For a while on this blog, I took up a project to rescue abandoned photographs from antique stores and do the research to return them to descendants of the subject's family. It was fun to figure out just who the face was, staring out of the picture frame at me, and even more rewarding to find a way to reconnect the item with current family members.
Now that I'm spending some time in Florida—but not enough time to drive up north to visit my distant cousins in Wellborn—I thought I might find a pocket of time to slip into an antique store here in the central part of the state.
Don't think the process will be as simple as matching a location with a spare fifteen minutes, though. Finding the right photograph takes time. First requirement in the process is finding a store which actually includes old pictures. Not every antique store does. Some areas are good for discoveries such as that—like the stores in the old Gold Rush neighborhoods near me in Northern California, my usual resource. As much as I know about those locales in California, though, I don't know about picture-rich resources in central Florida. I will be finding those most promising shopping stops by letting my fingers do the walking—through my phone's search engine plus a few well-placed calls.
What do I look for next? If I manage to find a shopkeeper who includes photographs in the store's sales items, the next task is to go to the store and look through the holdings. Some stores include only a few specimens. Others may have stacks and stacks of photos from all eras, from tin types to CdVs to cabinet cards to postcards to Polaroid snapshots of the 1950s. Some keepsakes are in pristine condition; others not so much. My task is to find the well-preserved ones which are labeled with at least two details: name and location. Three details would be optimal.
Ever heard the term, "triangulation"? It's not just for DNA matches, you know. Any time you can fix a point by orienting yourself through two other points, you are triangulating. The same principle works for rescuing antique photographs. If I have a name, a specific location (something more than, say, "Canada"), and a timeframe, it is far easier to research the person featured in the portrait.
Of course, every time I've gone through that process for someone else's ancestor, I've always thought, "If only I could find a picture of my own relatives." Well, now I'm in Florida, home of lots of my ancestors. If ever I had a chance to find any, now would be the time. I say, let's go shopping!