Gift of Memory

Every family has that box of photos hiding under the bed that contains pics of significant historical events in family history. If you do not capture the photos and info before the death of your parents, that information will be lost - forever. Don't let that happen. Make it a top priority to gather the photos and spend time with your living ancestors capturing the date, location, people, and story of each and every photo. Your heirs will appreciate it - trust me.

2       Number the photos and slides -  either on the back of the photo or frame of the slide. Start with 1 and continue on. Make certain that you do not duplicate numbers. You accidentally delete a photo by replacing it with the same number.

3.       Go through each picture with your ancestor and write down the following information on each pic. You can even create a form that has each question along with a space to write down the information.

a.      Identify the number of the picture

b.     Identify each person in the picture

c.      Establish a date when the picture was taken

d.     Establish a place where the picture was taken

e.     What is the story behind the picture

You may want to have an audio recorder available. If there is a significant story to tell, record the storyteller. Make sure to save it as a digital file. Many years from now, ancestors can hear the story in the voice of the person  reliving history. I highly recommend Audacity as your sound program. It is free and it works.

4.     When you have gathered a significant amount of media, open an Excel spreadsheet file and create the following columns

a.      Number

b.     Date

c.     Location

d.     People

e.     Story

You do not need to go in numerical order since you can always sort at a later date. One line per picture. Key the data you have collected. 

Sample Excel File


5.        Scan the images into the computer using a flatbed scanner. It is wise to purchase one that will scan slides but if you do not have that feature, you can always have your slides turned digital at an office store. Name the files using the number on the back of the photo. Save as JPEG for now since that is a format that is easily transferrable at this time. Your file name should look like this: 1.jpg, 2.jpg, 3.jpg…  Again, do not use a number twice since the last scan will replace a prior scan and you will lose a photo. For audio, save the file in some digital format making certain to have a unique name for each.  For video, you may need to use a professional service often found at Staples, Walmart, Costco, etc, to convert it to digital. 

Two decisions need to be made on each photo – the resolution level of your scan and the kind of scan (black & white or color). For average photos, something like 300dpi (dots per inch) would be satisfactory. For important pictures (such as high-quality wedding or family photos) consider 900 or even 1,200dpi. The resolution of the scan will determine the quality of the file. Put all the files into a Folder named and designated for this purpose.

6,  Save, Save, Save. Then Save again. When you have completed say 100 photos, back up your photo files and your Excel file on a flash drive , external drive or Cloud storage. Have a neighbor or family member keep the flash drive. If you have a burglary or fire, you will lose your hard drive and your flash drive. Just make sure you protect your information. Another option is something like DropBox or Google Photos where you can store your files and share it with others. A copy will always be available even if your computer crashes or gets destroyed. You do not want to lose any of it.

7.  When you are finished with the project, share the file with family members. This can be done on a flash drive, you can burn it on DVD’s… I used Google Photos and shared the folder with my son’s, my brother and sisters, and any relative that expressed interest in having access to this history. I put all the photo files and the Excel file in the shared folder.

Another option is to make a single video file of your information and upload it to YouTube. I found the best video production option is iMovie on a Mac computer. Very easy to use and quite powerful. Movie Maker is available on PCs but a little more complicated. You can add background music or you can even narrate the photos and movies. This is where any sound files can come in handy.  You can add video, photos, audio, zoom, transitions, titles, and so much more.