10 July 2012

Creating a genealogy photo book

Shortly after my father died, I decided to create a photo book. I started with a theme: The story of my parents, from their childhoods to the early days of their marriage—in photos. The hardcover book I chose had 26 pages. I divided the book into five sections: my father’s childhood; my mother’s childhood; their courtship; their wedding and honeymoon; and their early marriage.
Since I had fewer pictures from my father’s side, it was easier to choose which pictures to include. I wanted equal representation and the same number of pages, which meant I had to use Dad’s 8 x 10 yearbook photo with the crease and blotch on it. I hadn’t quite figured out how to use photo-correcting software, so I left the photo as is. I also extended my father’s childhood to his Army years, because that was uniquely his story, though my parents met while my mother was still in high school.
The amount of text varied depending on the layout I chose for each page. Sometimes I had a sentence, a phrase, a year, or no caption at all. It all depended upon whether I was writing about a group of pictures on a page, one picture in a collage, or a single photo. I wasn’t able to get all the genealogical details I wanted, such as my grandparents’ places of birth. But I did include their birth and death dates in parentheses by their full names. And if a photo had a date or an occasion written on the back, I usually included that detail.
My mother created a scrapbook of her courtship and early marriage, so I added some tidbits such as when and where they had their first date, the date they started “going steady,” and when their engagement was announced in the local newspaper. Without that scrapbook, these details would have been lost. I only wish I had asked my parents how they met!
I included names of the wedding party, and how they were related to the bride and groom; the name of the church and the hotel where the reception was held. I listed some of the places my parents went for their honeymoon, though only a few photos exist that I can match to that “motor trip.” I added pictures of their first homes together, with addresses. And the last page had a couple of favorite photos of my sister and me as well as our studio pictures, along with our birthdates.
I spent many hours happily compiling my photo book. The process helped with losing both parents in their 60s—which was much too young. I learned a lot by creating a photo timeline of their lives. And best of all, I printed two copies, one for myself and one for my sister, so we could share the family photos in a memorable way.
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