Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - Those Kodak Moments

This weekend I've begun the task of removing my photographs from those horrendous "magnetic" photo albums. I remember when those came out and were all the rage. Who knew then that they would turn out to be a terrible option for preserving photographs?

Removing the photographs has been a rather tedious task and I'm only going through a couple albums each day. That results in hundreds of photographs! Those of us who are baby boomers and younger grew up with cameras. Our friends and family took photographs of everything. That was all before video cameras and YouTube. Now, just about everyone has a camera - and video - with them 24/7, so it's easier than ever before to capture a special moment.

As genealogists, imagine our excitement if we had discovered this many photographs of our family and ancestors from say, before 1930? Were there more photographs that were thrown away? Why did so few survive? Are there photographs of our family in the hands of the descendants of their friends from the turn of the century (the 20th, not the 21st!).

As I look at the thousands of my own personal photographs this weekend, it becomes quite overwhelming. Questions face me about my own personal photograph archive: Do I keep all of them? Which ones should I scan? Will I attempt to rewrite my history by shredding photographs of former friends or toxic relationships? Will I keep photographs that elicit a bad memory? Even if the photographs are gone, those memories are still stored away in my brain somewhere.

I've just been through an album from the 1970s. If a stranger were to look through that album and try to create a story of my life, it would probably indicate that I was quite the party animal. Nothing is probably further from the truth. During that decade I was working hard, both at my day job and starting a magazine publishing business with a colleague (it didn't last!). I was also doing quite a bit of freelance writing on the side. Those stories are not represented in my photo album.

Hard at Work in 1977
I've included the photo above since it's one of the few that I have of myself on the job. Other photos are social events and vacations. Take a look to my left. That's a rotary dial telephone! You don't find many of those around any more. There's no computer to be seen anywhere! On the other hand, some things never change. Thirty-three years later, I still have my To Do list propped up in front of me.

What I've been enjoying about going through these photo albums is looking in the background of the photos - noticing the furniture and wall decor that were sold at garage sales. Some even have a little bit of significance in my family history.

Nebraska State Capitol, Lincoln

This was in a series of photographs taken when I was about to audition for a job of host of "PM Magazine" in Omaha. That was probably one of the most disastrous moments of my journalism career - when I realized once and for all that I was better off behind the camera instead of in front of it. There's nothing like a cattle call audition to weed out the people who couldn't cut it in show biz. I'm still surprised I stuck it out and didn't walk out before my 30 seconds in front of the camera. Fortunately, my tape was not included in the "gag reel" that ran on the six o'clock news that night.

I digress - what does the photo have to do with my family history? See the parking garage directly behind me? For many years, one of the houses that stood there was 415 South 15th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska. My great grand aunt, Nellie Kelly Rector, lived there for years and various members of the Kelly and Fitzgerald families came and went through that residence over the years. It then became the home of Lum and Ruth Fitzgerald Doyle, whose son I'll be writing about on this blog on Tuesday. I'm sure you'll recognize him! I have been looking for some vintage photographs of the house and believe that I actually discovered one in my own collection - a photograph of what was then 15th Street - before it became Centennial Mall. I have several photographs that I took from the top of the State Capitol. It's not a great photo, but it's the only one I've found so far. I shall keep looking.

Family Heirlooms in Everyday Life 
This photo was taken at a wedding shower I cohosted for a coworker. On the left, in the china hutch, is the teapot that belonged to my great grandmother. It always sat on display at my grandmother Kelly's home, then it was passed along to my Mom, and then on to me. The other family heirloom in this photo is the pedestal cake plate my friend is holding. That, too, was passed down through the family and I've used it often for cakes or other pastries.

So, if you're still with me after this little trip down memory lane, I'm curious to hear what YOU are doing with your collection of contemporary photos from your lifetime. Are you keeping everything? Are you tossing out the bad, blurry or unflattering photos? Are you tossing out the photos of the ex? What kind of photographic history will you be leaving behind for future generations? What photographs will survive? Please share your comments below. I look forward to reading about how others are dealing with the avalanche of images we have created in our lifetime.


  1. Many times we took 25 photos of the same event, the same day. I pick the one I feel most represents the day and scan it, many of the rest are in a storage box, OR, I give them to the others represented in the photo.

    I rarely scan scenery for my family history, even tho I LOVE scenery, flowers, trees, critters, etc.

    I do scan all my pets. I scan our cars and trucks and trailers, I even scanned my hubby sitting on his big monster mowing machine.

    I only scan something that is out of focus on the rarest of ocassions, it has to be very special.

  2. I can sympathize with you! I'm going through a photo album owned by my husband's great aunt. Hubby's family is all in Spain. The photos start in the 1920s and end in the 1980s. I carefully remove the photos that look like family, scan and email them to my mother-in-law and older cousins in Spain. They help me identify the people, the time period, the places, I enter it all into the computer and label the faces on a duplicate copy, then I email back my thanks to Spain- rinse and repeat. This has been going on for weeks. We're all having fun, and we've never had so much family communication! I don't know what I'll do with all the photos when I'm finished, but at least I'm identifying lots of forgotten cousins and relatives for the family tree.

  3. That's wonderful, Heather! You are fortunate to have someone who can help you ID the photos. In the older albums that have been passed along to me, I have no idea who many of them are and no way of finding out - so far.

  4. I have been scanning family snapshots and loading them on digital picture frames. I did one for my mother-in-law for her 90th birthday, one for each of my children of their childhood pictures and one for us of our son's recent wedding. They've been a great hit and allowed me to keep the silly shots I might have discarded. I've archived copies of each slideshow and boxed up the originals. The next task is an ancestral slide show.

  5. In order to avoid big decisions about each and every photo, which would significantly slow down the process, I made one decision - well, technically my daughter made it. We were going to scan each and every picture. Period. This decision did get overridden when there was a picture that we couldn't identify what it was - and did throw the photo away. Eventually after a couple of boxes, we had an emergency - needed family pictures for a slide show, so I changed the rule to all pictures of people get scanned. I don't rewrite history - the people in the past were there for a purpose - even if it was to teach us a lesson. I also tagged all the photos for easy retrieval. That part is done, but now going back and scanning pictures of places and things is much harder.