Tracing Your Ancestors Through Family Photographs : A Complete Guide for Family & Local Historians
Jayne Shrimpton's complete guide to dating, analysing and understanding family photographs is essential reading and reference for anyone undertaking genealogical and local history research. Using over 150 old photographs as examples, she shows how such images can give a direct insight into the past and into the lives of the individuals who are portrayed in them. Almost every family and local historian works with photographs, but often the fascinating historical and personal information that can be gained from them is not fully understood.
They are one of the most vivid and memorable ways into the past. This concise but comprehensive guide describes the various types of photograph and explains how they can be dated. It analyses what the clothes and style of dress can tell us about the people in the photographs, their circumstances and background.
Sections look at photographs of special occasions - baptisms, weddings, funerals - and at photographs taken in wartime, on holiday and at work. There is advice on how to identify the individuals shown and how to find more family photographs through personal connections, archives and the internet - and how to preserve them for future generations. Jayne Shrimpton's handbook is an authoritative, accessible guide to old photographs that no family or local historian can be without.
This is part of series of over 50 titles with 'Tracing your ancestors' in common and says it's a complete guide. For that it would have to have 2000 pages rather than 200, but it is helpful and does a fair job for its size, covering the 100+ years from the invention of photography to the end of WW2. We run through the main processes and photo sizes, identifying studios, photographers, card mounts, how to date fashions, identify family occasions, places and uniforms. Finally a short section on preservation offers a counsel of perfection.
I learned a lot, but have the odd niggle. The author mentions Welsh ladies proud in their traditional costume - actually Lady Augusta Hall in nineteenth century not only invented it but forced her employees to wear it - this gives one a slightly different perspective. Over 150 illustrations is a generous number, and for these dates there is little need for colour reproduction. It was however a little unfortunate when referring to hand-colouring to say 'as can be seen in Fig.3,' where it can't. I wanted a little more speculation sometimes; she notes that photos of women are twice as numerous as those of men, and one wonders why. Could it be that then cameras were mechanical objects too complicated for women to understand, therefore men took most of the pictures? I'd have liked more about cost; my box Brownie in 1950 took a reel of 8, the cost of film was a significant item out of one's pocket money, then there was development on top. How did 1950 prices compare with those of 1910 or 1930, I wonder? I also wonder how much date information could be gained from mounting methods? At one time I used fancy but useless gold corners in my photo and postcard albums, which always came unstuck.
The author provides both book and online references throughout to more extensive resources and there is a fair index. She might have mentioned The National Archives' own collection of early photos, whose catalogue I had a hand in transcribing and is hopefully online. Universities are good at archiving, local authorities keep photos of past Mayors and Councillors, civic visits, processions, and probably a little Googling would produce hundreds more websites.
I am lucky to have a photo album of identified and mostly dated ancestors, so for me, this book was more of a nostalgia-fest than a guide - those school tunics! The 'walking picture' that took me right back to me and my granny on Southport pier! My dad's rather floppy trousers with turnups! For its intended audience with drawers of unlabelled photos I expect it will be a mine of information.
The Friends of The National Archives