Saturday, October 16, 2010

Family History Month - PHOTOGRAPHS

~Today's prompt is brought to you by the letter P ~

This past week, my mother and I visited the Maple Valley Historical Society (MVHS) in Maple Valley, Washington.  My great-grandparents on my mother's side of the family left Austria/Jugo-Slovia in the early 1900s and settled in the farming/mining community of Hobart. 

MVHS supports the several communities of Black Diamond, Taylor, Hobart, Enumclaw & Maple Valley.  MVHS has (at least) three great resources:
  • PHOTOGRAPHS - Individuals and companies have provided community photographs, brochures, reports, family histories, yearbooks/annuals of people, places & things related to their families, homes, schools, farms and businesses;
  • NEWSLETTER - the Maple Valley Bugle, a well-written and interesting newsletter with articles and photos of community events, reunions, and remembrances (obituaries); and
  • PEOPLE - Society members who are available at their three Museums to assist you with your research and answer any questions you have or suggest other community members who may have the information you need.
A few weeks ago I went on MVHS's website and e-mailed them to schedule an appointment.  On this visit we were able to meet with an affiliated family member who very graciously offered to let me review her personal genealogy and family history records (she keeps track of the various families with pages for birth announcements, engagement and marriage announcements and articles, obituaries, photographs and newspaper articles ~ all placed in binders by family ~ I definitely lucked out this week~).  Later in the day we also went to my Great Aunt's home and had lunch with her and her daughter.  During lunch, they continued to fill in the blanks and answer questions for me on our family history.  After lunch, we went through old family photographs and they agreed to let me scan them.

You may already have a collection of family photographs (lucky you) but if you don't or if there are some missing links, make a point to contact the local library, genealogical or historical society where your ancestors lived.  You may find a wealth of information and photographs (either from birth or death notices, their school days, their marriages and anniversaries, business dealings, or other articles of interest).  Newspapers and newsletters can give you a feel for the history of area and the community. 

Read up on how best to copy or scan photographs for your genealogy files and how to maintain those photographs (you may want to take a look at Resources for Private and Family Collections).  Back up the photographs that may reside on your computer - either on an external hard drive, CD or DVD.  You would be devastated to lose those photographs if your hard drive crashed, so remember to back them up on a regular basis.  Do you have a system to keep track of your photographs - is there a better (or more efficient way)?  Have you identified the people, places and the dates in your photographs?  If not, spend some time doing so because every photograph tells a story!  Share your family photographs ~ make a copy for a family member, share them on your blog, a family newsletter or that book you are working on!

For a fascinating bit of American history told through photographs, take an on-line look at the Liljenquist Family Collection at the Library of Congress.  This is a revolving collection of 700 ambrotype and tintype photographs of both the Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War ~ a history lesson told through pictures of the people who lived it.

(a special thanks to Dick Peacock and Sherrie Acker of the MVHS who met with me and to all the people responsible for the MVHS newsletter and museums ~ what an amazing wealth of family history and community history information)

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