Archive for the ‘scrapbook’ Tag

Juggling 13,831 Files   3 comments

I just checked: my genealogy folder has 13,831 files in it.  Most of these are photo scans, but some are also document scans, the page layouts and .pdf files for the family photo scrapbooks that I’ve compiled and even audio files.  By the time I’m done with the Hepler book later this month, I’ll have 14,000 genealogy files.

And those match the 33,624 names in my family tree file.  Well, some of them, anyway.

Label your photos -- with a proper pen that with ink that will dry on photo paper -- or your backup band may never be identified.

Label your photos — with a proper pen that has ink that will dry on photo paper — or your backup band may never be identified.

And then there are the 35,415 photographic files that are everything from work photos to vacation snaps to family shots to … well, my photographic life.  My photographic files go back to 2004, when we said good bye to film.  And don’t get me started on the 3-ring binders of prints & even slides that need scanning.  Velda already has that on my worklist.

So you see the problem, right?  Thousands and thousands of files, and you need to know where they all are.  And this is the story of how I failed.

I was working on the Chucalo family photo scrapbook.  Velda and I had flown back to St Louis several times, visiting cousins and scanning photos with multiple families.  On a good day, I was gathering 100+ files.  Do that for several days in a row … and you don’t know which file is which if you aren’t careful.  We had files that were named, files that were unnamed, file folders crammed with original photographs, photo prints, obituaries, random notes, plane tickets and rental car agreements.  It was chaos.

If photos have names written on the back, you can scan that photoback directly to both save the best record of the photo, and move on quickly to other scans.

If photos have names written on the back, you can scan that photo back directly to both save the best record of the photo, and move on quickly to other scans.  Just make sure you name the photo back scan the same as the photo front!

And we work for a living.  Velda and I were doing these trips on vacations.  We would fly back home — tired from our vacation — and go right back to work.  Work being what it is, I was behind, and couldn’t devote much time to the photo processing for some time … when I would have to decipher all of those cryptic handwritten notes.

Which I always did perfectly, of course.

After I had processed the photographs, composed the scrapbook pages and updated the family tree files, I created rough draft .pdfs that I then sent back to the relatives for approval.  This was essential; it was my proofing double check. But come to find out, this only works when you know which file you’re sending.

I was paranoid about losing data, so I was constantly making backups.  I had the work files on my laptop’s desktop.  I would then copy them  every few hours to the “real” folder location on the c:/ drive, and then duplicate them onto a portable hard drive at that same time.  And that worked great, until I didn’t copy the right file to the right back-up.

I had gotten an edit to the page for one of my favorite cousin’s pages.  I had gotten his name wrong:  Robert Eugene instead of Robert Gene.  It was an understandable mistake, perhaps:  Robert Eugene is my father’s name.  In any event, I had it wrong, got the correction, fixed the page, then copied the wrong file into the backup, and never caught the mistake.  I published the book with the wrong name for my cousin.  The wrong name.  How do you fix that?

Seriously, how?

Learn from my mistake:

1. Have one location for work files.

2. Have one location for backups. (And ALWAYS keep a backup.)

3. Don’t mix them up.

4. Have a method for checking important edits.  Keep a file of requested edits, and then check them to make sure they’re done.  And then check them again.

It's only when your pictures are properly labeled that your descendants can be sure which picture is of you.

It’s only when your pictures are properly labeled that your descendants can be sure which picture is of you.

Family Photo Scrapbooks   8 comments

I’m nearing the end.  I started working on the Hepler family photo scrapbook in March 2011, and it will be finished in the next few weeks.  The book has grown to just over 200 pages of photos, history and genealogy information.  This book is focused on the family of Harry Baptiste Hepler: his 6 children, his 25 grandchildren, and their descendants.

I enjoy putting together the covers of the book.  For this family history (and it’s the 4th that I’ve compiled), I assembled 2 covers.  The first one is focused on the first couple of generations, and the 2nd cover is focused on the younger generations.

In the case of this branch of the family, no one member will know everyone pictured.  Reacting to that fact became one of my goals: to illustrate the breadth of the family immediately.  An essential  third page is a key to the photographs, so that the family can begin to associate names with faces!


Creating a Family Photo Scrapbook

Digitizing Family Photos

Treasuring Family Photos

Your Family Tree

Posted November 29, 2012 by henrymowry in Genealogy, Photography

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Creating a Family Photo Scrapbook   2 comments

Here’s the step-by-step that I followed to create my family’s photo scrapbooks.

I did cover pages for each book as a collage of fun pictures & details from the people featured. Later books also included a key to which person was in which photo (oops!).

Happy to recommend the # 1 selling genealogy software!

I updated my genealogy files with the parents, using the program Family Tree Maker.  It’s an easy program to use – and believe me, it’s very important to have a family tree to help you keep track of which child belongs with which parent.  There’s a dizzying array of last names, maiden names, extended families and “Uncles” that are really “friends.”  As baseball taught us, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard!

