Facebook as a research source?

I belong to several “nostalgia” groups on Facebook – an alumni group for my high school and a couple of groups discussing local history. I am amazed at the photos and stories that regularly appear in those groups. Recently a fellow researcher in the Georgia county where my mother’s family lived recommended a similar group for that county. What a treasure! Not only do I enjoy seeing people and places I remember from our frequent summers in that area, it’s a wonderful way to get reacquainted with old friends and long-lost cousins. It’s something else too – a way to develop relationships with other locals to learn more about the area and even family members no longer with us. Something as simple as posting a photograph can generate some amazing conversations and some very interesting leads.

You might also look to see if a local historical or genealogical society has a presence on Facebook. They could provide information on local resources – especially useful if your planning a trip to that area.

Are you using Facebook to help research distant locations? If so, what kind of results have you had?

Holiday Planning: Custom Cards

I am a big fan of ecards – both the commercial ones and ones I make myself. I love the fun and quirky Just Wink cards from American Greetings. I have the app on my iPhone (also available for Android, Kindle tablets, NOOK tablets and Windows Phones) and it’s an easy way to send a card that can be opened and read right in the email message, Facebook update or text message. You can even mail it as a “real” card if you want.

Quirky is fun for many situations, but Christmas isn’t one of them. I prefer something more traditional and family oriented. And, although the list keeps getting smaller, there are still a number of people on my list who only get paper cards. As a result, I have a growing collection of leftover Christmas cards taking up space in the office cupboards. Fortunately, there are now a number of very nice – and affordable – options which give me the choice of sending both digital and paper cards that can include both photos and personal notes. And, they even offer features that make the chore of getting holiday cards done a bit easier.

iPhoto Cards

My favorite “snail-mail” card service is Apple’s beautiful letterpress cards. Found in the desktop iPhoto ’11 app, you can create either post cards or folded cards from your choice of design and layout options. The folded cards have layout options that support multiple photos and some even have plenty of room to include a lengthy personal note.

American Greetings also has a build and mail service where you can build your own cards and they will send them for you. No special app is needed, just your web browser.

Hallmark provides a huge variety of holiday ecards – all a part of their very affordable ecard subscription service. They also do beautiful photo cards and offer a service where you build your card with the photo and greeting you want and Hallmark will print, address and mail your card to everyone on your list.

The Lifecards app [iOS – $1.99] offers both postcard and newsletter style greetings as ecards. There are designs and layouts for all kinds of situations and occasions. One of the things I really like about this app is the ability to email as well as save it as a PDF file.

Want to create something totally original? Get out your presentation software – Keynote, PowerPoint or Impress – and take advantage of all the “actions” available. This article from Valentine’s Day will remind you how easy they are to build.


Christmas is Coming!

Fall is just around the corner and Christmas isn’t far behind. If you’re considering custom-designed Christmas gifts at affordable prices, now’s the time to get started.  Here’s a couple of ideas that make great gifts:

  • Custom note cards.  One Christmas my sister-in-law had 6 sets of notecards (12 cards per set) created from her original photos.  She then re-arranged the cards so each set contained 2 of each photo.  She had them done by Shutterfly at $9.99/set – a small cost to her, but priceless to each of us.  You could use original photos or old family photos for your cards.
  • Framed art.  Jazz up a photo to look older – sepia coloring, jagged edges, whatever – then print it out on tee-shirt transfer paper.  Now, iron it on to gessoed canvas (I was more successful using those canvas boards than a stretched canvas.) for a truly unique piece of art. A digitized copy of a piece of heirloom artwork can be printed on artist-quality watercolor paper or even canvas to make a stunning gift for a special someone.
  • CalendarsLulu has a great calendar-building platform that lets you pull your photos in from just about any of the major photo-sharing sites. Not only can you add your own events – birthdays, anniversaries, special days in your family’s history – but you can put photos into days on your calendar. So, not only can you announce that it’s Cousin Joe’s birthday, you can display his baby picture on that day.
  • Calendar magnets.  A cheap calendar option is to make your own and print it on inkjet magnet sheets.  Use some of those advertising calendars businesses send out as inspiration to create a single 12-month calendar with your own photo/graphic and it will look great on anyone’s frig!
  • Christmas ornaments.  Many of the services mentioned below will make ornaments from your photo or graphic.  Take a lesson from Hallmark and create your own keepsake ornaments each year. These are always precious treasures for Grandma and other family members who are tough to buy for! It could also be the basis for building a unique family tree.

Now you see why we’re talking about this in September.  You’ll need to do some research and it will take some time to get all your photos and designs pulled together.  Then too, you won’t find yourself saving much money if you’re spending megabucks for overnight shipping at the last minute.

grunge portrait

Need some more ideas? You’ll find lots of ideas in my book, The Future of Memories. Download your copy today.

Check out these photo/gift printing services to see which one works best for you: