Tag Archives: family history


On the Apple home page today is a gorgeous video presentation – What will your verse be? – that challenges us to create our own “verses” in the story of our world. Of course, they would prefer we do it using Apple products, but still it’s quite inspirational. I must admit that I am finding my iPad is a wonderful storytelling tool allowing me to create all kinds of stories in all kinds of media. But it’s only a tool. The storytelling comes from me.

We now have so many ways to capture our world and the magic moments of our life. Our descendants will get to know us by what we leave behind. We just need to make sure that in our quest to discover our ancestors we also take time to capture and save our own verses to pass on to future generations.

From the Archives: Sharing Treasures

My Grandfather Barker’s letters are very special treasures and like any good family historian, I’ve been digitizing them so they can be shared. In my Barker family history project, I will use some of the images but mostly as design elements. Transcribed snippets of their contents will be included in the narrative when they add to the story.
Barker book page showing letters as design

While I won’t be including the letter archive in the actual family history, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to share them. I am currently experimenting with different ideas for “publishing” the collection so others can enjoy them too. It is turning into more of a challenge than I initially expected.

Rather than just upload the individual images to a photo-sharing site like Flickr, I want to present the letters as a publication – actually as a series of publications – with a bit of narrative to provide context and connect each separate edition to the complete series. I’ll be taking the lessons learned from Miss Kate’s Autograph Book but scaling it up quite a bit.

The first challenge is size. Digital Archive 101 teaches us to scan at high resolutions and save the file using a quality file format (TIFF). This means each page of each letter is a hefty size. Now, if I just dump a bunch of huge files into a single document, what will I have? King Kong would be a child’s toy compared to this beast. Fortunately Apple’s iWork apps include a command to reduce the image size once you place it into your project. This saves me the effort of having to edit and resize each image then save it as a new file before I place it in my project.
Resize image menu on work area

I have chosen to use the presentation graphics app, Keynote, to present the letters. Unlike word processors’ automatic pagination trying to place my images for me, Keynote lets me place and resize my images to fit the slide without all that scrolling back an forth. [Much less aggravating.] After finding a simple theme that complements the color of the letters, I was on my way.

Dolph’s handwriting and most of the scanned pages are quite legible so I’m not planning to include transcriptions. I will include an introduction slide on each edition that provides a brief bio, the history behind these letters and which edition it is within the series. Each edition will be posted on Scribd where it can be read and/or downloaded. Of course I’ll include contact information and links to my family collection at Scribd in each edition.

Once the first edition is complete, it will become the template for all the later editions. It will also give me an idea of how many letters I can include in each. Yes, there are still many letters yet to be scanned, so this will be another of my “Living” projects – only with new editions with new content rather than revisions to an existing publication.

This article was originally published July 24, 2010. 

The Family Yearbook – Timing

MagCloud Newsletters

The problem with the holiday newsletter is that it arrives at one of the busiest times of the year. Often I don’t get a chance to really sit down and read the newsletters we receive until after New Years as we’re taking down the decorations and putting things away. I love the idea of a holiday newsletter presented as sort of a family yearbook, but I don’t think I want to send mine out until after New Years.

That doesn’t mean I won’t take advantage of the seasonal opportunities to grab ideas, templates and graphics for use in my yearbook.

One very useful personal publishing resource is MagCloud. They have free holiday templates you can download and use with your word-processing software (Microsoft Word or Apple Pages) to build either a two-page flyer or a four-page pamphlet. There are all kinds of templates for bigger projects too. Once you’ve put your yearbook together, follow the instructions to export it to PDF then upload to MagCloud for printing. Prices begin at 30¢ a piece for the flyer and 60¢ a piece for the pamphlet when you buy 20 pieces or more, but there are no minimum quantity requirements. You’re not stuck with 100 pieces when all your wanted was 10. You can even take advantage of MagCloud’s Ship to a Group feature to send your yearbook directly to the people on your holiday list.

If you want to get it there before Christmas you’d better hurry. To insure your yearbook reaches your family before Christmas you’ll need to get your order in by December 9th for shipping via USPS.

Don’t forget to keep a copy for your family’s archives. It now a part of your family history.

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:

A Postcard History

Arcadia Publishing Books

Are you familiar with the Images of America and Postcard History series of books? They’re popping up for all sorts of locations, eras and topics. I have several and find them fascinating. They are also a great template for a family history project.

The beauty of this format is that each photo/caption combo becomes its own story and doesn’t necessarily have to tie into the next one. It’s also quite flexible. You can organize your photos/stories by timeline, places, people or topics (schooling, pets, weddings, etc.). Don’t think a caption has to be limited to just a few words either. The books often have paragraph-long captions.

