This project is very near and dear to me. I have actually applied these changes to my parents’ binder and I will be changing all my binders over to this format one by one. The side benefit to working on this project is that I have pulled all my documentation into one place (the binder) and it has become a far better Life Story Book. You be the judge. Here is my research binder after its transformation.
(This was made for my own personal use, but if you see some digital scrapbook paper that catches your eye, I will post a list of my digital papers that I used at the bottom of this article. Some of them are rather old, but I will try to give credits where I can find the information!)
I am so excited to bring you this third tutorial that looks at the finishing touches that can be added to your Research Binders that will give the tabs a much needed update. Gone are the old tabs with the names typed so tiny that you can hardly read them. This tab system is simple, beautiful and very effective. (And I love how much nicer the whole book looks and feels!)
If you love the look of the dividers, they are an Avery product (Avery® Durable Write-On™ Plastic Dividers With Erasable Tabs, 8 1/2″ x 11″, Multicolor, 8 Tabs) and widely available at office supply stores. My favorite page protectors to use are the heavy weight non-glare sheet protectors. They are easy on the eyes and give added protection to the document.
Like the Beautiful Borders?
If you see some borders on pages, I haven’t left them out of the tutorials on purpose; I promise! They are Welcome gifts that I send out to anyone that signs up to be a part of my Life Story Community. I am commited to transforming all our rich family documentation into amazing presentations that will captivate our family’s attention. That’s the goal, right?
This has been a project that has made a profound difference in my own Research Binders. As we digitize everthing in our lives, there is still a place for hard copies — they can be viewed any place and any time — even if we don’t have wi-fi! I will be re-working all my albums in addition to any digital Life Story Books that I prepare.
I’d love to see some of your own updates – please post them to my FaceBook page, “It’s a Life Story”, email me[Michele at Lifestory dot com], or tweet me a picture[ at MicheleKerr on Twitter].
I would love to hear any stories of family members’ reactions to the binders!
Here is a list of some of the digital scrapbook papers that I used in my own personal family history research binder:
Welcome to the second of three tutorials where we look at making a few changes to our Research Binders in order to make them a bit more reader-friendly.
I’ve got a some information following the tutorial in case you find that you have any questions. Hopefully, I’ve addressed them all but feel free to send other related questions my way! If you haven’t seen the first tutorial in this series, you might want to read through that as well since I address a lot of basic information that you might not see in this second tutorial like background papers and using Picasa tools.
As I have explained in the first video, I am showing you the changes that I have made to my own personal family history research binder. I love the digital scrapbook papers that I have used. If you see some that catch your eye, you can find out where I got them at the bottom of this tutorial!
Video #2 – Beautify Your Family History Research Binders – Photos are Up Next Using Picasa
While working with clients for almost ten years, I have given back many a research binder filled with lots of wonderful documents detailing the lives of their ancestors. When I hand over those binders, one of the first things that I usually suggest is that they add family photos to the album to bring it to life. Today, I’m suggesting that we can take a couple more steps that might result in the binders actually being looked at by family.
The idea that your research binders won’t be enjoyed without sprucing them up doesn’t apply to everyone. This is just a trend that I have seen over quite a few years and a large majority of clients! They either do all the work themselves or have hired it done only to find out that no one in their family seems to care. To their family member’s credit, I also know that family history is something that we all have to be in the right place and time to want to become involved. — I’m suggesting that we can nudge things along if we try a few things within our binders.
In my first tutorial I ended with the thought that we would all “love to lure our younger family members into looking at their family history and taking an interest.” Well, if you have ever watched the younger family members scanning their phone “feeds” of Instagram or FaceBook or whatever app they are fond of, you will quickly see that what gets their attention has to have something that draws them into the story or picture.
I’m not suggesting that we need to change our book solely for the younger family members, but that we can reach more generations if we combine those valuable documents with photos and stories – kind of tying it all together into an easy-to-digest format.
Stories – Got them?
Of course, there is always a little ground work to do before heading into any project and this one is no different. We need to have stories before we can incorporate them into our research binders. As you are pulling together the photos that you want to add to your binder, I suggest that you take copies of those pictures and make a few visits to family members that either knew the people in the photos or were actually in the photos themselves. Then I would prepare to make some notes as they reminisce about the event that was happening or something in particular that sparked a memory. It is these little bits of stories that make such an impact when adding it to your family history binder.
