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Personal Effects

By JERRY SAMPSON

Question: Hi Jerry. You’re always asking people to send in questions. I have one for you. Why do you see so many photos of families in antique stores? I’ve seen them in your store too! Don’t people care about family or their history any more? I’ve seen whole albums and some military photos too. I think that it’s sad that no one cares about them. I would die if I knew my photos were in a shop.

Thanks.

Answer: Lots of schools of thought on this one. I might have talked about this before over the years. But it bears repeating and repeating. Especially, during times that we are home more or even quarantined.

One reason a lot of people don’t really care is because they don’t know who the heck they are. They may think: “I don’t know who any of these people are. Why should I keep four shoe boxes of photos when I don’t know who they are?” “This is supposed to be…,” “Oh, my heavens, that’s where Tommy gets that cowlick. His great, great uncle Carson!” 

You see, that’s how you make a history connection.

Your photos will stand a better chance of staying in your family, IF they have names, dates, locations and even stories written on the back. This connects them with the past. You cannot imagine how many photos that have crossed my doorway with nothing on them. When you lack that information, all that history fades away. 

Even if Granny or Auntie is long gone, YOU write down everything you remember or know. Think of it like this — it’s best to have a color movie, but a black and white movie will also be beautiful and entertaining and it’s way better than no movie at all. 

Keep your writing contained to the edges or margins, just in case the ink seeps through. That way it won’t ruin the image. Write it on the back in black ink. Not pencil, not Post-it notes, not labels, these things can and will fall off. Actually writing on the back in your hand makes it permanent. 

I’ve included a great early 1900s wedding photo with no information written on the back. Without the history on the back it’s just another useless old picture. 

Be sure not to write the names and information on just the photo album pages. Photos become separated from albums. Trust me, I’ve seen it more than once. 

Be sure to scan, front and back, all of your photos and share them with your family because they need to know too. Who knows, there might be a young cousin to be a lover of family history who will treasure your photos when you’re gone.

There are many people who don’t care about their history or family. It’s just that simple. They just either don’t take the time to care or really find it off putting. Sadly, sometimes families just die out too. Our society has gone from families having multiple kids to having  one or two children today, with some couples wishing to remain childless and enjoying it.

So you see there are all kinds of reasons why you see photos in antiques stores and flea markets. While quarantined during this pandemic, take a little time and put some history on your old photos. I hope this helps. Thanks for a great question.