All family historians love photographs. They want to see what the world actually looked like centuries ago. They are curious about old houses, cars and implements used by people in their jobs. But they especially prize pictures of people to whom they are related and, in particular, descended from.
In my family, some people took lots of photos, others not so much. My father always had a camera and was very active when movie cameras for private use came out. I wrote about his photographic activities in a about Classic Family Photos a while back.
The 8 mm movie camera was introduced by Kodak in 1932. I have movies taken by my family – now digitized and on DVDs – from as far back as 1941, just after my oldest sister was born. Of course he also took hundreds of still photos of family activities as well, using a variety of cameras through the years. I still have all of them, now displayed in glass-front cabinets including one of the original box cameras by Kodak, probably purchased by the family around 1912. They were first manufactured in 1908. I still have the negatives of those old pictures, most of which my father developed.
In my collection are many photos taken in the 1800s – individuals, couples at the time of their wedding and whole family groups. Professional portraits were one of the few ways people could have their pictures taken then, mostly in studios.
Mary Crispin (Carpenter) Shepheard, 1830-1890 (photo taken about 1870)
The oldest photograph I have of a direct-line ancestor is of a second great-grandmother, Mary Crispin (Carpenter) Shepheard, taken about 1875 by John Hawke, photographer, in Plymouth, Devon. It is one of a wonderful set of old photos brought to Canada by my great-grandfather when he emigrated in 1913. He even wrote “My Mother” on the back of it. I know it is his handwriting from his initials on the photo and on other documents he wrote and signed. He also had one of his late wife, Mary Elizabeth (Pearson) Shepheard, as a young girl, taken at Bullock Brothers studio in Royal Leamington, Warwickshire, in 1882.
Mary Elizabeth (Pearson) Shepheard, 1866-1891 (photo taken about 1882)
On this side of the ocean, I have a not-so-great-quality copy of a possible wedding photo of great-grandparents, taken by Flaten photographers in Fargo, North Dakota, in 1884 and a copy of a family group photo of a second great-grandmother and all of her adult children, including my great-grandfather, taken at Manhattan, Kansas (photographer unknown) in 1886. This is the image that forms the backdrop to my blog. From other cousins I have obtained copies of photos of people that go back to about 1850.
Possible 1884 wedding photo of Isaac newton Thompson and Margaret Mary Anderson
These and others are very special memorabilia, probably among the most important pieces of my family history. They are even more valued when they have names or notes written on them by the people to whom they belonged. I keep them all now well-protected in albums that I hope my descendants will treasure as well.
Family of Hannah Tunstall (Mayfield) Miller-Watson and her children (photo taken about 1886 in Manhattan, Kansas, United States)