A Crowd-Sourced Favourite Photo Collection (52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2024 Week 03: Favourite Photo)

Is it even possible to choose one favourite photo? I know I couldn’t. All those “What’s your favourite…?” questions send me into a panic. What? You want me to choose a favourite? Right now? Just one? Favourite of all time, or at the moment? Cue brain freeze. I just can’t.

The topic did get me wondering, though, what photos hold meaning and memories for family members and so I decided to crowdsource a collection of photos from them that they might be willing for me to share.

I asked for a favourite family photo (of an individual or group, or of a place or thing with family connection/meaning) and, where known, an indication of when and where the photo was taken and by whom, as well as who or what is in the picture, and why it is a favourite.

A Couple of My Faves

Starting during my 2015 visit to Scotland, my uncle in Edinburgh began digitising the squillions of photographs that belonged to my grandmother and sending them to me (will I ever get them into some sort of coherent order?) It’s an absolute treasure trove though, sadly, there are already loads of people and places we don’t know, proving again why this process needs to be started as early as possible, while those who do know are still living.

Of course, this provided a massive pool of pictures to choose from but it was black and white photo number 627 from this collection that gained my vote this time round:

Grandad Bill and Granny Morag.

It shows my maternal grandparents, William (Bill) Donald Spence and Marion (Morag) Beaton Spence (née Macdonald). I don’t know when or where it was taken (possibly Orkney?), or by whom, but what I do know is that it makes me smile. I just love the expression on my grandfather’s face. He died in 1956 so I never met him but, in almost every photo I’ve seen of him, he looks very serious, professional, collected, polished. This picture, though, just seems to catch him in an unguarded moment of spontaneous joy and I love it!

I’m going with something old and something new, so now for one of my newer favourites: this is my Mum and I on the day I got married just a couple of years ago, sharing a moment outside the chapel before the processional, taken by Shawn Brown Photography. There were tears, especially as we remembered my Dad together, but there was joy, too, and I was profoundly grateful that Mum could be there to “walk” me down the aisle (with a little help from my friends!) The photograph was taken at the start of an afternoon that would forever change my life – a wonderfully happy afternoon, surrounded by so many of our friends and family, as I wed the one I love.

Myself and Mum.

On that note, Hubsy’s special privileges did not allow him an escape from this assignment. He took it very seriously, though, even giving me permission to “remind” (nag?) him to send me pictures. He sent three, and I’ll let him describe them…

“This photo is of my grandpa (Basil Wetton) and myself. It is the only photo that I know of, of both of us. It was taken in about 1973 when I was about 18 months old. He died when I was 2 years old. I still have distinct memories of him. He fought in World War 2 as part of the 2nd Transvaal Scottish Regiment. He was captured by the Germans at El Alamein after falling on a train track and breaking his back. He spent the rest of the war in a Prisoner of War camp. The photo was either taken by my mom or my dad at the front door of our family home in Bordeaux, Randburg.” We have since discovered that the photograph was taken on the day James was dedicated.

James and Grandpa, Basil Wetton.

“This photo was taken by my mom when we were children, of my sister (Kerry), my maternal grandmother ‘Ouma’ (Louise Zoutendyk), our beloved dog Pippa (my first pet) and myself. I have very strong memories of everything in this photo: the tea set, the tray, the tablecloth, the table and chairs, the clothes Kerry and I were wearing, Ouma’s clothes, the Christmas Cake we had every year, the decorations on the cake, the flower behind Kerry’s head, the pot holder hanging on the wall, the wall itself, the area of the garden in which that photo was taken… the ‘Pool Area’ of our family home in Bordeaux, Randburg.”

Kerry, Ouma (Louise Zoutendyk) with Pippa, and James.

“This is a photo of mom, Louie Wetton, but don’t you dare call her ‘Louie’ – it was ‘Lou’. This photo was taken by me in December of 2016 at Thyme on Nicol, one of our favourite places for lunch. She had recently come out of hospital. She had been very ill and the doctors had told me that it was only a matter of time and that we should prepare ourselves; she wouldn’t be coming out. That was the worst day of my life. I got home and walked around the pool area consumed with fear, anxiety, and dread. I prayed that God would give me just four more months with her. She came out of hospital the next day. I took this photo of her being very aware how fortunate I was to be with her in that moment. I can still feel how I felt at that moment. She died four months later.”

James’ Mom, Louie Wetton.
Uncle Ronald

Uncle Ronald was a close friend of my Dad’s before he married Dad’s sister and so became my uncle. Despite not seeing one another as frequently as when all the cousins were younger, our families have remained close over the years, sharing many holidays and making many happy memories together.

