Gather all the items you think you want to include in your book. All pictures and documents will be scanned and saved as images that will be inserted into your family history book in the article about that person.
Include all of the family members you have information about. If you don’t know much about a family member, ask other family members. Get them involved in helping you create something that everyone will treasure for years. If your parents and grandparents are still living, be sure to talk with them. I didn’t get interested in my ancestry until after my parents and grandparents had passed away. I regret every day that I didn’t learn as much as I could from them before it was too late. I’m sure there were many memorable pictures, stories, and valuable documents that are long gone. Future generations of my family will now have a documented record they will value. My hope is that one or more of them will pass it on and continue to add to it making it a living legacy.
If there is a particular person or persons in your life who have been a significant part of your life but they’re not family members, consider adding them to your book in a separate section. Example; there are two women I’ve known all my life. Their parents double-dated with my parents before they were married. Their parents were like an aunt and uncle to me and their daughters my cousins. We still keep in touch through Facebook and email. I have many pictures of them and their parents. A family history wouldn’t be the same without them in it.
If someone else is going to edit and format your book for printing or publishing along with scanning your pictures and/or documents, do NOT make copies of pictures and/or documents to give to them. Copies of pictures and documents do NOT scan well. Use originals for scanning. Don’t discard or rule out old pictures or documents that may be cracked or faded. Originals of old pictures or documents can be enhanced and restored through the scanning process and use of a photograph/ document enhancement program. I’ve had old pictures that, after they were enhanced, looked almost as good as I’m sure the original did. If you have some pictures that need enhancing or resizing and don’t know how to do it, you may have to hire a professional to do this for you.
If you know how to scan pictures and plan to have someone else format the final book for publication including inserting the pictures with titles etc., scan the pictures and save them in JPG format. You can then copy them to a CD or DVD and give them to the person formatting your book for the final production.
If the pictures need resizing and/or enhancing and you don’t know how to do that, the person who will be doing the final formatting can probably help you with that as well. By the way, be sure to ask about that before you hire someone. You don’t want to have to hire two different people. That could get costly.
All of the items you gather will serve as “memory joggers” as well as illustrations as you write. As you read through this list many of these items will have significant meaning for you and help you to remember events that happened or topics you want to write about. There are many examples to assist you in Part 4 of this 7-part series.
Suggestion: Print and keep this list handy as a “memory jogger” as you begin the writing process. You may even want to print one copy for each family member and highlight the item on the list you want to write about. I’ve added a line to write in the family member’s name in case you would like to print a copy for a particular family member.
List of Items:
- Family members
- Pictures of awards given to you or family members
- Engagement Showers
- Bridal Showers
- Baby Showers
- A Flower arrangement you received for something special
- Races i.e. running, Walkathons, motorcycle, bicycle, swimming, boat, etc.
- That “huge” fish you caught
- Homes you’ve lived in or current family residences
- The neighborhood you lived in
- Places, towns you’ve visited or family members lived in present and past
- Special events i.e. a cruise ship you took a cruise on, the circus you went to as a child, a special concert or play, a national football or baseball game you went to, etc.
- Vehicles you or a family member owned including bicycles or motorcycles… even scooters, ATV’s or waverunners
- Camping trips
- Amusement park rides you photographed
- Your office (especially your very first one)
- Pictures of buildings where you worked
- Grave sites where family members are buried.
- Pictures of Inventions by a family member
- Pictures or postcards of the town or city you lived in.
- Something you or a family member built like a soapbox racer.
- Birth certificates
- Birth announcements
- Baby Shower announcements
- Birthday Party invitations
- Engagement announcements
- Batchelor party invitations
- Bridal Shower Invitations
- Wedding invitations and/or announcements
- Marriage Certificates
- High school diplomas
- School Grade Cards
- School yearbooks
- Special Awards or Certificates of Certification
- Programs from sports events, dance recitals etc.
- Membership documents in special organizations
- Special Citations
- College degrees
- Death certificates
- Divorce papers
- Grave Site Documents
- Military enlistment papers
- Military discharge papers
- Other miscellaneous military papers or medals
- Special training certificates
- Business Cards
- Promotional announcement in the company newsletter or newspaper
- Hospital documents
- Medical ID Cards
- Memorable Articles printed in newspapers or on the internet
- An article you wrote or that was written about you or a family member in your company newspaper, school paper or organization news.
- Membership Cards or Plaques from organizations
- An article or document written by some family member i.e. poetry, a letter.
- Address books containing names, addresses & other important information
- Greeting cards; special ones you may have saved
- Books published by a family member
- News articles about a family member
- Social Security cards and applications
- Census records
- Immigration documents
- Emigration documents
- Mortgage documents
- Clan Crest i.e. I belong to the Sutherland Clan of Scotland
- Documents about the history of the clan
- Land grant documents
- Voter documents
- Drivers Licenses
- Law Suit records
- Court documents
- Post Cards of trips and places you’ve been
- Vehicle titles
- Announcements and/or Programs from special events you attended
- Old budgets
- IRS Tax Returns
- Cancelled checks
- Paycheck stubs or records
- Honor Cords from graduation
- Trophies and other items that can either be scanned to put in the book or a picture taken to add to the book.
- Articles about a major event that happened nationwide or worldwide during the time period you are writing about
Miscellaneous other items that might help to jog your memory and write a story about it:
- Dress or special outfit i.e the dress you wore to your first prom or first date
- Piece of Jewelry
- Gift from someone special i.e. statue, bric-a-brac, candles, jewelry
- TV program
- Famous people
- Radio show from the past
Other miscellaneous papers that would be of interest to other family members. My grandfather invented a clamp in 1915 that was used commercially for many years. I included the flyer, his brochure, and other information about the patent.
For contrast, I’ve included copies of some checks I wrote for miscellaneous expenses many years ago and then a few from the current date i.e. electric, rent, groceries etc. to show the difference between expenses then and now. You might even want to include some text about this in your written material. In my parents things after they passed away, I found a check ledger from the 1930’s. What a difference when I compared the expenses then to today’s expenses!
Talk to the people you want to include in your book and/or others who know or knew them. Ask them for their recollections about the people and events you are going to put in your book. Their memories could enhance your book. Ask if they have any photos or documents you could borrow to scan and add to your book.
- For each family member, pick out the best pictures you want to include in your book or journal. You can narrow it down later as you go back through them. You will probably delete or add some but for now, pick as many as you think depict an important event or are particularly good pictures of a family member or members.
- Sort everything into piles, one for each family member you’re going to include in your book. Keep the items separated by family member.
- You may have pictures that contain a group of people that you will probably want to include in several different family member sections. You can note that later but for now, you can use a post-it or sticky note on the picture to remind yourself you want to use this in other sections. Mark the other family member’s name on the note as a reminder of the other chapter you want to include this picture or document in.
Next week I’ll post Part 4 – How to organize and catalog all the information you’ve gathered in preparation for writing the stories and articles.
I hope this 7-part series of articles about putting together a Family History Book is helpful to you. I would love to hear from you if you found series this useful. I’m more than happy to help.
If you have a question regarding dictation transcription or how to run your own secretarial service from home, let me know. Send me your comments, suggestions, and/or questions in the comments section below.
Bookmark this site and stop by again. I’ll be posting more tips, tricks, secrets, and shortcuts.
Gail S. Kibby White