Preserving the Past

You are looking at a photograph of the “younger generation” who attended the Price family reunion in Newburgh Ontario 99 years ago this past summer.This group was made up of the children of the folks organizing the reunion and were the grandchildren of Andrew Valleau Price (1830-1910.)

Now if you are a fan of Strauss-Howe Generational Theory it is clear that we are talking about a “younger generation” that is in itself three possible demographic generations – that’s the way it was back in the 19th century when a big family could have kids born over a 20 year span, and then their kids might do the same.. The oldest grandchild is my grandmother who was close to 40 by then and had kids of her own. The youngest one was probably born around 1910. No matter – the photographer knew best how to organize the photo.

A second question given that we have this photo from a century ago is how can we preserve the memory for future generations to enjoy and talk about? This breaks down into a number of sub topics:

Conservation of the Image

I don’t know how many copies of the original image are still around but I’m willing to bet that if a given image hasn’t been thrown away or burned, it’ll still look good. It’s ironic that 100 year old black and white paper technology gives us the best chance of a long term preserved photo. This one looks far better than some of the fading color slide images I took in the 1970s, and I’m not confident that the Instagram and Facebook digital photos of today will survive that well either.

It does require someone who cares to keep the photo around though. My grandmother obviously cared. So did my mother. So do I. And so did the original photographer who arranged the group and used a high quality early 20th century camera to make the image in the first place.

Who’s Who?

Ay, there’s the rub. Everyone in the photo is dead now, so there’s nobody from Newburgh 1917 who can help us today. There are a few distant cousins in the succeeding generation but they are now in their mid 80s. I have been in contact with one and he has been helpful ruling out some grandkids who were not there.

I am probably the oldest of the grandchildren of anyone in the photo, and I conclude that there are some people in the pic I have met and know for sure, others I have a pretty good probability of guessing, and some I don’t have a clue and don’t know how I’d ever know who they are. All I can say is that I wish I’d discussed this photo with my mother and uncles 35 years ago. Too late now.

Sharing The Knowledge

Here’s the easy part. With the Internet and the rise of websites like Ancestry and FamilySearch I can post the image in the Cloud and make it available to thousands of prospective researchers. Maybe a distant cousin will recognize it as one they have in their collection, and contact me. That happened with the cousin I mentioned above – his wife is a genealogy buff.

It’s sort of like a message in a bottle, but multiplied many times over. Put it out there and see what happens. At least it’s not just sitting in an old photo album in a dresser drawer.

There you have it. I’m doing my part at this distant point in the future. But how I wish I could know more about the past.


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