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A Great Way to Preserve Family Memories

Updated on October 6, 2019
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A former university communications professor, Sallie, an independent publisher, also writes romantic fiction novels and short stories.


Cleaning out my garage, I found an old trunk that once belonged to my mother (she passed away in year 2000). Filled with many, many years of her memories, the trunk was packed with old photos, family reunion memorabilia, birthday and other special occasion cards, grade-school report cards (I'm from a family of six kids), high-school diplomas and yearbooks, old newspaper clippings featuring stories involving family and/or friends, and much more. Of course, there's no way I could possibly keep everything the trunk contained, nor do I want to.

Thankfully, there is a way I can keep things and throw them away, at the same time. I could turn many of these memories into picture books and videos, and I self-publish them, if I want to. Self-publishing is not just for people who might want to become a "famous" author. It's also something that can be used simply as a way to preserve memories. It occurred to me that the memorabilia I found in that trunk could provide the material I need to create a fantastic video of the pictures, or a self-published picture book—something that might make a great family gift.

Have some vacation photos you think might make an interesting picture book for your coffee table? Some recipes written out in your mother's or grandmother's handwriting? Have you thought of placing these inside a memory book? Have you thought about making a video to show your treasures?

If you have an urge to put your family history, family vacations, family reunions, family recipes, or a great family adventure on paper, or if you simply have a yearning to get your own life story published inside the pages of a book with your name on the front as author, then why not do this?

Just as the Internet has made it possible for just about every Tom, Dick, and Harry who fancies him or herself as a writer to become a "citizen journalist," these days, just anyone can also become a self-published author. And the good news is, everyone has a story to tell. Now, it may or may not be a bestseller as a book ... and you may not even want hundreds of copies made. Still, you have a story, and whether it's a picture book or your life story, you can bet someone (okay, maybe just friends and family) might want to see or to read your book.

Preserving Family Memories: Where to Begin

After gathering all the pictures you can find, begin as close to the beginning as you can. If you have photos of grands, great-grands, great-great-grands ... well, you get it, then that is where you should begin. If you know the names, write them on the back of each photo, in ink, so that it is there forever. Next, if you know any stories that might go along with any or all of the photos, write down those stories. The stories are your family history, your family treasures. Okay, I hear all the objections before they're even formed in your mind. "But I don't know where to begin!" "But I'm not a writer!" "What if I make grammatical or spelling errors?"

Calm down! First of all, the hard part is just getting the stories down on paper. To do that, begin any place you want. The point is to get started, somewhere ... anywhere. You can always go back and make changes later.

Okay. So you might start, for example, with where and when you were born. You could give this simple section a simple title such as, "Where and When I Was Born." Difficult, huh? Then, just go on and tell us where and when you were born. Anything you that you think is either interesting or important about your topic, write it down. After that, you might want to talk about where you grew up, and about your family--in general. Were you an only child? If so, what was it like growing up as an only child? Did you have siblings? If so, how many, how close in age? What was it like growing up with sisters, brothers, or both?

You could take advantage of photo book makers, such as, or you could create your own books using actual photos.
You could take advantage of photo book makers, such as, or you could create your own books using actual photos.

Preserving Family Memories: Organizing Your Pictures by Themes

Now, that you've gotten over the fear of getting started, take a look at what you've written, and then go back over it. Are there there pictures that--when put together, might represent a theme? Is there something that happened in your life, or the life of a loved one, that you think might be a good theme or central idea for a part of your book? Have you or a loved one done something heroic? What about your ancestors? Did anyone do something especially unique or interesting that could take up a page or two in your photo book? Was there a pet that rescued a family from a blazing inferno? Or an uncle who did the same thing? What about a grandmother who won 57 blue ribbons at the county fair for her delicious apple pie?

What about baby pictures? If you have photos of family from when they were very, very young, you could put them all in a section titled "When We Were Young," and you could write as much as you know about the baby or childhood photos.

You get the idea. Once you have organized different ideas for your photo book, as you prepare your narrative (the telling of the story), you will tell your stories while showing interesting pictures that fit under each theme.

© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD


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