In May 2019 I had some black-and-white negatives scanned at Leave A Legacy. I had been in a business that competed with some of the areas that they covered, so I knew of the quality work that they did. I had stopped my business due to health reasons. I decided to take my family’s negatives to them to be scanned. I knew that I could trust my heirloom negatives to them.
In the latter part of 1970 I acquired some black-and-white negatives from my mother that were from 1920s through the 1950s. At the time I had my own darkroom and I made prints of the negatives, mostly as contact prints, or print the same size as the negative.
I went through the negatives and identified as many people as I could but there were some who I were not sure of or just didn’t know. I asked my mother to go through the pictures with me and she further identified many relatives that she had taken pictures of but that I did not know.
In these pictures I found a gentleman who was about the same age as my mother but a person that I did not know. There is also a picture of an older couple with a young girl standing between them in somebody’s backyard. When I asked my mother about these pictures, she said “He was just a friend” and I didn’t need to worry about him. In regards to the older couple, she said she didn’t know who they were. She told me I should just throw them out.
I felt bad that I had pictures of people, from the 1940s, whose family would probably love to see these pictures. I put the negatives and the prints away and just forgot about them.
My mother passed away in 1986 and shortly after that I contacted my aunt, her sister, and asked if she would help me to identify the people in the pictures. She agreed and we went through and found long-lost relatives in these pictures. When we got to the picture of the unknown man my aunt said “Oh that’s your mother’s first husband!”. When she saw the look on my face, she realized that I never knew my mother had been married before. My aunt told me his name and the fact that he worked for the same company that I did. A short time later, I made contact with him and we talked for about 20 minutes and then went our separate ways.
Move forward about 33 years to the new age of DNA testing. In 2019, my wife got me a DNA test and the results came back with quite a surprise. I didn’t find any family names from my father’s side in the results. I started to contact people who were on my list and none of them ever heard of the family name that I had. I did however find the family name of my mother’s first husband. As I started to explore the members on my DNA list, I found that they were associated with the same family name. At 72 years old, I found that my father was not who I thought he was.
As I explore my new relatives, I found more pictures of my biological father and his family. The picture that I had of the older couple turned out to be my grandfather and grandmother and one of my aunts. I have no idea what made me save these pictures since the connection to them was my mother and she had passed away. We never know why things happen but they happen for a reason. I have pictures of my father that are unique to me because my mother had taken them.
When I operated my own business, I had the opportunity to transfer an audio tape from around 1940. The tape was found somewhere in Germany by a distant relative of the man who now had it. After a little work, I managed to provide the words of my customer’s grandfather. You could decide to discard old, unknown devices and lose memories from your family. Or you could trust them to Leave A Legacy and create an heirloom.