Beautify Your Family History Research Binders – First Up, Title Pages

Title Page graphic_canva

Make-over Alert!

Let’s face it – most of our family history binders need a little bit of help when it comes to eye-appeal. But who has time for that, right? Our research binders are a result of months, if not years’ worth of hard work and now I want you to think about how they look?

Well, let’s look at it from the opposite angle; we have to do something in order to draw the elusive family member into our stories. Plunking our tomes of family history research into their laps and expecting our loved-ones to want to read them might be asking a bit too much. Or haven’t you experienced the eye-roll when you have tried to do just that?

Maybe I’m over-exaggerating a bit much — but then again, maybe not… What draws you into reading a magazine? The cover most certainly.  And once you have started to look at a magazine, it had better have some pictures as well to break up the stories, am I right? You know I am.

Let’s make just a few easy changes and see if you don’t love your binder even more! I am suggesting that we change up the title page, add some pictures in a beautiful way and make-over those ugly tabs that we are so used to seeing! It’s not that hard and I, for one, am more than willing to try something so easy if one or more of my family members might be tempted to open up their own family history.

Three Simple Changes

It’s really pretty easy. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be breaking this down into those three DIY parts: 1) title page make-over, 2) adding photo pages with stories or at least captions and some comments, and 3) a major tab re-do that will instantly change the feel of your binder. And to help with the Title Page Make-over, I have decided that a video might work best. Before you check it out, you will need to install Picasa, a free photo editor/management program. We are going to use it kind of like design software.

Picasa is easy to set up and you can get it Here. This easy to use software can scan your computer to add all your photos and you can also use the folder manager (in Tools) to decide which folders to continuously monitor. I have been using Picasa for years and it is my go-to photo archive manager as well as a quick editor. For my purposes this time, I’m using it as a design program on a very simple level. Of course, you could purchase Photoshop Elements or even Photoshop, but for my purposes with these changes, Picasa fits the bill.

Video Alert!

This week we are making changes just with the title pages.

If you are interested in purchasing the same digital papers that I am showing, here is the link to Becky Higgins Project Life Heritage Kit.

[Please note that if you are not feeling comfortable enough to purchase Becky Higgins whole Heritage kit designed by Celeste Knight ($21.99) then you can easily just start with the title cards, journaling cards or filler cards. Individually, they are $3.99 each. There is a lot available online for free as well; just google “free digital scrapbook kits.” One of my favorite sites is ScrapGirls.  I would suggest that you watch the video and then decide. Also remember that you purchase once and use many times!]

If you do purchase a digital kit, you will need to download the kit and unzip the files. No problem! Here are the directions for that as well.  In order for Picasa to show your new papers like photos, you need to make one quick change once you have Picasa up and running:

Go to Tools and choose Options. Then click on File Types and click on all the formats available. Click on OK and you should be good to go! If you don’t do this little step, you might not see all the beautiful papers that you just downloaded .

Now that you have the house-keeping all done, give it a try!  I would love to see what you come up with for a title page.

One more reminder: You aren’t making this only to please yourself; remember the goal. Wouldn’t we all love to lure our younger family members into looking at their family history and taking an interest? For inspiration, you might look around at Pinterest or Instagram to see what is catching their eyes!

Over the next two weeks, I will be posting new videos and/or tutorials on how you can spruce up your own family history research binder. I hope you give the ideas a try and please let me know about your success stories!

Simple Steps to Posting in Instagram

Instagram Canva w screenshot

I know that a LOT of people know how to post in Instagram – this tutorial is not for you!

If you have Instagram but don’t know what to do next, let’s break it down. Follow along as I take you through a posting step-by-step!


  1. First step is to download and open up Instagram where you will be asked to sign up for an account. While you are doing that, I would suggest that you go ahead and upload a head shot of yourself to be used in your profile. (I keep the same headshot on my phone so that I have one whenever I want to set up a profile.) Remember, that when you are making a post anywhere, it is a lot more fun to be in a conversation with at least a photo of the person you are contacting! Leaving the photo blank just seems a bit creepy to me – so make sure to add one!


You can find lots of direction on what to add as your written profile, but at the very least, I would suggest that add you a few of your interests. As it relates to genealogy, I would add the surnames that you are working on as well. Of course, if you have a website and/or blog, you would want to put that URL in your profile as well! Once you start to look for other people to follow, you will start to see how valuable it is to be able to read a short blip on them and see if they line up with some of the same interests!


Once you have the account set up and you are ready to post, follow along with me as I show I posted a photo to my own Instagram account.


