In this paper we examine conceptions of framing and context as they apply to photographs and other visual historical material. In particular we focus on the ways that context and framing are operationalised in the intimate, fragmented space of family history and how they play out through the construction of narrative coherency, what these sites are, what we bring to the sites, and how the interactions between beholder and object manifest as encounters. To investigate this we present a selection of photographic items representing key moments from our own European family histories. Throughout we ask: is meaning primarily created through devices such as framing and context, or may there be subtle, inherent meaning embedded in items that we can sense?