A few weeks ago, I spent some time trying to find one specific photo of my grandma that, alas, seems to have disappeared.
But as I stood in her office stuffed to capacity with books and boxes of photos, I had two conflicting thoughts:
- How amazing that she has pictures of things like her grandpa, who used to take out-of-towners for sleigh rides through Yellowstone! There he was in a black-and-white photo, smiling and standing next to his steeds. How amazing to have three packets full of photos Grandpa shot in the South Pacific during World War II! Yeah, there are a lot of topless ladies pictured, but there are also inspiring photos showing the industry of a primitive civilization.
- What a freaking disaster, and who is ever going to organize ALL.THIS.HISTORY?
It’s made me wonder how other people keep track of their own histories. Are they glued into acid-free books? Are they stacked chronologically in boxes made just for photos? Or do most people have a “classification” system like grandma—put as many photos as you can fit in this box, then fill another?
So I went home and dug out a few scrapbooks I’ve been saving for my own version of family history. These leather-covered scrapbooks cost hardly anything at two different estate sales and have never been used. The black pages inside were as good as new.
Now it’s time to start. I’m going fill those pages with my favorite black and whites. And I’m not going to pressure myself to “get organized” before I start gluing. I’m simply going to add photos as I find and make copies of them, making sure to always add a caption so we can remember who’s who. You understand, I’m working with a short deadline. My grandma is 89 and not getting any younger. Since she remembers the people in the photos, I need her help with documentation before she forgets.
Why did I decide NOT to organize them chronologically before I start pasting away? Because that won’t allow me to add more photos in the “right order” as they’re discovered.
To cut down on confusion, I’m going to glue a family tree to the first page. That way, when someone wants to know who Arthur Berry or Eugenie Virgin is, they’ll just flip to page one and look at my family tree.
Once I’m done with my dad’s side of the family, I’ll start on my mom’s—that’ll be lots of fun because my maternal grandma has quite the collection of family photos. I saved the bigger of the scrapbooks for this side of the family.
How do you handle all the genealogy? And don’t you just love the romance of it all? I’ve looked at some of these pictures so many times that I feel like I was there when they were taken. And I hope having these scrapbooks on my coffee table will help my kids feel familiar with the people who came before us and who are our guardian angels now. •