The impenetrability of the unrecorded past

I wrote this post on May 31st 2016 and as it’s only had a few views I thought it could have another airing on its second anniversary.

The image above is one of my favourite family history photographs.


I’ve inherited it from my grandmother but I’m not even certain if she is in the photo. I don’t know anything about the photo. I’ve guessed that it might be at a wedding celebration but it might not. There’s no information about where the people are; who they are; what they’re doing all together; even when it was taken. The woman on the front row on the right looks a bit like another photo I have which I’m sure is of my grandmother. Obviously there’s no one alive today from that era who can provide the answers.

Why didn’t they write some names, dates and details on the back?

You would think with the great attention that was being given to emerging literacy in those days, they would have wanted to practise their skills and annotate their photos. I suppose if the photos went in an album originally they wouldn’t have thought there was any need. I know my grandmother and her mother and her sisters could write well because I’ve got a collection of postcards they sent to each other in the early years of the twentieth century when they went on holiday.

So why didn’t they add some captions to their photos?

I’ve spent hours (years!) researching my family history; and that of my husband’s family too. I’ve accumulated all sorts of documents that have been saved over the years. I’ve become my family’s custodian of old photographs; postcards; letters; diaries; receipts; birth, marriage and death certificates; birthday cards; wedding cards; engagement cards; funeral cards; school magazines; church magazines; newspapers and newspaper cuttings; medals; coins; jewellery; samplers; a christening gown; a wedding dress; a decorated rolling pin; nanna’s bag; a sewing box; china; glassware; two glass fronted cabinets; and a tiny silver thimble.

Read more of the impenetrability of the unrecorded past on my Cabbage and Semolina Blog.

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