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.

Scrapaneers Hybrid article - Instagram

Does it work? I wasn’t quite sure, but one day I had posted a picture of the wedding portrait that I had “photoshopped” before Photoshop was available in a desktop publishing software eons ago. Of my four kids, my three girls all asked me about it because they all thought that same picture, which had been on display in our home forever, was “the” actual wedding portrait of my parents! So, to answer my own question, yes… it does work. They read my post because it was about their family, the picture caught their attention and it was a quick read and that is what I consider a “win” in my mind.


Well, it was a “win” except that I was left feeling a bit like having sugar substitutes, it felt good but it wasn’t tangible and I wanted more. My grand-daughter isn’t on Instagram because she is only five years old and I have other family members that aren’t on Instagram as well because they just aren’t into “apps”.


It wasn’t too long after I began posting my pictures on Instagram that I discovered Chatbooks and the lightbulb came on. Here was a way to print out all the family heritage pictures that I had been posting and writing little stories for on my Instagram and leave them in a printed format. They are such a cute size, which is a bonus, and they can be easily divided by use of a hashtag.


In my case, I always post #audreemaejulian for pictures and postings about my mother. My youngest was born after my mom passed away in 2000 from cancer so these brief stories are a way for me to share some of the little stories that I remember about my mom and keep her alive in our memories. I love making the full layouts, but ultimately, I’m all about whatever it takes to catch a few minutes of their time – hence the Instagram posts!


At first I didn’t feel like I had any stories to tell, but my youngest daughter started asking questions and made me think like a curious child. If you question that you have any stories worth sharing, then I suggest scanning those old family pictures and then really zoom in and look at them. I bet you will begin to think of the little stories that that one photo brings to life in your own memory. Even better, go and talk with your older family members and ask them about the family photos. You might be amazed at the stories that will start flowing — some of which you might have never heard before!


Let’s Talk 4×4

Now, if you take it one step farther, take that photo or a grouping of photos and put them together in small 4×4 square layout. We all know about square layouts because we’ve been doing 12×12’s for many years and even 8×8’s or 6×6’s but as you get smaller, the pictures that you have centered as the main focus of the 12×12 layout start to get a little small when you shrink the layout down to a trim 4×4 inch size. This is the size of a Chatbook square photo.


I love the idea of posting our layouts to Instagram and then printing them in Chatbooks, but what if we were to take our 12×12 layout and quickly move things around to fit the pictures to the smaller 4×4 size? The photos could be seen better on Instagram and they would also be easier to be seen inside of a Chatbook. For some, it will be as easy as a crop that focuses on that main photo and keeps whatever is surrounding the photo as a mat. For others, it might take a bit of moving things around but once you have the page already designed, you have all the tools you need right there.

The Photo Takes Front Stage

I quickly did this with my previous layout featured in my December 23, 2016 article titled “Focusing on those Family Heirloom Photos” — and looking at my Instagram, the difference is quite obvious. The 12×12 posting featured the layout design where the close-up really did focus on the photo and let it take the center stage.

Scrapaneers Chatbook Ready

Hashtags and Chatbooks


Now back to that hashtag filter within Chatbooks… It’s fairly easy to do. Let’s say I want to print all the photos that I will be entering for my mother that have the hashtag #audreemaejulian. Here’s the steps:

  1. First, I need to set up a new Instagram series from within the Chatbooks app so that my other series’ books will stay separate.
  2. Next I just need to follow the prompts telling Instagram the new source. You can do that by clicking the [+] icon at the bottom of the opening screen / click on Books / then Photo Book Series / and finally click on Add a Source option at the bottom of the screen. At this point I am going to choose Instagram and enter my Instagram name and password for my @_ItsaLifeStory account where my family photos are located. You will need to give authorization for Chatbooks to access basic information.
  3. Now go to Settings by clicking on the “My Instagrams” title at the top of the screen. / Then click on “Manage” by your Instagram source. / Voila, you now see the “Add Hashtag Filter”!
  4. A big warning will pop up alerting you to the fact that you will be altering your current setup, but that’s ok. You are picking one hashtag for a book. In my case, I’m picking #audreemaejulian and all the posts for my mom will pop up in my preview of my new series. A note: You will only see hashtags that you have personally used so go ahead and pick the hashtag you wish to add.
  5. Click on the “Sync Source Now” if you don’t see all the posts that you are expecting to see. Also, something to think about: If you have a group of people contributing to your hashtag, you will need to add them as contributors in the Settings. Then re-sync it to see their postings with the same hashtag. What a fun family project! (Just think if you could get several people to upload their photos of the person you are wanting to add to your book!)
  6. There is one other important note. If you have added some great story-lets to your Instagram posts about each photo, then your book will be off by one photo. For example, in my book, all my posts about my mom have stories, for my cover page and inside first page, I think I will add a particular photo and delete the comments so that it will stand by itself. The next two-page spread will then show the photo on one page and the story-let on the 2nd page and so on through the book.
  7. If I can squeeze in just one more quick note: You can always edit your photo comment as well after you are in Chatbooks by clicking on the “Edit caption” option. Oh, and if you move a page around, just remember to move the Caption story-let with it so that you have the correct story matched up with its’ picture.

Scrapaneers Chatbook Preview


When you are making a Series book, it is important to know that each book is limited to 60 pages so that means that you will have room for 29 photos with 29 story-lets. That leaves an extra two slots for the coverpage/first page and the last page that both need to be comment-less. If you story-lets are really just a few lines, then your comment section will appear immediately under your photo. This will all show up in your preview of the book but it’s important to keep in mind.  Mmmm… all things to consider as you proceed with the book.


I’m so excited to really be pushing forward with my intentions for these little books that I’m hoping become family gems. There is nothing like having it in my hands and it’s so easy to request multiple copies when ordering the series. My plans include ordering 5 of each book to begin with so that each one of my four children will have them to keep as well as one for myself. I’m only doing this for my hashtag series books but you can also order multiple copies of your other books as well. They make great gifts.


The hashtag feature is the game-changer for me and has pulled all the pieces together, not to mention the “cuteness” factor of the size of the book, the limited number of pages which will make all my kids more prone to read them, and the notion that I can quickly downsize a larger 12×12 layout into the focused 4×4 posting – all helping to make this such a great way to share family history, photos and stories!

Scrapaneers Family History Chatbook

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  • Lori February 24, 2017   Reply →

    I loved this post! Thank you for sharing your process with all the details. Wonderful ideas!

    • Michele Kerr July 7, 2017   Reply →

      Thanks Lori! I’m so thrilled to be a part of the Scrapaneer group. Tiffany has now set me up with my own Heritage area on the blog so I’m really excited to keep sharing my ideas as I work on my own lifestory books for my family!

  • Dawn B. February 24, 2017   Reply →

    What a great use of Instagram! And I’d never heard of Chatbooks before so thank you for that reference. Your post is awesome and I’ll definitely be using your ideas!

    • Michele Kerr July 7, 2017   Reply →

      Thanks Dawn! Chatbooks has really taken the book world by storm and now they even have full-page 6×6 books that we can use! — Sorry for the delay in replying! I have to laugh a bit at myself for not realizing that the comments weren’t flowing back to me! I’m going to continue to focus on the heritage side of things so let me know if you ever have any questions!

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