[Editor’s note: Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers.com shares his experience posting family photos on Facebook and the reaction from cousins he’s never even met. He can record those reactions and combine them with the photo and form StoryScans talking images,]
I was searching for additional photos of my great-grandparents, Richard Henneberg (1888-1941) and Frances Pressner (1889-1960). After a thorough search of my own images, I knew what I had to do: reach out to my cousins and ask if they had anything they could scan and send to me via email or post on Facebook.
Now it might seem odd that I didn’t just wait until the next time I saw these cousins, but I have a confession: I have many cousins that I’ve never met in person. We have built a great relationship via social media, namely Facebook, and all because of a few family photos that were scanned and shared online.
What a Photo Can Do
The photo above was taken about 1931 and shows all seven sons of Elmer A. MacEntee, another great-grandfather, in birth order. John W. MacEntee (1901-1984), Harold MacEntee (1906-1979), Myron MacEntee (1907-1981), George MacEntee (1909-1965), William E. MacEntee (1925-1987), Elmer J. MacEntee (1911-1971) and Abraham MacEntee (1913-1977), who was my grandfather. I’ve never seen the original nor have I held it in my hand, but it was sent to me by a MacEntee cousin who I was able to find on Facebook several years ago. Again, we’ve never met face to face…yet.
While I could have simply printed out the photo or saved it with my other genealogy research, I took the extra step of posting it in a virtual family photo album. Why? Not only did I think that there would be other cousins who had never seen the picture, but I also believed that the image could serve as “cousin bait,” as well as start a conversation about those ancestors.
So I created a simple album entitled “Ancestors” and periodically I would upload an image or two. Lucky for me, I have cousins who are social media savvy and “connected,” which meant within minutes I was receiving feedback and questions in abundance. These included “Who’s in the photo?” and “Where was this taken?” and “How are these people related to me?” as well as others.
Being the keeper of the family history means I not only try to answer these questions, but I also benefit from the comments made by other family members. The information provided not only helps to clarify the “who, what, where and when” aspects of the photo, but eventually the family stories also come out—and they just don’t trickle out…we’re talking a downright flood.
Family Is The Story
Here’s an example, with a photo of Georgiana Simpson (1862-1938) and Jacob DeGroodt (1860-1933), my 2nd great grandparents. I received the photo, again from another cousin, and I did a quick upload to a Facebook album.
Just look at some of the comments in the sidebar. I still get choked up when I see “So these are my great grandparents…” or “First time I have ever seen my great grandparents.” Imagine if I had just left the image file on my computer and didn’t make the effort to share it with others.
For other photos, some comments tell long stories about these ancestors and their lives. To think that this information would never have been shared had it not been for the simple act of posting a photo.
Scan, Record, Share, Inspire and Repeat
If you are sitting on a collection of family photos—whether they are in a box, the original envelope from the drug store or Fotomat (remember those?) or in an old scrapbook—you are sitting on a gold mine of family connectivity and storytelling.
Each image bound by its gummed black corners on that stiff scrapbook page is just waiting to spark a conversation or a connection if you’re willing to help it escape and let it “speak.” Scan a photo with the Flip-Pal mobile scanner, save the image to your computer, record the story about the photo using the StoryScans software, and then select the sharing option that best suits you and your family. It could be a Facebook posting or an online photo sharing site. It could be on Twitter or even Pinterest.
Whatever you do, don’t just let those digital images sit there on your computer! You’ll never know the full potential of a family photo until you share it and its story with others. And you might be surprised by what you find out about the picture, the people, your family and even better, yourself.