In her recent webinar, Gena Philibert-Ortega asked us if we remembered our grandmother's kitchen. Do we remember her rolling pin, dishes or the way the kitchen looked? That got me thinking about all the kitchens I have known and the relatives who filled them with warmth and good food. But as a photographer, I couldn't help but start thinking about photographs too. As part of our role as genealogists we should be proactively thinking about taking photos so that our descendants don't have to rely simply on their memories.
Here are five photos every genealogist should be taking now in order to pass down more than just memories:
1) In the kitchen
The kitchen is the heart of most homes. Great smells emanate from the kitchen as family recipes are being cooked. During holiday celebrations conversations are happening, people are bumping into each other, laughter is peeling out. Other times the kitchen is the center for hanging out. A visitor stops by unexpectedly and everyone gathers around the kitchen table for lemonade. Or family and friends relax there after a high school soccer game or theatre production.
When capturing your kitchen in a photo try to consider all the uses of your kitchen. Take photos of the cook(s) and what they are cooking. Show images of friends casually gathered around the table. Don't forget to include special items such as heirloom china or your mom's favorite bowl. I know my kids will remember me wearing an apron. I am always wearing an apron in the kitchen. While I might not want someone to photograph me in an apron it would be a really meaningful photo for my children to have. It would bring back lots of memories for them.
2) Don't forget your pets
Everyone seems to have lots of photos of their pets which they've shared on Facebook. But do you have photos of you and your other family members with your pet? Photos of interest to genealogists will also contain family members. Take a family photo with your pet when he first joins your family. Then be sure to continue taking more photos through the years. Both your family and your pet will change as time passes. You will all grow and start to look older. Also, how did you interact with your pet? Did you take your dog on hikes or summer vacations? Did you ride your horse on a particular trail? You want to be able to capture those moments so that you can show your descendants how much your pet meant to you.
3) Multigenerational photos
Perhaps the most important photo of all for genealogists is the multigenerational photo. Every time you get together as a family you should consciously take a photo of the youngest person in the family with the oldest person in the family. Those photos serve as the link between generations many years into the future. The youngest people in your family will be grateful they have photos with a relative they were only able to meet once or twice.
Also, how many generations of living family members do you currently have - three, four, maybe even five? Get a group photo showing the span of the generations as they are now.
Sometimes people like to take these photos based on gender - daughter, mother, grandmother, great grandmother. And the same photo for the men. Other options are to take a photo with all the men in the family and another of all the women in the family. A single photo showing the entire family is certainly good too but it gets more difficult to see everyone well. And not to mention it's nearly impossible to get a good photo of everyone the more people you have in the photo.
4) Gravestone photos with people in the photo
Genealogists love to go to cemeteries to locate and photograph the graves of their ancestors. But have you ever included yourself or your family in the photo? Gravestone photos are so much more meaningful when the people we love are in the photos. And it also serves to document for future generations that we have visited the graves of our ancestors. When my children were little I took them to cemeteries quite regularly. Some of my most precious photos are of my little boys next to an ancestor's gravestone. They may not remember the specific visit but they will always know that there were there once.
Two of the Pierre-Louis boys in 2006
5) Photos of your passions
Back when I was in high school my local church was making a directory of all its members. They asked all the families to come dressed in the outfits that represented them the most. The father might be holding fishing gear, the mother in her running clothes, a son in his football uniform and a daughter with her camera gear. The photos were wonderful because they really gave a sense of who each person was. It would be fun to create a staged photo like that just for our own family keepsake or maybe even a holiday card.
If you don't feel like staging an event like that then you'll have to keep in the back of your mind to capture these moments as they happen. Photograph your kids during scouting events such as Brownies, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. Head off to a sporting event and get a photo of your kids in uniform before or after the game. Take photos of family members marching in the local 4th of July parade. And don't forget that photo of your Dad in his favorite hat when he's off sailing.
By going to the effort of taking these photos now you'll provide a much richer way for your descendants to get to know you. What other types of photos would you include? What images do you want to pass down to your descendants? Let me know in the comments.
Marian Pierre-Louis is a house history and genealogy professional who specializes in educational outreach through webinars, internet broadcasts and video. Her areas of expertise include house history research, southern New England research and solving brick walls. Marian is the Online Education Producer for Legacy Family Tree Webinars where she produces online genealogy education classes. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.