How to annoy and frustrate your family…in perpetuity!

Dear Readers,

Now that we’ve spent two days in the family photo archive trenches, we feel we’ve acquired some expertise in an important subject: how to drive your family and future descendants completely batty, even after you’re long since pushing up daisies.

Here are a few pointers:

Maintain the mystery

It’s important to keep ’em guessing, so don’t make it easy for them.

Labelling is for sissies. If you can possibly help it, don’t write anything at all on the backs of your photos. If you feel you simply must write something, make it something irrelevant, like “f 11- 13 ft. – Netine s full, swell, 23-1-27.” Then snicker to yourself and mutter, “Good luck, suckas!” as you throw it into the photo pile.

If you wimp out and start labelling the backs of your photos, remember: spelling counts! Never spell a name the same way twice. Use nicknames and funny abbreviations, or your own special shorthand language that you invented when you were five years old.


You have to love a letter that starts, “My decorative Hamley….” Or is it “My decoder Hamley”?

Extra points if you start out calling your aunt “Gussie,” but switch abruptly and start calling her “Lib”…for no reason at all. It’s especially amusing to write, “Guess who?” or “I can’t believe she did this!” on the back of a photo, without offering any further information. Your family will laugh and laugh!

Write everything in pencil. Actually, write in pencil and then rub it a few times with a grimy finger, to make sure it’s smudged as much as possible.

Oh, and make sure you keep your writing as inconsistent and illegible as you can. If you can use extremely loopy cursive, with lots of dashes and no punctuation, so much the better.

Whatever you do, don’t type anything. That takes all the fun out of it!

Remember, no one likes a spoilsport.

Confusion rules!


A kid from 1890 with a parasol and a cricket bat, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Karen? Awesome. Go for it.

When naming your children, keep it simple. This sounds contradictory, but we don’t mean “give your kids easy-to-spell names.” We mean “name all your children after one key relative…preferably one with a complicated, unusual name.

For instance, say you’re lucky enough to have an ancestor called “Æmilius.” Score! You can name your son “Æmilius Victor,” your other son “Gugy Æmilius,” and your daughter “Æmilia Diana.” Great fun for the whole family!

Speaking of children, no matter how many children you have, make sure you take a million gazillion pictures of your firstborn, a few of the rest, and absolutely none of your youngest. After all, how many baby pictures do you need? One is really pretty much the same as another.

It’s a good idea to save correspondence, but be choosy about what you retain.

Save the letters that are full of in-jokes, mysterious pet names, and trash-talking gossip…but don’t offer any clues as to who you’re talking about, or why you think this letter belongs in your collection.


Blurry, vague, and unlabelled–this one hits the trifecta!

It’s also great to save pictures. All the pictures. Every last one of them—the over-exposed, the under-exposed, the off-centre, the blurry, the ones with people’s heads cut off, with their backs turned, or wearing clothing that covers their features so no one can tell who the subjects are supposed to be.

Leave the sorting and culling to your offspring and their progeny; they’ll remember you for it, trust us!

If your family is mentioned in the newspaper—such as, for example, when they pop off and have obituaries written about them, save multiple copies from as many papers as you can find, and toss them into the collection.

After all, your kids and their kids will never tire of hearing about Uncle Henry’s stamp collection, or Aunt Ownie’s damn poodles. These are the kinds of details that memories are made of!

We hope you’ll keep these simple rules in mind as you prepare your own photo archives. And remember, have fun! Be creative! You’re creating a project that will keep your family busy for years to come.


Karen, Wendy, Rachel, and Bucky






  1. Is it just me, or does that baby’s leg look bizarre? I think we already follow most of your rules. Darn it

  2. So very hilarious !
    What are families for, after all.

  3. So very funny! I have seen this in my own family pictures, it’s amazing the things people write on the back of a picture! I feel for you!

  4. I am laughing so hard. This happens so much! Just throw the bad pictures away and most of the landscape ones too…our kids will thank us for it when they have go through them! Who needs 200 pics of the Grand Canyon with no people in them?!

  5. I have made quite a dent in scanning my family photos on my computer while I can still remember who everyone is! Such a big job. Great photos!

  6. I have acquired so many old photos…. not labeled, of course!!! Frustrating, indeed.

  7. Fortunately my uncle labeled his photos and even legible. I however have followed your rules and my mother did as well. Thanks for sharing

    • LOL, well, it’s good to know others are following our ancestors’ great example. We’re currently deciphering correspondence between England and British Columbia circa 1865. Good fun! :p

  8. Still laughing!

  9. Another way is what one set of my wife’s gggg grandparents and family did. Have 3 sons, Jacob, Conrad, and William. Each of those 3 had 3 sons named Jacob, Conrad, and William. So at anyone time you had 4 or more Jacobs with the same last name and birth years within 2-5 of each other.

Talk back to us!

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