Dealing with a box of family photos

trying to create order from a jumbled box of family photosUntil recently my mother had a box of old family photos in her closet that we would enjoy going through with her when I visited. As I’ve become more involved with family history research and with learning about proper preservation techniques, I realized that I really wanted to get the photos to my home and deal with them properly.

So when I there a couple of weeks ago, I mailed them to myself. They arrived last week. That’s a photo of the box and its jumbled contents.

I don’t know about you, but when I see a box like that and think about creating order out of it, I get a little overwhelmed. But, luckily, something else came in the mail the next day. It was the Family Archivist Survival Kit, sold by Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist. Part of the kit is her Loose Photos Kit (I certainly have loose photos!). That includes archival-quality storage boxes and envelopes as well as instruction.

My intention is to buy the ScanSnap SV600 scanner and scan these babies. But first, I have to create some order and figure out what I have.

Knowing that I have a place to put photos after I sort them (and after I scan them) gives me peace of mind.

Step One is going to be to read the copious information provided in the kits. Step Two (unless I learn otherwise) is going to be to sort into families. And Step Three will be to sort by individual. Maybe it’s the professional organizer in me, but I know I’ll feel better once the photos are sorted and I see what I have and also have segregated the photos that need identification–of which there will be many.

Many aspects of family history research make me feel overwhelmed. And here’s another case. But having resources and supplies available to me is hugely helpful, and probably the reason I was able to actually take the box from my mother. (She’s been offering it for years.)

I’ll write here about the progress and any surprises that are thrown my way!


  1. And I have 6 or 8 rubbermaid tubs of photos I’ve inherited with my m-i-l promising to bring more when they move near us. Let me know how it goes cousin – I am willing – I am willing – I am willing.

  2. Shana Looman Juarez says:

    I have had “A BOX” of bits n pieces since I was a teen. The box that came from Grama & Grampa’s garage. Over the past 25 years, I have been raising kids and keeping house. This box would come out every so often. I finally divided it up into “Known & Unknown’s”. A few more years of genealogy research and I divided the “Known’s” up into like group’s. This is when things really started making sense and I was able to match photos with people in my tree. Now I have many letters and still a small pile of “Unknown’s”. I go back through ever 6 months or so now. I keep looking and finding more and more little hints. I have even sent originals back to a grand daughter who had never seen a picture of her grandmother as a toddler. Who would of known that my great grandmother had a photo of a great uncle’s children?
    In these photos are a lot of “Post Card” photos. Sent and Unsent. I am now recording the information of the written dates, the stamped location & date if there is one and on the post cards that have the “Stick Stamp Here” spot unused, there is a way to age the paper. Giving your post card paper a time that they were physically manufactured. OH WHAT FUN!

  3. Shana, thank you so much for your comment! I love how you’ve turned this challenge into a game and created a really wonderful system to get past feeling overwhelmed (if you ever felt that way) by your box of photos! It really is a treasure. Thank you so much for sharing.