Who is your family historian? Who takes the photos? Who keeps the photos? Ever since I was in grade school, I have loved to hear people tell their stories. Raised on a family farm by strict parents in the 1950s, we four children were “seen and not heard.” I have fond memories, however, of the rare times my parents would tell a story about their past. We would sit spellbound around the kitchen table while our parents reminisced, sometimes in German. The first photo taken of me was by a guest at my 3rd birthday party. I inherited this special photo but no story. I was smitten with a lifelong passion – help others tell their stories and bridge generations before it’s too late.
We All Have A Story
I recall in college returning one of my mom’s 8×10 pictures back to her and asking her to write the story behind the photo. She was indignant and replied, “I don’t have a story!” Perhaps the Great Depression (1929-1939) blanketed her memories. On the other hand, I also remember gifting each of my husband’s parents a photo album, mounting corners, and a black pigma pen and asking them to add a few photos and write about them. His aging father spent several days adding some of his favorite photos and, in his shaky hand, identifying some of the people. We treasure and hold dear these 10 pages of written family history. Moving forward into the next generation, our youngest daughter has created numerous family photo books for her son, our only grandchild, during his school years. What do your children know about their grandparents, uncles, and aunts? Photos are our autobiography. They prove we have lived, loved, laughed, and celebrated who we are – our Legacy.
A Tale Of A Story Lost
With the focus in September on Saving Your Photos, we all know of someone who has lost family photos. Recently a prominent Alaskan shared his heart-wrenching story with me. He wrote, “Our family had been quite good about capturing snapshots of our family life, vacations, milestones, etc. — our photo albums had great value. In the later years of my Mom’s life, whenever the family gathered we almost always got out a couple of the photo books to relive and reminisce about our family life. When my mother died a few years ago at age 83, my three siblings and I gathered back at the farmhouse where we grew up for her funeral service and celebration of life.
After my brother and sisters selected our favorite heirloom furniture, etc., we gathered all the photo albums in one place. These included not only our family photos, but also my parents’, and some of my grandparents’ photos (many of them the 2.25-inch square Brownie photos from the 1920s and 1930s). My task was to gather up these priceless albums. When I arrived to pick up the albums, I was shocked to discover that I was too late. My brother had told the company hired to clear out the remainder of the house that whatever was left over was trash and should be taken to the dump. The company had already hauled everything off. I was absolutely, totally devastated to learn that our priceless, irreplaceable family photos were gone forever, with no way to recover them.
This is a reminder of the high stakes and big risks that people take when they either decide not to preserve their photo memories with backup scans or delay the task until it is too late.”
His loss continues to fuel my passion for preserving my own story and family history that I am working on.
After I lost my parents, I inherited a large plastic tub and weathered suitcase of their old photos and outdated media with no written documentation. Over the past 50 years, I have spent countless hours researching old photos, gathering historical documents, and interviewing distant relatives to piece together my history. But what would happen if my work were inadvertently thrown out?
Fortunately, I was introduced to a company whose mission was the same as mine. I finally found the missing piece of the puzzle – Forever, the world’s first permanent photo storage and sharing website. It’s my complete memory-keeping platform. I converted old media and am currently uploading, editing, documenting, and saving my work in my curated Forever library. Forever is my safe, secure, guaranteed storytelling home. For me, Forever was a smart investment because once I purchased my storage account, I experienced peace of mind knowing that I OWNED it and that most of my money was safekeeping my memories forever — it’s like my generational life insurance.
Stories (and Photos) Lost in The Digital Forest
Now that technology has replaced the proverbial shoebox, we are drowning in a sea of digital chaos. Not everyone will feel the immediacy of doing something with their printed and digital photos. Is it because they’re “out of sight, out of mind?” I have found that most people think about their photos only when faced with a tragedy or a deadline such as a milestone graduation, a celebration poster to display at a funeral, or an impending hurricane or tornado. What are YOU waiting for?
If you are ready to begin telling and preserving your own family story, here are some action steps that I recommend to help you keep your family history alive and go from Overwhelmed to Overjoyed!
- Make a date to work on sorting and curating your printed and digital photos – preferably 15 minutes a day or an hour a week or at least once a month. Put this photo time on your calendar in your phone for an important reminder.
- Enlist the support of a family member or friend for an accountability partner. After all, you are doing the important work of rescuing lost family memories, and sharing will keep you engaged.
- Create triple redundancies – back up! One backup must be an offsite solution, commonly known as cloud storage. Please read the terms of service of your web service. Is it permanent, safe, guaranteed, and generational? One company, Forever, has done it right. Choose your storage website wisely because your story matters. After all, it’s your Legacy.
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We also invite you to visit our sister blog The Photo Organizers for more tips and in-depth knowledge from some of the top photo organizing industry professionals. To find a photo organizer near you, visit the Association of Personal Photo Organizers.
Lynnette Feusner, postgraduate of the University of Wyoming, is a mother of two adult daughters and one grandson who just celebrated his 21st birthday. Forty years ago, she began teaching people in small groups at the local college, YMCA, Parks & Rec, and in-home gatherings why and how to organize their photos into photo-safe albums. After eight military/civilian moves including their recent move back to Alaska in 2016, her circle of influence has widened to include a local women in business group, a genealogical society, and the chamber of commerce. She hosted the first-ever Save Your Photos Day event in Alaska on September 9. Lynnette is a Lead Ambassador with Forever. She and her husband LeRoy will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next June!