Unlocking the Stories Behind Your Heritage Photos in Census Records

back of photo: Nathan, Paul, Grandpa George, and baby Max.

 

What to do when you have a family heirloom photo that has nothing else written on the back but the names of the people? First of all, it is a good thing to actually find names on the back of old family photos. It’s just that when I only have one photo like this, I really would love to know some sort of back story and in this case, all four generations are now silent. In order to give this special photo some of that interesting background, I have to do some hunting.

 

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Journal for Generations to Come

Whenever I look back at my scrapbooks, I am always drawn to the journaling. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the pictures a lot —  and the layouts bring everything together, but it is the journaling that fills in the blanks and brings it all to life.

 

It’s the same with journaling in a heritage scrapbook as well. I can be tempted to stick with names, dates, places and the facts that we can glean from the backs of the photos, but to really bring them to life, I feel the need to add some background information.

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Adding Your Own Custom Handwriting Font

“Handwriting is an Imprint of the Self on the Page”  -by Dr. Rosemary Sassoon.

 

Does scrapbooking get any more personal than when we add our own handwriting to the page? How is it then that my fourteen year old daughter recently mentioned that she only knew my handwriting from my grocery lists? Seriously? How could this be?

 

I’ve been scrapbooking since I was in grade school and we are talking over forty years ago on the conservative side! I have four children, for goodness sake, and I have made scrapbooks for all of them, yet I find myself with our last child at home who wouldn’t be able to pick my handwriting out without guessing. How could this have happened?

 

Well… for starters we now have Instagram and Snapchat where photos are shared and comments between each other flow. It’s not that we don’t talk or send lots of notes between us, it is more about the format that we use. Boy, has this hit me like a huge boulder.

 

If you were to ask me to identify my own mother’s handwriting, I would have absolutely no problem. I see her letters or just a simple signature and I instinctively know when it came from my mother. I treasure the letters she wrote to me over the years. I love the recipe cards that have her handwritten ingredients and instructions. I love her family tree notes that she left for us to find. I love her handwriting in the photo albums that she so lovingly took time to put together.

 

So, where might you find my handwriting? Well… I guess it is for sure on my grocery lists each week. There are tons of hand written notes scattered all over my desk and they are all over my scrapbooks that I have made for my three older children. The problem with my newer layouts(which include my youngest daughter) is that I have started to use some of the beautiful fonts that are everywhere. I admit it… I got caught up in the font mania that is so enticing and now find myself with a dilemma. How do I get busy and make sure to leave my handwriting stamp upon my youngest daughter’s heart so that she will forever have that little bit of me with her?

 

I could say that I will back away from my digital ways, but let’s be truthful, that isn’t going to happen any time soon. I need to make a plan to incorporate my handwriting into my layouts and I think that I have hit upon something so monumental, that I just couldn’t resist sharing it with you! I have taken my handwriting and made it into my own custom font. Yes, I did it! I am sharing this layout with you and it highlights my very own personal font which is mine exclusively.

Scrapaneers Handwriting in Layouts

 

I’ve been wanting to do this forever and when I saw the Becky Higgins had run a sale on her website for a custom handwriting font, I knew that it was calling my name. This was my chance and this little article on fonts was that gentle push that I needed to take it from “the Cart” to “the Purchase.” Alas, I might have just missed the sale but I had made the commitment in my mind and there was no turning back.

 

What I didn’t realize was how much it really meant to me. Until you start typing and see your own handwriting come up on the screen, you can’t realize how much power it packs. While this font isn’t available to be used on the Project Life app yet, you can certainly use it in your desktop software, like Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements – basically any software that accesses your fonts.

 

So, there we are! We now have access to our own fonts where we can take our best handwriting and bring that personal touch to our scrapbook pages. Think your handwriting is not worthy to be made into a font? Think again. Our family knows our handwriting and they don’t care how perfect it is or how imperfect it is. My own father had such bad handwriting that is was hard to read at times but read it I did! And actually, it was probably my love for my Dad’s poor handwriting that made me so good at deciphering old, handwriting, which has come in handy in my profession of genealogy!

 

When you purchase a Custom Handwriting Font on Becky Higgins website, you receive an email shortly with a form to enter each alphabet letter — both in uppercase and lowercase. Here’s a quick tip so that you get the absolutely best result the first time: make sure to write out several paragraphs in your handwriting. They suggest that it not all be in cursive, so if you are like me, I use a mix of printing and handwriting anyway. I almost never do strictly all printing so it was a relief to know that I could use a bit of both. You can use this little exercise as a way to visually check the way you really write so that your individual letters will actually resemble your day-to-day handwriting.

