What To Do With Photos of Unknown Relatives

Oh my goodness. I keep meaning to post and I keep writing blog articles in my head and somehow a year has passed since I’ve written anything. As they say, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions!” I hope not, for my own sake.

While social distancing, I have been continuing my project of re-scanning all my family photos, putting them into archival pages in an album and organizing the digital files with meta-tags so that everyone will be identified and put in the right family folders. I may have mentioned that I actually scanned all my family photos back in 2008. But at that time, I did the project for my parents and the goal was to just get them digitized. Now that my parents are gone, I’ve been able to go through the images, throw out the ones of stuff that have no import to the family (they may have had import to my parents at one point) and re-scan them in a more organized manner. It’s been an interesting process because in the past few years, due to my research, I’ve found several branches of family that  neither I, nor my parents,  knew about.  Through communicating with them and  learning about them,  I’ve identified several of the  people in previously un-identified photographs.

But that still leaves me with many photographs of unknowns. Some have vague notes on the back, typically written by my father, and occasionally incorrect. But many, such as this woman, have no information other than they were part of the collection belonging to my grandma Esther. Which could mean they are related on either the Kronenberg side or the Szerman side. (If I could talk to grandma know, I would tell her how much easier my task would be if she had scribbled a few names on the backs of her photos.)

While I scan, I often open the images and do some retouching. Usually I do a dust and scratch removal, adjust the exposure, take out any pits or bad marks in the photo. Some photos are in pretty bad shape and need all kinds of adjustments but some take a minute or two to fix up and can make quite an improvement.

I was doing some clean up to the photo of this woman, my unknown relative, and was struck by the parallel to the task of chevra kadisha, the ritual cleansing and dressing of the dead body of a Jewish person prior to burial. As I removed scratches and  the traces of some 100+ years of dust and fading, I felt a strong sense of honoring this woman, whoever she was,  and however she is related to me. I could have easily tossed her photo in the trash but my hope is that at some point, I will connect with another disconnected branch of my family, and hopefully someone will recognize this woman and she will once again be home. Remembered by those who loved her, and by those who never met her.


  1. You are amazing. I have received more history on my grand father side which has been amazing. This almost needs another lifetime to create. Ugh but who is really going to care but us ?

    • Stefani Elkort Twyford says:

      Annette, you do it for the honoring of your ancestors. Hopefully someone in the next or next next generation will step forward and take what you’ve done to pass on. Most people don’t really get interested in genealogy until they are in their 50s so for me, it could be awhile!

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