Okay, you’ve seen this photo before…
It seems almost universal; we just don’t think we will ever forget the people in our family photos. And most likely, we ourselves won’t. But what about our descendants, when those of us who knew the subjects of the photos are no longer around?
The man in the red shirt is my grandpa, Emil Johnson. I don’t know who the other man is, and at first I thought maybe he was the “lucky fisherman” mentioned on the back. But he doesn’t have to be. He could be another relative and the lucky fisherman could have already gotten in his car and driven away.And just because we live in the digital age and we can save everything on our computers, or even in the “Cloud” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t label our photos. The name “IMG_6434” tells us nothing about this cat or his owner.
The photo on the left is blank on the back. Can you tell any more about it in the photo on the right? I didn’t think so.
Right now in my computer this one is labeled as “Unknown House in Snow.” I might mention at this point that you should try not to get your house pictures from opposite sides of the family mixed together. After quizzing my cousins on the “Johnson side” and none of them could identify it, I began thinking maybe it was in fact from the “Anderson side”. Since both sides had relatives who lived where it snowed, I can’t narrow it down by the weather.
“Mama” in this photo is my great grandmother Charlotte, but even the identity of “Julia H” seems to have been in doubt. But, as you will see below, just because someone did label a photo, you can’t always count on the label being correct.I have always loved this picture, and I have always thought it was my grandmother, Edla, and her brother, Oscar. But when I looked into my family history a bit more closely, I discovered that this couldn’t have been Edla, because Edla was younger than Oscar. This adorable little girl was their older sister, Hildur (which I’ve also seen spelled Hilder, or Hilda), who died at the age of five, a year before Edla was born.This is a screenshot from Newspapers.com, a really fun and useful website. The paper was the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, from Monday, December 12, 1898. If you want to read about your ancestors first hand, I highly suggest this site. What I soon discovered, however, was that certain newspapers are available only with a paid subscription. What I also discovered was that I enjoy perusing through old newspapers so much that a small monthly subscription fee was worth it to me.
And what happens if the photo is labeled in a language you don’t understand? I always enjoy saying that I know two and a half languages, but Swedish is not one of them, or even the “half”. That is when (although as a foreign language teacher I have to cringe a bit when I say this) you pull out your trusty iPhone and look on Google Translate. For my purposes it worked. I found out that this was a summer Swedish class in Sioux Falls, and the teacher’s name was Ernest Pearson. Alma was my grandma Edla’s sister, and I’m pretty sure that’s her at the far left.Here you see Edla, (left) and Alma, in a rare photo with their hair down. Alma died in 1913 at the age of 15, which I always thought was extremely sad.And here’s another thing I’ve discovered about researching family history. Just because a date is on someone’s gravestone doesn’t mean it’s accurate. It’s hard to see in the photograph, but you can read that Alma’s headstone in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Sioux Falls has 1912 for her date of death. We know this isn’t right, because her death notice came out in the Sioux Falls newspaper on March 24 of 1913. (I cropped that part out of the screen shot, but you can trust me on this.) I looked up why someone would have an incorrect date on their gravestone, and what I found was that sometimes the family didn’t put up a marker until years later, and the actual date might have been forgotten. I noticed that on the Find a Grave website, after listing her parents’ names, it said “File Date 1931”. So maybe that’s what happened here.You might remember from“The Rest is History” that I wasn’t sure if this was Charlotte’s first husband, Nels, who died in 1900, or her second husband, Stengrim. Well the consensus of the cousins has come in that it was indeed Stengrim. In case you were wondering. Now let’s take a look at some more unlabeled photos from my family history.I love this one, but who could they be? I can’t really tell.I know my grandpa Johnson did this in the Army, but that doesn’t look like him in the photo. Again, no name on the back.I labeled this one “Unknown Class”. And the list goes on. So, after looking though piles of unlabeled family photos, imagine my amusement when I came across this one.All-righty then!