I recently came across a box of old photos while visiting my 82 year old mother in Florida. There were lots of interesting characters in the photos, but unfortunately Mom wasn't able to identify them all. She did get a majority of them though, and I scanned and tagged the folks she knew. Some were my direct ancestors, others were great-uncles and aunts, cousins and nieghbors.
But the thing that stood out for me is, once Mom is gone there would have been no one to tell us who the people were and then they would turn into strangers, not family. The identification process, to me at least, is really important. We are the result of their relationships. As we were formed by our parents, they were formed by these people. So through osmosis (and genetics, of course) we are formed through our ancestors.
Most families have that person who can identify Aunt Sophie and cousin Fred (before he ran off with that tramp, Sheila) and once that person is gone so is the history. And not just the identity of those people, but also the stories. Hopefully someone records the history through words or video before the stories are gone.
I found out that my Father's ancestors came from Ireland. But he never knew that. His father died when my father was very young and his mother remarried and buried the family history with her first husband. Without my digging thorugh census records those connections would have been lost. My great grandfather was a steel worker in Philadelphia according to a census in 1880, but what was he really like? We'll likely never know. But I do know that Patrick Britt and his wife Suzanna came to this country from Ireland with my grandfather, Edmund Morton Britt when he was very young. Unfortunately no pictures from that side made it through to my generation.
But the treasure trove from my Mother gave me glimpses of my Great Grandfather Wolfgang (her mother's father) and his wife and other daughter.