As you gather pictures from the past you’ll realize how important it is to have photographs. Which ones do you appreciate most - snapshots and candid shots or professional and posed? Usually it’s a combination. Guess what, future generations will appreciate the same things so begin to take pictures like those. This should become an ongoing habit.
2. The Family Bible
Not everyone has one but they were quite popular at one time. If your family doesn’t have one but there was a particular church, synagogue or mosque that your family attended, you may find archives there. Many old neighborhood worship buildings kept scrapbooks, pictures and files of their parishioners and events. Look for weddings, funerals, baptisms, or most any rite. By the way, this was how most records were kept in Europe for centuries so if you can trace your family back to a certain city in “the old country” then you may want to visit there or find a service that can look things up for you and translate if necessary.
3. Family Home Videos
I remember so clearly as a child my grandfather with his super 8 movie camera at his eye. He was always smiling. When it got dark, he’d pull out the projector and the screen every once in a while and we’d gather around and watch ourselves grow up. I remember the quick click, click, click of the film going through the projector, the jerky motions at times and the pauses when the film went off track and had to be reset. I still feel the bitter sweetness remembering the flap, flap, flap of the end of the roll. As a child I loved watching Grandpa’s films and hated ending the session. Thank you, Grandpa! Now it’s your turn. Gather up all your old videos and/or start taking videos!!!!
4. Newspaper Clippings
Those little clippings from the Weddings & Engagements section or notices from the Obituaries are all helpful in searching for dates and maiden names, parents or siblings names. Those notices used to be relatively inexpensive and they even gave addresses. Local sections or smaller town papers also listed births. Don’t forget that local libraries have newspapers on microfiche, too.
5. Birth Announcements/ Birth Certificates
Look beyond just newspaper clippings to baby books, hospital listings, and County Clerks’ offices. Some information will be off limits – especially if the person is still living or there was an official private adoption.
6. Marriage Announcements/ Marriage Licenses
Looking beyond the newspaper for marriage information would include the County Clerks’ offices, wedding invitations or anniversary celebration invitations, napkins or matchbooks made for the wedding, the guest book.
7. Death Announcements/ Death Certificates
Besides the official death certificate being registered with the County Clerk’s office, obituaries are a great place to start. You may also find funeral cards given out at the funeral ceremony or sympathy cards received or maybe a visitor book where people attending the wake or funeral would sign in. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s funeral homes would send the executor or family member a funeral Memorial Record
8. Love letters, War-time letters,
Many people saved them but they could be very personal so be sure you have permission before looking through them. Also be sure you know whom they are written by and to. It’s easy to get confused and could easily throw you off if there was a break-up or death during the writing back and forth.
Telegraphs were very common during WWII to announce the death of a soldier or for a soldier to contact home in a hurry.
10. Scrapbooks or Diaries.
These are self explanatory but again, be sure to get permission if the owner is still living.
Helpful tip: As you collect these different things, familiarize yourself with them. This will be very helpful as you talk to other family members. You may make a list of questions from what you’ve seen. Something they say may remind you of something you read so you can expound on it. As you research an era you may be able to place a picture in a proper timeframe because of their dress or a photographer’s imprint. That may help you identify who is in the picture. In this entire exercise you’ll find that one thing leads to another, leads to another, leads to another. So the more familiar you are with the things you’ve collected the more you’ll be able to connect the dots.