Dear Next Generation: Photo Albums Breathe Life Into Family History

Dear Next Generation: Photo Albums Breathe Life Into Family History
(Biba Kayewich)

I love taking pictures, to the point where my children and grandchildren groan when it’s time to take one. Some family members are very cooperative, others, not so much. I am known as the family historian because that is what I do: I preserve the important people and occasions in our lives.

These days, it's simple to make a visual family history since most photos are digital. I can create all my photo pages on the computer, which takes very little time. No longer do I have to scan each photo into the computer, correct the color, resize it, store it, and then insert it into a document. I just open a new page, insert the photo, add a caption and date, and I am done.

Currently, I have one photo album for each year I have been married (52 as I write this), plus other albums of relatives who are no longer with us or pictures taken by others so long ago, I don’t know the place, the people, or why the photo was taken. We even have a photo of the log cabin in which my great-grandparents lived, where my grandmother was raised. That’s six generations ago.

Of course, my children have plenty of pictures and videos as well, but theirs are stored in a cloud or on a flash drive, hard drive, computer, or camera. Digitally, they exist, but since they are never downloaded and printed out, no one ever sees them unless a photo happens to get posted on social media, or if we specifically ask to see one.

Regrettably, gone are the days when my in-laws would drag out the slide projector, and we’d all gather around to view each slide as Dad or Mom narrated every single one. What was even more enjoyable was when the movie projector was set up, and we watched “old-time” movies of when Dad was young or my husband was just learning to walk. This made for great fun, but it also showed our children who these people were before they were born.

To make my photo albums accessible to my grandchildren, I store them in our family room. Each one is individually marked with the year’s date and one or two important events that happened that year. This makes it easier when someone is looking for a particular picture. Many of our grandchildren will spend lots of time going through the albums. They love seeing photos of when their parents were young, when their parents got married, or when they were born. They laugh at the “funny” clothes, absurd hairstyles, and ridiculous poses.

They ask questions about the people in the pictures, which gives my husband and me an opportunity to tell them about their great-grandfather, or how we met, or what their parents were like when they were children. Family history is discovered in those pictures.

One evening, we were talking about my husband’s favorite aunt and uncle who are no longer with us, and our granddaughter was able to tell her father about them and why they were so deeply loved. My son remarked that his daughter knew more about our family than he did. His daughter’s comment was, “Dad, that’s because I spend time looking at Grandma’s photo albums!”

Needless to say, I believe photos are important as well as valuable. They not only give a visual history of our family, but they provide a sense of belonging because they connect us to those people who came before. It’s like saying, “Hey, our family is important and here's why.”

Printed pictures let us capture a certain moment in time, and then keep it for generations to come. Oftentimes, the pictures express emotions that words cannot, allowing our family to relive the wonderful memories while experiencing them again and again. But none of this can happen if your photos are hiding away on your computer or camera! Isn’t it time to get those photos downloaded and printed out, then into the hands of those whom you love?

Vicky Rauch


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