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Thread: Sentimental old photos - what to do with them?

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    Sentimental old photos - what to do with them?

    In my attempt to stay occupied on a sub-freezing day, I am once again going through old family photos. I would like to get it all condensed in chronological order in one container. I have started several times in the recent past and can't quite get through it. My logic in keeping or culling is that some day, DD (should she outlive me) will inherit said photos and perhaps wonder who these ancestors were. Will she even care? She probably only has vague memories of my little brother who died of AIDS when she 8. And yet I have quite a pile of photos and mementos of him saved because I knew and loved him. Actually, I don't feel anything but sadness when I look at them. How does one reckon with these emotions about long ago memories? Should I be practical and just label and save a few good photos of him and pitch the other stuff that documented his existence? I don't know if it is getting older or just the realization of how transient our lives are but these are hard decisions for me. Thoughts?

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    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Yes, keep for instance 3 best photos of your brother and toss the rest.

    Dont bother to keep anything that you havenít identified as to name, place, date. Even if you donít know exact place names or address, label the photo with something like ďGeorge in our house on Park Street in Dallas in circa 1962.Ē

    Think beyond your daughter. If she is not interested, one of your grandchildren will be. If they arenít interested,their kids will be.

    Make this package of family photos for the long term: small, neat, easily portable.

    After the collection is organized, consider if you will digitize it. Since you have just one person to pass on these items to, it may not be necessary to replicate them Although consider a digital copy stored safely keeps them safe from physical damage.

    Please dont let your emotional baggage interfere with this valuable task of preserving family stuff. You honor the memories by responsibly preserving them.

  3. #3
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    An additional thought:

    If you want to keep all of the photos of your brother FOR YOU even if they are not good ones, then fine, do that. But I would really, if I were you, keep “your “pile of images separate from the family legacy pile. “Your” pile can easily be identified and tossed in the future.

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    I have 120 years of family photos in albums. I'm still missing one box of albums that are somewhere in my barn in a box because we just moved. It took about 18 months to pull them all together and make the albums. I did not want to digitize although I did copy some for a cousin.

    They are chronological, and I can put my finger on pictures really easily, and just last week did so to show my dil her daughter's uncanny resemblance to my son at the same age. If I had wanted to, I could have shown her his uncanny resemblance to my mother's great-uncle (she got the Scottish genes) but that's a fun down the road discovery for the girls to make when they start looking at the albums.

    When the photos were in containers I could not make sense of them. I am now up to date so when the kids send me photos, I print them out and they go right in the album. Or at least they did until this move, which messed up all my organizational systems. . .

    As to the emotional stuff, I needed to get them all together first and then see how I felt about it all. One thing I am noticing with the letters is that I am starting to give them to cousins who share the same grandparents, as I am ready to let go of the physical artifacts in some cases.

    With your brother, if it makes me sad and he had no offspring, I would keep the best and destroy the rest, if there is no one else that wants them. I have found this to bring me some peace with some difficult memories. I have also found peace by offloading some of this stuff to other family members.

    I have to remind myself I was not born to be the repository of all family memory and emotions, even though others may try to cast me in this role. It's my life, my space, and my mind, and I get to decide what to keep and what to prayerfully let go.

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    And then I come across a DVD that was apparently copied from old home movie reels of 6 yo me dancing around the living room in a tutu and little 2 yo brother playing in the mud. Aaarggh!! Or of a mad men style party my father threw with all the guests drinking martinis around the pool.

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Yes, to Tybee's point, some people are natural family historians, whether their family appreciates it or not. I am my family's historian and archivist. I do Ancestry and I spend a few hours a season on keeping it updated. I also have a LOT of photos, and I have a huge resistance to throwing anything out. So far, all my photos are in various places. I have one album that I kept throughout my kids' childhood, and I still have my college albums (remember that awful self-sticking stuff?). And my wedding album, and my mother's wedding album. I have a train case where my MIL kept her old family photos, and I have little albums my cousin made and gave me when we had family gatherings, as well as an album she made me for my 60th birthday party.

    So they're all over the place.

    My thoughts mirror IL's. Do the minimal amount of work to at least loosely organize them. Identify as many as you can on the back, just enough so our family members have something to go on if they're interested. I think it's a great point not to second guess who will care, because someone down the line is bound to be fascinated by the family history. I have spent many very frustrated hours trying to find when my great-grandfather died because he died in an asylum in upstate New York and it appears that they just buried these "throwaway people" in a mass grave up there. I finally did find out the date of his death.

    If you have any interesting stories, write them down and stick them in with the photos. Photos on their own without context are less interesting. I'm not saying to write stories about every picture--be selective, but provide any telling details about the relatives you knew that your kids might not know, and your grandkids definitely don't know. The color is in the details. I always feel that everyone's story deserves to be told, and if not told, at least made available. Every time I think about the fact that I am the sole live keeper of my beloved great-aunt's memory, I get very sad.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
    www.silententry.wordpress.com

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    I do like the idea of separating the me pile from the legacy ones. That way at some point in the future, I might be able to let the emotional ones go with one fell swoop.

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    Also, ask around and find the other "family historians" in the family. I have located two on my dad's side, and now my cousin's daughter is stepping up to the plate, so I know where to send things from each side of the family, and they can sort them out and take over.

    As in by the time I die, I want them all moved on from me to the next generation.

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    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    We have no younger generation in my family of origin. Memories of me and my brother will die out sooner than for our cousins with progeny. That is fine, not a concern of mine.

    But an amazing number of my cousins have no children. In my peer group of about 8 of us, only one reproduced and that one just one time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iris lilies View Post
    Yes, keep for instance 3 best photos of your brother and toss the rest.
    Instead of keep the best I would say keep the most representative. Sure you want to keep some photos that clearly show what he looked like, but it's just as important to keep photos that show who he was and what he enjoyed, even if they aren't very good photographically.

    For example: In my case there are a couple of photos of me with my motorcycle, one of me with a backpack next to an Appalachian Trail sign, and one of me with long hair and a big beard working on my bicycle. And one of the most precious photos of my mother is her taking a nap on the sofa with our dog curled up in the space between her feet and the end of the sofa. It's not a great photo, but very meaningful. And as suggested above, photos or groups of photos should have a few stories or some other information about who this person was or why these photos are meaningful. Don't go overboard, and do just a little bit at a time as you work your way through memory boxes. It will be easier that way. And if something is a near duplicate of another photo or meaningless or whatever, either go ahead and toss it or put it in a "toss later" box so you can glance at them again after you've been through everything else.

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