by Sherry Stocking Kline
August 30, 2009
Written for FamilyTreeWriter.com after finding a family’s photographic treasures in a yard sale….
Call me crazy, but I love to garage sale. Go to them. Not have them.
So one lazy Friday afternoon when I was on my way to somewhere else I spotted a yard sale, slammed on the brakes, jumped out of the car, and went over to see if there was anything I couldn’t live without.
Not much. But there among the mismatched glasses and old pillow cases was a box of photographs with $2.00 written on the box flap.
I looked at the folks holding the yard sale, and trying not to sound like they’d just put a price tag on one of their children, I asked, “You’re selling your photographs?”
“No,” they answered, “they were here when we moved into the house.”
“Oh,” I answered, and feeling better I thumbed through the photographs. Some were old, maybe even early 1900’s old. Some appeared to have been taken in the 1930’s and judging by the clothes, crew-cuts, and cars, they seemed to continue up through the 50’s and 60’s.
Naturally, most were without names.
I walked around, browsed the other tables, but that box kept calling my name. Honest, it just pulled me back to it.
No matter how good or bad, my family photographs are treasures, bits and pieces of our lives, snapshots of our memories. This was someone else’s box of memories, someone else’s babies, someone else’s high school graduation, and someone else’s vacations. Surely somewhere there was someone who would be glad to have them back.
I started to pick up the box, all the while muttering under my breath, “You don’t have time,” “You may not find the family,” and “You’ve got enough to do preserving your own family history.”
But I’m pretty good at playing devil’s advocate, too. “Remember how you nearly cried when that elderly third cousin on your mom’s side that you just located told you she’d thrown her own family photos (your own family photos, too) away?” “Remember how excited you were when another new-found cousin gave you a photograph of your great-grandparents and you saw their faces for the first time.”
Then, my final winning argument, “if you can’t find the family(s) you can always send the photos to DeadFred.com, a website for ‘orphan’ photographs, as well as a place to upload your own ancestors.
“I’m a genealogist,” I said, explaining that I would like to take them and find their family.
“Do you have any idea who these belong to,” I asked. And that’s when the lady brought out the high school autograph book she found among the photographs and let me go through it. A few had signed their first and last names (a genealogist’s dream) and one or two included the city, state, and date, “Senior 1936” and “Eads, Colorado.” Eureka! Helpful clues.
So that did it. I was hooked and reeled in.
Ever the bargainer, I asked if they would take a dollar for it.
“Sure,” they said. I had a plan and a fall-back plan if I couldn’t find the family. So after I copied the information from the autograph book onto a raggedy envelope I had in my purse, I packed up the box, brought it home, and set about planning my next move.