When Hollis Engley’s parents died 20 years ago, he inherited a vast store of photographs from more than a century of family history on Martha’s Vineyard and in the Azores.

“They left me with stacks and stacks of pictures,” said Mr. Engley, a photojournalist and ceramist who now lives in Pocasett. “Thousands of images. I had to figure out what to do with them.”

Mr. Engley’s solution, a time-traveling exhibition called Family Stories, opened last week at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. True to its title, the show is as much about the histories behind the images as it is about the photographs themselves. Mr. Engley, who began his photojournalism career at the Vineyard Gazette and also worked in Washington, D.C. and Santa Fe, N.M., pairs each photo with a written narrative.

“Because I was a reporter and a writer and an editor, I wanted to combine the media,” he said, during a virtual gallery talk hosted Friday on Zoom by museum manager of exhibitions and programming Anna Barber.

“If you don’t read the stories, you miss 90 per cent of what’s in the show,” Mr. Engley told his online audience, which included several friends from his years at the regional high school.

Exhibit at the museum continues through May 7. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Family Stories introduces viewers to all sides of Mr. Engley’s extended family. There’s Edgartown swordfish highliner Bob Jackson; Vineyard Haven businessman Antone (Tony) Andrews, whose A.S. Andrews Tonsorial Parlor was a gleaming temple to the art of barbering; Mr. Engley’s mother as a West Tisbury teen and, years later, his father in Army Air Corps uniform.

“He was a proud soldier,” said Mr. Engley, recalling the distinctive sound of the dog tags his father wore.

We also meet a grim-looking great-grandfather who worked as a jailer at the Charles Street Jail and kept an Oak Bluffs summer cottage named Puritan. Across the Atlantic, a cluster of unidentified relatives represent the branch of Mr. Engley’s family that came to Cuttyhunk and the Vineyard from the Portuguese island Faial.

Mr. Engley included some of his own work as well, including his earliest self-portrait from about age 13 — an arm’s length shot of his hand holding his first camera, taken while standing on the front steps of the family home on Daggett avenue in Vineyard Haven.

While most of the stories in the show are based on family lore and Mr. Engley’s research, one of the oldest portraits required improvisation. A daguerrotype, circa mid-19th century, shows two young men apparently making music. One has a frame drum, likely a bodhran — some of Mr. Engley’s forebears came from Scotland — while the other plies two pairs of rhythm bones in his fingers.

“I know a lot about the other ones [but] I had to come up with a story for them,” he said, holding the framed daguerrotype in front of the Zoom camera. “They’re clearly part of my family; I wouldn’t have the photo otherwise.”

Mr. Engley found plenty of other unidentified images in his parents’ photo trove. One fat album, which he also displayed for the online audience, had every page filled with multiple portraits of dignified-looking Victorians.

“Not a one has a name on it. Not a single one,” he said. “I have no idea who these people are.”

Mr. Engley urged anyone with a similar cache of family images to label them before their subjects are lost to memory.

“Write on the back of them so that two generations on people will know,” he said. “The sooner you do it the more likely the older generations will still be around to answer questions, [so] you can tell your children and your grandchildren and everyone who comes after them who these people were.”

Hollis Engley: Family Stories is on display through May 7 in the museum’s Adele H. Waggaman Community Gallery.