Will the Circle Be Unbroken?



Mom astride her pony, Billy Sunday, preparing to ride in a parade (circa 1927). Mom claimed he was given this name by my grandfather because the pony was acquired on a Sunday. I have a suspicion there may be a little revisionist history going on here. By all accounts my grandfather was far from a religious man, I can’t prove it, but suspect that the obstinate and sometimes ill-tempered pony was christened thus to poke fun at the famous evangelist rather than pay homage to him.

Nobody outside of our family will care that the pony my mother was riding in the photo at the top of this post was named “Billy Sunday.” This is knowledge that can’t be obtained by “Googling.” This is information that is of no interest beyond a select few individuals, but it is a part of who I am.

Sometime before my mother lost her eyesight she had the foresight to go through our collection of old black and white family photos. With a soft pencil in her scrawling delicate script she inscribed on the back of each image the names of the people pictured along with the location and approximate year as her memory allowed. She told my brother and me that she was doing this because we would not know or remember the details she was recording.

She was correct.

Sure, I recognize most of the people captured on the prints primarily because they are shots of immediate family. Others however would be unknown to me if not for my mom’s record keeping.

Sadly, it has taken me years to have a real interest in my roots and my family’s history. My self-absorbed teenage years blended into my 20’s and 30’s which were only slightly less self-obsessed. Fast forward a few decades and now I would love to sit down with Mom and Dad and have them fill in some missing details from their early years. Dad passed from us in 2012 and a hundred years of living has worn Mom’s memory thin, it skips and jumps like an over-played cassette tape.

I’ve transferred Dad’s 8MM movie film to DVD’s and now have boxes of 35mm slides to go through.

I worry now about passing down the legacy of our family’s current years. For a least a decade, we have not generated photographic prints to write on. Our family photos exist in the digital realm and scattered across a half-dozen different devices.

I am researching systems that will let all members of our family share a common cloud-based archive of our family photos. At this point I have not found the holy grail of family photo archiving.

Here are some of the challenges that I see:

  • Now with phones and digital cameras, we no longer take just one or two shots of an event, but sometimes dozens. I don’t want to upload all of these, only the best. This takes time edit.
  • Since we can’t write on the back of these digital files, how do we associate detailed information to them. Organizing events in folders only gets you so far. File names only get you so far. Do you invest in a program that will let you enter detailed metadata? If so does everyone accessing the site need to have the same software?

I know there are people out there who are smarter and have more experience with digital photography.

I welcome your ideas and input!

One thought on “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

  1. I still feel the best way to save photographs is to have them printed. This requires no software and is not tied to future technologies. Also I wish my parents and my wife’s parents had placed names and places on their pictures as your mother did. It has caused much work and disappointment when going through our family pictures. I have written about this in past blogs. I enjoyed reading your post very much.


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