Sadness over Finding Old Photos & Documents

Hello Everyone,

Well I believe I now have 2 storage tubs and one book shelf full of old photos and albums. Not to mention a small collection of 8 and 16mm old home movies. Just found 3 home movies on the wknd, I havent tried to operate the 8mm projector I have yet, Im more familiar with using a 16mm and like using that size of film, so hopefully Ill catch on just as easily with the 8mm.

I know we are all out to make $$ and resell items, many of us, Im a thrift shopper, yard saler, picker, you name it! But there is just something sacred to me about old documents. And I mean the following..

Old Photographs

Old Home Movies

Old Historical Paper Documents(birth certs, marriage certs, house deeds, old family bibles and books, any documentation pertaining to family, etc)

I went to an Estate Sale a few weeks ago. I only planned on going to the post office, grrr and there was a sign, it was close to my home so I swerved off to go looking.

I will eventually have a blog on my finds there, and more of the story, but basically an estate sale company was selling off the contents of the home. And there lying about were family bibles, books, and old photographs, priced piece by piece and scattered about.

To make it more painful for me… these once belonged to a person, a person who took time to document, to put notes with the very items up for sale. Id find a few of the notes slipped out by onlookers and misplaced or on the floor.

They were also not as affordable as Id like. But they were heart wrenching, and all had writing on the backs. So basically I bought to me which were the best ones. Less than 5 and went home, I did call my mom because it turned out the family names on these photos were the same as both my parents last names and from the same state. But it didnt turn out to be from our families. My mom got to work on research and she and I spoke, she found a neat story about this child and the indians… and after I read it, things at the house made sense. I had to go back the next day… Everything was still there and half off, but still not cheap. But this time I went into the persons office, I didnt dig much before other then through the vintage clothing.

I picked out his personal family files, and newspaper clippings, I bought them all, along with the rest of the photos I left behind, and I bought his Sons of the American Revolution Coat out of the closet. This man and his family took detailed steps to document there history. There were so many things I could not afford to buy, personal effects, that were documented. But what I want to say is this… I really wonder at the end of the day what happened to the rest? Did it get tossed or donated and shuffled into boxes? Forever losing the context of where they all fit together into this historical puzzle?  I would plead with anyone who is a dealer, to stop piecing out collections and photo albums. If anything, put it ALL together in one big box and sell it as a grouping. I tried to do this but they didnt understand it and of course were not willing to bundle for a deal.

Here is an idea of what I left with, there are a lot more papers and clippings but they are folded up underneath the papers here and in a pile, and inside some of the books are more papers and newspaper clippings.


Dont pull old photo albums apart and sell the photos one by one, sell them as a whole, pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeeee and if you have any old paperwork, attach it inside with a ziplock baggie.

And its just so sad because this person spent there life preserving and doing history and generations before them also, and I am sure there are other living relatives who had no clue about what happened to this stuff…

For those of us with a love of old photos and epherma, heck dont toss it, give it to us!

My girlfriend sent me this movie trailer, for those of us who love Old Photographs and sometimes some of the unusual stories of what happens to our things when we leave this earth, here is a fascinating documentary soon to be out. I cant wait to see it! “Finding Vivian Maier” Ive attached the trailer below.



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17 responses to “Sadness over Finding Old Photos & Documents

  1. Great post and a sentiment shared by many fellow bloggers this weekend on Sepia Saturday’s theme of the unknowns. A parallel problem that I have been thinking about as I add yet another binder to my photo collection is what happens with MY collection when my time runs out? Have you considered this issue? Made any plans?

    • I have thought of it but no plans at this point as I have so many living relatives around myself who share my sentiment, so I know things would go to them. But yes a plan in the future of course. It depends on my children down the line and if they share the same desire to preserve. My mom is the family history researcher and she has a lot of items also. On my Dads side there was a long living Aunt, who went around her home and had everything labeled with tags on it, what it was and who got it when she passed away, it was kinda weird to see but she had preserved so much, and had it all figured out way in advance. Sometimes with life we can go in an instant without a plan. I guess this could be something important to document in a will. Ive always thought of a historical society from ones hometown if they have one is another place to donate a persons items too, many cities have old homes for tours or museums and love things from its past residents to display. I run into a lot of people with no children or with grown kids that have said they have no interest in this stuff and then the person is left trying to figure out what to do.

