Fun Helpful Hints History Research

Harvest Your Family History

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Written by Jill Breznican

If you’re ready to move beyond just names and dates on your family tree, then be thankful for Thanksgiving! Holiday gatherings are the perfect time to wax nostalgic with relatives around the dinner table. One of the best ways to spark conversations about the past are by reviewing the photographs that captured them.

Family photo albums are filled with happy snaps of everyday moments and celebratory milestones, but the people and stories behind them can fade as quickly as a flashbulb if not recorded properly. As a result, unidentified photos just might get tossed in the trash if no one knows their significance. This is where you come in.

Play Curator

In the weeks before Turkey Day, search through your photos and flag just a few that you’re curious about. Maybe it’s recalling the name of the neighbor whose azaleas you would trample on the way home from grade school, or the address of your great aunt’s house, or the make and model of your dad’s first car. Whatever your questions – set these aside as candidates for conversation.

Extend the Invitation

Subsequently, invite your dinner guests to bring one photo of their own to share. While it’s tempting to want to review an entire album together, it’s best to start small. This ensures that each of your relatives will not only get a turn, but that more time will be allotted for them to contribute a detailed story.

Feast on Memories

As memories are shared, make sure that the information is being captured. Use your smartphone to make an audio recording of the conversation as well as snap one picture of the photo being discussed and another of your relative holding their photo. Without this critical step, these stories may just get lost all over again.

Share your Leftovers

Once the table is cleared and you’ve taken that after-dinner nap you so rightfully deserve, evaluate all the items captured in your phone and choose a method to share them online with family members. Several websites, such as Ancestry, Family Search, Shutterfly, and Facebook, allow users to post images and stories. This just may inspire your relatives to keep contributing photo memories well after the holidays.

So, this Thanksgiving, harvest your family history. Crack open a bottle of wine, break out the family photos, and get to asking Who, What, Where, When, and Why. You’ll be surprised at what comes next.


Want help learning the stories of your family? Contact other expert researchers like Jill and post a request to our community today!

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