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Tuesday Tips #22

Hello! Today’s Tuesday Tip is from our blog writer, Tyler, and is about writing dates/information on the backs of photographics.

It goes without saying, it can be somewhat annoying and frustrating to discover an old photo in a family album yet to have no clue who the person in the photo is or when it was taken. Often it’s a long forgotten relative from decades or even a century ago and the reason no one knows who they are anymore is because the back of the photo is completely blank.

Here’s some examples from my own family tree of how not writing anything on the backs of photos can give a genealogist a headache!

This is a photograph of one of my great great grandfathers from Vietnam. To this day, I still have no idea what his name is, all my relatives can’t quite remember and as a result it has been forgotten to history. All I know about him is that he was my great grandmother’s dad. If someone had written his name on the back of the photograph, perhaps more of my family’s history could be discovered.

Or here’s an example of my mother’s American side. I found this dusty photograph in a family album and was really excited. I thought I could identify which ancestor was in the photo. Yet, again the back of the photo was blank so I couldn’t say for sure who this couple was.

I’ll also give an example of how writing on the back of a photograph helped me a lot in my research.

Rosa Wilson (1849-1921)

For decades, this old portrait of a 19th century woman hung in a fancy frame at my great grandparents house. No one knew who the lady in the beautiful dress was, but we all had admired the photo for years. Eventually, my great grandparents let me take the photo from its frame and let me see if the back said anything. The back read two words in an old cursive handwriting – “Rosa Wilson.”

I recognized this name from the family history research I did, it was my great grandpa’s great grandmother. My great grandparents really appreciated that I cracked the identity of the woman in the photo, which turned out to be a family relative.

So that’s why I think it’s a good idea to write some information on the backs of pictures today. If you have a picture actually printed out, like a school picture or pictures from family events, write information on the back. The date should be the day the photo was actually taken, not the day it was saved to the camera or when it was printed out. I would also recommend writing the name(s) of the person or people in the photo, where the photo was taken, and how old the person photographed was at the time. 

Now, I’ll give you a more modern example of writing on the backs of pictures. Here’s my picture I often use as my profile pic on social media. 

On the back of this photo, I might write something like…

“Tyler Truong, 16

January 23rd, 2021

Castlewood State Park, Ballwin, MO”

Hopefully this Tuesday Tip helps you better organize your family albums and photographs. I know it seems like a daunting task (especially if you have a lot of photos) but it will be worth it in the end, for yourself or future descendants doing genealogy.

By Tyler's Lineage

Gen Z Genealogist (16) | Hidden Branch Co-Founder

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One reply on “Tuesday Tips #22”

As inks can leak through, over time, to the front of the photograph, be sure never to write directly on a photo. Using archival quality ink on an archivalquality label, write the information on the label and put the label on the back of the photograph. Your Ancestors will thank you for the information and for being smart about how you did it!😊

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