This style is a perfect fit for genea-bloggers. I’m having a great time doing just that at my Moultrie Journal blog – a look at my hometown’s local history. The beautiful building shown below is where I attended kindergarten.

Villa Flora

I’m working on a word processing template to build postcard history ebooks for my Kindle-connected family. One photo/caption per page should be a perfect fit for the Kindle screen and email “publishing” via Kindle’s Personal Document Service couldn’t be easier. I’ll share the details once I get it all figured out.

iPhone Baby Book

Busy moms are juggling kids, jobs, activities and pets. Finding time to start – let alone maintain – a baby book is a challenge. I see a lot of moms using their app phone and Facebook to capture and share all those special moments. I like the phone part of that but Facebook? The thought of putting a child’s name, face and birthdate on Facebook is really scary. Not only does it provide all kinds of identity theft ammunition, it also gives a predator lots of information that can be used to gain your child’s confidence.

“But Facebook is so easy.”

Yes, but it’s not the only easy option. You’ll find a growing number of journaling apps include in-app photo and video capture as well as the ability to pull items from your camera roll. On the iPhone, the Day One journaling app is truly amazing. In addition to photographs and videos, the app will automatically date stamp each new entry and can include both location and weather information too. So, snap a picture, add a few words describing it and Day One takes care of the rest.

Day One has apps for your iPhone, iPad and Mac desktop and can keep your journal synched between them all using either iCloud or Dropbox. Each journal entry can easily be shared via email, Twitter and other services with one tap.

So, while capturing and documenting those special moments from birth on is easy and sharing them is both easy and safe, Day One offers an even bigger benefit – archives. Not only are you capturing and saving all this family history, Day One saves your typed entries as plain text so years from now it will still be quite readable. It provides an automatic set-and-forget backup function that stashes copies of your journal at the backup location of your choice for further protection. And, at any time, you can save some or all of your journal as PDF documents.

Day One journal entry

A sample Day One journal entry with photo.

Using just one journal file, you can maintain entries for all your kids as well as your own thoughts. Organization is easy – just add tags to define the topic(s) of any journal entry. You can even include hashtags within the text of your entry and Day One will see them as tags. Using those tags, you can pull together all the entries for a specific child, a special event or topic and export them to PDF or external text files for use in family history projects.

Day One can easily serve as a baby book, travel journal, repository for your child’s art and school papers, personal journal and much more. And you can carry it around with you at all times on your iPhone or other iThings.

Facebook? Fa’get about it!

Scrapshot: Creating Atmosphere

Digital sketch of shrimpboat with superimposed text.

Using a photo to add atmosphere to a story. (Click to view full size.)

Here’s a situation where I had no supporting family images for the story. So, I used a current photo of a shrimp boat coming through the bridge. I then used an app [SketchMee for Mac – $7.99] to convert the photo to a monochrome (sepia) sketch. I did this for two reasons. First, the story is set back in the 1950s so the sepia image gives it a bit of a vintage feel, and second, using a monochrome color scheme reduced the contrast between the sky and the clouds – making it easier for the text to stand out. The font used in this example is Jayne Print.

The Personal Archive – a Valuable Asset

As Denise Levenick has so beautifully illustrated in her book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes, a good part of our family “stuff” is an historical record of our lives and those of our ancestors. Those of us who have taken on the challenge of preserving our family archives have worked hard to protect our treasures and to digitize them so they can be shared with others. Add to that the research, blog posts and family stories we have generated and our archives have even more value.

Thanks to our efforts, there is now a significant amount of personal historical artifacts in digital formats. Yes, there are a number of platforms that would like to “help” us organize and present this content in a manner that will also help them generate some revenue, but I’m surprised that universities and other archives have shown little interest. While local historical and genealogical societies would seem to be the logical starting point for building collections of personal archives, many have little knowledge or experience in the digital world and may not even be aware of the potential value their members’ collections offer. Even if they don’t have the expertise or budget to create and maintain a digital archive, they could negotiate a joint effort with a nearby university that could provide benefits to everyone.

I think it’s time to start lobbying our societies and local educational institutions to support our efforts to preserve our personal archives. Not only would it give family history more exposure but it could also become a real solution to what happens to our family archives after we are gone.

Charming Stories


Susan Branch is one of my favorite artists and her books are always a delight. She has combined her artistic and writing skills into a delicious combination of stories, photos, quotations, artistic embellishments and recipes. While enjoying her travels across England and discussions about people, places and things that make up her world, I’m also marveling at the legacy she will leave behind with all these charming multimedia stories that are the contents of her blog.


Speaking of charms, one of my favorite posts is about her charm bracelet. Like most charm bracelets, each charm has a history which she shares with her readers. The photographs are gorgeous, but the watercolor sketches are as much a treasure as the bracelet itself.


