I still remember the day that I saw the photo of my grandmother with a ladies' group in a small local paper. She stood there in a lovely fitted dress that was embroidered at the collar and waist. The sleeves came all the way to her wrists, where she had lifted the left sleeve slightly so that the "nice watch" my grandfather had given her showed for the photo in the newspaper. Her fresh permed was styled with loads of hairspray and the smile was perfected with heavy applications of lipstick.
Even better was the fact that behind her was a calendar on the wall of the house she was at, letting us know that the photo was taken in the summer of 1956. My mother would have been 8 years old by the end of the year, my grandmother would have a total of 5 children. At the time of the photo, she was mother to my mother, Elizabeth who was 7 1/2 when the photo was taken, my Aunt Lydia, who would have been 6, my Uncle Johnny, who was 5, my Uncle Tommy was 3. My Aunt Trish would not be born for another 4 years. In the photo, with the help of a girdle and a fitted dress, my grandmother does not look like she had ever had a child. She could have been a senior in high school from her appearance, but in actuality, she was 23 years old.
There are so many wonderful clues in this photo for the genealogist. The city and state are mentioned, as well as the date, the name of the organization and what the occasion was. (I don't post it here because I am waiting for permission from 2 people in the photo who are alive.)
My grandmother referred to the shoes in that photo a lot. She hated them because they were out of style. I thought that they looked very nice, but she told me that they were peep toe shoes that had not been in style in her area for some time, but they were the only shoes that she owned that she could polish up on a moment's notice.
What do all of these facts put together? From the organization listed, I can look up online that group and see if there are any other mentions of my family. Any new members that might be my family. Any get togethers that may have photos of my family.
Another great thing that groups do is let you know a little more about the person that you are looking up. Knowing some of the things that they did adds a little more color and dimension to a person, making them more real.
It is very easy with famous family members to find out tons of information. Small local newspapers can be a wealth all to themselves, sharing local news and a higher chance of seeing your loved ones' name in print.