When my mother died, I was left with several boxes of pictures and it was always my plan to go through and sort them but until this summer that had never happened.
Because the school term was over, I thought that perhaps my fourteen-year-old grandson could help, and he was eager. We agreed that he would come to stay with me for a week to do this project. Little did I realize that what had previously been a daunting task would have serendipities that would bless many people:
- A state of organization for me - I had to go through literally thousands of photos to find the ones for my nephew's gift. First of all, I set up a number of boxes on the dining room table, each with a sticky note that named a specific family group. I had a box for the time before my parents married, one for my growing up years, one for each of my children after they left home, and one for my life after they left. I also had a box for extended family, one for friends and one for miscellaneous photos. The piles were reduced as I shredded those photos that were of poor quality, unflattering or duplicated. Even just destroying all the old negatives gave a sense of accomplishment! When I was done, there were just a few boxes that each had a theme.
- Acknowledgement of Justin's skills - It was amazing to watch Justin create computer folders and then quickly scan and save each photo into the appropriate place on the hard drive. I am so thankful that he could do what I definitely didn't have the ability to even attempt.
- Time for sharing our history - It was fun to tell stories and answer Justin's questions about our roots. As we worked together, he began to better understand his heritage and learn about which individuals belonged to each branch of the family tree. He also greatly enjoyed seeing photos and hearing tales about his father's childhood!
- Opportunity to enhance memories - Because the photos were all saved on the computer, I didn't need to keep the originals. We therefore separated those of extended family members into plastic bags. Taking them to the wedding was a fun way to give the pictures new homes and to start interesting conversations!
- Building our tree - For the past three years I have been doing genealogy with computer software and now have almost 5,000 on my family tree. I knew that I had many photos and documents that I could add to the tree, but they had been lost in the photography chaos. Now I have them all sorted and can add them to the tree.
- Leaving a legacy - So many times over the years my children and grandchildren have asked for information about our family and history. My plan now is to purchase and give to each of my children an external hard drive that is loaded with the family tree and photo memories.
- Saving space - There are still photos that I want to keep in their printed format but, the amount of physical space that we have saved is remarkable!
- Creating a unique gift - I know that Kyle will be pleased to receive the lovely wedding gift that we have created. (And we don't have to worry about it being a duplicate!)
- Adding to Justin's bank account - I paid Justin the same wage that he had at his part-time job. He was thrilled and I got a real bargain!
- Having a new way to encourage you - Each of us has a story to tell. The sad thing is that if we don't tell it, then people might make stuff up about us. Organizing your photos and preparing your family tree is the best possible legacy that you can leave for those who follow as it helps them with their identity.
I was once asked by an individual if I was doing my family tree to see if I was related to royalty or famous people. My reply was "No. I'm looking for people of character who can inspire me!"
Perhaps today is the day to begin your search for people of character who will inspire you and provide a sense of identity for your descendants!