While I have your attention, I’d also suggest that you take this opportunity to get a video or audio record of your interview. Then I would save those clips to be enjoyed at a later time and possibly even added to a digital version of your binder. (Just thinking ahead!) It also helps to be able to listen again and catch everything that was mentioned without having to stop the flow of the story as it is being told. Lastly, I suggest that you go ahead and leave the copies of the pictures you have been looking at with the family member as a thank-you. Of course, if you send them a copy of your finished page that includes their story, that would be even better!
No Pics? No Problem — but Time is Wasting.
If this is where you are lacking, then again, I would make a point to contact all the family members you can get to and see when you might visit them. Take along your smart phone and an app like “Heirloom” to scan the pictures. If you don’t have to take the photos out of their sight, it is more likely they will relax and then you can proceed with listening to their stories. Don’t be surprised if you don’t leave them with a real good feeling – talking with your family about their past makes them feel important as well as loved. A win-win situation in my mind!
I’ve said it before, but most of the older family members that I interviewed several years ago have all passed. If I hadn’t taken the time, I would have missed out on all their stories. Lesson learned the hard way.
Organization strategy – Who Needs It?
That title is laughable, I know. Once you start to collect any family documentation, stories, and or pictures, you quickly find out that you will need some type of organization. It can get crazy real quick.
To keep things simple, I would have a main folder on your computer titled with the Project name such as “Julian Family” or “Genealogy of John and Susie.” Then within that main folder, I would add the Surnames that you are starting with. Within each Surname folder, I would add the names of both the husband and wife that heads up each generation in a Last Name, First Name order such as “Julian Nathan.” And then, within each of those folders, I would add folders that have titles such as:
Childhood through High School Years
Land records (if you have enough that warrant a separate folder)
Work / Business
Here’s an example of what my folder looks like:
These are all simply suggestions and obviously they are based on a more recent generation – in fact these are the same titles that I used with my father’s folder. Just take a few minutes to jot down some ideas of what you think might work and then look through your binder to verify that it all makes sense. There is nothing worse than starting to organize things and quickly realizing that it just doesn’t work!
Once you are set with the format, then you can begin to scan the documents you have already located or download them directly into the folder that they belong. There are a lot of organizational plans for family research, but if you are going to try and tie them together for a presentation, this works well for me. I can have a visual idea of everything that I want to include in the binder and it is easy to pick and choose what I need!
Picasa – Love for Photos but Definitely Not a Word Processor. Did I mention it’s FREE?
As long as we all go into this project with the idea that we are going to keep costs to a minimum – FREE, then we can come to terms with the limitations that we will encounter. Picasa is a very user-friendly photo editor and photo management software. I’ve been using it for years even though I also have Lightroom and PhotoShop. It’s quick and easy to move around in and you don’t have to take a refresher course everytime you want to use it! By the way, I also have PhotoShop Elements and it is an excellent bridge product between Picasa and the full-blown Photoshop, but my focus with this tutorial was on FREE and EASY.
So, when you are preparing to tie the photos together with stories and documentation, you will want to have an idea of exactly what you want to get across with each page. In the page that I’m demonstrating with this tutorial, I am enlarging a section of a 1940 census so that I can see what was entered for my family. In my description of the census, I will explain the column entries and if I have any background information, I will add that in as well. All the stories for that one page can be kept in one document for easy retrieval and then saved in the appropriate folder as well. As I’m working in Picasa, I can then simply copy and paste (Control-V) into Picasa.
This might take a bit of trial and error but it is really worth it and you will quickly get an idea of how much you can add to get the desired effect. You might need to adjust the size of type if you want to add more to a line.
Important Point for Adding Text
The important point here is that you will want to manually add RETURNS into your text so that it will pick up on the returns when it gets pasted into Picasa. Otherwise, it will become one long line of text and you will need to place the returns manually within Picasa. I think you will agree that doing it ahead of time is a good thing! You can always adjust the end of a line by deleting the <return> and adding it back at a different spot, but experiment first.
One other thought: When you paste your text in Picasa, it will be huge and you will need to shrink it down. That works for me, but it might take some getting used to when you are starting out!
I never know if anything I ever post will help anyone. But I can sincerely see the difference it has made in my own family history research binders and I am hoping that it might prove helpful to someone else. You might choose a different path to change up your binder, and I’m OK with that. I’d love to hear about the changes you have made and what has worked. And if you have taken it to a family get-together and have some reviews on how well the change-ups worked, I’d love to hear about that as well!
Here is a list of some of the digital scrapbook papers that I used in my own personal family history research binder:
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.
This week we are making changes just with the title pages.
[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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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!