This is a guest post by Denise May Levenick, The Family Curator
The holidays are not far away and it’s time to start planning family history gifts for relatives and friends. Online photo services make it easy to create custom family tree charts, ancestor sketches, history books, and gifts from digital images. But what if you didn’t inherit your family photo collection?
Genealogy research results in many different kinds of digital images, from census records to military photos to newspaper clippings. These images make great illustrations for family history projects. Whenever you find a photo that relates to your ancestor, it’s a good idea to bookmark the image and add it to a list of “possible” images. I say “possible” because not all digital images make good illustrations for photo projects. Before adding that photo, ask yourself a few questions:
Is this a good image for my project?
- What value does this image add to the story?
While a photo of the ship your immigrant ancestor took to America gives viewers a sense of the ship’s size and appearance, a poignant photo of dockside luggage may not add much except atmosphere.
- Who owns the image? Who was the photographer? Is it in the public domain or available for use?
Just because you find a photo on the internet doesn’t mean that it’s free and available to reuse. The Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell, tackles this topic in Copyright and the Old Family Photo, an article that is well worth reading if there are old photos (in your possession or elsewhere) that you’d like to use in your projects.
- Will the image reproduce well?
Digital images need to be print-resolution, 300 dpi, to print well in books and other projects. If you’ve ever received the dreaded yellow triangle when designing a photo book, you know that your images need to be at the correct size and resolution for successful printing.
For best results, scan documents at 300 dpi and photos at 600 dpi, in the original size or 8 x 10-inches, whichever is larger. This will give you a large enough image for a background photo or full page picture. Always scan in full color.
You have an idea for a family history project, a few digital images selected or in mind to use, but you don’t know where to go next. Before you spend hours plotting a family history book or drafting an illustrated pedigree chart, think carefully about the kind of project you’d like to share and how much time you have available.
Most online photo services have fairly quick turnaround time, especially early in the Fall. As we get closer to December you’ll encounter deadlines for holiday delivery, but the time needed to prepare the project may be more important than printing time. It can be tempting to tackle a book-length project, but do you have time to finalize research loose-ends, scan photos, and write ancestor biographies?
If time is in short supply, don’t give up! Consider one of these genealogy photo gifts that you can create in only a few hours.
Fast genealogy photo projects
- Family tree chart
If you want something really fast, easy, and personal, use your Ancestry tree to publish a full-size descendant or lineage poster with information you already have in your online tree using MyCanvas.com.
- Document decor
Do you have a beautiful heritage marriage certificate or old deed? Scan at high resolution for enlarging and upload to a poster printing service. Canvas wrapped prints, metal photographs, and other gifts are all available at popular photo services. Or, get crafty and create a decoupaged wooden plaque like I did using an enlarged printout of my grandmother’s baptism certificate. Find the step-by-step tutorial and project list at Hanging Grandma on the Wall With Easy Document Decor at TheFamilyCurator.com.
- Family photo calendar
Give your family short monthly lessons in family history by featuring a different ancestor each month throughout the year. Use Ancestry’s partner at MyCanvas.com to create a photo calendar using images and events imported directly from your Ancestry tree. No uploading, no scanning.
- Custom ancestor notecards
Select your favorite ancestor image, upload to a photo service site like Shutterfly.com or Snapfish.com and order a set of notecards or stationery. Remember to add a short biography on the back of the card!
Your family photo project doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive to be the biggest hit of the family holiday gathering. Start planning now to share your heritage this holiday season. You can find more ideas in 25 Easy Keepsake Projects featured in How to Archive Family Photos.
About the author: Denise May Levenick is the author of How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally and writes frequently about family photos and projects at TheFamilyCurator.com website.