Photos Lost to Time
I have recently developed a bad habit – doomscrolling.
Yeah, I know. It’s terrible.
I mostly like looking through Facebook Marketplace and Ebay. I look for things like film cameras, spinning wheels, sewing machines and vintage wedding gowns. I like old stuff.
Of course my scrolling habits are tracked and run through Facebook’s and Ebay’s algorithms so it can provide related items that might be of interest. Tonight, one of those related items on Facebook Marketplace stopped me in my tracks.
It is a wedding photo of a young couple, my guess around the time of WWII. The groom in his uniform, probably not long before heading to war. It is listed on Facebook Marketplace for $6.
Six lousy dollars.
I have to be honest. It really made me sad. They look so happy. They obviously loved each other. I’m sure they had families that loved them. It now is on Facebook Marketplace for a couple of bucks.
I shared it to my Facebook profile and said the following: “Ok my Belleville peeps. This came up for sale on FB marketplace. It’s a photo from Newark, guessing WWII era. I hate the idea that they may be from our neighborhood and it could just get sold to some random person. You know them? No? Pass it along! Let’s get this photo back to the right family.”
It reminded me of a contact I received on Facebook several years ago. A woman told me she was at a garage sale and came across a photo album for sale. The homeowner told her it was in a “pile of stuff” that was left behind decades ago when they purchased their home. She said if it didn’t sell, she was probably just going to throw it out at that point.
The woman purchased it and started down the road in an attempt to find the family. It had several photos with the name “Van Benschoten” written on them. She told me she did a search on Facebook and came up with me. She was hopeful I would know the people in the photos.
Unfortunately, I did not. Neither did my husband. The album was in an area his family never lived. What I did do, however, was reach out to my husband’s cousin and another woman I met whose husband is a distant cousin of my husband. Maybe they could help. Neither of them knew who the photos were of or who they belonged to, but they continued on the journey to try and find the right family. The whole even made me quite sad.
And now I have that same feeling again.
I stared at this wedding photo for a very long time. And I think it serves as a good reminder to all of us.
While it is hard to imagine, decades from now, someone may be going through your belongings after you pass away. They may come across a box of photos that are unmarked. No dates; no names; nothing. Will those photos wind up on whatever platform is popular for sale? Or even in a landfill?
Start to grab your photos and negatives. Organize them. Add dates, names, locations, and any other useful information. Every family has at least one person in each generation that wants to understand their family history. The collector of the stories. The keeper of the flame that is family.
Don’t let your beloved family memories wind up as two faces in a “vintage photo” that no one knows and just wants to make a quick buck off them.
Some day in the future, a future family member will thank you for it.