it only contains about a dozen pictures, it has proven one of the most useful family-deciphering tools we've yet come across. Fortunately for us. she labeled almost all of the pictures with a date, names, and even in some cases the place where each photo was taken. From this, we were able to learn that the photo album was put together when she was about 16 or 17, in 1923. Francis and Jack are part of this album, but all we had to go on for identification purposes were their names and the date. We didn't know if they were family friends, neighbors, or relatives. As we've learned more about our great-aunt's mother (our great-grandmother) and her family, we discovered that Francis and Jack were M's cousins, the two sons of M's Aunt C (our great-grandmother's sister). Much to our delight, this solved another mystery from this same album. A couple pages after Francis and Jack is this photo, labeled simply "Aunt C" (to clarify, the photo includes her full first name, but we're omitting it here for privacy).
"Aunt C" in 1923.
When we first saw it, we have no idea who "Aunt C" could be or which branch of the family she came from. Now, not only do we know who Francis and Jack are, but we also know what their mother looked like. It's the little victories like these that make genealogy so addicting a treasure hunt!
Great-aunt M also labeled herself in group photos, often along with the first initial and last names of the friends that appear with her. In several photos like this one, we can see what M looked like around age 16, and we also know who she was close to. Using the traces of information M left behind for us, we've been able to find a couple of her friends with their families on census records and thus have learned a little about the non-familial relationships that also helped shape our family's past.
Great-aunt M (far right) with her friends in 1923.
Now if only every ancestor had the diligence and foresight to label like Great-aunt M...