Oral Sources of History

Photographs = Conversation Starters

Photographs are just fantastic conversation starters.  I glean many of our family’s stories through the sharing of photographs. (Bonus:  This works great with children and teenagers, too!)

Photographs Equal Conversations ~LisaLisson.com

Three (3)questions I ask about a particular photograph I want to know more about:

  • Who are the people in the photograph?
  • What date or time period was the photograph taken?
  • Why was the photograph was taken?

Usually that is all I need to ask to prompt someone further about a photograph.  The stories come in the conversation that follows.

Here is an example:

When I received this photograph from my grandmother’s home, I knew one thing.  This was a photograph of my grandmother Anita Carr Talbott as a young woman.  That’s all I knew.

In the year prior to her death, I interviewed my grandmother (again!) on our family history.  She always had such great stories to share.  During my times with my grandmother, I would have several photographs to share with her and she would tell me the stories behind the pictures and identify anyone she knew.

On one occasion, I shared this photograph with her.

Anita Carr Talbott

Her first response was “That’s my wedding picture.”

Her second response?  “I always hated the picture!”

Really?! Not quite what I expected!

I never did find out why she did not like her wedding picture, but I did learn a lot more that day.

My grandparents married in 1937 which meant my grandmother was 20 years old.

I learned it was not uncommon to wear just a “Sunday outfit” to be married.  Many young women did not wear the fancy white dress for their weddings.  For many in rural Virginia, this was more of an economic decision than a fashion statement.  I personally love my grandmother’s outfit – especially the hat!

My grandmother then began to relate the story of how she met my grandfather, Crafton Talbott. in the tobacco factory in Danville, VA.  She worked the machine that made the ties for the tobacco bags and my grandfather worked there as a machinist.  My grandmother was a small woman, and he nicknamed her “Little Bit”. And, well, the rest was history.

One photograph.

One conversation.

A family history event now recorded and not to be lost to the next generations.

Do you use photographs to spark conversations with your older family members?

SeniorCareBox.com does exactly that with their monthly care boxes for senior citizens. In each box, a historic photograph is included as well as a postage paid postcard for the individual to record their memories related to the picture.  Returned responses are posted on their website for family and friends to follow. What a nice way to spark those conversations!



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