By in Personal

What to Do With Old Family Photos

It's sad that each time an elderly person dies, their photos are left behind, often without anybody knowing who is in them. But these are a treasure you need to retain and share. Each time somebody dies, there are usually 2-3 children or family members and only one can get the album. Nobody's sure what to do with all those photos, especially as they have no names. But here's the best thing to do.

I was reading a post by Porcospino entitled "My Great Grandfather", which you can read at - where they've a family photo album without any names.

First, scan them all in. If you can spot any good order, then it can help to do some grouping. e.g. with my parents old photos I created three albums, based on how people looked in them. One was: dad before he met mum, then mum before she met dad - and lastly mum/dad/us since they met. There was a 4th album I created for all those other miscellaneous photos, such as aerial views of the house they'd purchased, family weddings of cousins and even a couple of photos of their friends since they'd retired.

In fact, if you can, it's a good idea to scan in all your old family photos now - while there are people who might be able to remember the events and who is in them!

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Next, look into doing family history research to try to track down other grandchildren/great grandchildren of your elderly relative. Discover who they all are - you might find 2-3 of them are already active in family history and have a big family tree project they've been doing for years. With the images already scanned you can offer them up to other family members you track down and they might be able to put names to some of them.

In any case, with all photos, only ONE person can only have a copy, meaning that families lose sight of these photos as somebody dies and only one person takes the album With yours scanned in you're able to share them - and encourage others to do the same.

I recently sent a scan of an old photo from the 1950s to my great-aunt - and it was a photo of her and her siblings all together that she had never seen before; indeed, it was then the ONLY photo she had of all of them together as young children. That photo meant a lot to her. Imagine if I'd just chucked them all in the bin as "unknown".

You'd be surprised how, over time, you can manage to track down and name most people in the old photos you've got.

Go on - make somebody's day!



Image Credit » Author's photo, an old family wedding from our family album

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mustchoice wrote on January 20, 2015, 8:30 AM

to keep them safely for future remembrance.

UK_Writer wrote on January 20, 2015, 9:40 AM

Yes. Unfortunately too many just sit in drawers for another 20-30 years until the next generation toss them out.

BeadDoodler wrote on January 20, 2015, 11:24 AM

This is a great idea. I inherited my parents' photos and tried to distribute them to the grandchildren, but it was a huge task. Recently my youngest daughter started a private facebook page for each side of her family and I have been able to post a lot of pictures of my brother, sister and their children on that site. My brother's children were most appreciative as they had NO pictures from their childhood.

UK_Writer wrote on January 20, 2015, 2:11 PM

That's great! Once they're digitised they're so immediately re-usable, portable and transmittable! You've definitely done the right thing with your old family photos! And brought joy to other people's lives in a way that nothing else would do.

Koalemos wrote on January 20, 2015, 2:45 PM

Many old photographs end up in collector's hands or on sale, but there must be vast numbers destroyed every year.

WordChazer wrote on January 20, 2015, 3:15 PM

There's also a service called LegacyBox which will make DVDs of interviews with your relations before they pass and will use photos too. I reviewed it a few months ago after a recommendation from a friend who'd seen something similar in the States used for immortalising memories of elderly Holocaust survivors.

SLGarcia wrote on January 20, 2015, 3:51 PM

You've offered some great ideas. I have always planned to scan photos, but just haven't found the time yet.

UK_Writer wrote on January 20, 2015, 6:09 PM

It makes me weep when I see random, unnamed, boxes of old photos for sale at car boot sales and marketplaces. They've had full lives and nobody knows who they are - other relatives might be passing by, never knowing the photo staring at them contains their ancestors from their great-grandparents wedding/whatever.

UK_Writer wrote on January 20, 2015, 6:10 PM

Yes, that's a tricky conversation for most people to have - and/or simply 20-30 years too late.

UK_Writer wrote on January 20, 2015, 6:12 PM

It does take a lot of time. You have to really set it all up beside your chair and lean over to do a new one every 2-3 minutes, while watching the telly for a week or something. I also scanned all my dad's old slides, that took about 40-50 hours of scanning with a cheap slide scanner I bought online for about £30. Good job I did that - managed to make some notes as I was doing it for who was who etc ... and within 6 months he'd passed on. When I did the scanning, we had NO idea!

bestwriter wrote on January 20, 2015, 9:45 PM

Say about 10 years ago I would keep our guests engaged with albums while we were pottering around in the kitchen. But today our albums are just languishing there - digital world having taken over. I am slowly converting these pictures into digital and storing them in my computer. I do not have the heart to throw away those pictures and they are there. I have no idea what will happen to them. emoticon :sad:

UK_Writer wrote on January 21, 2015, 6:55 AM

Yes, it's a legacy anybody can leave. Put the work in now, while more people are more likely to be in a position of knowledge - knowing that your work will be passed on and somebody, or multiple people, can inherit a treasure trove of information - rather than a "box of random old photos".

UK_Writer wrote on January 21, 2015, 6:56 AM

What you could do now is to digitise them - then load them onto a digital photo frame that sits in your kitchen, continually scrolling through them all!

bestwriter wrote on January 21, 2015, 6:59 AM

Have you planned on doing that yourself? I have lost count of the albums we have!

johnnydod wrote on January 21, 2015, 7:41 AM

What a good idea, I might try this

UK_Writer wrote on January 21, 2015, 8:27 AM

I have them digitised and I'd like to put them onto a digital photo frame for my mum - but there are so many and my PC is ancient, and I've no frame, so dithering between choosing which programme to use to pull them over in. I'd like to be able to drag/drop them in, then drag around the order in which they're displayed, then set the auto-scroll speed. All without committing to a set bunch, or the order in which I dragged them over - but without experience of such technology I'm just dithering.

SLGarcia wrote on January 23, 2015, 9:29 AM

I keep hoping technology will change to make scanning a quicker process, and be a reasonable cost as well. I know that won't happen for a long time though.