The picture said only John Ufkes 4H Steer 1933, and it got me to thinking. Have we really identified our photographs? The 1933 photograph only included my grandfather’s steer. The only human part of the picture was part of a leg and a shoe. The photograph was included in a collection of other photographs of my grandfather and was taken in front of their home. I knew the house was the one in which my grandfather grew up and never really doubted whose steer was in the picture. But what about in fifty years?
My grandfather had two first cousins with the same first and last name. If the photograph had been separate from other pictures I would not have had any context in which to place it. The home that was standing in 1933 is in disrepair and it is only a matter of time before firsthand knowledge of its appearance fades from human memory. It could very well be that in fifty years the “identity” of the picture will not be as certain as it is today.
What can be done? Identify in full the name of the individual in the picture. Consider including a year of birth and death or the name of the parents to distinguish from other individuals with the same name. If the location in the photograph is known, include that information as well.
I’m now going back and considering how “identified” my pictures are. I have long known to avoid identifications like “Grandpa’s steer 1933” (recognizing that names are better than relationships), but now realize that complete identification may require a few more details than I originally thought.
A better identifier might be:
Â Â Â Â Â Â John H. Ufkes steer 1933, at Fred J. Ufkes farm, Basco, Illinois
The picture is not big enough for me to write a complete biography, so brevity while still being descriptive is necessary. Are there pictures in your collection with identifications that are not as clear as you think?
Note: I don’t know the name of the steer. If the picture had been from my paternal side of the family and the name of the animal was known, I might have been able to trace the animal’s pedigree at http://www.angus.org. (I saw pedigrees on livestock before I even knew they existed for humans.)
Click here for a printer-friendly version of this article.