When you combine Family Tree Maker with a subscription to that company’s, you have a powerful tool to expand your family tree.  Highly recommended if you want a big job that few undertake … but that will thrill the people in your family that appreciate having good, accurate records of who’s who.

We made appointments with the family members we could visit; I also exchanged a few packages with relatives that preferred to send me pictures for scanning.

We visited each family for 2-3 hours.  I brought my laptop, flat bed scanner and a cheap printer.  I had a plug strip with extension cord, and typically set up the gear on a kitchen or dining room table.  I also brought my Nikon camera to shoot pictures too large for the scanner, and to shoot the people at each scanning “event.”  We had prepped families to set aside photos that they wanted included in the collection (and some did, some didn’t).  When the family started taking portraits off of the walls for scanning, I knew we were getting somewhere!

My goal, constantly reinforced, was to include “good pictures” of the family.  I focused on:

  • Studio shots
  • Senior pictures
  • Wedding pictures, especially of beautiful brides (they all are!)
  • Family snapshots at important events, like family reunions, birthday celebrations, etc.
  • Good pictures

I quickly learned that I needed a naming convention for all files as well as a file organization system that I understood.  Files were named “last name, first name and other people in the picture, ” or perhaps “Mowry Family, Henry, 2006.”  I used maiden names as much as possible, and used some key words to distinguish photos from each other, such as school, bride, toddler, Sr Pic, etc.  Group shots were given a relevant name (such as Baugher 7x), and then I printed the photo on my cheap printer.  Someone then wrote on the printed page the file name and the name of each person in the picture (names were often written on the faces in the printed copy to ensure we knew who was who).  Try it; it works and served to quickly identify group shots so we could keep scanning new pictures.

Having beautiful relatives always makes the books easier to look at!

I only included photos that each family wanted included.  Some wanted divorced spouses in the book; some didn’t.  Some included family pictures of spouses that weren’t in the bloodline.  That was all fine with me:  I appreciated the support.  I didn’t have an agenda in making these books; I just wanted to preserve and share family pictures.  Widely.

Pictures of brides are always beautiful … especially when the bride is my own!

Scans were done in the .tif format, which I learned is the best format for digital editing.  I did not scan photos as .jpg files, as those files lose quality each time they are edited/saved. Scans were done using settings of 48-bit color with a minimum of 300 dots per inch (dpi).  A scan done at 300 dpi will make a lovely print at its original size.

The B&W setting was 16 bit grayscale, with the same dpi.  I often increased the line screen dramatically for important photos; my mother’s wedding picture was done at 800 dpi.  My Great Great Grandfather’s Civil War tintype was scanned at 1200 dpi.  With high quality scans like those, you can blow up the photos, and often fix photographic problems using basic photo editing software like Photoshop Elements (where I started), or the full Photoshop (where I ended).  The tintype ended up blowing up from about 6 square inches to 80 square inches; it looked just fine.

Digital photos are today’s standard, and resolutions are rising along with smartphone lens quality.  When I started this process, Facebook photos were low resolution and virtually unusable in a printed book like I was creating.  Today, many photos posted to Facebook are higher resolution and can be printed with acceptable sharpness. Scanning photos is still essential, but Facebook photos are great supplements, especially from scattered relatives if you can’t visit their homes.

I laid the pages out using Word, which was the simplest solution for me (but I would use a “real” layout program if I was starting over today!).  Each of the four families had a unique color scheme (border and headline colors), which provided a subtle differentiation between the families.  I used four templates for each family:  plain landscape and portrait, and landscape and portrait with a text box for explanations and photo captions.

Family members love pages of snap shots. It’s OK to sacrifice quality when you only have a few pictures of some family members.

Here’s my basic formula:  each person got their own page, with 3-5 pictures on it.  Additional pages were created for brides, weddings, family gatherings, and whatever made sense.  If the pictures weren’t available, then the pages were combined so the layouts were pleasing to the eye.  Some families got 8 pages, some got 1 page.  Ancestors from the 1800s seldom had pictures; today’s child has pictures taken daily if you closely monitor Facebook!

The genealogy pages illustrating how people were related proved to be extremely popular. No one knows all of their relatives; pages like this one — created in Family Tree Maker — provide great road maps for understanding how the different branches of the family tree are connected.

Genealogy pages were added to help the reader follow the flow of the family.  I basically started with the oldest generation, organized by family group, with oldest child first, etc.

The final pages are a “complete” family tree showing birth, marriage and death dates for everyone in the family.  Each book includes a pair of CD ROMs with copies of the .pdf files for all pages, allowing for on screen viewing, or easy reprinting.  The Chucalo book also included a recording of a wonderful interview with 98-year old Aunt Millie about growing up in the 1920s and ‘30s.  Priceless.

Pages were printed on my color laserjet.  Pages were placed back-to-back in page protectors, in 3-ring binders.  The intent was to make a scrapbook that could change and expand with the family.  Given the number of pages I created (books have run 150 – 250 pages per family), I felt this was the right way to go.

