Monday, July 25, 2011

Bucket List

Recognize anyone?
Years ago, my first husband’s great uncle passed away. Among the things bequeathed to us was a box filled with photos.

“Who are these people?” I wondered, flipping from picture to picture of my husband’s family without recognizing any faces. Thankfully, a few shots were labeled—mostly of vacation trips or a favorite pet—but many of the people remained unnamed.

Somewhere in the box, a photo indicated that the subjects were “cousins” from a city not near this man’s residence. Though I had, by that time, sketched out a rudimentary outline of a four-generation family tree, I had no idea which cousins those might be. I closed the box and shoved it in a closet. No one that I knew was able to identify these people from another era. All I could hope was that my further progress in researching this family line might uncover possible additional relatives who might—just might—remember.

That was a counter-productive decision. The many passing years haven’t helped. Actually, I even forgot about those pictures—until the other day, when I was searching for another photo from another family and stumbled upon this cache.

Finding it all made me remember a firmly-held resolution: don’t leave any pictures behind that aren’t adequately labeled. Pictures of people we should know that aren’t properly documented are as meaningless as pictures of total strangers.

However, while I certainly have the wherewithal to label my own photos, what about photos of family before my time? After exhausting all options for interviewing elderly relatives and still drawing blanks, then what?

This is where the “Power of We” can come to our assistance. At least, it’s worth a try. I’m borrowing the concept from those who tout the benefits of wikis—programs that allow groups to work together on a common goal.

The idea is to put your project where others can work on it with you. In the case of tasks that can be transformed into a digital representation—something you can post online somewhere—you can multiply your effort by inviting others to join in on achieving a common goal. Wikipedia is one of the most well-known examples of this effort. But even without the use of wikis, you can put that same concept to work.

I had this idea to take these old photos, scan them, then invite other extended family to view them, add their comments, and collaborate on labeling these unidentified faces. Photobucket has a group album function, for instance, that might fulfill this need. Another photo-sharing group, Flickr, does the same. Facebook, allowing people to form groups around family research (and other) themes, could also be adapted to serve this same purpose. But I’ve seen other ways to do it. The main thing is: find a platform, and then, just ask.

Whatever you do, don’t leave your precious photo memories in a box—or even a Photobucket—without providing the labels to help others link to their photographic heritage. Ask—and document—while there is still someone here to remember.

Photo (above) depicts the Paris, Ontario, Canada High School class of 1886 (home of some of our Tully relatives). The website asks, "What are the names of the students and teachers?" and directs those who might know these names to click on the comment tab in their website. Photo courtesy of Paris Museum and Historical Society

1 comment:

  1. It is a shame there has been no progress on determining who is in the photo yet.


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