This photo of Dorothy Smith and her theater friends appears in her Book of Remembrance. It has been one of our favorite images of her youth. But with no caption, and nothing written on the back, we didn’t know anything about it. For years we wondered about its context, and it wasn’t until we transcribed one of Dorothy Smith Clark’s handwritten life sketches did we learn the real story behind it. In addition, we also discovered a photocopy Dorothy made that identified many of the people in it. Since then, we have identified and tagged eleven people in the photo on FamilySearch. Now this photo can be searched, shared, and appreciated, thanks to the transcription of Dorothy’s life sketch.
When saving photos to any online site, include as much information as possible, even if you don’t know the people in it. Consider information such as:
- Provenance (Where did the photo come from? How did you receive it? Who was the original owner?)
- Captions (Did the photo come from a scrapbook that included a caption?)
- Information written on the photo itself, on the front or back
- The stamp or mark of the photo developer
- A description, including setting, subjects, time period, or other tags that will make it easy for someone to find.
- The date the photo was taken (or an estimate of the date)
- Other supporting information, such as information extracted from letters, diaries, and other documents.
- Identify the people in the photo. If you are unsure, but want to suggest a possibility, make sure that it is clear in the description.
Don’t give up on unidentified photos. The little information you have may help solve a mystery. Index them. Transcribe the information on them. And of course, if transcribe your family’s documents, the description may already be written for you:
“When Marvin and I were about 13 and 11 we travelled with a group from “The Alberta Conservatory of Music” under Leo McCoombs to several surrounding communities. Billed as the “Lethbridge Kiddies” in Easter in Fairyland, our offering included piano with narratives, violin arrangements, dances and humorous readings by characters dressed as Rain, Snow, Clouds, and various flowers. My role as a pink hyacinth included a short piano number and later a group dance. Despite the novelty and excitement of being “on the road”, the stage never held any real attraction for me, even after some pleasant times in dancing choruses and road shows.” —Dorothy Smith Clark, Life Sketch [Dorothy Smith (KWC4-9F9)]
For more on solving photo mysteries, Maureen A. Taylor, a.k.a The Photo Detective is a fantastic resource.