the rejects.

I came home from South Dakota with a pile of old family photos that no one wanted.

rejects title

While there, we got together with my mom’s cousins and we all sat around the dining room table and sorted through a big tub of photos that came from my Great Aunt Lula Perline Moe.

I’ve mentioned Lu before, I named my manikin after her.  When we were kids we would go out and stay on Aunt Lu and Uncle Homer’s farm in the summer.  Here are Homer and Lu …

lu and homer  You see, Aunt Lu never had any children of her own so she enjoyed having various nieces and nephews come to stay.  And sadly, what comes of having no direct descendants is a big tub of photos that got shoved into someone’s attic after she passed away.  None of the South Dakota relatives seemed to want Lu’s photos.

So we sorted through them during our last visit.  All of the photos that included the other aunts and uncles were put into piles to be shipped off to their branches of the family.  Most of rest were put into the ‘reject’ pile, otherwise known as the pile I would take home with me!

We weren’t able to identify the people in most of these.  For example, no one knew who these guys were …

reject farmer

Although clearly they were farmers who were outstanding in their fields, or should I say out standing in their fields?

I seem to be the only one who wants old photos of unknown people.  But some of them are crazy adorable, so how could I resist?

reject cowboy

These little cowboys are cute as can be.

reject cowboy 2

I did also nab a couple of semi-recognizable photos such as this one.

reject group

Remember ‘blind John the peddler’, my great grandfather?  That’s him on the far left.  He is usually recognizable in photos because he wore dark glasses that covered his eyes.

I wonder why they didn’t ask him to turn his head forward.  Perhaps he heard a sound and turned his head at the last minute.  Maybe they re-shot the group photo and this one was just discarded.  It does seem like an slightly cruel joke, hey, look at the blind guy, he doesn’t know which way to face for the photo.

But then I looked at another photo that included John (on far left) and same thing, he’s not facing the camera with everyone else.

reject group 2

Perhaps that was just his way of posing and no one questioned it.  Here he is again with 4 of his daughters, Olga, Carrie (my grandmother), Evelyn and Lu.

grandma's sisters

My grandmother had 7 sisters and two brothers total, although the youngest girl died as a baby.

I think that my grandmother fully enjoyed her sisters.  After moving to Minneapolis with my grandfather, she would go back to the farm every summer to visit and spend time with her family.  In fact, I think she even went back to the farm to give birth to her first child.  Her sisters would come and visit her in Minneapolis as well.

Just for fun, I thought I’d share a behind the scenes photo from my photo shoot.  The whole time I was setting up and taking these photos, I had a little assistant.

behind the scenes

She’s not a very hardworking assistant though, she mostly tends to just get in the way.

Do any of you have a fascination for old family photos?  Or even just old photos of strangers?

27 thoughts on “the rejects.

  1. I do have a love of old family photos. it always saddens me somewhat when I see photos like these in the thrift or vintage stores…
    After my dad died I became “the archivest” of all the old family photos/documents etc. I just couldn’t let things like pictures of my grandmother as a teenager go. I also have many photos that are of people I cannot identify but the snapshot of another era makes them valuable to me, whether I can name the people or not.


    1. I’m glad that you took on the role as family archivist. Down the road I am sure that the photos you’ve saved will be treasured by future generations!


    1. I don’t think we ever located any photos of their farm which is kind of a bummer since the house has since been torn down. Do you have any photos of it from any of our visits as kids?


      1. I only have the back door and porch with you and me holding kittens on it. Mom probably has some in her albums.


  2. We have a little in common….my dad was born in South Dakota, and also moved with the family to Minnesota at a later time. Mom was also from minnesota and she and dad both came from very large families. When mom and dad passed away a few years back I took possession of the pictures. Lately I have been doing the same as you and separating them to send to respective families. It bothers me when I cannot identify the people in the pictures, I so want them to be with their families. I don’t have children to pass along the photos to, and I think they need to be savored. I am hoping the families I send them to will cherish the memories, including those photos of my own parents. I was adopted and have found and contacted my birth families, so the photos I have just don’t seem like the right people, because I now have pictures of my blood relatives. Not knowing who I was for most of my life, I now am almost desperate to know where I really come from. Hubby has ordered the DNA test for my birthday this week and I can’t wait! I adore your little helper, since I have some of my own. 🙂


  3. Cool pictures…I have some of my older brother and I all duded up in the western wear of the early 50’s. He also had a very coveted Daniel Boone coonskin hat. Those are the best pictures…other than the Santa pictures where everyone was crying. Hilarious! It is weird that John wasn’t facing front…maybe in all the commotion of getting people situated for the photo, he got turned around?


  4. I adore old photos! How wonderful that you got “the rejects!” As for your great-grandfather, could he also have been hard of hearing? Maybe he turned his good ear to hear the photographer.


    1. I hadn’t thought of that. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. It certainly would explain why he always seems to have his head turned like that.


  5. It always makes me sad to see unwanted family photos. As someone with no children and no nieces or nephews, I have always said I would rather have my pictures burned after I am gone instead of being rhrown away.


    1. Maybe you could have some sort of photo burning ritual incorporated into your funeral! I suspect the majority of my photos will end up in the dumpster as well. These days we take so many photos that even if we do have children, nephews and nieces, they probably don’t want all of our photos!


  6. Love your staging of the black and white photos…I love old photos! I have been working on my family genealogy for …oh, 40+ years…long before technology made everything so accessible. Some of my most treasured old photos are those I have collected of my great-great grandparents, their siblings, and children. Photos add a tangible, personal value to the sentimental stories passed on through a family. Finding facial or physical characteristics that span generations is amazing, but I also admire the clarity and detail of black and white photos. They add that “collected over the years” element to a home.


  7. Q,
    As an avid auction and estate sale attender I see old photos all the time for sale. It is always sad that the family did not want them! I always wonder if other family members even know of their existence. I have lots of photos of folks I do not know! I have a Victorian photo album full of tin types of some very interesting folks as well as three primitive paintings of people I do not know, but just like the painting.
    I also did not have children (not by choice) and have in my possession a tote full of photos of people I do not know. Since all my immediate family has passed, I need to get them distributed to family so they do not end up in an auction!


    1. I suggest you make a mental note that this coming winter you’ll pick a blustery day to sit inside with a cup of tea or cocoa and get those photos sorted and sent out! It will feel so good to know that you’ve gotten it done and that the photos have gone to the right people.


      1. Good idea! It would probably take a blizzard with a few days off work to get through all of them!


  8. I have been known to pick up old photos too. Maybe I like the way that woman wears her hat or I think this man and that woman look like they should be a couple. My family thinks this is both crazy and funny. The call them my “instant ancestors “.


    1. That’s so funny Diane! Sometimes when I see old photos being sold at antique shops or yard sales I always ask my co-shoppers if they need any ‘fake ancestors’.


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