Do you recognize your ancestor’s friends in the family photos? Who was important to your ancestor?
Not all of the photographs you have in your collection will be of your ancestors. You may well have photographs of individuals who are not related to you. Especially after 1900 and the introduction of the Brownie camera, photography became more accessible to the general public and they certainly embraced it!
But what about those individuals who appear in the photos and not the family tree? Certainly this makes them much harder to identify.
The BEST TIP: Know who was important to your ancestor!
This is very much like the FAN principle developed by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Think about yourself (or your teenage kids!) for a moment. Who do you photograph? Children. Best friends. Siblings. Parents. School friends.
Our ancestors were not that different. Besides family photographs, they also took photographs of their friends.
How do you know who were your ancestors’ friends?
5 Places to Find Your Ancestors’ Friends
- Neighbors – Often neighborhood children formed friendships that lasted many years. Look for you ancestors’ friends living close by.
- Family letters – Who did your ancestor receive letters from? To whom did they write?
- Oral history – Listen closely. Ask lots of questions! I cannot stress this one enough! (Stepping down off my soapbox now.)
- Yearbooks – If your ancestors kept their yearbooks, take a close look. Who signed their yearbooks? Who wrote those long, long epistles? Find you ancestor in the yearbook. Who were they next to in those club photos and the candid photos? Fortunately for the researcher, more and more school yearbooks are available online.
- Society pages – Who did your ancestors visit and attend social functions with? Check the society pages of the local newspaper. Both large and small local newspapers are on online with more becoming available. These tend to be across a variety of websites, some of which require a paid subscription. Check the state and local archives for your ancestors’ location for newspapers. These are free! Also, check Chronicling America, also a free resource. Examples of paid subscription services include GenealogyBank and Newspapers.com.
Now that you have an idea who your ancestor’s friends were, start trying to identify them. Can you find a photo of the friends somewhere else for a positive identification? The yearbooks and society pages are good for this as well. Research your ancestor’s friends in the genealogy records and trees online. Contact a researcher working on the friend’s family. They may be able to identify the person in your photograph. Other researchers may be able to provide a photograph of the friend to use for comparison.
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