Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Show and Tell for Posterity

Many family historians, myself included, take the necessary time and energy to track down every detail possible about their ancestors, but make very little time for recording their own lives and experiences.  Who would not rather learn about an ancestor through his or her own writings:  stories, letters, notes, and diaries?  Let's face it, though vital, census, and other genealogy records are useful in many regards, they lack personal perspective.  Like cocoa without sugar... hmmm, something's missing!

Family Tree magazine recently published an article with guidelines for answering some basic questions your descendants will probably want to know the answers to:  "16 Things to Write Down About Yourself for Posterity."  Diane Haddad, the author, states:  "We forget to preserve information about our own lives. Thus, in 100 or 200 years, our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews will be struggling to understand our lives and what we were really like."  To make matters worse, most modern day correspondence is done digitally, through texting, e-mail, and social media, from which the data is not likely to be preserved.  We are less likely to find printed documentation generated by persons alive now within the archives, libraries, and depositories of the future, unlike the paper trail of previous generations.

So, what if you would like to leave a personalized record of your life experiences, but are not much into writing about yourself?  You have heard the saying that, "one picture is worth a thousand words."  A way to organize and preserve family history that I thoroughly enjoy is by designing photo books.  You can create them using many online vendors, including:  Costco Photo, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Walgreens, and others.  There are review websites than can help you determine which vendor to use.  Or, just pick one and dive right in!

Covers from a couple of photo "memory" books I created.

At this point, I have completed a half-dozen photo books, some that contain vintage family photographs, and others that serve as memory books (think "scrapbook").  I have plans for more, because they are fun to create, and the recipients really enjoy them.  Also, the books are "print-on-demand"; you can have just one printed at a time, or multiples.  Your book stays on the vendor website, protected by your log in and password, and it remains available to edit or print whenever you like.  As far as content goes, you could even address the "16 things to write down about yourself" by carefully selecting photographs, and then including names, dates, places, and other interesting information in the captions.  I scanned various memorabilia to add, as well:  cards, letters, childhood drawings, notes, and especially, genealogy and DNA charts.  I also created "favorites" collages using online images; these collages are based on the preferences of the person who is the subject of the memory book.

A "favorite things" collage.
Television shows that had a personal impact.

A Useful Tip
Since photo book vendors can only accept certain file extensions when images are uploaded (.jpg, .tif, .bmp, and .png), you may have to work around this a bit.  To create collages, I used a word processing program (Microsoft Word).  Then, I printed the finished pages out and scanned them as images, in order to create the correct file extension for uploading to the vendor's software.  There may be other methods to achieve the same result, but it is not as hard as it sounds--only a few extra steps are required.

A couple of photographs from my childhood along with a letter sent by Santa Claus (aka, my dad), mailed from North Pole, Alaska, of course!

A U.S. Army veteran's World War II memories.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless with photo books, either for your own story, or for someone else's.  They are fairly quick to self-publish, and there is no end to the ways you can be creative.  Once you get going, I think you will find it hard to stop.

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