  1. Your Instagram account is still open, right? Now look at the middle part of the bottom menu on your screen and you will see a square icon with a circle inside. That’s the button that you will want to tap in order to go to your camera roll or the camera itself and locate your photo to be used in the post.


So, this is Instagram and I’m just going to remind you that Instagram is all about the photo. You can add a message in the comments but really, it is still all about the photo. So when you are getting ready to post a photo, have some fun with it and try different angles as well as a few shots to decide which one you like best. If you love your photo, then that’s really all that matters at the end of the day. I wouldn’t suggest that you try to be just like everyone else.


I like to take photos of the little heirlooms that I have accumulated over the years so that I can share the stories that go with them. I will take the photo of the object or upload the picture that I want to use so that it is in my camera roll in my phone before making a post. This just makes things go smoothly and the picture can be edited in any app such as PhotoShop Express or simply using the filters within Instagram.


  1. Once you have clicked on the photo that you would like to make your post about, then click on NEXT up at the top right of your screen. Here is what I think is the bread and butter of Instagram: the built-in filters! The little boxes at the bottom of the screen with the alphabet letters in them are the filters. Feel free to click on them all to see which one makes you happy when you look at it! If you click on the little sun icon just on top of the filter boxes, you can adjust just how much of the filter that you would like to use. Simply touch and drag the small blue circle to the right or left until you are satisfied with the look. Then either tap the “X” or “Y” button depending on whether or not you want to keep your changes.


If you look real close to the filter boxes, you can see a very blurred image of your photo and you will have a general idea of what the overall coloring will be with each filter – it just makes it a bit easier to not have to go through them all. Warmer filters catch my attention so I might only click on the ones that have some color that is pleasing.


If you click on the odd little disc (tool?) icon at the right, just above the filter boxes, it will take you to even more tools such as straightening, brightness, contrast, warmth, etc . I would just open them up and start to play with them until you get a feeling for what each one does. You always have the option to cancel the changes by tapping the “X” button or to accept the changes by tapping the “Y” button.


My favorite button to play with is the vignette and the tilt shift button. I actually used the tilt shift on this photo in order to give it a bit of depth. Play around!  Have some fun and always know that you can simply start over if you end up with something you aren’t happy with! Simply tap the back button!


Once you are done with your editing magic, tap the NEXT button on the top right hand side of the screen.


  1. Your photo is done and now you are down to just adding your caption! Go ahead and tap within the box where the words, “Write a caption” are found and your keyboard will come up. Here’s where I love to add my little story (ok… sometimes it is a not-so-little story… but it is really for me and my kids so I’m writing about the object or the photo until I am happy with the story.) I have figured out that the posting looks easier to read if I don’t add any hashtags to clutter it up. Those can wait and be added as a comment after I have made my post. (I’ll quickly discuss hashtags at the bottom of this tutorial.)


Finished writing? Then simply tap the OK link at the top right-hand side of the screen and it will take you to the final staging area.


  1. Aha! You have now made it to the point that you can tap the SHARE button at the bottom of the screen and it will post. Yay! To me, they all feel like little presents that I am sending off in the mail. And once you have shared the post, it will show up in your NewsFeed (the little home icon). You have the ability to add hashtags now as a comment.


As hard as I try to be perfect, I always find a typo in my caption, so I have become very comfortable in using the Edit function! In order to edit the caption, tap on the ME icon (the head and shoulders) and you can now see all your own posts. Tap on the posting that you would like to edit and there will be three little horizontal lines at the bottom of the screen. Tap those lines and in the little pop-up menu, you will see the edit tool. Click on that and you can then make changes to your caption. It always feels good to know you have options, right?


  1. Now that you have your posting, let’s talk a bit about hashtags. They are everywhere but once you think of them as little tags or search tools, it will start to make perfect sense! With my postings, I want to add the person’s name that I am posting about. After I have made several using my mother’s name as a hashtag (full name,) then I can pull all the postings up at one time to look at everything posted about my mother.


Here is where is gets really powerful! If you are in contact with relatives and they begin to post their own photos or memorabilia to Instagram and you use the same hashtags, you can now pull up their postings and yours to look at the whole collection!


You can search on more general hashtags such as “#recipes” or “#family” to locate a world-wide conversation going on. And if you see something that interests you, I would click on that photo and look at the person’s profile to decide if you would like have them added to your news stream.


It is definitely a learning process to get comfortable with everything, but once you get to that point, then it is quite a bit of fun to look and see what others are posting!

  1. One more thing… Once you have 60 postings, you can choose to have your Instagram printed off by a company called Chatbooks. It costs $6.00 per book and as you get 60 pages accumulated, they will print off each book. I am looking forward to getting to that number. My hope is that I can print off the captions as well as the photos and then have a book about our families that I can pass down to the children!


