Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tuesday's Tip – Find Your Family Photographer

[Editor's Note: Today's post was written by Richard Hanson. Photo courtesy of Richard Hanson's Hanson-Olson family history photo collection.]

Photos are both an important source of information and critical to creation of interesting family history publications. All of us inherit photos and make an effort to get copies from known relatives. But for many of you, there may a pot of gold out there awaiting your discovery. As you identify your historical extended family, pay special attention to their occupations and hobbies. Look for that professional photographer or photography hobbyist. That person would likely have accumulated a vast collection of extended family photos (portraits, family events, residences). Try to find out what happened to that photographic collection. I found one such person in my father's family, a grand uncle named Edward Olson.
Edward Olson and his home-built motor-bicycle. Photo taken during 1920s or 30s. Edward Olson (1879-1946, son of Louis Olson and Hilda Anderson) was a professional photographer, musician and inventor – the family techie of his era. Joined in the migration of his Olson family relatives from Minnesota to Sacramento during the 1930s, himself having arrived in 1936.
Virtually everyone had some of Edward Olson's photos. He must have widely distributed some  photos which made him easy to identify. But what happened to his collection? Edward Olson had no descendants and no wife when he died. As my father and I contacted the extended family we found various people had caches of his photos, starting with my Olson grandmother. I subsequently inherited most of her cache of photos. Relatives must have divided up his library of photos. We made copies of those belonging to others usually by personally visiting them with 35mm cameras and tripods (pre-digital camera era). One trusting relative in another state mailed us a big packet of 1920s-era photos to copy. I currently have all the photos cataloged, scanned and saved as high-resolution TIFF files. I provide a complete set of scanned images on optical media to all interested extended family members. Phase II of my search begins with me coming up with a better way of categorizing the photos so that recipient relatives will easily be able to determine which ones I am missing. Likely, many more of his photos are out there waiting to be found.

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