Photos for profiling

My grandmother Lalla was quite photogenic. She was a fashionista in her day, and I never tire of looking at her through the stages of her life. My children will never know her, and while that makes me sad, there are ways to remedy this dilemma.

Looking at our collection of photos, it baffles me how any one family can collect seemingly millions in a lifetime, but this would be the case with grandma, our Butterfield side.

How, then, to organize and document large quantities of photos?

How I’ve used photos for profiling

A period of time

One way is to choose a period in time. Grandma appeared the happiest in her teens and 20s, so I’ll highlight those years.

A theme

A theme can be a place, situation, group, or just about anything. Merely choosing or thinking about a theme can help with organization. Spread out your pile and look for themes or collections. Group your photos accordingly.

  • Aunt Hazel during her working years
  • Elmer Butterfield’s diaries
  • When dad lived on K Street
  • Grandma Peggy’s teapots
  • Great aunt Bertha’s farm in Port Angeles
  • Lalla in the early years
  • The Appel family in Whitman
  • Great grandma Carrie’s wedding dress


You may have collections of photos, possibly a family, a person, or a home. Many may be unidentified. At the very least, keeping them in the same, organized place or file will help your children later. Write down your hunches; they may be more accurate than we imagine, and it’s better than leaving nothing. Our suspicions may help guide our children when their questions inevitably surface later.

Studying photos gave me a glimpse of how my grandparents liked to vacation, where, and with whom. I also see that they could be very silly. Since there are many photos of my grandparents on vacation, a vacation theme has become a “file” at my house.

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Example of a profile using new photos

Suppose you own a certain antique once belonging to great grandma that now sits in a corner of your home? The kids know it’s old, but beyond that, it does little more than collect dust. A unique or special item, grandma’s cookbook or perhaps an antique high chair, can tell a story.

A short story about the antique, perhaps with a photo of the antique’s owner, and new photos you’ve just taken, is a great way to preserve the history of this item and its owner.

I used current photos and an old photo of the owner to flesh out and create a story about our high chair; to read that story, click HERE.

Overwhelmed? Focus on your goals

Use what you have, include your hunches, build from there

Your goal is to transfer your knowledge to a place that is organized and easy to read. Your children will thank you later, because they will ask, later.

For another look at tips on how to flesh out a story, click HERE.

Using old photos, new, or a combination, you are well on your way to creating a profile.

Let me know the ways you discover to use photos to profile your ancestors.

Happy Profiling! ❤

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