This is a part of a group photo that has been handed down through about five generations of my family. It was taken sometime in the late 1800s. I should study the fashions and try to narrow that down. (Added to my list of genealogy to-dos.)
I'm not even sure who these people are although I remember grandma telling me the man with the badly buttoned sweater was James Thompson who lived all his days with his mother and had mental problems. I have found him in censuses. The family lived in southwestern Kansas after coming to the area around 1884 from Illinois. This photo is probably a church or school outing.
My family settled in what became known as Keith Canyon. In 1990 my daughter and I visited the area and were taken to where the old dugouts were by the local historian who I had gotten to know during my research. It turned out his mother and my grandmother were old friends.
You can see where they had dug into the side of the hill . . . the rounded section that has since collapsed. A front was put on the dugout and a roof put on. It was exciting to see this place. We also travelled the area around the canyon and the site of the old town. We found graves and other places where the family had lived.
This trip brought these ancestors to life as regular research can never do. However, by studying the history I can add flesh to the bones of my ancestor's lives. What was it like to live in a dugout? How long did it take to travel to this area by covered wagon? How did the people entertain themselves besides church/school outings?
If you can't travel the trails of your ancestors try reading history or even historical fiction to learn about them. If you have any stories or photographs be sure to identify them and write everything down for the future generations.