A little over a month ago my daughter and I drove north several hours to visit my 95-year-old aunt, my mother's second youngest sister. She has a few medical problems but when I speak with her on the phone she is lucid, appears to have an excellent memory, and speaks clearly. She's been interested in and supportive of my family history efforts, has answered many questions and identified people in photos, and has always indicated that she would continue to help identify people in old photos and answer questions.
Before we went I finished scanning photos from my grandmother's album and printed them. (The album itself is/was far too fragile to take along with its black pages shedding fibers.) I hoped my aunt might be able to identify some of the people, perhaps know or at least suggest possible locations, and share stories or memories of the individuals in the photos.
The photos in the album range in size from about 1" x 1" up to 5" x 7" for individual portraits with most being in the 2 1/2" x 5" size. I printed the photos at 4" x 6" or 5" x 7" thinking that my aunt might need the larger size to see the images more clearly. When my aunt pulled out a small magnifying glass to look at the images I realized the larger sizes were not a help.
Not only was her vision failing but her memory of faces has begun to fade. Was that cousin Edward or cousin James? In another photo, which was Uncle William, Uncle John, Uncle Andrew, and Uncle Dan? It could have been a compound problem of slightly unclear photos and/or slightly dimmed vision and/or a fading memory.
I'm grateful my aunt was willing to look at the photos, try to remember people, and identify those she recognized. My disappointment comes from knowing that I didn't show her the photos and ask her to identify individuals sooner. Who else could I ask? I know of no one.
The lesson? Don't wait! We've all heard it before but it finally hits home when it happens to you. If you have old photos to be identified, if you have questions to ask, don't wait! Ask those older relatives now. They're not getting any younger, their vision is not improving, and their memories aren't getting any better. Ask now.
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