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    Stories Inspired by Photos

    As I began going through my family photos, dating back to the 1850s, I realized that no one had written the stories about these people. Their names were under most of the photos in albums and on the back of others. (Unfortunately some are unidentified.)

    However, I'm the last one in my family who may have heard some of these stories. My sister has heard some from my mom but hasn't written them down either. Other stories I've delved from my research.

    I'm preparing for a talk on family history and wanted to stress the importance of pictures. Then I realized there are stories behind the pictures that will be lost unless I write them down.

    Organizing Your Photos

    You can organize your photos in albums, in shadow boxes, in altered books. There are so many possibilities creative family historians are discovering today. Organize them so they'll be saved and last as long as possible, utilizing techniques that archivists have discovered and scrapbookers now are adapting.

    Photos might be displayed in family groupings, or to tell the story of one individual's life. When my 94-year old mother-in-law died earlier this winter, we gathered photos dating back to her childhood, then made a display on poster board for family members and friends to view during the calling hours and again at the funeral in the church.

    How fascinating we all found these photos as we put together the pieces of her life. You can do this with any family member or with family groups.

    Jotting Down the Stories

    Next begin writing down the stories that the pictures evoke. For all photos are more than the image on the paper. There are people behind them who lived real lives, had feelings, were involved in many activities.

    I've discovered some stories about my great, great grandmother Cynthia's life from letters she left. Through these letters her children have more meaning, too, because she mentions them and their activities in her writing. You may not always have letters to aid you in gaining information. But jot down what you do know or learn through your research so it isn't lost.

    Research about the area and era when these people lived will add more to their stories. I discovered that my grandmother's Uncle William is more than a mere picture in her album. My delving into family history revealed that he was called the original Buffalo Bill in Kansas, long before Buffalo Bill Cody acquired that name. The stories surrounding him are numerous.

    During my generation, there are stories, too. My mother's life as the teacher in a one-room school gains depth as I look at photos she snapped of the pupils and the activities they were involved in. Pictures of family trips as I was growing up, then ones my husband and I have taken are other areas for writing stories.

    The list is endless of the stories, even just a few lines of text about pictures, that should be jotted down to save for my family and for future generations. See what you can do with your photos.

    Copyright © 2004 Mary Emma Allen

    Mary Emma Allen enjoys researching and writing about her family history and teaching others how to do this, along with scrapbooking, to preserve their stories. Visit her web site:

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ

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