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The Power of Pictures

When you are doing research on your family history, one of the most common resources you will come across is a photograph. Although it was more expensive as you go back in history, photography was still a common practice, and so pictures of your ancestors can greatly help you in your research, especially if your ancestors were good at recording information.

Start with you own collection. Make sure that your pictures are organized and safely placed in a container or album that is acid free and of archival quality. This will help you keep things in order when future generations want to research their family tree. For each photograph record the names of the people in the pictures, along with their ages, the date the photograph was taken, the photographer, and the occasion. You might remember what is going on now, but you may not after the years start passing by, and your descendents will have no idea.

When you start collecting old photographs, try to create a similar system of organization. Ask older relatives to help you identify the people in the pictures and give you dates and other information. People outside the family might be useful as well, so employ the help of your parents' or grandparents' childhood friends, classmates, and neighbors. Gather as much information about each picture as possible.

For older photographs, you will probably find that nobody living remembers the people pictured. In this case, you have to rely on the recording on the back of these pictures, if there is anything written. You can also use context clues to give the photograph an estimated date. What kind of clothing are the people wearing? If you know that the picture is of a specific family, who is present, who has passed away, and who has yet to be born? Many pictures also included images of the family's house. Compare this house to real estate records, since many additions were added over the years, changing the appearance.

If you cannot find any of this information, don't throw out the picture just yet. Keep collecting photographs of your family members-one day, you may find one from a similar time period that has writing on the back, identifying people and places. Check local flea markets, estate sales, and libraries to compare pictures, and keep a record of where you got each photograph so that anyone who picks up you research will at least have that bit of information.

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