One of the best ways of preserving your family history and to make the most of your research is to make a family tree album that can help you preserve the information for future generations. Making a family tree album can also help to bring all the family stories and pictures together so that your ancestors come alive for future generations
If you have old photographs and other items tucked away in a box in the attic or in a drawer, you can use these to tell the story of your family.
One of the first steps you should take is to gather any family photographs from all around your family - they may have photographs of your ancestors that you never knew about before!!
Whilst you are talking to family members about their photographs, you should ask them more about them, such as the names of the people in the photographs and the dates they think the photographs were taken.
I wish I had asked my Mum who people in family photographs were before she died as we have many photographs, and I have no idea who they are of and what time they were taken, which is a great shame.
My grandmother on my Dad's side, however, was very good at adding names and dates to the back of photographs, which means that I have much more idea of who is depicted in them.
Herbert Dunkley (1867 - 1922) - My Dad's Grandfather
Alexander Allan Cameron (1876 - 1936) - My Mum's Grandfather
If your relatives do not want to part with their own keepsakes of the family, no need to panic. If you have access to a scanner, you will be able to scan the photographs directly into your computer, leaving no need for them to part with anything.
Although scanning the photographs may take a lot of time and effort I believe that the end result is worth it because the original photographs may have already begun to fade because of the time that has already passed and they will only deteriorate further.
If you have digital copies of the images, you will be able to keep them forever for future generations to enjoy. Taking digital copies of photographs also makes it that much easier to pass the photographs around other family members.
If you do not have access to a scanner, or do not wish to scan the photographs, you can also take photographs of them with your camera.
If you wish to add more to your family tree album than photographs, one idea is to use family tree software such as Family Tree Maker, which can help you to create wonderful family trees for your album, making it easier to put a face to the name.
Family Tree Maker is a wonderful tool to help you to compile your family tree, and can give you hints to help you to build your family tree, give you clues to help you track down other family members, and offer the ability to export image files to use in family tree albums.
Family Tree Maker really is a wonderful tool that I have used for years, and still use today to help me organise my own family tree research. Family Tree Maker is available from myhistory.co.uk
If you do not wish to use Family Tree Maker, another option is to hand-draw a family tree and then take a photograph of it to include it in your family tree album. Another option is to design a family tree using software such as Microsoft Excel.
It is much easier than you might think to add more information to your own albums. If you have any handwritten notes or other documents in your possession, it may be a nice idea to also add those to the album to add personality to your ancestor's stories.
If your ancestor had a specific talent that you wish to portray in the album, you can always take photographs of items such as embroidery work - my Nana loved embroidery and lace making, and I have some lovely pieces that she created over the years.
Another idea is to include recipes that your ancestors may have passed down the generations. I still make my nana's (Mum's Mum) Christmas cake even today, and what my grandma (Dad's Mum) lovingly called a chocolate yum yum cake will always be a favourite!!
One of my grandma's signature dishes was banana and custard with jam placed on the top. I still remember sitting at her table eating this dish when I was about 7 years old - it was delicious!!
You could even take this a stage further, and decide to create a cookbook of all the recipes family members can remember. If you have handwritten recipes, written by your grandparents and other family members, what a wonderful addition to the book these would be!!
You could even include interviews with family members - perhaps there is a specific story that has been passed down the generations that you would love to include in the album.
Another option is to include a timeline of national and international events to help you to correlate how your ancestor may have been affected by events in the United Kingdom or around the world.
Now that you have chosen the items to include in your family tree album, you can now decide how you wish to organise all the information you have collected.
You may wish to include a family timeline, and then add the items in chronological order, perhaps even adding birth, marriage and death certificates where appropriate to cover the major events in your ancestor's lives.
If your ancestor served in the military, you may be able to track down his military record and include that in the album as well to create a more rounded view of each individual and their stories.
If you have different branches of the family you wish to include in the album, you could arrange it in sections, perhaps beginning with the parents and then adding their children in chronological order of their births.
You may even decide to make multiple books for each branch of the family so that it does not become too complicated. The choice is yours.
When laying out your family photographs to tell a person's story, you may wish to make a special two-page spread rather than trying to fit all the images on a single page, especially if you have many images you wish to include.
One of the most important things to do is to write down for each image the person's name, when the picture was taken, what was significant about the image and what is depicted.
All this will make it that much easier for future generations to feel as if they know their ancestors and who they were as people rather than them just being names on a family tree. If you can also add their favourite memories and poems and any other significant information, this will also help to add to their story.
One way of arranging your family tree album is to use an online service such as bonusprint, where you can use their templates to arrange your stories, photographs and other documents to create your album, where it will be professionally designed and created.
You are able to choose from many different templates, with sizes landscape (13 x 10 cm, 20 x 15 cm, 28 x 21 cm or 39 x 29 cm), square (10 x 10 cm, 14 x 14 cm, 21 x 21 cm or 30 x 30 cm), portrait (15 x 20 cm, 21 x 28 cm, 27 x 36). The books are also available in softcover or hardcover.
You can also choose whether you would like your album to have a photo cover or leather cover or have a high gloss finish to your pages.
If you decide to create a canvas print or poster of your photographs, bonusprint also offers this service.
If you live in the United States, a great online service is Shutterfly, where you are also able to create your family tree album.
The wonderful thing about these albums is that no one book is the same - they are all different, and you can include whatever you like to create a wonderful family tree album that will be treasured by generations to come.