The bonus to all of this is that my children seem to really enjoy looking at the my Instagram postings and reading the captions when they have a few minutes. (They range from ages 12 to 26.) I’m not above doing whatever it takes to attempt to make them interested in their own family history!


Yes, this all takes a bit of work, but at the end, I have done it for myself and my children and descendants down the road. They’ll have these treasures and the stories behind them to last forever!

Are you on Instagram? What are you favorite things to post and what do you enjoy looking at? I’d love to hear!

Day One Journaling Tutorial: It’s your own Life Story

Day One Canva w Screenshot-

I know that we all like to think that every event will be saved in our memories forever – how could we ever forget? – but trust me, they will fade and suddenly you are left with only a general memory and not all the little details that made it so special. 

Day One App — explained in detail.

As promised, here is the step-by-step tutorial for the Day One app that I mentioned in my recent post titled “Its a Life Story Challenge.” (you can re-read it here!) Whether you are a parent, scrapbooker, and/or family historian, the Day One app is well worth the cost ($4.99 for iPhone and iPad.) Again, for some of you, this will be way too detailed, but I know that there are some that might find my tutorial very helpful so here we go…

Step One:  After loading the Day One app onto your phone, you will first get a black and white screen.  Always intimidating but absolutely no problem!

One Day app Step one pics

To get started, just click on the little camera icon to be whisked away to your camera photos or photo stream! The fun part is deciding which photo you are going to choose to represent your post. This app doesn’t have any editing features so I would suggest doing any fix-ups or cropping before you load it up.

One Day app Step one pics-2

Once you have selected your photo, it will come up with a little message box that asks, “Would you like to change the entry date / time to the Photo’s time?”  I like to revert back to the photo’s date and time so that it keeps a record of the exact day and time that I took the photo(its metadata.) If you are using a scanned photo, it won’t have the correct date so you can then enter it in or at least type in your best guess. Don’t worry too much because you can easily change it later! With this date feature, I can easily miss a couple of days and then enter them at a more convenient time (sooner than later!) and it will appear with the correct day and time.


Step Two: Journaling! Don’t let this intimidate you. Think of this as your own little place to write where you don’t have to worry about who might be looking and judging you. This is a safe place to write down some of the little details that occurred when this picture was taken. Sometimes, I only add one picture for an entire day and that’s ok as well. I am capturing my life and this doesn’t have to be perfect.


Some people like to have journaling prompts and others like to just write freely. I would just suggest that you include people’s names and the places where the picture or story are taking place. Maybe it would make the process easier if you think about your writing as if you were telling a friend of yours the story (Maybe a friend that doesn’t know anything or anyone in your life or circle of friends.) If you do this, I think that you will find that you put a little more detail in your writing naturally!

One Day app Step two pic


Once you have finished your journaling for this picture, you will hit DONE at the top right of the screen. Voila! You have written your first post. Believe me, they get easier with each one. In fact, I find that I am really looking forward to taking a few quiet moments to do this every day or every other day. What I am not doing is putting any more pressure on myself to have to do it every day.


I want this to be a present to myself and a gift to my children down the road.

So, what if you want to add two or three pictures or even more? That’s alright as well. It’s your journal and you can do whatever you want, right? There are days that I have been pretty busy, especially on a recent vacation, and I wanted to capture several small stories of the day and the people with me. It is very easy to just add another picture and I’m off telling another snippet of a story.

One Day app Step three

Step Three:  Once you have made your first post, you will see the photo and the journaling directly below the picture. If it is longer than will fit in that little tiny space, then you can simply scroll down and the rest of your story will unfold. Excited? I was thrilled on my first post and actually, I get a little happy after each one!


Let’s take a look at the bottom of the screen at the black menu bar. The first flag icon on the left is a link that takes you to the Day One website where you can post your entry online. For me, I am keeping my journal on my phone and backing up to my Dropbox.


[Note: You can set up the Dropbox feature back at the main screen by hitting <-Timeline <-Menu and then Settings and Sync. You will need to have Dropbox set up before you do this so you can enter your Dropbox information. If you are not familiar with Dropbox, it is a cloud storage that gives you access to your files from any of your devices: computer, mobile phone, or tablet. And the best part is that the basic storage plan is free!]


Back to the black menu bar. You will see an up arrow and a down arrow that will allow you to easily scroll through your entries. On a touch screen device, you can also swipe your finger up and down on the screen and it will move through the entries.

One Day app Step two pic-2

The (+)Plus sign brings up a choice to enter another picture or simply enter text. (Some times there just are not any pictures taken during an event, but it is still wonderful to journal about it!)


Step four:  We have made entries but what if we want to print them out? This is where it gets fun again. Let’s look at the little black menu bar at the bottom again. You will see a row of three dots (***) and upon tapping that feature, you now have options! Lots of them.


The best part of this whole app is that it can make my entries into a single PDF that I can save or print out and keep. Now I have something that I can hand down to my children. I can pick and choose which pages to keep as well. [Remember that with a PDF, you can delete pages and also choose which pages to print.]


There are other options that you might like to explore as well, including uploading directly to your Twitter account. I like the idea of this being a separate part of me and keeping it under wraps until I am ready to share it with my four children. I might even think about having it printed and bound into books for each year. Who knows, but the good news is that I am doing it. It is easy and combines both of my passions for photos and family stories.


Step Five:  Remember that black and white screen that you got when you first opened up the app?


One Day app Step five pic

You can always go back there by selecting  <–Timeline <-Menu. You can access the timeline directly from here as well as a calendar and photos and even any tags that you might want to add.


[Note: Tags are a great thing to think about adding up front or as you enter a picture. If you ever would like to see all your “Beach” photos or entries, you could simply go to this area and select the “Beach” tag and all your beach entries would show up in date order. Yes, this is a very good thing as Martha Stewart would say! You don’t even have to go hunting for a picture in your archive of when you went to a particular beach, you can simply select the tag. So, of course, you have to tag your photos when you are making your entries or go back and tag them later for this feature to work. That is why it is a good thing to think about it before you begin your journaling experience. You might even write up a basic list of tag names that you might think you would like to search on at a later point depending on your own needs! Names, places, activities, etc. Just look for the tag icon when you are entering your journal entry. It will prompt you at the top of the screen to enter a tag.]


As a scrapbooker for over twenty-some years, I have a passion not only for the pictures but the stories behind the photos. And, try as I may, there are times when I don’t get all the pictures into albums… Ok, maybe even years… but if I find a group of pictures within my photo archive (which is massive,) I could then go back to my journal and find that day. Guess what? All the details are now written down!  (Or I can use my tags as well as long as I keep using them.)


And if you don’t scrapbook, how does this apply? Ok, well, your children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren would be ecstatic to be able to poke around your journal and get an idea of all the things that you did on a daily basis. As a family history researcher, I would LOVE to be able to read my ancestors’ thoughts as they went about their daily lives. I can find the documents and possibly photos, but it takes a lot to be able to put yourself into their shoes and imagine what all they endured.


It’s those stories that give me strength and a foundation to live my own life. A bit melodramatic, yes, but I think that I am pretty spot-on when it comes to that desire to understand my ancestors better. I want my children to have a sense of what I was thinking as I went through part of my life. I’m fifty-three, ok, fifty-four, and I WISH that I had kept better journals during the time that I was raising my children. Now, as we are down to the last one at home, I can only hope that they will enjoy this small look into my life!


I’ve talked about it before… my mother passed away in 2000… and I still find myself looking for little tidbits of her writing or old letters that remind me about a particular time. If I don’t get anything else done in my own life, I am determined to leave a part of myself to my own children!


Please share this with your circle of friends as a gentle nudge to get started with our own Life Stories! It’s never too late — until it is too late!

TurboScan step-by-step. Making your research so much easier!

Step-by-step title_72 dpi 400x200My background is in computers so when I see new things that catch my attention, I am all over it. After catching the livestream from RootsTech 2015, I got really excited because most of what I was seeing all pertained to getting the stories and finding creative ways to share the information.

As we all know, you can do the most impressive amount of research, but if no one looks at it except for the facts, then it kind of like having a sports car that never makes it out of the garage!

One of the problems that I have been dealing with since I started into genealogy some fourteen years ago is getting copies of documents. It used to be that when I would go to a library or courthouse, I would have to find the copier and make sure that I had enough change.  So, I am talking about a lot of quarters or dimes which would flow like water when I came across something that was really important!

Gradually, I figured out the I could take a digital camera and in a special mode, I could take a picture of the page and then download it onto my computer, edit it to make it lighter and easier to read and then crop and print. Compared to making all the copies, I thought I was on the cutting edge.

After I got my first iPhone, I gradually started to find myself without a camera and pulling my phone out to grab a picture.  I mean, who carries cash around anymore for the copiers let alone any quarters? Now, I realized that I am no longer carrying my camera and all my copies are being done on my iPhone. But still, all the pictures have to be downloaded, “fixed up” and then printed out.

Fast forward to the future of scanning and now we have apps like “TurboScan.”

