Photo Detective: Silver Linings
Ask for family photo collections and ye shall receive.
If every black cloud has a silver lining, in the darkness of my uncle's recent death, the silver lining for me came when his belongings were dispersed among relatives. My cousin and his wife discovered our great-grandmother's photograph album and reached an immediate consensus: “The family photo expert should get the album!” When I received it, I found out the silver lining was actual, not just metaphorical. From the mirroring of some photographs, I could see that they were indeed silver prints!

Needless to say, I was delighted with this gift, a virtual windfall of family visual information. Because this album belonged to Mary Elizabeth Heard, my great-grandmother, it includes many photographs not already in albums created by my mother or grandmother. Among those new to me were adult photographs of both sets of her twin sons. The photograph of Homer and Hunter playing their musical instruments helps with identification because while both played the guitar, only Hunter played the fiddle. Photos of her second set of twins include Marvin and his wife Bertha as newlyweds — were they ever that young? And is that Marvin in a group photo of businessmen? No, from the identification I see it's Marnice, and that he worked for the International Paper Co. in Camden, Ark.

If you want to be the recipient of family photographic materials someday, you should begin to build a reputation not only as a family historian but also as a family archivist. Encourage family members to see you not only as one who collects family information and builds ancestry charts, but also as one who collects primary source materials, including letters, diaries, Bibles and especially photographs.