Books were presented to all contributors.  I made between 15 and 25 copies of each family’s photo scrapbook.

Years later, I continue to hear from family members about how much they appreciate these books.  They were definitely big ideas; I spent many weekends and evenings completing all of the photo editing, layout, printing and assembly that went into each book.

Here’s the key question:  if you don’t have something like this, then how will your families remember their ancestors, cousins and good times that have been shared?

The simple ideas are best. Themed pages, such as this one, will be great additions to your family photo scrapbook.

Treasuring Family Photos   8 comments

Where are your family photos?

A few years ago, I found that my family’s older photos were in big plastic crates stored at my Mother’s house.  Mom was the family pack rat … she’d been given photos by people for decades.  Most of the photos were just loose; many were unlabeled.  They were all  irreplaceable.  And should tragedy strike her home, those photos would just be gone.

A label of “Mother” means nothing if you don’t know who wrote the label. In this case, my mother knew who labeled the photo: this is a photo of my Great Grandmother Cora Baugher Shull.

That was unacceptable!

I then learned something:  my 20 years of experience in handling advertising graphics had prepared me for the preservation of my family’s photographic heritage.  I truly had no idea that my knowledge of graphic files and what was then called desktop publishing was unique in my family, and absolutely essential to save and share the photographs that my Mother had lovingly collected over the years.

Here’s a published resource for how to preserve your family’s photos using archive-quality techniques.

Until I went through my mother’s photos, I had never seen this jaunty photo of my Grandfather, Wilbur Mowry.

Today, there are more challenges than just preserving photographic prints made 75 years ago.  Keeping, cataloging and just plain saving the flood of digital photographs we accumulate today is very difficult.  Our first digital camera was a Sony that took pictures on a 3.5” floppy disk … we almost retired our last computer with a 3.5” drive before I transferred all of those pictures onto a hard drive.

Many of today’s photos are taken with a smartphone and then uploaded to Facebook or Pinterest.  That’s great for sharing with family and friends … but almost useless for keeping those images.

Social media sites can use your images as they see fit – sometimes including  placing your pictures in advertisements without your specific approval!  The most popular sites all have published Terms on their sites that “clearly” outline their policies in legalese.  Prominent will be their policy that they can change their Terms at any time, without notice, without compensation.  So, they can DELETE your images at their pleasure.

They will always edit your pictures, compressing them with a unique algorithm that restricts their file size (and thus, quality) to a degree that they determine.  Don’t use Facebook to save your photos!

If you keep your photographs on your phone … what happens when you drop your phone?  Are all of your pictures … just gone?  What if your phone gets stolen?  Any back-up copies of your favorite pix?

This blackmail-worthy photo from 2004 was almost lost when it was left on old, outdated media: a 3.5″ floppy.

Digital photos must be labeled and organized … and then backed up … on your computer and external hard drives.  There’s no other way.

So, you’ve saved your photos.  Now what do you do with them?

In 2007, I began what has become a 5-year project to collect and preserve photographs, and then publish them in scrapbooks for four families:  those of my Father (Mowry), Mother (Shull), Father-in-law (Chucalo) and Mother-in-Law (Hepler).  I have visited many of my cousin’s homes to scan their favorite photographs and add them to my ever-expanding library.

The Mowry book was complete in 2007, and the Shull book followed soon after in 2008.  I was greatly assisted by my Mother, who had a huge number of photos … and had the genealogy nailed.

More research, and more long distance family visits were required for the other two books, and the Chucalo book was complete in 2011.  The Hepler book is now perhaps 80% complete; my goal is to complete it this year.

Each person that received one of the books was amazed by the pictures of their family – and themselves – that they had never seen.  By combining the pictures in each of the cousin’s homes, we created a unique collection that was much more complete than any owned by the individuals.  When those pictures were combined with pictures of their ancestors that they had never even known to exist, a true treasure was created.

I offered free copies of all digital photo and family tree files to anyone who would send me a portable hard drive on which to send them their data.

Please note that there are many ways to do these books … this is the way I did them beginning in 2007!  Today, you should certainly consider using services like Shutterfly or Adorama Pictures to print bound books.  There are no wrong answers here:  if you like your collection and how you share it, then that is a great thing.

Today, I have digital copies of all of the photos backed up in 3 locations.  That library currently has over 11,000 files and 183 gigabytes of data.  In addition, my personal photography library has over 32,000 files and 300+ gigabytes of data.  An emergency in my home or the death of my computer will not result in the loss of my files.  I backup using Norton 360 (which I know computer geeks hate, but it’s easy for this consumer).  I’m loving my automatic, online backup service through Carbonite.

Your family photos are treasures.  Treat them as such: cherish them, display them, share them.

This 1911 Chicago photo is of the wedding party for Simon Krstich (AKA Simon Chucalovich) and Mary Gavelda, my wife’s Grandparents. The original framed photo was kept in the closet of their eldest daughter in 2011 … her daughter didn’t even know she had the photo!

Posted August 1, 2012 by henrymowry in Genealogy, Photography

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