I hope to share research, information, tips, and a little of my family history with others following the path to greater genealogical awareness. Let the search for enlightenment continue...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Letters and Photos and Stuff, Oh My!: Sorting Through a Loved One's Estate (Part 2)


Now that you have all of your boxes at your home or storage spot, it's time to sort some more. For some people sooner is probably better than later, because it is easier to remember what items are in what box while the big sort/clean out project is still fresh in your mind. Other people may want to wait a while, particularly if they are dealing with photos and mementos of lost loved ones. Do what is best for you. Personally, I usually think about sorting through stuff when my husband asks, "Oh sweetie, can we get rid of some more of that stuff?" Time to get to work!

You might want to organize items that might be of interest to other family members. One of the first things I did was gather and give away some stuff that might be of interest to my mother's brother. While it was fun looking at my uncle's homework from the 1930s and 1940s, I didn't really see a need to keep it. Ask yourself if what you are keeping is vital or peripheral to your research.

Next, do you have photos in frames? Do you love the frames? Do you even like the frames? If not, take the photo out of the frame and toss the frame. Better yet, sell your frames at your next yard sale, and put the money you make towards a genealogy or family history project. I found I was able to condense what I had, just by getting rid of the picture frames I didn't like or need.

Consider sorting items into boxes according to family surname. I organized a box of stuff for my dad's Shenette family and several boxes of stuff for my mom's Szerejko and Bulak families. I labeled the boxes with their last names and indicated what was in the box: Szerejko photos, Szerejko memorabilia, Shenette photos, and so on. Depending on how much you have, you might want to extend it out according to family surnames or lines.

Next I tried to identify people and figure out what family they came from. Unfortunately a lot of the photos I have either didn't have any information written on them or were written in Polish. Even though I don't read Polish, I made some pretty good guesses by looking for clues on the photographs. I sorted photos out by where the photo was taken. I knew my grandmother's Bulak and Kowalewski families came from the Ostrolenka area in Poland. My grandfather's Szerejko family was in Warsaw. If I saw a photo that was stamped with a photographer's stamp from Ostrolenka it went in one box. If I found a photo that said Warsaw on it, either from a photographer's stamp or written on the back, it went in another box. Here I would say go with your gut feeling. Your guess may be right! My guesses have been surprisingly on target for the most part. I recently made contact with a cousin from Poland and together we have been working on identifying photos. While I can't say I've been 100 percent accurate, I've been pretty darn close. Another tip for identifying people, ask yourself, "Who do they look like?" I have looked at photos and just known that a family group belonged to the Bulak family. The resemblance to my grandmother and her father or mother leaves little doubt as to what part of the family they are from.

Finally, I have a box I've somewhat unceremoniously labeled "Unidentified Dead People." Poor souls. I don't have a clue as to who they are. In my collection, this box consists mostly of photos of wedding groups. I keep thinking I'll finally be able to identify them some day. I've considered scanning them and saving them to my hard drive in order to free up physical space and toss the actual photos. I've considered posting their photos on one of the websites aimed at identifying old photos. For some reason I've had a hard time either letting them go or deciding what to do with them, so for now they just hang in limbo. Other projects and research take precedence. At least they are all together in one box...


Coming up next: Getting down to the nitty gritty...

Letters and Photos and Stuff, Oh My! (Part 1)
Letters and Photos and Stuff, Oh My! (Part 3)

2 comments:

Joan said...

I had to laugh at your resistance to letting go of the "unknowns." My box of Uknown babies, ladies, and guys has strange hold on me --- can't let them go.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Hi Joan. A funny thing happened to me just the other day. I was looking at one of my many photos of UDPs (Unidentified Dead People) and suddenly I recognized my grandmother! She's so young in the photo, I didn't recognize her before. See, one more reason to hang onto this stuff. I can see my husband rolling his eyes already...