Genealogy Blog Party Celebrates National Photography Month

Elizabeth O’Neal launched her brand new website this week – Heart of the Family – and it is also the new home of one of my favorite events, the monthly Genealogy Blog Party.

May’s theme is to Celebrate National Photography Month.

While I love to share my old family photos in my blog posts, since I do that all the time, I’ve decided instead to share resources (something else I love to do) that relate to photography and family history.

Photography has been around since 1826, but it didn’t become available to the masses for several more decades. The process used to crate camera photographs has evolved with time and the type of photograph you might own can often be narrowed to a short time frame.

Through the years, I’ve collected several books on dating old photographs and I use them fairly often to help determine when the picture might have been taken.

Therefore, my first resource tip is a short bibliography of my favorite books:

19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide by Gary W. Clark
Family Chronicle’s Dating Old Photos, Sept/Oct 2011
Family Chronicle’s More Dating Old Photographs 1840-1929, 2011
Fashionable Folks Hairstyles 1840-1900, Maureen A. Taylor, 2009
Care & Identification of 19th-Century Photographic Prints, James M. Reilly, 1986

Next, these old photographs are precious and, in many cases, the originals are irreplaceable so how do we preserve them? I consider myself to be not the owner, but the caretaker of our family’s photos. I want to make sure that each and every photograph is in the best possible condition when it is passed on to the next family caretaker.

“Archival” preservation supplies are easily obtainable today, but they come with a caveat. There is no government regulation on the word “archival.” That should be a red flag signaling that there is a tremendous difference in the quality of archival products.

Top quality acid-free, lignin-free preservation items are not cheap. Everyone doesn’t need to store every family history item in museum-quality storage containers. However, for those items that you want to survive into another century or more, high quality materials need to be used.

Many years ago, I started using University Products in Holyoke, MA. I have many old photos dating well back into the 1800s and I figured it University Products worked for Harvard, Stanford and the Library of Congress, it was right for my family treasures.

Another company, which I haven’t personally used, but which also has an excellent reputation is Gaylord Archival.

Both companies offer every type of preservation supply you could possibly need. Before ordering from either company, give them a call and ask them to send you a catalogue. Also, be sure to ask if and when there are sales so you can save some money.

Third on my tip list are ways to organize photos.

My paper photos, which are all kept in archival albums, are filed alphabetically by surname and first name of the head of the family. For example, my mother’s Adams photos are sorted into:

Adams, Calvin
Adams, Daniel
Adams, Vernon

Photos remain with the head of the family until a boy reaches adulthood and becomes the head or a girl marries. At that point, the boy’s adult photos are in his section and the married girl’s adult photos are filed under her husband as head of the family.

I like the method because I always know exactly where my photos will be in the albums. Girlhood photos of my 2X great grandmother Nellie Tarbox will be filed in her father George Tarbox’s section and pictures and mementos of her adult life will be in the Calvin Adams section because that is who she married.

Every single one of my paper photos has been scanned and sorted into digital folders that mirror the filing system used for my paper photos.

It took me a while to decide on a naming protocol, but I love what I ended up with. I use it for documents and records, too:


If you have modern photos and would like to scrapbook them, there are plenty of ideas to be found online.


Google Images – Search “family history scrapbooking”

YouTube – Search “family history scrapbooking”

Organizing Photos By the Swedish Organizer – Their blog gives lots of good tips and tricks. Don’t worry – it’s in English!

Last of my resource tips has to do with finding more family photos. Of course, you want to begin with relatives who may have photos that you don’t.

Beyond that, I like to check out images in family trees on sites like Ancestry and MyHeritage (both subscription, but I love to visit EBay. I’ve found several treasures there. Another site I visit is DeadFred, which posts photos that people have submitted to share. The collection is growing and it’s hit or miss whether you find someone in your tree, but it’s free to visit and use. You can contribute by sharing some of your own ancestral photos. Another collection that is growing is Memories on the FamilySearch family tree. It is free to browse, but you must have an account.

What do you do when you find an image online that you’d like to save, but the website doesn’t offer any method to do that? That’s when you need a web clipper. Many browsers come with a web clipper already installed.

However, there are also clippers like Irfanview, which is what the Family History Library uses on their computers. Screen Hunter is another clipper with a free version. I used it for many years until I upgraded to (purchased) Snagit, which offers tools I can use with my blog images.

I hope I provided you with several new ideas on how to celebrate the memory of your family through your photographic collection.



4 thoughts on “Genealogy Blog Party Celebrates National Photography Month”

  1. Wonderful resources! Also I’m glad you reminded readers about the “Memories” section of FamilySearch family trees, where I look for photos posted by distant cousins–and have found a few!

  2. I’ve found Arrowfile to be useful for archival storage in the UK, I managed to sort and file a lot of photos I inherited a few years ago. What I haven’t done, though, is scan them all, you’ve reminded me I must get round to it!

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