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New Year's Resolution

As this is resolution day, I would like to suggest a resolution for 2010 that does not involve calories or exercise.  I suggest--no, I heartily advise-- labeling your family photographs…NOW.

John Kavanaugh

“A photograph album can be…an invaluable source of historical information” provided the photos are labeled clearly.  “Each photograph should be labeled lightly but clearly on the back in soft (no. 2) pencil indicating when it was taken, where, and names of the people in the photograph.  Using the full name is preferable to nicknames or relationship terms such as ‘Gramps,’ as such references quickly become obscure.  Rather than labeling in detail on the back, you can number prints or slides and keep a corresponding record with descriptions in each storage box.  Keeping the same descriptive information for negatives is especially important.”  Long, Jane S., Caring for Your Family Treasures, p.49-50. The photograph above was labeled:  John E. Kavanaugh, 10 or 12 years old, standing between two men in a store, possibly in Minturn.  John was born in Salida, Colorado, December 6, 1910.  His parents were Henry O. Anderson and Hilma Lindgren Anderson.  His name was later changed from Anderson to Kavanaugh when he was adopted by his mother's second husband, William "Billy" Kavanaugh, an engineer on the D&RG Railroad. We can relate this photograph to people, places and a time...context! Daily, I am presented with beautiful photographs from Eagle County with no accompanying description.  The process of identifying people or location becomes a detective game, consulting other photos with descriptions, comparing skylines, and studying clothing for date clues.  Very often, a best guess as to who, what, when and where can be made but that assumption can end in being just plain wrong.

Somewhere in Eagle County

In the photo above, we see a log cabin, fencing and a skyline.  It came as a 5 x 7 inch negative with forty other negatives in a Kodak negative album, most likely dating from the 1930s.  There was no caption.  If anyone has information about the location of this cabin, who owned it, and whether it is still standing, please contact  For the time being, it is labeled “unidentified.”  Take the time to label your photographs with as much information as you can provide.  Your great-grandchildren will be thrilled that you gave them useful context.


A very helpful post, I too must recreate my own history due to unlabeled photographs. A shame.

Great suggestion. I have been enjoying some old photos from my grandparents' childhood days, and luckily they were labeled. Otherwise I would have no idea who the folks were.

A friend of mine "signs" photographs of famous people to give as gifts. I have an Ernest Hemingway photo, "signed," and proudly displayed. So many different ways of going with labeling! Jaci Spuhler, Local History/Archives Eagle Public Library, EVLD PO Box 240, 600 Broadway Eagle, CO 81631 970 328-8800

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