  2. Good post – I too am wondering what will happen to the photos I’ve so carefully collected if my kids aren’t into genealogy as much….

  3. I totally agree about keeping photos and papers in their original context. Good on you for rescuing what you did, and you’ll have a lot of fun sorting through it.

  4. I totally understand your feelings. I am the one in the family where everything is being handed down to, and am working on organizing it over time. That is for the stuff on my Mom’s side. My Dad’s sister visited last summer and she saw what I was doing and said, I have a bunch of stuff for you … you are the one that it should go to. We live in an area where wildfire is a real possibility, and I worry about how I can get all this stuff out of here if we have one!

    Great post, thank you.

    Kathy M.

  5. I understand your frustration. I’m not a genealogist, but just the offhand treatment these artefacts had would be enough to make me go “grrrr!” as well.
    The film clip is revealing isn’t it? We’d already had it pointed out to us in the Facebook group….why don’t you join? 😉

  6. gluepot

    Great sentiments, but I think all of us photo/family history enthusiasts have to live with the fact that there are many who don’t feel the same way as us. Those disposing of deceased estates are in the business of doing just that, and if splitting an album or collection of family papers increases the revenue, then that’s what will happen. Sad, I’m afraid, but true. One could perhaps even argue that those of us who buy such items, whether on eBay, in thrift shops or in yard sales, are contributing to the problem because we are increasing the market, and therefore prices. What is the solution? I don’t know, but I hope I can play a small part by researching and documenting the long forgotten subjects of the portraits that I purchase. And I think you feel the same?

    I’d love to see the film when it comes out.

  7. Makes me think I need to concentrate on putting some more order into my collection and figure out where it should go if family members aren’t interested.

  8. I would have been right there with you sighing over the fate of someone’s careful research.

  9. Joy

    So much history must be lost this way its doubly sad when someone has detailed everything. Happily you have saved some. Vivian Maier took stunning photographs, I remember stumbling across the blog in her name. I didn’t know there was now a documentary and a dedicated website.

  10. I see that this family had roots is Iowa as do I. I look forward to seeing more of this collection. I have wanted to “save” many a family photo and papers at estate sales too, but usually don’t spring for the amount being asked.

  11. Karen S.

    I totally agree and have shared these same thoughts. I think though that photos will forever be enjoyed by someone some where, as long as they can be found and shared.

  12. Such a wonderful post!
    I, too, find it sad that so many photographs, letters, etc., find their way into flea markets, etc. — so much so that I have spent the last few years buying things and getting them back to families of origin ( is a lifesaver in this regard). What is it, anyway, that makes us care so much about family histories that have been lost, left behind?

  13. I understand exactly what you are talking about on two levels. One, I am a family genealogist, and my own children and husband have absolutely no interest so what happens to all my research and photos? It truly worries me.

    Two, with a blog where I also publish orphan photos that I buy I have picked up large lots of photos from other families in this same situation. I know somewhere there may be some distant family member that might want these photos but unless I can find these people in a reasonable amount of time, at some point I am going to have to unload these photos and the next person may not care about them as much as I do.

    This is just a drop in the bucket, there are millions of photos like these circulating out there. So sad.

  14. A fine looking collection. And if someone had taken the time to document the collection then he/she wanted it saving and sharing.

  15. I have research half of my husbands family..written a private blog only available to relatives. When I am done (which should be soon) I will print up the book. It is my way of helping to take care of all the bits and pieces of info I have. Awesome post today. I am deeply sad when I see stuff in the shops..I buy whatever I can:)

  16. Mrs Marvel

    I so agree with you – it IS painful to think of all that person’s hard work being torn apart and tossed to the wind because someone didn’t respect their work and/or wishes. I have spent a lot of time digitizing my own photos in the hopes that the content doesn’t get lost, but if my descendants are not interested, I can’t promise they will maintain the volumes of albums I have created. Sigh….it is such a dilemma.

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