Photographs & Memories: Reviving Family History

“A photograph taken today is a lifetime of yesterdays preserved for all the tomorrows.” – Author Unknown

Life moves fast and we capture it as we can. Weddings. New baby. Kindergarten. Graduation. Family reunions. For many generations, the family photo album or shoebox was the way to collect these memories. Now the trend is for selfies and cell phone photos.

How many photo albums or shoe boxes do you have? I have many! As the daughter of a genealogist, I was trained to document and date every picture. As a story teller, I told each picture’s story through a series of clever captions. (I never pursued ‘scrapbooking’, however, because that was just too time consuming. Does scrapbooking even exist anymore?)

How often do you revisit your photographic treasures?

It wasn’t until illness hit my previous father-in-law (I don’t like the prefix ‘ex’) that my daughter was overcome with grief. He was recently diagnosed with bone cancer following a series of TIAs and recent falls. Although her relationship with her father is strained, she wanted to remember. She wanted to smile. She wanted to release the sorrow. The solution: digging out the family photo albums.

Did pulling out the photo albums help?

YES!

We laughed. We cried. We laughed even more. We recalled favorite stories. We put together different viewpoints from the same event and scraped together vague memories from almost-forgotten family stories.

It was refreshing. It was cleansing.

And I highly recommend it!

Do you want a similar experience? Create your own opportunity with these suggestions.

Gather family around. Typically, a holiday or event such as a wedding brings the generations together, but why wait? If family is geographically close, create your own event. Invite them to bring their photo albums and their brain. It doesn’t matter if the brain is young or old; everyone will have something to contribute. If the family is scattered geographically, there are plenty of online conferencing and screen sharing options that conquer the distance. Use them!

Bring a box of tissues. You’ll need them for tears of sorrow as well as tears of mirth. As my daughter and I discovered, there were more mirthful tears.

Bring your cameras. With everything digital, the process is faster and easier. If you are gathering digitally, screen shots will suffice. The younger generations can conquer the technology easily.

Record the stories. In-person or online, document the stories. Keep the memories alive. Tie them in with the photos.

Get ready! You’ll make new discoveries about yourself and your family. Something that puzzled you for years will now make sense. Those things that were shameful or embarrassing ‘back then’ can now air out. It will be liberating and relieving at the same time, plus will clarify the whys and the reasons of the time.

Forgiveness will be easier. With discoveries and clearing the air, strained relationships may have a chance to recover. Family ties that were frayed can heal and become strong again.

Following our mother-daughter walk down memory lane, my daughter thanked me with a swipe at her eyes. “This is the best gift ever. I needed this.” She confessed that she has nothing of her daughter’s early life to share and photos on Facebook are soon lost forever. She wished she took the time to create photo albums.

My advice to her: it’s never too late.

Advice for the rest of us: rally the gang around and get ready for discovery.

Kristen

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