Saturday, February 27, 2016

The 21 Day Genealogy Challenge – Day 3: Gather, Identify and Sort.

Organization is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it’s not all mixed up. – A.A. Milne

Today we are going to step away from the computer and focus on pictures.  For this activity you will need a few small boxes.  I like use a plastic storage box the size of a shoe box.  You will use these boxes to sort the pictures you no longer want, but may donate to other relatives.  You will also need a storage box for the pictures you do want to keep.  Label the boxes to avoid confusion.  The reason I use plastic boxes is to protect the photos from any possible water damage from a spilled drink, or if I take the photos away from my home for whatever reason, to protect them from the elements.

Before we can get to this step, however, we must first take out our pictures and analyze them.  If you inherited boxes and boxes of albums and pictures, as I did when my grandfather passed away, do not take them all out now.  Take out about 35 pictures.  If you have time to do more throughout the day, that is wonderful, but we want to pace ourselves so that we don’t get overwhelmed.  This is a process we want to enjoy. 


First, we are going to identify each picture.  Any picture that has a name and date on the back, set to one side.  We are happy whenever anyone has taken the time to label pictures.  We all have great intentions to mark our photos when we get them, but we forget.  And, you know what else we forget?  Who is in the photo!

Now let’s look at the unidentified pictures.  Some people in the pictures you may recognize immediately, such as your mom, your aunt, or even yourself.  If you can identify the people without a shadow of a doubt, then do so now.  However, if you only have an idea of who is in the photo, let’s set it aside for the time being.

Some pictures may not be labeled.  Closely compare them with other pictures that have been identified.  Are the people and places similar or the same?  This will take out some of the guess work.  You may come across photos of people at various stages of their lives.  This is going to take come serious observation and I suggest collaboration.  Below is an example.

Andrew Breckonridge Posey seated with his children. Ollie Posey in white dress standing.
Here we have a photograph of my 2nd great grandfather Andrew Breckonridge Posey with his children.  The cute little girl to our right is my great grandmother, Ollie Posey.  I know who is in this picture because Great grandmother Ollie told me and my mother when she gave us the photograph.

Andrew Posey with his eldest child, Dorah Lucinder Posey.  Dorah died at the age of 2 years.
Here we have a photograph that had not been previously identified.  At first I believed it to be a different ancestor from the same time period.  My hope was that it was of General Wilson, my 2nd great grandfather (father to Ollie’s husband Judson Wilson).  We have little to no information on him and I really wanted this to be him.  In fact, for years I insisted that it just had to be General Wilson.  (Note: General is his first name and not military rank.)

Then one day I happened to see the two photos consecutively and I immediately recognized the unknown man as a younger Andrew Posey.  I sent a digital copy of the photograph to a few cousins and asked them to compare with fresh eyes.  I did not state who I wanted the picture to be, but instead asked, “Do you think these two pictures are of the same man?  One being at a younger age.”  The decision was unanimous.  We all concurred that Andrew Posey was the young man in the unidentified picture.  As further evidence, I revealed that the picture was among Ollie Posey’s photographs and it would be safe to say she would have a picture of her father at a young age. 


You may want to sort you pictures by years and decades.  Perhaps there are themes to a set of pictures such as vacation photos, family reunions or holidays.  How you choose to sort the pictures is up to you.

Any photographs you do not want, but know that other relatives may like to have them, place in the give away box.  My family has a reunion every summer.  I have placed the photos I don’t want or have no use for in a box labeled “Lackey/Sharpe Reunion.”  I know that this box will go with me to the Reunion for the cousins to pick from.  Any photos not claimed, I will toss.  

It is okay to toss out pictures!  Not every photo will have meaning to the inheritors.  My grandfather liked to take pictures of EVERYTHING!  Personally, I don’t care to own pictures of someone else’s vacation, particularly if there is no one in those pictures.  Granted, special vacation photos I do plan on keeping.  Granddad visited Russia and there are some very nice pictures in his album that I don’t mind keeping and labeling the story behind the photos.  If you do keep pictures such as these, remember to say something about them or no one else will understand their importance.

Some pictures are just plain bad.  You can’t see anyone or anything.  You know what? Toss it.  If the picture is blurry, there is a possibility that you can have it touched up and made more visible.  These pictures you will want to keep.  Use your best judgement.


Let’s go back to the pictures that were not identified.  These pictures you will want to set aside for the purpose of asking relatives for help.  Bring these pictures to your family reunion or take them with you when you visit a relative who may be able to help you identify the people and places.  Don’t assume that there is no one living who can answer your questions.  You may not be the only person with a copy of the picture.  An uncle or cousin may know exactly who is in the photo and the story behind the picture.

Photos are an excellent way to begin a conversation or family tree interview.  There will be pictures that you will want to set aside to take with you when you do these interviews.  Keep an eye out now for any pictures you may want to use for that purpose.

Here is your 5 Point Review:

  • Get small boxes and label them for the sorting of your pictures.  
  • Make a plan for the pictures you want to keep.  Will you place them in an album? Who will get the photos you no longer want or need?  
  • Sort no more than 35 photos at a time. 
  • Identify your photos where possible. 
  •  Set aside photos that need identification or that you have questions about.  Keep in mind which photos you would like to use for future family history interviews.

Congratulations! You have completed day three of the 21 Day Genealogy Challenge!  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them in the Blog Comment section below.  Invite your friends to join this challenge by sharing this blog with them on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.  The share icons are just below this blog entry.

Thank you for joining this challenge and remember…..

History not shared is History forgotten!