Are you ready for a different kind of family history challenge? If you’re like me, your home may hold more than a few inherited items from your parents, grandparents, or other relations.
Several years ago I dutifully organized a scattered hodge-lodge of my grandmother’s old photos. Each cabinet card or snapshot was scanned, front and back, before the original was carefully placed in archival sleeves and boxes.
At the time, I hadn’t thoroughly investigated other material in the collection. I mostly used the scanned photos for presentations and writing projects. Much later, after uncovering letters, ephemera, and other artifacts, it was possible to read between the lines of a photo caption or look beyond the black-and white snapshot and uncover the photo’s real story.
The brain is a fantastic computer, able to make connections with seemingly unrelated random information. The image and caption on a small carte de visite photograph were clues to an enigma in the Family Bible Record. One thing led to another and another, and a previously unknown child could be added to the family tree.
- Revisiting old photos, letters, and artifacts can shed light on genealogy brick walls.
- The address on a wartime ration book may fill in an ancestor’s timeline.
- An inscribed hymnal could be evidence of a family’s ethnic identity.
A different kind of family history challenge
When did you take a good long look at your old family photos and artifacts? Do you have one or two items with tantalizing information?
Maybe you have a photo with a first name, or identification like “Grandma’s sister,” but you haven’t yet narrowed down which of the five sisters is the most likely.
The tantalizing information could be written on a photo, a letter, or an inscription on a silver baby cup.
Challenge yourself to “fill-in-the-blanks” using your research and analytical skills.
Here are a few ideas to jump-start those inherited connections:
- Think carefully about your inherited family collection. Make a list to help jog your memory. What items do you have from the same family, same time period, same locality? Carefully examine those items for more information.
- Does your item and clue logically fit the time frame? If you have a good idea of the family group, try make a timeline of events and people with ages.
- Do family stories add further information? Write down the story and ask other family members for more details.
- Why is the item in your collection? The provenance could help identify the original owner or date.
Exploring connections between inherited items and family lore may lead you to discover new information or confirm tentative theories. Spend time with your collection. Think carefully about the people, places, and stories reflected in material objects.
Free Webinar to Explore Home Sources
Join me as I explore the clues in my family collection, and find ideas for working with your own heirlooms in “Secrets in the Attic: Break Down Brick Walls with Home Sources,” available for FREE viewing on Friday, May 8, 2020 as part of “One Free Webinar a Day” from Legacy Family Tree Webinars. I’m excited to be included in Legacy’s month-long webinar line-up during this time of stay-at-home self-isolation, and hope you can join us May 8 and May 23. No need to pre-register; to view, just click on the yellow bar at the top of the page at Legacy Family Tree Webinars: Click here to watch today’s free webinar. (Every day in May – a free webinar!
Each day throughout May, Legacy Family Tree Webinars will unlock one webinar from its membership site for free viewing. That’s 31 free hours of genealogy learning! If you like what you see, consider becoming a Legacy Family Tree Webinars member to receive new webinars each week. Learn more and sign up to join.
I hope you return to Legacy Family Tree Webinars throughout the month to view the featured free webinars and more. And, join me again on Saturday, May 23 for another free webinar, “Seven Steps to Manage Digital Files.” You’ll find practical ideas for organizing and controlling your digital assets.
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