Heirlooms And Photographs
Heirlooms And Photographs
Nick Barratt (Genealogist) gives expert video advice on: Can I trace an old family photograph?; Can I trace the history of a family heirloom?; What can I find out from a gravestone?
Can I trace an old family photograph?
You can do quite a lot with old photographs, because they contain so much information. For a start, it's a snapshot of a certain period of fashion, so you can do a little bit around dating the clothes, or the style in which they were wearing them. Secondly, there may well be a photographic studio marked on the bottom of the photograph which will take you to a place and maybe even a time by looking at trade directories to see when they were operating. Many photographs will have military insignia or uniform, particularly during the Victorian period or early Edwardian. You can start to work out rank, regiment, or indeed, which armed force your relative was working in. The photographs themselves will give you a huge amount of information. You ought to check the back, though. Some of the marks are written on, some of the names, or indeed, dates. Also, see whether the photograph matches up with some correspondence that may actually relate to a date or to a holiday home or visits to see other parts of the family elsewhere.
Can I trace the history of a family heirloom?
Heirlooms come in all shapes and sizes, and you may actually want to start getting professional help in dating it first of all. The Victorian Albert museum has a whole range of personal belongings, from say the 19th century onwards. You've also got the design registers at the national archives, which show you lots of artefacts and ornaments that were brought into people's houses. Furniture, for example. But other heirlooms are going to be personal, letters for example. And with these, you can start looking at the prominence, the date, whom it was written from, to whom it was written, and who wrote the letter. These are all clues you can then follow up in other sources, usually within the family or within county archives too.
What can I find out from a gravestone?
Gravestones are an incredible resource, mainly because it's the last resting place of an ancestor. So it's going to have quite an emotional pull as well. Gravestones tend to have inscriptions that give you biographical information, sometimes some verse or some words which explains a bit more about the person's life, and often, you will also find other family members mentioned. You can sometimes find an occupation, a family tomb, a family vault, effigies, what people would have looked like, and they're another really important resource. Of course many of them no longer exist, they're weathered away, lost or destroyed.