July 25, 2014

After the Parent's, Are Gone, Who Should Get the Family Photos?

My sister-in-law, my husband's oldest sister, arrived with a small photo album of old pictures.  I had never had the opportunity to see these photos before, this photo album was given to one of my brother-in-laws by my father-in-law a few years before his death. All the siblings asked him to see the photos and for some reason he would never share them, until now.

I was delighted to see photos of my husband when he was a small child and quickly got out my portable scanner.

This is the first time I have seen a photo of his grandmother.

Four of his eight siblings.

These are just a few of the  photos that I scanned. In all but two of these photos, George is the only sibling in the photo.  

Now for my question. . .

Should the original photos be given to the person in the picture, if no other person is in it? 

After having kept these photos from the family for several years, my brother-in-law has given the album to my sister-in-law who scanned all of the photos and put them on a DVD for each sibling. She is now the keeper of the photo album. 

I realize that I have scanned copies of these photos, which I am very happy to have, but the originals have slightly different coloration, texture and the sweet curly cuts on the sides, not to mention the date. These photos are the archaeology of my husband's childhood, of his joy and pleasure, they show the innocence of his youth.

However, in this digital age that we now live in does it really matter if I have the original photograph?

Am I being, overly sensitive because George is no longer with us or do I have a valid point. 

I would really like to know what your opinions are on this subject. 

Should old family photos be given to the person who is in the picture or their decendents or is a scanned copy good enough?


  1. We just received a large envelope of really old family photos from the husband of a deceased cousin. My hub and I were very pleased to get the pictures, but wonder why he sent some to us instead of his daughters. I think our situation deserves a blogpost. Stay tuned at Wetcreek Blog. I will link back to your blog, if that is okay? Hugs, Linda

    1. Paulette, I just posted my blogpost. Maybe one of your children should ask your SIL for the photos of their father, etc. Enjoy your time with your family. Photos are nice, but family memories can never be "misplaced." Hugs, Linda

  2. When my father died a few years ago my brother and I went through all his photos. Many of them had duplicates, which made it easier; those pictures which didn't have duplicates were divided between us, depending in part on who was in them. It worked out well for us.

  3. I guess I think that whoever was given the album should keep the album - and make a disc for others in the family. Unless I'm confused by the brother-in-law-sister-in-law thing, I think that's what was done here. I don't think people have an obligation to give the photos to those in the picture. But that's just my opinion. I'm glad you've gotten to see the photos at long last.

  4. I am happy with scanned images, I wish my cousins would do that and scan them for us!! In my husbands family I am the keeper of the photographs. My husbands brother had the vintage 50's movies and all the newer video cassettes from the 70's & 80;s with all our kids when they were young and our family gatherings. . He made dvd's of the everything for us and their sister. I haven't done a thing. You have inspired me to get busy and sort them out.

  5. Well, we just received from my SIL, Executrix of my MIL's estate, a package of originals that my hubby was in. They scanned and kept the digitals...:)JP

  6. My older brother and his wife scanned all the family photos and gave me and my two other brothers copies. I am so thankful he did that! My dad, who is 90, gave me the originals and I took them home for awhile until I found out he had forgotten he had given them to me and was looking for them. I took the pictures back to Dad. I'm happy with the CD and I think my youngest brother (seventeen years younger) should have the originals since he will hopefully out live me.

    I don't think the pictures should be divided out. My husband's family did that and I have an envelope of pictures of just my husband as a child. Wish I had a CD of all his family pictures so we would have the whole story to pass down to our sons.

  7. I think it totally depends on who really cares for these photos and it may not be anyone in the pictures at all. It definitely is nice to scan them and share them with the family but the originals should go to the person who really cares and will take care of them. There are a lot of people out there who really don't care and I can see them just tossing them.

  8. Well, this point is close to my heart. I so believe in sharing and the feeling I get when I give someone something that belonged to their family member gives me almost as much joy as they do when they receive it. If it is just of your husband then YES you should have it. Luckily with buying 1515 family members have produced pictures of GGGrandparents I never thought existed. Lately I have even wanted to ask my brother if I can scan his baby book, so many pictures of my parents that are not in my book. Having the scan is great but I understand the desire to hold the original one, close to your heart. Ask for it.

  9. Hi, I've found you via Scarlet at The Finished Article. This is a subject close to my heart, I was given a box of my mil's photos when she died. I made a beautiful book of her life with some of them and other mementos I found in the box. I'm sure the sil's are now regretting giving me the box and I asked hubby recently if i should offer them the box of remaining photos but he said 'no, they gave them to you and they know where they are, if they want them they can ask'. So what I would say to you is, if a lovely book of family life has been made you cannot expect them to take out some photos to give you originals, however if they are just higgeldy piggeldy in the book or in a box or something I should think you could certainly ask for some originals. Another thing to think about is, if the book isn't in archival safe conditions (I noticed some tape on one of your scans) the photos will deteriorate so if that is the case you could put the case that you want to save them from deteriorating!! Good luck with whatever you decide to do. x

  10. Unfortunately, whomever is given the album is entitled to keep it. This is a difficult one since no one was allowed to see the album it might also give your sister-in-law a significant attachment to every single photograph that you might not understand. You should very well ask for some/all the photographs you like, hopefully you are close so she can understand why you want them.

    It was very nice of her to put them on a DVD. Not many people would go out of their way to put in the effort to do something like that, especially for old photographs.

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  12. A scanned copy is good enough.

  13. Getting digital copies is better than I got. My youngest brother and sister took everything my parents left. My youngest sister "borrowed" an album from our mother's sister and never gave it back. Lots of people have albums or boxes of photo that they cannot find because some visiting relative took all the pictures. So, beware. Whoever is given pictures owns them. However, maybe the giver should have given the pictures to a closer relative. If so, I would copy all the pictures and give them to a closer relative.

  14. Just checking in, Paulette. Hope all is well. Hugs, Linda@Wetcreek Blog

  15. My brother recently gave me the old family photo albums my parents had bestowed on him. My brother was moving (to a newer and bigger house) and said if I didn't take them he would throw them away. Yes, throw them away. What?!!! Well, needless to say I took them and haven't shared with my parents what their son would've done with these photos.

    I have been going through the albums and pulling out photos that I think his children would like. I plan to give them those photos. My big plan is to scan the others so that there is a digital record as well as the hard copy. Paulette, I think having the scan is a start, but I agree that those pictures featuring your husband should be offered to you.