Creating heritage albums (or family tree albums, for those more familiar with that terminology) is considered by most to be a desirable but daunting achievement. It would be amazing to have all the information gathered into a single resource (even better: one that can be ordered in multiple copies!), but where do you even begin? Over the next several weeks we are doing a series of blog posts to guide you through some logical, small steps you can take to achieve the goal of a family heritage album.
Anyone who has done any kind of family research has probably heard the old joke, “I shook my family tree and a bunch of nuts fell out.” When putting together a family heritage album you need to decide which nuts you intend to gather up in your basket, and which ones are best left to the wildlife.
LESSON 1 – Getting Started
Any ship captain worth his or her salt knows that in every successful voyage starts with charting and plotting the course. The same rule applies to a heritage album. There are endless possibilities and configurations, with no one way being more right than the other. Now is the time that you need to decide 2 key things:
- What is the purpose of your project? Once you decide why you are doing the project, it will point you toward the right path for continuing. Answering a few basic questions helps: Is it an album for one side of the family or both? Is it meant to be an item to be passed down to future generations, in which case the journaling and stories would be as much of a focus (and possibly even more so) than the photographs themselves? Or is it just a great place to put your pictures once and for all so you can free up some space in your Power® Sort boxes? Once you decide the intent of your project, you are well on your way to a project you will be proud of.
- Is the book going to be one of “length” or “width”? “Length” being a rundown of just how far back you have traced your family tree; “width” being more of a current version of only a few generations of your family, with as many photographs as you can find.
Again, there is no right or wrong way to make your family heritage album. It is totally up to you! But with that being said, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be a good captain and chart your course beforehand.
Once these decisions have been made, gather together all the “items” that you may want to use in the book. I say “items” and not just “photographs” because there’s no reason to limit the book to photographs only. There are so many other things that can be used: birth certificates, marriage certificates, newspaper clippings, military records, family recipes, just about anything that you can scan or take a picture of that could be used even in a very subtle way that will add meaning and depth to the page. This step can get tedious if you do not already have everything scanned or in a digital format of some kind, so be sure to have plenty of energy drinks and sugar cookies at the ready for the 1:00 a.m. boost you will need to power through. I assure you that all of the long hours and late nights doing this step will be worth it in the end, even if some things never get used. It is far better to have too much and too many than too little.
In conjunction with gathering tangible “items,” you’ll also want to collect as much information and as many family stories as you can. Another point that can’t be stressed enough: it will be worth it in the end even if it means you have to sit down for another afternoon of listening to Great Aunt Edna tell the same story 4 times. There may be a new piece of information you can glean from each retelling. Don’t be afraid to outright interview family members on family history.
To review, here are the three steps you’ll want to undertake to begin:
- Chart your course
- Treasure hunt
- Gather intel
If you spend the time on these initial steps it will make creating your family heirloom far more enjoyable as we move along over the next weeks.