Category Archives: Family Photos

Where Are Your Old Photos? On Your I-Phone, Maybe?

shoebox of photosI did the hard way. Set up a photo stand and copied the old family photos via film using my old Nikon 100. THEN I scanned them, one by one, one by one. If you’ve ever tried to tackle the task of copying old family photos, you know why most don’t. It’s too hard, too iffy, and too time consuming. You could grow old yourself in the process.

So where are your old photos? Does this look familiar?

Enter ShoeBox–the same I-Phone app that let you scan receipts and business cards now lets you scan your old photos. You can even straighten, rotate, caption and tag the image. You might have to watch for glare, but that minor compared to the mind-numbing previous possibilities.

You can upload them directly to Facebook which is rumored to be creating a scrapbook function, soon to be available for those who want to document their life pre-Facebook.

OR, if that’s not to your liking, the photos can be stored in your I-Phone and/or uploaded to your computer. It’s nothing short of getting the old family photos out of the shoebox and into your busy life. I’m excited.



Filed under Family Photos, Keepsakes, Why Stories?

Story Please!

The old adage says “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Not always true, but there are photos that seem to be a story. We look, smile, and wish we knew more about what’s going on. This family at a museum in Toronto, for example. Don’t you almost wish you could overhear what they’re talking about? Aren’t you tempted to make up a story?

Little confession: that’s my son and his daughters. I didn’t take the photo. I wasn’t even there, but I think it’s a charming moment.


Filed under Family Photos, stories, Why Stories?

Stodgy Vs Story

I had a great aunt whose idea of entertainment was to bring out the family photographs and carefully repeat the names, “This is cousin So-and-So.” A man’s wife was always “Mrs. So-and-So,” never a first name, who was called something else before she was married and something else after she re-married. Of course, Mrs. So-and-So was related to someone else I was supposed to know . . .. I was worse than bored. I grumped and slumped until my great aunt finally excused my bad behavior saying “very likely I was just too young to remember.”


I also had an uncle who twisted nursery rhymes into ribald limericks. Since no one would explain why they were funny, I had to remember them until I was old enough to figure it out on my own.

Mary Had a Little Lamb imageMary had a little lamb

She tied him to a heater

Every time he turned around

He burned his little peter

will run through my head the rest of my life.

Names and dates don’t stick: never have, never will; but, once in awhile, my great aunt got distracted and told me something interesting, like the fact that one of my ancestors was a Viking pirate. Of course, when I asked to see a picture of him, she didn’t have one, which meant she was forced to fill-in. “Our family came from Denmark, not the regular part of Denmark, but a little island off the coast with a hidden cove—a favorite Viking hideout. There were pirates plundering nearby ports from that little island far longer than from the Barbary Coast,” she claimed.

Viking Ship Picture

Turns out that’s mostly true, but, even if she was still alive, I doubt she’d be impressed by the fact that I’ve been to that little island, checking out her pirate story, among other things. She was less about truth and more about application. When she told a story, she made sure it made a point.

“We are luckier than pirates,” she told me. “We have so many new things, such wonderful inventions, these days a pirate wouldn’t know what to steal.”

Turns out my great aunt also kept a journal. She names her first boyfriend, Alonzo Eckersley, and tells how they spent one summer together:

Every night we would take a ride on my horse and then dream dreams of what we were going to do in the future. One night his dog was poisoned. Both of us surely did cry.

She doesn’t say what happened to Alonzo. Instead, she shifts to how she went away to board for high school. She lived with a family named Stewart and took piano lessons but didn’t like making music. She names her best girlfriends: Mildred Rhule, Grace Ritchie, and Ruby Ward.

photo of young women and 1922 automobileThey had a car and so did I. We had a good time that summer with all the boyfriends! I guess there were too many boyfriends because I got so I hated them all. They were all alike, how disgusting, and they all acted and talked alike.

The year happens to be 1922, but the tale is timeless.

We take photographs, sometimes feverishly, trying to hold the moments that matter, but, nearly always, when I tell someone that I’m gathering the family stories, I get a puzzled response, as if that is not a task for the serious. Names and dates on genealogical charts, fine. Copying the family photographs, encouraged. Stories? Why stories?

Because two pages of her journal were enough to change my impression of a stodgy old aunt.


Filed under Family Photos, Family Stories, Life Story, Memories, Personal Narrative, stories, Uncategorized, Why Stories?

Keepsakes Aren’t Kitsch; Keepsakes Keep Us Healthy

Writing for the Denver Post, a friend, Claire Walter, gathered some wonderful stories about keepsakes and how they keep us healthy. Check out the article; there are medical studies that indicate that keepsakes aren’t just kitsch. Because they mean something (have a story attached), they help us stay balanced, in-touch-with-our-past, and healthy. As an example, Walter lets Hollis Brooks tell the story of her lamp:

4292keepsakes“There is a pretty lamp in my life that I inherited from my mother . . .. It was her favorite lamp, and I have recollections of her standing by it, admiring it and saying aloud to me, ‘Oh! This little lamp gives me pleasure every time I look at it.’ “

“It has a porcelain base, painted with a peacock. It is colorful and somewhat distinctive, but not the sort of decorative item that brings the word ‘wow!’ to mind. After my parents died, the lamp came my way, making the journey from Connecticut to Colorado. I have placed it by my bedside, so it’s the last thing I see before I close my eyes to sleep.

“I have moved seven times since my mother’s death, and wherever I live, the lamp is the first item I place in my new nest. What makes the lamp extra-special: there is a tiny scrap of paper nestled in the lamp underside. It reads, in my mom’s distinctive handwriting: ‘For Hol. xx.’ Sometimes when I need my spirits lifted, I sit by the lamp and turn it upside down to read the note. And I always feel my own light go on again.”

After a fire, flood or tornado, there’s a deep reason why we are willing to sift through the rubble looking for the keepsakes. We need them.


Filed under Family Photos, Family Stories, Keepsakes, Memories, stories, Uncategorized

A Picture Is NOT Worth A Thousand Words

No matter how cute, photos in the family album need a story. 


No matter how cute, photos in the family album need a story.


Browsing through an antique store, I came across an old photo album filled with snapshots of a family who once lived near a beach. California? Florida? The pictures focused on two girls, maybe seven, who might have been sisters. Besides seeing the two of them over and over again, I saw a house with a palm tree, a Chevrolet station wagon, and a dog that looked at the girls, never at the camera. A seemingly happy family from the 1950s was my best guess, but how had their pictures had ended up in an antique shop with a price tag on them—cheap. We grow tired of chairs and china cabinets. We remodel our houses and find old couches no longer fit new lifestyles. However, we usually hang on to our pictures, no matter what. 

 Next, I wondered who would buy a book of old family pictures.

Someone who had assumed a new identity? Maybe, someone in the U.S. Marshal’s Witness Protection Program I told myself in overly dramatic undertones. In that case, adding an old album to the décor would be like saying, “See, I have old photos. I am a genuine person with a real past.” Of course, if anyone took that seriously and asked about the pictures, a story would have to be invented. 

That’s what I was doing, while I was standing there, making up a story because a family photo is worthless without a memory. And that, I suspected, was the real reason the album had been given away. No one remembered the stories. 

As I continued to thumb through the pages, it was hard not to notice the way each picture had been carefully mounted under clear plastic covers. Someone had valued the pictures, had wanted to keep them secure. They were secure in the album, but they’d slipped life.


Filed under Family Photos, Family Stories, Uncategorized