I'm a creative person and a genealogy researcher who knows the importance of recent and old family photographs, but I have never been much of a Scrapbooking person.

Put those priceless pictures in a photo album, sure, but to add all of those bells and whistles, not so much.

However, knowing that I was going to share an example, or "case study," of a family history scrapbook with you, I made sure that I sat down and watched a show about Scrapbooking that was on PBS (public television in the U.S.) this month.

Wow! I see why people get hooked. This was a "how-to" show and these two ladies doing amazing things. I have to admit that I couldn't look away from all the techniques they were demonstrating.

They were using sandpaper to create effects and doing "transfers" from stuff they printed on their computer to use in their scrapbooks. There were trimmers and grommets, and things I've never heard of. Very interesting.

I mention this to you for two reasons:

You can take this creative Scrapbooking approach "digital." Meaning, you can do a lot of great things with your computer.

I also want to show you an example of a wonderful "family history" scrapbook that will be passed around (with lots of oohs and aahs) at a family reunion this very weekend.

A Unique "Family History" Scrapbook Idea…

As mentioned, this weekend, our family will be going to a family reunion (on my wife, Ellen's, side).

Janet, Ellen's sister, is the one who made this special scrapbook for their mother, Becky, who is now 88 years old.

When Becky was a young mother in the 1950s, she was diligent in writing to her parents. Naturally, she wrote about her children.

Here's what Janet did that I think is unique:
 

- She took the original letters, that her mother wrote to her grandparents, and made copies of them.

- Then, she cut out sections of those letters (from the copies) that matched old black and white pictures that she has from that time period.

- She put both the pictures and segments from those old letters together in a crafty, family history scrapbook as a gift to Becky.

- She also included the original letters in the back of the scrapbook.

Here are Examples and Pictures from
this Special Family History Scrapbook:
 
 "Janet can kiss now. She kisses everybody G'nite now. Stevie got a triple dose last nite. Stevie was calling 'Pop-Paw' last nite. I don't suppose you could hear him."
 "I'm making Janet a Spring coat of dusty rose corduroy  with a hood. It's really cute. Every time I try it on her to see if it's going to fit right, she likes it so well, she cries like mad when I take it off. We tried it on Marilyn today and she didn't want to take if off either."
 Isn't Janet adorable in her little coat?
 "Stevie has to bring his bicycle in every nite
cause he says it gets goose pimples outdoors.
Better slept, Love, Becky"

You get the idea. The pictures matched what parts of the letters were saying, and is a touching part of their family history.

This was a very clever idea, I thought.

If you have any old letters, diaries, journals, or even memories that you or other family members have (that you can type up yourself) that relate to any old pictures that you have - this would be a fun thing to do.

As you can guess, Becky's family history scrapbook was well-received and has the whole family talking, and remembering.

You can create a tangible scrapbook like this, or, you can create a "digital" scrapbook.

Here are three valuable resources that you truly must-see before you move on into the next section of this lesson:

3 MUST-See Resources…

 International Scrapbooking Association

This is one of the best resources that I have seen for the kind of "traditional" Scrapbooking that we have been talking about so far.

Don't miss their "Creative Corner" section that has scrapbooking quotes, poems, titles, fonts, articles and tutorials.

Also be sure to see the "Scrapbooking Discussions and Gallery" area, where you can get inspired by the gallery of examples of what others have done and learn from their forum.

 Digital and Printable Scrapbooking

This is all about digital and computer scrapbooking, which we are about to cover more in-depth.

If nothing else, be sure to click on the "Free Stuff" link, where you can get free "Digital Element Samplers," which are colorful and elegant backgrounds that you can use when you edit your digital photographs (more on this topic in a minute).

Also click on these two links (at the top of the page on this site):

- What is digital scrapbooking?
- What are printable supplies?

This is very informative and it helps to see examples about how to layout your digital scrapbook pages.

 GIMP (powerful and free, graphic editing software)

I've used many commercial photo editing software programs over the years (like Photoshop), but now, GIMP is all I use.

GIMP is free because it is "open source" software. This means that talented programmers (who usually hate paying for expensive software) came together to work on a software project.

Gimp has been around for years and keeps getting better and better. The latest version is Gimp 2.4 and you can download it from the above link. If the thought of downloading and installing a program is a challenge or you, ask a computer-saavy family member or friend to do it for you.

