Friday, February 24, 2012

Follow Friday: Family Photo Reunion

Follow Friday is an ongoing series at GeneaBloggers and was suggested by Earline Bradt of Ancestral Notes. In it, one recommends another genealogy blogger, a specific blog post, a genealogy website or a genealogy resource, and tells why they are important to the genealogy community and why others should follow them. 

I think you should all follow the Family Photo Reunion blog at
Photograph provided courtesy of
This blog is relatively new, started this past November by "The Archivist."  The Archivist says, ""I’m not related to any of the people in the photos you find here. I’ve been picking up old, identified photos at flea markets, antique shops, and garage sales for over 20 years now with the intention of putting them back into the hands of family historians. I’ve reunited hundreds of photos with genealogists from all across North American and abroad. If you find one of your ancestors here, and would like to obtain the original photograph, feel free to contact me."

I corresponded with The Archivist (who prefers to remain anonymous) and found out a little more about her and why she does this:

"I've been doing this for about 20 years now.  Not through a blog, but by sending out info to genealogical societies & such to let people know about the photos I acquired.  I've reunited over 300 photos now around the world; mostly to the US & Canada, but to many to European countries as well.  I sometimes stumble across artifacts with a larger historical value, and those have been donated to various historical societies and archives.  I've shared one grouping of photos with a Finnish film-maker, who used them in a documentary; and recently, with a town historian who is writing a book.

I think the impetus for doing this was an experience I had when I was a University student of limited means many years ago.  Someone in Florida had advertised in a genealogical society magazine that they acquired a family bible from Sweden.  I had just begun to trace my family history several years earlier and realized that this bible had belonged to my ancestors.  I contacted the person (who turned out to be an antique dealer).  They were willing to send me the bible for $1200 plus shipping.  It was a ridiculous price for an ordinary bible, albeit one from the 1870s.  The only reason they were charging so much was that I had a connection to it, and might pay the price.  I couldn't have purchased it if I wanted to.  I don't know what ever became of the bible.  

It was a while later I started buying the odd picture when I saw it in an antique store.  I seemed to have a knack for hunting down descendants of the people in the photos.  I just kept doing it.  So many went unclaimed, though.  That's why I like the blog so much.  I can keep the posting up, and perhaps someday a descendant will find it.

I used to work in Museum & Archives in Calgary, Alberta, where I also took Archives certification courses through the Alberta Society of Archivists.  There wasn't really a formal degree-granting program in Archival Science in our part of the world at the time, so this was the best I could do.   But for the most part, I've worked as a librarian most of my adult life, starting out in academic libraries, moving over to the public library system for a while; and finally, working as a K-12 librarian for several years before changing direction entirely. 

It's a fun and rewarding hobby.  I quite enjoy the little bit of research I do on each picture.  I also like to see what others come up with.  There are all sorts of resources that I don't have access to, that could help with the identification of these photos.  It's great when people step in and offer their assistance, offering details that don't necessarily show up in the usual BMD [birth marriage death] or census records.  It makes for a richer story."

I enjoy seeing the lovely old photos The Archivist posts nearly every day and reading what information she's been able to find out about it, either from information on the photo itself, or from The Archivist's research.  Sometimes I'm inspired to do a little further research of my own, just to keep my genealogy librarian skill set fresh (or because I have kin in the area where the photo was found or taken).  Recently I found information and a contact for one photo The Archivist posted that helped reunite it and some other family photos with a relative/descendant.

Check out Family Photo Reunion - it's a wonderful idea!  I'm tempted to check the three antique stories within half a mile of my home and see if I can find any orphan photos!  If you have pre-1920 photographs that you would like The Archivist to reunite with their families, please let her know.

[This post is also submitted - a bit late - to participate in 52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy by Amy Coffin, a series of weekly blogging prompts (one for each week of 2012) that invite genealogists and others to discuss resources in the genealogy community including websites, applications, libraries, archives, genealogical societies and more.  

The Week 1 prompt is Blogs. Blogging is a great way for genealogists to share information with family members, potential cousins and each other. For which blog are you most thankful? Is it one of the earliest blogs you read, or a current one? What is special about the blog and why should others read it?]

© Amanda Pape - 2012 - click here to e-mail me.

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