Thursday, February 02, 2006

Journaling and Photography for your Genealogy Scrapbook

Any true scrapbook aficionado knows that scrapbooking is an art. It goes far beyond placing photos strategically on a page; you need to know what to add to make it a masterpiece. Many families choose to create a scrapbook for another fascinating hobby that many of us share: Genealogy.

Black and white photos of ancestors and perhaps ourselves as children are well protected inside the plastic pages of a scrapbook, and instead of living out the rest of eternity in a bland photo album, they can be brightened with photos, stickers and tags telling who these precious pictures depict. My daughter is the scrapbook enthusiast in my household. She prefers keeping photos in many brightly decorated scrapbooks, as opposed to albums that don't even have room to write descriptions.

You need to purchase a book that suits your "theme." Is your album going to be of old army pictures, like your dad in the Korean or Vietnam War, your great-great-grandfather in the Civil War, etc.? You can probably find a scrapbook with a United States military emblem, or if not, buy military stickers and create a custom cover.

If your scrapbook theme will be of children, past and present, try to find stickers or rub-on transfers of Victorian children and place them around the cover. A scrapbook can either be customized, or you can work with what is already available. Once you have chosen a book and decorated the cover appropriately, you can decide how to set up the pages.

Each page should have a different theme; pictures placed the same way with the same headings on every page will create a bland, uninteresting look. Try to make each one strikingly different. If any of the people who posed for old black and white photos are still alive, try to ask them if they remember the day the photo was taken and what stands out about that day. Was Grandpa's nose itching while he posed in his World War II uniform but he was unable to scratch? Did Grandma remember a pie was burning in the oven while she waited to have her photograph taken? There are a million story opportunities here. If they wish to, ask the person to write their own notes on a tag and place it on the page close to the photo.

Journaling is very important in genealogy scrapbooks, not only because it will preserve your writing for the future, but it will capture special details about certain photos that you would normally not remember. If you remember what the weather was like on your aunt's seventy-first birthday, that it was snowing, or that your son was throwing snowballs, write it down. Also, try to include other people's memories of that day when you're writing out your tags. Perhaps another family member will recall something about the day the photo was taken that you may not have thought of.

To get contemporary genealogy pictures of kids and their cousins, try these techniques:

1. Never ask children "Do you want your photo taken?" It's too easy to say "no" and kids often learn to offer this shy response from their photo-shy parents or other family members. If you wait until a child is striking a good pose, perhaps while playing with another cousin or talking, and then snap, it will make a great candid shot for your book. You will get some wonderful shots of the child in question without worrying about forced poses. One of my nephews in particular used to make a very odd, goofy face when asked to pose for photos; he did this for many years. When I learned to start taking photos of him when he was more relaxed and not expecting it, the pictures came out much better!

2. Take photos of anything family-related. Birthday parties, reunions, holidays, cousins playing. Don't discard photos you don't have room for in your scrapbook; you never know when you might start another book or find room to slip in an appropriate photo.

3. Always keep all your supplies together. If you have a container for your scrapbook items such as a plastic container or a shelf, keep a separate pile for papers, one for stickers, one for journaling ideas, one for tags, one for new photos and old photos, etc. It always helps to be organized and will minimize the fuss of not finding the item for which you're looking.