Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Tell Them About Telegrams and V-Mail and More

When writing captions or family history stories, tell your audience (younger folks in particular) about anything that might be unfamiliar or outdated, but figures prominently in a photo. The idea is to enhance the meaning of the photo.

When I included the above photo in a photo book about my parents' courtship, wedding, and honeymoon, I wrote a quick caption telling readers about congratulatory telegrams. I have to assume that future generations will have little knowledge of telegrams, since the last Western Union telegram in America was sent in 2006. This photo is a happy reminder that many relatives and friends sent their best wishes to the newlyweds in the form of telegrams delivered to the hotel where they were married.

Similarly, I wrote a brief caption to explain V-Mail when I included a photo of one such letter in a booklet about my aunt, a WAC in World War II. My aunt sent V-mails from France and other European posts, and the V-mails are still in the family (safe in archival boxes). Without an explanation, will readers have any idea that it was common for relatives of those serving overseas to receive V-Mail correspondence during the war? 

Just a sentence or two will avoid confusion and add important context, linking family history with the wider world. Like how "operator" as an occupation when the employer is in New York City's garment district meant someone who sewed, not a telephone operator. 


  1. This is a great idea. We have V-mail sent by my father-in-law, so explaining about them is something I should do.

  2. This is such a good point. It's almost unfathomable that a photo of me on my mother's lap while she talks to my Godmother on our dial telephone would have to be explained, but it would now.