How to Create a Family History Journal – Part 3: Suggested List of Pictures and Documents

My 6th grade class picture, can you guess which one is me? I’m right behing the teacher.

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.

Name:  ____________________

List of Items:
  1. Pictures:
  2. Family members
  3. Friends
  4. Pets
  5. Pictures of awards given to you or family members
  6. Conventions
  7. Parties
  8. Weddings
  9. Engagement Showers
  10. Bridal Showers
  11. Baby Showers
  12. A Flower arrangement you received for something special
  13. Races i.e. running, Walkathons, motorcycle, bicycle, swimming, boat, etc.
  14. That “huge” fish you caught
  15. Recitals
  16. Homes you’ve lived in or current family residences
  17. The neighborhood you lived in
  18. Places, towns you’ve visited or family members lived in present and past
  19. 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.
  20. Vehicles you or a family member owned including bicycles or motorcycles… even scooters, ATV’s or waverunners
  21. Boats
  22. Vacations
  23. Camping trips
  24. Amusement park rides you photographed
  25. Your office (especially your very first one)
  26. Pictures of buildings where you worked
  27. Coworkers
  28. Grave sites where family members are buried.
  29. Pictures of Inventions by a family member
  30. Pictures or postcards of the town or city you lived in.
  31. Something you or a family member built like a soapbox racer.
  1. Bibles
  2. Birth certificates
  3. Birth announcements
  4. Baby Shower announcements
  5. Birthday Party invitations
  6. Engagement announcements
  7. Batchelor party invitations
  8. Bridal Shower Invitations
  9. Wedding invitations and/or announcements
  10. Marriage Certificates
  11. High school diplomas
  12. School Grade Cards
  13. School yearbooks
  14. Special Awards or Certificates of Certification
  15. Programs from sports events, dance recitals etc.
  16. Membership documents in special organizations
  17. Special Citations
  18. College degrees
  19. Death certificates
  20. Divorce papers
  21. Obituaries
  22. Grave Site Documents
  23. Military enlistment papers
  24. Military discharge papers
  25. Other miscellaneous military papers or medals
  26. Special training certificates
  27. Business Cards
  28. Promotional announcement in the company newsletter or newspaper
  29. Hospital documents
  30. Medical ID Cards
  31. Memorable Articles printed in newspapers or on the internet
  32. An article you wrote or that was written about you or a family member in your company newspaper, school paper or organization news.
  33. Membership Cards or Plaques from organizations
  34. An article or document written by some family member i.e. poetry, a letter.
  35. Address books containing names, addresses & other important information
  36. Greeting cards; special ones you may have saved
  37. Patents
  38. Books published by a family member
  39. News articles about a family member
  40. Social Security cards and applications
  41. Census records
  42. Immigration documents
  43. Emigration documents
  44. Mortgage documents
  45. Deeds
  46. Clan Crest i.e. I belong to the Sutherland Clan of Scotland
  47. Documents about the history of the clan
  48. Land grant documents
  49. Voter documents
  50. Drivers Licenses
  51. Law Suit records
  52. Court documents
  53. Maps
  54. Post Cards of trips and places you’ve been
  55. Vehicle titles
  56. Announcements and/or Programs from special events you attended
  57. Old budgets
  58. IRS Tax Returns
  59. Cancelled checks
  60. Paycheck stubs or records
  61. Honor Cords from graduation
  62. Trophies and other items that can either be scanned to put in the book or a picture taken to add to the book.
  63. 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:
  1. Songs
  2. Dress or special outfit i.e the dress you wore to your first prom or first date
  3. Piece of Jewelry
  4. Gift from someone special i.e. statue, bric-a-brac, candles, jewelry
  5. TV program
  6. Famous people
  7. Movies
  8. Actors
  9. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Sort everything into piles, one for each family member you’re going to include in your book. Keep the items separated by family member.
  3. 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 is Part 4 – How to organize and catalog all the information you’ve gathered in preparation for writing the stories and articles.

I hope this 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.


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Author: GSKWAuthor

Semi-retired. Worked most of my adult life as a secretary, executive assistant & in middle management. In 1998 I formed a secretarial service business at home specializing in the transcription of manuscripts, formatting for print, and eBook publication then uploading to POD publishers. Through ads and a website (no longer active) the business attracted customers from all over the U.S. In 2016, I phased out my business. I now spend the remainder of my "spare time" writing cozy mystery/suspense/thrillers. I hope to publish my first novel titled "Susan's Stalkers - Double The Fear" before the end of 2023. The synopsis is in this site. Check it out.