So, here is the scoop.  We can now take pictures, crop them to the size of the page and link them all together to be saved as one PDF file. That alone is worth the price of admission in my mind ($2.99).

Turboscan logo

TurboScan by Piksoft Inc.


Got your attention? Wait a minute…

The one problem that I find is that there is a gap between those that are comfortable with all the new technology and those that are not quite as warm and fuzzy about it. If you land on the 2nd side, then here’s the step-by-step on how to TurboScan while documenting your family research:

  1. Obviously, you will need to first purchase the app from the iTunes store or grab it at the Google Store for Androids. Download it, then open the app and you have a perfectly blank screen with three options: Camera, SureScan-3x and Album.


Click on Camera and hover your phone’s camera over the page that you would like to copy.  If it looks good, go ahead and click on the large circle on the screen to take the picture.  Tips: find the best light in the room that you are in. If you have natural light, then get close enough to pick up the light without being in the sunbeam (My cat loves our front window’s bright sunlight but pictures don’t do as well!)

  1. Your picture will show up on the phone’s screen and is now covered up by a frame adjuster. Take your finger and move the corner circle tabs to fit the outside edges of the page you just copied. Once done, click on the Done button. This will make your copy nice and neat without getting a picture of the table in the background. IMG_6255 Now you have some decisions to make. Your picture shows up in black-and-white mode and by touching the different shaded boxes at the bottom of the screen, you will adjust the contrast. If you really want to keep the color, then it is a click away (bottom, right “photo” tab.) The arching arrows are there to rotate the picture. Once you have it to your liking, click on Done (top right.)IMG_6256
  2. Are we done yet? No way. Let’s do a 2nd page and because you know that you have to have the title page whenever you get a picture of a document. Go ahead , look for the little page on the bottom right with a plus-sign and click on it. You are now ready to take a 2nd scan of another page. [Tip: Always get that copy of the title page of the document you are copying. That piece of documentation is only good if you can re-create it when needed or prove that it once existed. If the year the book was published is not included on the title page, then you will want to get a scan of the page that includes the publishing information as well.]IMG_6257
  3. Yay! You now have two pages that will become one PDF document. Just follow the instructions above for cropping the picture and changing the contrast if needed. Once you take the picture, you will notice that your screen now shows two preview pages. The little red circles on the left are there for easy deleting. Just tap on one and it will allow you to click on Delete to quickly take away an unwanted photo.IMG_6262
  4. Once you are at the screen that shows the multiple photos, click on one and it will take you into a zoom mode. Take a second to zoom in really close to make sure that the text is clear. There is nothing worse than getting home and finding out that your scan is blurry! That is frustrating especially if you have traveled several hours to get to that repository. (Just in case you are not sure how to zoom in, go ahead and touch the screen in the middle with your thumb and forefinger and then open them while still touching the screen. Kind of like flicking something at your sibling!)
  5. For filing purposes, it’s all in the name. Go ahead and name your file while it is fresh in your mind. It’s that little pen at the bottom of the screen. You can add the name and change the size of the document if you want.IMG_6263
  6. Now, here’s where the magic takes place. At the bottom of the screen on the bottom left, you will see the little half box with an up-facing arrow. Click on that arrow and you get options!IMG_6264
  7. In order to “email to myself” you will need to set up yourself in the settings. At the original screen, there is a cog-wheel and that will take you to the settings area where you can add your email.
  8. Once you have your email added, you can now “email to yourself.” If you are copying pages of documents, then it emails the files as PDF’s to you.  Sending a picture? JPEG.
  9. Remember the beginning and one of the options is “SureScan 3x?” This allows you to take 3 pictures at differing settings and combining them to get the best image. I think that the regular picture is pretty good but this is something to experiment with. Don’t worry about getting the picture exactly the same; it seems to allow for movement of the camera and work with the information that it receives to bring you the best image.IMG_6265
  10. Of course you can save your file to your camera roll, but if you think about it, sending it to your email makes a lot of sense since it doesn’t take up important space on your phone and it can be retrieved later via any computer that you would like to open your email in. It can also be shared easily with other family members! Once you are satisfied that you have sent it to your email, then feel free to delete. If you touch the document file that you have just made and emailed to yourself, then you will see the little trash can that will take your image off to never-never land. Remember that this will save space on your phone for all those important photos of family and friends!

I’m hoping this helps. While I love all the new technology, it is moving as such a fast pace and can become very intimidating very fast. For some of you, this is making it way too basic but I know that there might be just a few that will appreciate these steps to be written down!

As always, feel free to contact me with any particular questions that you might have about genealogy research in general and I will try to work them into future posts!