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18 September 2014
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Every picture tells a story: the Evans and Abrams families

The Evans family
The Evans family
The Evans family, Ogmore Vale, Wales, 1898

Now for your chance to do some history. Look at this photograph. At first glance it doesn't seem so very different from the family snaps that we take today - it's just older. But look again, this time with the eyes of a historian. What can you see now?

Below are the comments of the owner of the photo, Derek Evans.

Pictured are my great grandparents, John Evans (born 1841) and Betsy Evans (born 1845) with their ten surviving children; two others had died in infancy, one from typhoid fever and the other from dysentery.

John was a migrant railway worker - a 'ganger' - who laid track throughout South Wales, eventually settling near Bridgend in 1860. The family took up residence at Crossing House, Caedu, Ogmore Vale, where John became the crossing gate keeper.

To distinguish the family from other Evanses they were known locally as 'Evans the Crossing'.

The Abram family
The Abram family
The Abram family, Northamptonshire, taken around 1900

Images like this are interesting on their own. But in order to have real historical value they need to be seen in a broader context - say compared with other photos from the same period. Take a look at the photo of the Abram family - and what the owner, Toni Abram, says about it below:

The picture shows Charles Abram (born 1859) and Emily Abram (born 1861) with some of their children and grandchildren.

Emily and Charles had 13 children. The family has since dwindled in size, and there are now only two male descendants of the family alive - one living in Australia.

Now you have two family photos, both from the late Victorian era. What do these images have in common? How are they different from the kind of family snaps we have on our mantelpieces today? What might you be able to deduce from this about how families have changed?

Now for some more...

Both these photos were sent in to the BBC History site's Your Photos galleries.

Take a look at some of the other images in the Your Photos galleries. Test out your historical eye and then look to see what the owners of these images have to say.

Then, when you've seen how much history you can get from old photos, why not add a snap of your own to the archive? In doing so you'll be helping to make history.

Uncovering Sources
Historian's Role
Testing the Evidence
Oral History

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