I promise you that this powerful graphic editing software tool will let you do amazing things with your photos.

Digital/Computer Scrapbooking Tips - Creative Fun
for the Modern Family History Researcher…

Please make sure that you see examples from the "Digital and Printable Scrapbooking" resource that I mentioned above.

This way, you will have some mental images of the different kinds "works of art" that you can create.

Let's start at square one with…Your digital photos. These are pictures that you take with your digital camera, or old photos that have been scanned and are now in a digital file format (like a JPEG or GIF file).

Some common problems I've noticed with digital pictures:

* Emailing pictures: How many times have you heard something like this:

"Did you get the pictures I emailed you?"

"No, they didn't come through. Aw, I wanted to see the pictures of _____."

This is almost always because the graphic files (the images taken with a digital camera) are too large to be sent by email.

Digital cameras take high quality pictures, but the image files can be large. I'm sure you have seen pictures are larger than your computer screen.

The solution: Use GIMP or other photo editing software to RESIZE (also called SCALE) the photos.

For example: My digital camera takes pictures that default to 2816 x 2112 pixels. It saves them in the JPEG image file format. The file size is 2.08 MB.

Several of these images are used in the pictures used in the first part of this lesson (above) to show the family history scrapbook we discussed.

These image were easily resized/scaled down with the GIMP software program to an average of 350 x 238 pixels, and only 869 KB. If I did not resize these pictures,they would be huge and not even fit on this Web page.

The same applies to pictures that you take with your digital camera and want to attach to emails to send to your family and friends. They need to be scaled down.

Printing your pictures from photo machines:

We go to CVS (a pharmacy chain in the U.S.) and use their self-print photo machine to print pictures. There is usually a line at this machine.

I even asked them about this to be sure…You can take in the "memory card" from your digital camera, which is the size of a postage stamp. All you do is insert the memory card in a slot in the machine and print away.

This machine also has slots for: CDs that you burn, and flash drives (also called jump drives) which are my favorite mode of file transport. These flash drives are small enough to fit on a key chain, or you can wear it around your neck, or whatever.

There will be an upcoming article on flash drive genealogy, but I will say this, you should get one.

You can get a flash drive for under $20 on sale at your local office supply chain. I recommend getting one that has at least 2 GB of storage.

TIP: Instead of just taking the memory card from your camera and printing them out, first EDIT your pictures.

If you are going to print out photos at a self-print machine you will want to first CROP them and ADJUST the brightness and contrast.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You will keep your original, large-size pictures (graphic files). You can easily copy them into a new folder and edit the copies of these files.

In other words, always keep your original files as a back up.

Here's what I learned this from a graphic designer, who worked at my local newspaper, years ago:

Often, when you use a flash when you take a picture, the digital pictures have a "washed out" look and you lose important details of, for example, a person's face.

Instead, try NOT to use the flash. Cameras these days will take quality pictures in low light, however, you need to adjust the brightness and contrast.

My designer friend told me that digital cameras usually take darker pictures as a general rule of thumb. Every picture that he used had to have the brightness and contrast adjusted. You can do this in a snap with GIMP.

I always do this and my pictures turn out wonderful, and catch a lot more detail.

Remember, you can easily take your digital pictures and crop them, adjust the color (brightness and contrast) and if needed - resize (scale) them to send with your emails or put on a personal blog or Web page.

You can get creative and create digital scrapbook-type pictures to enhance your pictures with free or inexpensive templates and backgrounds that you can see on the resource sites I've shared with you.

Here is a Winning Formula:

Your Digital Photos +

Free Digital Backgrounds +

Free GIMP Editing Software

EQUALS: Stunning Digital Family Treasures (images) that you can…

- Print out in color on your computer or take it to a place (like Office Depot)that can print color copies from your disk, CD, or your "flash drive." You can get decent prints on quality copy paper that can go in a photo album or scrapbook.- Take to a place with the self-print photo machines and print photo quality prints on photo paper (again, from your disk, CD, or your "flash drive")

- Take the same exact image (which in this example, is your work of art that you creatively combined your digital photos, nice backgrounds, etc. that you edited with GIMP) and simply attach this image file to an email message to family and friends.

- Use again when it is time to do a family letter to put in your Christmas cards.

And the list can go on and on.

I encourage you to expand your horizons, get creative, and create your own digital family treasures.

I predict that you will amaze your family, friends, and yourself, when you make digital magic with your new and old pictures.