Why Journaling Is Important

Vital records and DNA can only tell us so much about an ancestor. It’s the photographs, letters, diaries and journals that bring them to life. Those of us lucky enough to inherit any of these from our ancestors are delighted to have a closer look into their world.

Today we have many ways to quickly capture a moment and share it with others. Our cameras will automatically embed the date, time and often location for us. With a little bit of effort, we can add a few words to better describe what is happening in each photo. This is journaling. What do you add? Consider the things you would love to know about the old photos in your collection and use that to help you describe today’s pics.

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What you see here is a photo I have “doctored” to look more like a painting. It got doctored because the original was very faded and needed help. Once the image looked the way I wanted it, I used the Collect app [iPhone – $1.99] to create the frame and add a title and caption. The date was automatically pulled from the photo’s metadata.

This is journaling. It didn’t take long to add the paragraph of information about this photo. Collect is just one of a number of journaling apps that make it easy to create eye-catching stories. Once you get into the journaling habit, your collection of little stories will quickly become a family history.

Telling Stories with Pictures

Telling stories with your iPhone & pictures? Absolutely!

Thanks to the mobile phone, we will leave behind many more photographs than our ancestors could ever image. Not only that, but our photos will automatically include date and place information in the file. With little effort on our part, we can also add even more descriptive information – all embedded in the photo file. There’s one problem. Since this information is embedded in the file, the…

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Telling Stories with Pictures

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Thanks to the mobile phone, we will leave behind many more photographs than our ancestors could ever image. Not only that, but our photos will automatically include date and place information in the file. With little effort on our part, we can also add even more descriptive information – all embedded in the photo file.

There’s one problem. Since this information is embedded in the file, the viewer won’t see it until they open the image file in a program that will display it. Fortunately there are some fun and creative apps so you can display your story with the photo. One Australian company, The Lens Lab, has created a series of iPhone apps to punch up your photos. These apps are easy and fun to use and the results are eye-catching.

I talked about Supermatic [iPhone & iPad – $1.99] last month. Use it to combine photos and text with design elements and templates into a quick, easy and fun digital scrapbook.  You’ll find tools to crop, straighten and adjust brightness, contrast and saturation on your photo. From there you can experiment with a number of filters, add text, graphic elements and frames. When ready, your masterpiece can be saved on the phone and sent to your favorite social network. The More button takes you to your phone’s Share Sheet giving you even more options. Supermatic has a Premium upgrade ($1.99) that makes it possible for you to install your own fonts, use your own PNG files, save your own favorite templates, use all their premium fonts and their custom color picker tool – very useful to pull a color from your photo.

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A quick graphic created with LetterGlow

LetterGlow [iPhone – $2.99] turns your iPhone into a graphics studio. If you like Canva, you’ll love LetterGlow. Begin by selecting one of the included templates or use the blank “new project” template to build your own. There are preset sizes to choose from making it easy to create a graphic for use on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. As you add and manipulate your photos, text and design elements, the tool options adjust to each element. It will take a bit of experimenting to get used to all the options available, but it won’t be long before you are creating some very impressive graphics. LetterGlow offers a creative bundle that includes “loving sentiments”, artistic splatter, paint streaks, textures, fonts and more for $3.99.

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With Collect [iPhone – $1.99] you can maintain a journal containing photos, date/time, tags and your own comments. Keep them organized in albums and even create video slideshows from selected entries. The Creative update pack ($1.99) makes it possible to bulk export your collected entries to Dropbox and Flickr, create additional albums and high-resolution monthly collages. The Video pack ($2.99) creates beautiful video slideshows complete with music from your iTunes library. You can format them for showing on Instagram, YouTube and other video platforms. If you are using Collect on both your iPhone and iPad – or multiple iPhones within the family – the Keep Safe ($2.99) pack will automate iCloud backups and keep your journals synched between devices.

We’ve got some big family events coming up in the next few months. My phone and these apps will get a good workout and, with luck, I’ll wind up with a beautiful photo journal/scrapbook that can be passed on to future generations.

 

 

21st Century Journaling

Isn’t it wonderful to inherit letters, scrapbooks, diaries and journals from your ancestors? Sure, the records we collect in the archives tell us who our ancestors are and where they lived, but don’t give us much about their personality or the world they lived in. That’s why letters and such become treasures.

My grandfather died when my mother was still a toddler so, when I inherited my grandmother’s “stuff” I was delighted to discover she had saved a stack of letters from him. It took him five years to convince her to marry him. During most of that time she was teaching school at various locations in Georgia. In addition to schmoozing her, he was also passing on a lot of local news about friends and family. What a treasure!

I recently made a connection to a research cousin on my father’s side of the family. She had inherited a diary from her second great grandmother (sister of my second great grandfather). My ancestor was killed in the Civil War and the children were sent to various families in the area. Tracking them was a challenge until this cousin told me she had transcribed the diary and included notes from her research. She had then published it through Amazon and within minutes I was reading it on my Kindle. It’s no literary masterpiece but it is a treasure to me.

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The story of a spoon captured in DayOne

What are you doing to share your world and the family members who were part of it? Today we have some amazing tools that make it easy to capture stories, events and the ephemera that color our lives. Let’s take a look.

The mobile smart phone is a revolutionary device. It’s a phone, a camera, a word processor, a GPS device and so much more. It’s always nearby and ready to capture a moment when it happens. Add a journal app and you have an instant baby book, travel journal, scrapbook and diary.

Today’s journal apps are quite amazing. When you create a new entry, the app automatically adds the date, time, place and sometimes even the current weather – all the things you’d love to know on your old photos. Your journal entries aren’t just words either. Most allow you to include photos, video and audio too.

The app shown above is Day One for iOS and Mac. It automatically adds metadata – location, date, time and weather – along with the tags (keywords) you add to make it easy to organize your entries. It supports multiple journals and has export features making it easy to export all or selected entries to a PDF or text file. Another app Diaro is available for iOS and Android devices and provides many of the same features.

How can you put these apps to use? Here are some ideas:

  • Tell the story of your precious treasures. Have you inherited a family quilt, portrait or other heirlooms that you know nothing about? Done leave future generations in the dark. Use your journal to document what is so special about the things you have collected so future generations will know why they are important to you. Paintings, vacation souvenirs, books and even Christmas decorations often have stories.
  • Do you have any favorite childhood hangouts that no longer exist? Capture today’s favorite places while you can. Restaurants, beaches, fishing holes and attractions may be special to you, but how will the younger generations know what makes them special if you don’t tell them in your journal.
  • These apps are delightful for keeping a travel journal. Since photos, location and date are easily captured, all you need is to do is add a few words.
  • Young moms are seldom very far from their phones, so gifting them with a journal app makes it easy to capture all those precious moments. And, the built-in social features make it easy to share them with you.
  • Although when using the term “research journal” we generally think of a list of resources we have already searched, it can also be used to capture the little stories our research delivers. Although my family’s eyes glaze over when I open my genealogy program, they love these little stories.

If you are active on social media networks like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you might find the Momento app quite interesting. Once you connect it to your favorite social networks, Momento will automatically capture the status updates, photos and check-ins you post to those accounts. You can also add private notes, photos and videos manually.

Both Day One and Dario support Markdown – also known as archival-quality text. Momento saves as plain text. This means your journaling efforts will last long after these apps are gone. Grab an app today and get into the journaling habit!

If you would like to learn more about Markdown, visit Moultrie Creek Gazette for an introduction and click Markdown in the tag cloud for additional articles.