Posted by Denise May Levenick on September 28, 2015 in Research

This is a guest post by Denise May Levenick, The Family Curator

Digital Photo Project from the book How to Archive Family Keepsakes by Denise May Levenick (FamilyTreeBooks, 2015)
Digital Photo Project from the book How to Archive Family Keepsakes, by Denise May Levenick (FamilyTreeBooks, 2015)

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?

Passenger Ships and Images Collection, Ancestry.com

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Now what?

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Denise May Levenick

Denise May Levenick is the author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes (Family Tree Books, 2012) and How to Archive Family Photos (Family Tree Books, 2015) and owner of TheFamilyCurator.com blog and website. She presents workshops and seminars, and is the course coordinator for “Family Archiving in the Digital Age” at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

5 Comments

  1. Janice

    Love these ideas. I’ve done photo books, trees, and photo collages on occasion. I am intrigued by the note card idea and think it would get relatives thinking about their ancestors. Some photo sites also put images on a mug – or other item – which may be a pretty cool idea too!

  2. Trisha

    Marvellous photos posted above by Denise May Levenick. BUT LET ME ASK YOU THIS ANCESTRY AND REALLY THINK ABOUT THIS! WOULDN’T THOSE PEOPLE IN THOSE BEAUTIFUL OLD PHOTOGRAPHS HAVE BEEN QUITE APPALLED TO BE REMEMBERED IN SUCH A WAY AS ANCESTRY INTENDS THEM TO BE NOW IN THAT RIDICULOUS NEW AWFUL LAYOUT OF YOURS! THEY WOULD NOT BE AMUSED ONE BIT, THEY HAD HIGH STANDARDS IN THOSE DAYS!.THEY WERE NOT INTO CHEAP LOOKING TRENDY RUBBISH!

  3. kkr

    Since there is not a contact address or form on the website I’m posting here to say that sending the kit as a gift is wonderful and I did that but the greeting card option provides a printable pdf which is of no use when you’ve shipped to your loved one from the order page. FYI. Please pass along to appropriate department. And please add a contact form!

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