Few of us have the artistic skills of Susan Branch, but that doesn’t mean we can’t blog about our own personal and family treasures in creative ways. And, at some point those blog articles could be collected and arranged into a treasure book for your family’s enjoyment – both now and in the future.

I’m looking at my charm bracelet in a whole new light. I already see several good stories just waiting to be written. What stories do your charms hold?

Set Up A Family History Project in Scrivener

Scrivener [Mac – $45.00 & Win – $40.00] is a great app for any family history writing project. With Scrivener, you have everything you need – from research to writing tools – all organized in one place. This article looks at some options for setting up a family history writing project.

Scrivener Workspace

Scrivener Workspace

What you see here is the basic Scrivener workspace you’ll see when you create a new project. The only thing I’ve done so far is set up the Binder (the stuff you see in the left sidebar) with the basic items I’ll need in this project. This particular project was set up for my Barker family. I know I have material for two books on this family, but hope to do two more at some point. Since much of the research and resources I’ve collected will be needed for each book, it only makes sense to put each of these books into one project.

ScrivenerBinder01Let’s take a close look at the Binder. This is where you organize all the different components of your project. There are two basic kinds of items used within the Binder – folders and files – but as you’re about to see they can serve many purposes. Scrivener offers a number of icons to help you see at a glance how each item fits into the project. This project was created using the generic Novel template. Once I’ve set up this project to suit my workflow, I’ll save it as a custom template so the next family writing project will be even easier to set up.

At the top of the Binder is the Manuscript item. This is a folder that contains the content of my writing project. Other templates may call it “Draft” instead of “Manuscript” and I can call it “Fred” if that’s what suits me, but this is the area where the content of my book will reside. In this example, I have several folders inside the Manuscript folder. I can set up folders for each chapter or section within my book or I can do like I have done here and create folders for each book I expect to write for my Barker family.

Notice the difference in icons between each of these folders. Each of my planned books has a book icon while the newest folder displays the generic folder icon. Scrivener has all kinds of icons to make it easy to see the purpose of any element in my project. The Citations, Notes and Style Guide each use a different colored notebook icon while the Research folder has an open book icon. Right now everything you see in the Binder is a folder – except the Word List item under the Style Guide folder. That is a text file. At this point in my set up, it’s the only text file in the project.

While the Manuscript folder – and the book folders inside it – will be the content of the books I plan to write, the items below are for things that will support my writing efforts across all the books in this project.

  • In the Citations folder, I’ll list the citations I use in this project – appropriately formatted so I can easily copy them into the manuscript when I need them.
  • I’ve reached the stage where I have to jot down notes before I forget them so I have a folder where I can do just that.
  • At the very least my Style Guide will have a list of words properly spelled and formatted (Is it January 3, 1920, 3 January 1920, 3 Jan 1920 or 1/3/1920?) to insure consistency in my writing.
  • The Cover Graphics folder will hold the images I plan to use as the cover for each book.
  • In the Research folder I’ll dump all the notes, original documents, links to web sites and other genealogical information needed to write these stories.
  • The Template Sheets folder was included in the Novel template and holds templates for building character and location sketches. These are used by novelists to define a character (or location) and then as reference to insure consistency throughout the manuscript. I see potential usefulness, but haven’t decided how I’ll use them yet. For now it stays in.
  • Trash is self-explanatory.

Since the research, notes and even some of the content included in this project will be used in each book, it makes sense to keep it all in one project. When you get to the compilation phase of your project – the step that converts your manuscript into a finished book or ebook – you’ll decide just what content is included in the compilation. More on that in future articles.

First, a look at the terminology surrounding the Binder. First there’s the item. It’s a generic term for any file or folder included in the Binder regardless of its use. Next is the document. Officially, it’s any item containing text, but documents can also be empty – temporarily or as a place holder. Documents can also be word-processing or rich text files imported into the project. A folder contains documents and even other folders. A folder can also contain text such as a chapter title. Documents can be nested together as a stack or file group.

ScrivenerMenu01You can easily add folders and documents to the Binder by right-clicking in the Binder area and choosing the Add option. You’ve seen how you can nest folders within folders, but you can also nest documents as stacks. One of the very nice things about Scrivener is its ability to reorganize content items quickly and easily. All you do is drag the documents and/or folders from one location to another within the binder.

In the popup menu shown here, you’ll also notice you can duplicate and move items. Mostly this is used to reorganize the flow of a manuscript, but it could also be used to copy an excerpt from one of the book projects to become a preview teaser at the end of another book.

Once your book is finished, don’t delete the Scrivener project. As we all know, there will always be new research and new things to add to your family history. By keeping the project, all you’ll have to do is update it with the new information and recompile it.

Coming up next . . . Organizing Your Book