Uncle Ronald has been such a calm, consistent support to me since Dad’s death – always there, and always willing and able to offer a clear, objective perspective when I need it. He was the first to make contact with me after I spammed the family with my hare-brained idea about joining the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, roping them into it with various assignments. He grilled me about the challenge and about this, the first family assignment, as well as about my blog, trying to understand the rather fluffy parameters of the project I’d placed before him. Then he sent me this – one of his favourite family photos:

From left to right: Cousin-in-law Angelo, Dad Edgar, Uncle Ronald, Lynette, Mum Shona, and myself.

This is what he had to say about it: “It was taken on Serapa in 2008 over the Christmas period. I see Angelo is driving so I presume Wendy took the photo. Not sure where Mark and Megan were, but I am sure they were on the farm. This photo brings back so many memories of the times, over the years, we all spent on Serapa especially over the festive season. We so enjoyed being with the Nelsons as we all have a love for the bush and nature. I wonder what we were all looking at? Was it an animal or a bird or did Wendy just force us all to pose for the photo? Whatever the reason, I think it makes a great family pic.” Serapa is a game reserve in Rooiberg, Limpopo, South Africa, in which Uncle Ronald has shares.

Auntie Althea

Auntie Althea is my Dad’s sister, and the one who ensured we continued gathering together as a family over the years. She and Uncle John still make a point of regularly visiting my Mum in frail care, for which I’m so very grateful.

Auntie Althea wins the over-achiever award for this assignment, providing me with eleven of her recent favourite photographs to choose from, telling me I could sort them out and wishing me luck!

Preferring to get permission from family members before posting pictures of them (and, more especially, of their children), I’ve only included a selection of these here, since I didn’t get round to contacting everyone before publishing this post.

One of the first ones she sent was of Uncle John with his grandchildren, though this was before little Fay was born:

Back: Cullen. Front, from left to right: Uncle John, Caleb, Abigail, and Jarryd.

I love the different expressions on all the faces, and Jarryd testing the heat from the candle!

This next photo Auntie Althea titled, “Christmas breakfast with Matthew, Michelle, and boys.”

Back, from left to right: Jarryd, Matthew. Front, from left to right: Caleb, Michelle, Auntie Althea, Uncle John.

Last year, Uncle John and Auntie Althea visited both the United Kingdom, catching up with family there, and Spain. This photograph is one from that trip: “A visit to the Cupani Wine Farm in Valencia, Spain, with Billy and Diane, and daughter, Vonnie.” Billy is Uncle John’s cousin.

From left to right: Uncle John, Auntie Althea, Vonnie, Billy, Diane, and one of the owners of Cupani.

Auntie Althea also included this shot: “Lunch with schoolfriends.” How incredible to have kept in contact with friends from schooldays over decades and to be able to share a meal with them!

Uncle John and Auntie Althea on the right of the picture.

The other photographs received from Auntie Althea included a few from a wonderfully memorable pre-Christmas family lunch we enjoyed at the frail care with my Mum on 19 Dec 2022, and the remainder are all from that UK holiday referred to earlier: a wonderful day with Uncle John’s sister, Lynne, and family, in Inverness; a picnic at Windsor Castle; all the family that have immigrated to England and Scotland; a family photo at Alistair and Stacey’s home in Bedfordshire with Sean and Emily (cousin and cousin-in-law respectively of Alistair and Matthew).


Stacey is my cousin-in-law, having married Alistair, Auntie Althea’s youngest son. They and their children have now emigrated from South Africa to the United Kingdom, and so we get to see them even less than we used to but it’s a joy to be able to follow some of their adventures on Facebook. Stacey graciously sent me a couple of her favourite photos.

Alistair took this photograph in August 2023 during a family outing to St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, England. One of the reasons Stacey loves it is that they were all so happy and relaxed at the time.

From left to right: Stacey, Cullen, Fay, and Abigail.

This photo of Abi and Alistair was taken by Stacey in April 2023 and she shares why it is one of her favourites: “It was a beautiful country walk and I just remember how lovely it was to hear the two of them chatting and enjoying one another’s company.”

Abigail and Alistair.

I have loved seeing the photo choices of family, and reading their recollections. How strange it is to imagine a world before photography when it’s something we tend to take for granted, especially in this digital age. I wonder how many memories and family stories have been lost over the centuries because there was no visual reminder of them. Perhaps our ancestors were just better at remembering and storytelling and listening than we are…

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