Beautify Your Family History Binders – Photos Are Up Next

Step Two_Photo Splendor title_Canva

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.

Disclaimer alert!

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:

  1. Childhood through High School Years
  2. Marriage
  3. Military
  4. Organizations
  5. Family
  6. Death
  7. Land records (if you have enough that warrant a separate folder)
  8. Work / Business

Here’s an example of what my folder looks like:

Contained within Childhood folder_cropped

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!

Final Thoughts

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!

Digital Papers

Here is a list of some of the digital scrapbook papers that I used in my own personal family history research binder: 

Title pages & Parents Marriage Photo Page & Childhood Photo Page = Becky Higgins’ Heritage Edition  – designed by Celeste Knight:

Work Photo Pages = Julie Mead’s Family Yearbook paper – (This was a 2007 kit, so I’m not sure if this is still available.)


Our Family Research Binders need to be brought out of their closets! Let’s get them to the point that they see lots of light and are enjoyed by even more family members.

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!