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Ghostly images in old photo albums

Mellow old family album started over a century ago is one of two being researched which has almost none of the people inside identified. A few moments with a pencil can save future generations a lot of guess work. Donald McClure Photo

“Finally after a few months I decided to tackle the two mouldering photo albums inherited from a family estate.  Started over a century ago these pages contain  over 80 tintypes and pictures presumably of long departed relatives.”

The problem left to the decipher  is that almost all of the images have no identification scratched anywhere on them.

What would have taken a few minutes for someone to pencil in the identity of people, has the inheritor in a head-scratching game of foggy analysis.

And frankly I don’t know anyone else alive anymore who would have a clue about who these people are.

One of the saddest things about antique shows I think, is that so often old family photographs are on sale — and there is no indication of who these people are or where they lived.    I get a lump in my throat thinking about their anonymity as if their life and times really didn’t matter.

For us there is still time to make a difference.  Take a moment regularly to identify the people and/or events in your treasured photographs so that people in future generations will be able to connect and classify your family and its history.

About 80 images printed on thick Victorian photo paper and unique one-of-a kind tintypes are preserved in these albums. Putting names to the images is a daunting task. Donald McClure Photo

How easy it would have been to ask my parents or grand parents a few simple questions and to have saved myself years of exhausting research.

Let’s face it,  for folks in my generation it is  a bitter/sweet time of life.  The memories of the warm contacts with family and friends are still fresh in the mind. But then the realization nudges the senses to focus on the fact that  another year has been ticked off the work docket and the horizon has narrowed another notch.

It is the time to realize that all of the things you have packed away in cupboards and bank boxes have accumulated into a memory mass that needs attention.

Like me you may soon be the only one around who can put a name to the accumulated images on your film, slides and videos.

Because when you really sit down and examine it — there are not too many people who have any real interest in your personal memory boxes.

The age of divesting comes to us all sooner or later.  And although I took some comfort in the video that neighbour Ann Lafave sent over showing that the treasures and gardens put together by Painter Claude Monet are still being displayed and cared for many years after his passing — he really had a little more going for him than most of us.

One bright spot in the search discovered this picture of a "Mrs. Ashbridge", from the pioneer family who were among the first settlers in Scarborough. Our family descended from the Ashbridge family.

Friends called the other day to say that they had cleaned out years of family and travel slide accumulation and after sobering reflection, retained about 250 of the best and most pertinent and trashed the rest. Since we shared many of these good times,  we were sad — but we admired their resolve.

Their formula was to keep the best and most representative family and  friend slides; very few of the travel records.   When we seriously start our culling we will  do the same.  We will also evaluate items that might have an artistic, or cultural identity that could be a source of information for future generations.

It is a tough task, but it has to be accomplished — other wise you are leaving it to your kids or heirs to do the tidying.

I think it is incumbent on each of us to ensure that our best family records are left intact. Spend a few hours before spring bringing your records up to date.  You could help keep the memories of your family and these special times alive for future generations.

The other highlight was the discovery of this circa 1880 tintype of my grandfather Matthew McClure in his militia uniform, one of the earliest I had ever seen!

Filed Under: home improvementUncategorized

About the Author: He can tickle your funny bone or tug at your heart strings. County people may know him as a chronicler of everything that happens (or should happen) in the garden, but his interests stretch across the natural world. His unique sense of observation takes in a wide expanse of living and may even point out some truths about our own condition as managers of the world around us. With Loyalist antecedents in his family tree his roots go deep into the Ontario countryside.

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  1. Donald says:

    Thanks for your comments Doug. One other aspect of lost images we have experienced is the quick change in technology. About 20 years ago the 8mm cassett was popular for taking family gatherings. Today there does not seem to be any equipment around to play ths devices and the tapes are so brittle that they will not stand up to much handing. So a great amount of material is for all intents nd purposes has been lost. Best wishes Donald

  2. Doug Quinn says:

    So much in agreement with you Don Many years ago we found glass pictures that turned out to be Mennonites at work on a quilt. Had a whole box full from paper photos my parents that no one had even the slightest idea of any one, gave them to my brother and now have no idea where they are, not sure if this is good or bad but at least now I know longer wonder who they were.

  3. Donald says:

    Thank you Kelly. Talking with a friend recently about divesting of things in the latter part of life. He said he could part with many things, but other things gave him “comfort” because of what they represented in his life. “I intend to keep them as long as I need to,” he said.

    And I think that is a fair decision also.

  4. kelly says:

    I agree with you 100 percent Donald and thank you for articulating what causes many of us to lose sleep and that is dealing with the complexities of our past! For interests sake, I was given a lovely women’s cosmetic travel kit from the early 1900’s in amber with pearl. I discovered a tin photo of her love in the kit. An antique dealer friend offered me twice the price of the apparent value of the kit for the tin photo alone. I kept the kit and the romance together for a niece to discover! There are some things we should keep and some we should let go!

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