Joe McDermott | News and Events
64smiles and the joy of old photos

Embarking on a journey to trace one’s roots is like opening a treasure chest of stories, mysteries, and familial connections. For those with Irish ancestry, the exploration of family trees often unveils a rich tapestry woven with tales of resilience, culture, and traditions.

Old family photographs form such a vital link to these roots. There’s a certain magic in pulling out these images from dusty albums tucked away in the back of a closet.

As you flip through these pictures, each smile—whether a toothy grin from a great-grandmother or a shy smile from a young uncle—offers a unique window into the past, connecting us to the stories and legacies of those who came before us.

Among these treasured collections, perhaps no picture brings more warmth and immediate joy than the one I fondly refer to as “64 Smiles.”

The Timelessness of a Smile

This particular photo, taken at an enormous family reunion in Ireland, captures a candid moment of laughter and joy shared amongst relatives, spanning several generations.

At the center, my great-grandfather, his eyes twinkling with mischief, leads a chorus of the song “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”

This picture, with every individual uniquely smiling, stands as a testament to the power of familial connections and the joyous heritage that binds us.

Old Photo Captures 64 Smiles

In that photo, there are exactly 64 smiles. Each one tells a story of its own, reflecting a spectrum of emotions from cheeky jubilance to subtle, serene contentment.

Looking at these expressions frozen in time, I realise that while the fashion and hairstyles have long since changed, the genuine smiles remain timeless. This universal expression of happiness and warmth crosses decades, acting as a bridge between the old and the new.

The song they were singing, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” is itself a symbol of Irish identity and kinship. It is more than just a melody—it’s an anthem that evokes a sense of belonging and cultural pride. Such moments captured on film remind us of the shared experiences and traditions that form the fabric of our family histories.

The Power of Photographs in Connecting Generations

Old photographs are powerful because they can bring to life the people and places that only exist as stories in the modern day. For younger generations who never had the chance to meet their ancestors, these photos provide a glimpse into their lives, offering context to the family tales told during gatherings or quiet nights under the blanket of stars.

Photos also serve as a catalyst for transmitting family history from one generation to the next. They encourage dialogue, spark curiosity, and inspire the younger members to learn more about their heritage. They are a visual representation of lineage, a proof of belonging to something bigger than oneself.

Emotional Echoes of Old Family Photos

For many of us, looking at old family photos is an emotional journey. There’s joy in seeing the youthful exuberance of your parents or the elegance of your grandparents on their wedding day. But there’s also a bittersweet touch, a whisper of nostalgia for moments and people gone by. These photographs are poignant reminders of the passage of time, of the laughter and tears shared, and of the inevitable changes that come with life.

Each photo, with its array of smiles and familiar Irish eyes, becomes a cherished artifact, linking past and present. They allow us to celebrate the lives of those who are no longer with us, to honor their memories and to continue telling their stories. In every wrinkle, every smile, and every glance, there’s a rich history waiting to be revered and remembered.

Bringing Families Together

Despite the physical distance or the years that may separate us, old photographs have a unique way of bringing families together. They often become the highlights of family reunions, where everyone gathers around to add names to faces and stories to smiles. These sessions often turn into impromptu storytelling gatherings, where the tales of bravery, love, hardship, and success are passed down, enriching the family’s collective memory.

During these moments, it’s as if the family tree blooms anew, sprouting fresh leaves as each story is told, each name remembered. It’s a beautiful cycle of recognition and reverence that strengthens the bonds within the family, making every individual feel rooted to their heritage.


There is profound joy and deep connection to be found in old family photographs. They are not just paper and ink; they are gateways to the past and the custodians of our heritage. Each picture, especially one as special as the “64 Smiles,” serves as a reminder of where we come from and the familial bonds that shape who we are.

So next time you stumble upon an old album, take a moment to sift through those pages. Listen to the echoes of laughter, the silent gazes, and the joyful singing of “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” There’s a whole world within those frames, a beautiful tapestry of life woven through time by 64 smiles—or perhaps even more—each one a priceless thread in the grand story of your family.

64Smiles: A New Way to Connect With Family

Learn more about 64Smiles the groundbreaking platform for organising and sharing old family photos easily and privately.

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