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August 4, 2008

Creating a Genealogy Family Memory Book

Last winter I began scanning my old family photos and slides. As unofficial keeper of the family documents and photographs, I am entrusted with such treasures whenever someone dies. After years of accumulation of these items,including an old photo album from my grandmother's brother's family, I decided I simply had to organize and preserve them.

Scanning was my first step and I joined Scanfest, a monthly session hosted by Miriam of AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors. We get together on Windows Live Messenger where we scan and chat, and share tips on working out problems with old documents and photos. It's a great way to help motivate me to scan for a few hours while having fun!

Once I had all one family treasures scanned, I began scanning various documents I'd gathered in my genealogical research on that family. Scanning complete, I began editing the scans - cropping, resizing, correcting darkness and light problems and so on.

As soon as I had everything complete for one family I decided to create what I call a Family Memory Book. I eventually want to do one for each family line I have photos and documents for, but for now I worked on my English side - my mother and her parents going back as far as I have photographs. I have a page for each family member for whom I have a photo. Some individuals have many pages as I have a lot of photos and documents for them. Some have only 1 page, others share a page with other family members. It isn't a family tree so does not have to be in any particular order. As long as I labelled each photo, everyone can be identified by comparing names to a chart of the family tree which is included as one of the first pages of the book.

The photo at left is an example of one page from this 40 page booklet on my mother's English lines. This page holds a photo of my mother and her sister at very young ages, my mother's original birth certificate and a group photo of her at a young age with her parents and older sister. The group photo is actually a photocopy of an original and had to be seriously edited after scanning as photocopies are never a good solution. Sadly it was all I had to work with as no one knows who had the original or where it is now. (As an interesting aside, the young boy standing in the group photo was the son of family friends. The family lost touch but he became my mother's second husband some 65 years after this photo was taken.)

In this Family Memory Book I have scanned and placed photos, birth records, death records, newspaper obituaries, postcards of the ship my grandparents sailed on from England to canada in 1914, copies of ships passenger lists and any other documents I found when researching the lineage.

Because I have many family heirlooms passed on to me by my English grandmother, I also took pictures of them and included those in the Memory Book. This page is my Grandfather Charles in the Kent Buffs, and his gold pocket watch and initialed signet ring which my Grandmother gave me.

Each photo in the book has a caption or explanation with it. The progam I am using allows me to stack the photos as if I were creating a scrapbook. I can overlap. I can resize the photos right on the page so that I can see how the page will look. I can create borders. The choices are endless!

When this Family Memory Book is complete I will print them off on top quality laser paper, create a front and back cover which I will laminate, then I'll give one to each of my siblings and other family members. What better way to share the wonderful photos I own plus preserve copies in case anything happens to the originals.


wendy said...

This is a really neat idea. I think Ruth Stephens is doing something similar with her mother's "red photo album"! Thanks to you for the inspiration & hopefully I'll get some time to start doing this as well!

Tex said...

I've been trying to summon up the courage to start this process. I'd be interested in what software you use to make the pages. Thanks for sharing your process--I'm inspired. :-)

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Hi Tex & Wendy,

Thanks for your comments, and I hope you do start your own photo book. It really is fun and you feel so good when you get even one page done!

I've written more about the process and the software I use, so stay tuned as it should be posted today.

I'm also adding more pictures to the first post, I hope it helps motivate folks!


PWilkins said...

I love this idea as it brings the ancestor to life for the viewer. Data on a page is too dry. For a family reunion I did this in an XL format using a 3' x 4' poster board and glueing resized photos of direct ancestors going back 150 years. Each person got a little blurb card with an interesting fact or two. The youngest generation spent the most time in front of it.

Another project in a similar vein was taking the newly found letters home from WWII from a brother of my mother. He died in the Pacific at age 19. I transcribed them word for word, in an easy to read font, adding photos to each page to illustrate. Some were family shots, others were Googled photos of defunct air bases and planes. I use a MacBook, and there are several writing programs that allowed creativity. The printed pages went into clear plastic sleeves and then into a 3 ring binder.

Anonymous said...

Just read your article, and found it very useful and a great way to pass down to the next generation their family history. I am in the process of scanning my documents and photo's and now I know what I will do with the information that I currently have. So many thanks.