Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dear Randy - What to Do With My Family Photo Albums?

One of my elderly society colleagues asked me the other day:  "I have nobody to pass my family photograph albums to.  What will happen to them if I die?"

After some discussion, I found out that these are photographs of her life, family, birth family and grandparent families, and earlier families, and that many of the photographs are captioned in the albums, but not digitized.  However, she has no descendants and no cousins (that she knows of) that would want these photo albums.

What options does my colleague have?  The ones I've thought of include:

1) Scan the photos to digitize them, use descriptive file names, and add metadata for names, dates, places and events.  Then upload them to an online family tree, to a blog, or to a photo site like Flickr, Picasa, 1000Memories, etc., and hope that they are available online forever for future researchers to find and enjoy.

2)  Donate the photo albums as they are to a local genealogical or historical society and hope that they take care of them and make the photos available for future family members.   If a specific album is for a specific locality, donate them to a society in that locality.

3)  In a will or trust, specify a person or organization to take care of the photo albums.  Perhaps, some money should be bequeathed in order to ensure the appropriate care is taken.

4)  Try to sell the photo albums on eBay or another buyer/seller web site.  Have fun with the proceeds.

Seriously - what other alternatives are there for my colleague?

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Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


JL said...

Nobody??! Is there not even a cousin who would want them?

John said...

Post messages on Rootsweb or other Surname messages boards searching for interested cousins she might not know about?

Jeff said...

I know what the lady feels. In my extended family, I don't know of anyone that I could pass my research to that really cares. There are a few people that done some research into their branch of the family. There isn't anyone that is into researching the entire family.

Anonymous said...

I ended up with my mother-in-law's very old family albums that were also well labeled and captioned. I did a family tree for the family and uploaded all the photos on Over the past three years I've met several cousins who were just delighted to find their lost family history with great-great grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. I'm hoping I've earned some good genealogy karma that will help me find my long-lost branches. Those old family photos mean so much to family members who have lost touch or lost track and It felt good to be the one to share them. Wendy

Anonymous said...

I've found several museums that are repositories for albums relating to their locale.

Bill said...

My website,, has begun a project to compile and organize house histories for residential addresses across the country. I would gladly post and preserve photos taken in or around your friend's family homes as long as she can provide an approximate address and year a photo was taken. Preserving those specific pictures may account for only a small part of her entire collection, but it would be a start. There are a lot of good suggestions in your post and in the comments. Hope your friend finds a future home for all her family photos.