BY LORETTA HOUBEN
Hopefully you had time during the busy Christmas season to look over a few of those old family photos you’ve stashed away in the closet. Maybe you shared your newfound passion with the older generation, and verified a name or two.
Older people love to reminisce about the past, which isn’t really that long ago. I urge you to do this while you have your grandparents and great aunts and great uncles around. I had an aunt who told me to do this with my Grandma way back in the 1990s. Fortunately my Grandma hand wrote on all her photos, but what if she hadn’t?
One of the best ways to preserve your valuable family photos is to scan each one into your computer. Scanners are now a great price, with many options available at your local Staples, Best Buy, London Drugs or any similar store. There are good ones available for under $100, and well worth the investment.
Once the scanner is hooked up to your computer, simply read the instructions and begin to scan and save each photo in the best resolution possible. If you scan at low resolution, your photo will be too small, and if you wish to view it later for details, alas, you won’t be able to.
I found this out the hard way when I scanned in a family photo (please see my article from December 2013) at a very low resolution, and now am unable to determine a specific clue due to the fuzziness of the image. Scanning takes time and commitment but is truly well worth it for yourself and future generations.
You will need to store the photos in files on your computer, so take time to label the folders using a system that makes sense to you, so you’re able to locate the photos at a later date. There are many ways to do this, as each computer program is different.
The fun part comes after the photos are saved. You can then share with other family members around the world, providing they have a computer too.
One of my favourite ways to do this is to upload my photos to Facebook. I make sure only family members are able to see them. I’ve created a family group on Facebook, and invited family members only. So far no one else has shared any photos, but I’m hopeful the idea will catch on!
There are also blogs. I use Blogger to upload my photos for free, new and old. Since I began in 2009, I’ve had a few relatives which I had lost track of contact me and reconnect, so this is very exciting indeed.
Family genealogy is currently one of the most popular hobbies, and people use the internet as a tool to search for family members. My mother’s maiden name is very unusual (Brutke) so when that name is entered into the search engines, my posts with old photos pop up immediately! I make sure to leave my email address on my blog so relatives can contact me.
Another fantastic site to post and keep your photos for free is Flickr.com. You can store hundreds of photos for no cost, so if something should happen to your computer, your mind can be at rest. Of course, the best option of all, once you’ve scanned in your precious photos, is to have two back-up devices: one that you keep, and one that you store off site, maybe at your in-law’s or parent’s home, or at work. These devices are now reasonably priced and small enough to carry easily.
Of course, after the scanning is complete, you should save and store your actual paper photos safely, too. I store mine in the sturdy cardboard boxes sold at Michael’s craft store. They have cardboard dividers that you can label and insert between photos so that you can section them in year order. One box can hold many photos, and it’s a convenient size and can stack well in a closet. They are often on sale for $2.50 each.
If you work on this project one night per week, in no time you will be finished, and you’ll experience a feeling of great accomplishment! Then you can return to searching for more names to add to that family tree.
The next installment will feature aspects of the 1921 Canadian census (a great genealogy tool), which was newly released to the public in the summer of 2013.
Loretta Houben looks forward to a new year getting deeper into genealogy research, and wishes all of you following these monthly series on family tree tips all the best for a successful year. First published in the January 2014 issue of the RCC News.
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