Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Record Information on Backs of Photographs

Guest Post
by Suzann Johnson Ruch

Note: This was originally posted on The Organized Genealogist Facebook group on May 21, 2013

A couple of years ago, I renewed my interest in genealogy. I had smatterings of information, but finally decided that I wanted to pursue finding out more about my family. I pulled out what I had and joined I figured that would help me to organize a bit.

When I was just starting, my trees were public. I have since made them all private. I found that someone was very interested in my family tree, so I sent a message. We discovered that our grandmothers were sisters! I didn't know that she existed and she didn't know about me. Families lost touch between Michigan and California when the sisters (our grandmothers) died in the late fifties/early sixties! So, it was great fun to get in touch with her, and she had lots of information that I did not. While we haven't met, we have become great friends, and communication via email and phone all the time.

In my quest to get organized, one of my first projects was to scan all the photos that I could get my hands on. I removed them from albums if I could and recorded all the information in the album or on the photo back. I scanned photo backs that contained lots of information. I have all of my information in a nifty spreadsheet so I can find things easily. I still have lots to do to be completely organized, but I'm getting closer.

After I finished this project about a year into my new genealogy quest, I emailed my newly found cousin a photo of her grandmother and grandfather. I also sent a scan of what I found on the back of the photo - the directions to her grandmother's grave. We believe it was written by her grandfather and he sent the photo to Michigan to my grandmother. I found out that the location of my great aunt's grave (my cousin's grandmother) had been lost, and with the number of cemeteries in the greater Los Angeles area, it was a daunting task. She had tried and hadn't located the grave. This information was like gold to her and this summer she is traveling from her home in Northern California to visit her grandmother's grave. I am so happy that I worked my way through that project, and that I thought to scan that back-of-the-photo information!

I'm still a long was from being organized and I have much to learn and much to do, but I'll call that a small success story for finishing a project and sharing some results. It means so much to my cousin to finally be able to visit her grandmother's grave. I found lots of other treasures in those albums - lots of information that has helped me add more to my family genealogy.

copyright 2013 Suzann Johnson Ruch, used with permission of the author


  1. Wonderful! My MIL has a photo in her Book of Remembrance of an ancestor's original grave marker before a new one was put in place. Few knew that the stone 'in place' wasn't the original. Had we not gone through her Book of Remembrance, we would have never known the story.

  2. Great information and thanks for sharing. I would love to see an example of that spreadsheet. My hardest decisions are how to set up a system.
    Also, just to be curious, why do you or others decide to make their trees private on or other online genealogy sites?

  3. What a find on the back of the photograph! I haven't been so lucky so far, but I'm just glad when they're labeled. :) Welcome to Geneabloggers! This is a great topic for a blog.

  4. What a great story about those reasons for scanning the back of the photograph, too!

    Suzann, I have the same question as Tanya: after such a wonderful experience and developing relationship as you had with your distant cousin, why did you choose to change your online trees from public to private?

    Susan, it was so great to see your blog mentioned on GeneaBloggers this morning! Congratulations and best wishes as you continue your work here. You have really stepped into an almost overwhelming success story :)

  5. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, some great ideas and welcome to geneabloggers.