Now look for photographs. Nothing helps you to feel in touch with previous generations like seeing them, deciding where they were, what they were doing and how they were dressed. Ask every family member you contact if they have photographs and name any you have or are given. An unnamed photograph quickly becomes a lost soul! Ask older people for their help, now, while they are still alive. Many people own really old photos, probably without realising their value to future generations. A photograph turns a name on a family tree into a real person.
During the 1800s, when many people moved away from home, one of the first things they did was to have a photograph taken by a professional photographer to show how well they were doing. It was indeed a common outing, to go with friends to the photographer to commemorate a reunion, a birth, a marriage, or a new outfit. Dress gives an inkling of date. Female subjects wearing long skirts, with long, piled up hair, were usually taken prior to 1918, while the 1920s had a style all of their own. Very early photographs were usually placed on small thick card. Refer to the internet for information on cartes de visites and cabinet photographs if you think you have some of these.
By 1902, when the divided back postcard was introduced in the UK, people began to buy images in this format, often several at a time. Many have no message because they were placed in an envelope, along with a letter. By 1914 people had photographs taken by the thousand, often of themselves in uniform. Family members, to hearten loved ones sent overseas, responded in kind. “Remember me,’ is the message here. Few ordinary people had cameras at this point. After the war photography remained big business and people continued to plan Saturday outings round this activity, while free-lance photographers roamed the streets throughout the 20s and 30s, to take photos of anyone and everyone, on the chance that they would like the image. Wedding photographs became the norm, along with formal recording of school and work groups. By the 1930s, ordinary people aspired to cameras and thus began the family photograph that we know today. Many of these were very small prints, but thanks to modern scanners and printers, they can be enlarged.