 

You can learn from my mistakes, believe me. I didn’t do this little exercise of writing out a paragraph ahead of time and realized when I received the font that my “n” that I had used was more for the beginning of a new word than the way I write an “n” in the middle of a word. That left it looking a bit off but Kristen, the “font whisperer” for Becky Higgins, ever so graciously after consulting with me, made just a few adjustments that brought it all to life.

 

Here’s another tip: Print out several copies of the form so that you can start over if you are really unsure that you like what you have done. The hardest part of all of it is writing the first letter. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I just could not get all the way through my form without a mistake, so I decided to stop beating myself up and just crossed the mistakes out! As long as one of the sheets had the good letter, it was all good — trust me. The person behind the scenes, Kristen, is extremely good at working with our handwriting samples and she has had a lot of practice!

 

Kristen has been working with fonts for quite a few years and boy does she have some lovely stories. When I told her about my own love for handwriting, she shared some stories that had tears welling up in my own eyes and it reinforced my own reasons for taking this step.

 

While we might not all have those heart-string-pulling-reasons to turn our own handwriting into a custom font, there is that strong reason to share a bit of ourselves with those we love. I, for one, have a huge grin across my face as I start my own journey to make sure that my daughter and the rest of my kids never forget that most personal part of my story — my handwriting.

 

“In all the ways we express ourselves nonverbally, none is quite so personal as our handwriting.”  – Betty Edwards

 

As a side note, the layout I shared earlier in this article, is one that not only shows my handwriting, but also highlights a letter that I found almost fifty years after my grandfather passed away.  I only knew him while he was in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s and could no longer stay at home with my grandmother to care for him. The only facility that cared for dementia patients at that time was clear across the state from where we lived but we made the trek over there to visit with him routinely.

 

My only memories of him were walking around the grounds of the hospital, so to find a letter that he had written to a niece while he was clearly in good health, really has been a treasure. And to see it written in his own hand is a clear reminder that I need to make sure that I have my own stories written down – with some of them in my own handwriting!

 

–I would like to add that the digital paper and wood finishes for my woodblock lettering on my layout are from the November Premier Digital Scrapper download. It seemed like a fitting choice to add to my layout as a tribute to my grandfather’s love of carpentry.

Family Stories, Instagram and Chatbooks — Oh, my!

Knowing who our family WAS reveals part of who we ARE.

I love this quote and it speaks volumes to me as I continue to share my family history with my own children and relatives. When I started my journey to share my love for family history, the heritage photos and stories that go along with it all, I knew that my ultimate goal was to share it in a book form. I want to combine beautiful pages with stories, photos and documents that will entice my children and family to WANT to read them and learn more about their family history. This is where Chatbooks really excels with its’ size easy to ready and cute size.

Sharing my Family History on Instagram

Once I discovered Instagram, I “instantly” knew that this would become a platform that I could use to catch the attention of my kids – you know… one post, one story at a time with a beautiful photo. We can combine our love of scrapbooking to provide the beautiful photo and then include the story in the caption of our post. That is the essence of scrapbooking but on a smaller scale.

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Focusing on those Family Heirloom Photos

Being fifty-five, you would think that my first thought when I read the topic for this month, “Magical Beginnings,” might have been about my kids as they begin their adult lives or even my grand-daughter who is just five and started kindergarten this year. Funny, but that wasn’t what seemed to pop in my mind at all; it was more a picture of myself and my own change of course with my life. Really diving into my own family’s history and the family heirloom photos that have found their way to me, I am discovering that it is very important to release myself from any sense of duty to “get it all done” and to slow down, focusing on each photo and each event — and most importantly, making sure to enjoy the process.  (Which is one of the reasons that I found my way to Scrapaneers!)

 

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Day One App to the Journaling Rescue

Do you ever feel like summer gets shorter but more hectic every year? Fall brings a slower rhythm to my life and I can seem to get some organizing done before the next big rush of the holiday season.  Summer already feels like a blur and I have a lot of pictures that I’m determined are not going to be stuck inside my phone or Dropbox storage.  I need help to remember all the little details so I’ve been using the Day One app on my phone and it has been a life-saver when it comes to journaling about those little things that happened this past summer.  Behind every great picture, there is an even better story which is why I’m so excited to share with you how to use the Day One app — I love passing on great things that make my life easier and give me a way to cut down on mental clutter!

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