Family Photos

A little history on this one.  Almost 4 years ago now I came to my current town and moved into my grandparent’s house.  I stayed there for 18 months, a year of that time taking care of my grandparent’s day to day needs.

When medical conditions necessitated a move to Assisted Living the family began the difficult process of unearthing 30 years worth of stuff in that house.  Now my grandparents were not hoarders or even packrats, most of the items had some limited use. But what I’d like to discuss today is how we managed 60 years worth of family photos.

It started with a scanner.

I picked up a scanner at Best Buy in 2007, one that still runs well today. It was easy to use and install on my laptop and scanned at the push of a button.  I started with a stack of pictures, some old, some new, and began to scan. I’d work on the kitchen table or couch scanning photos while I watched TV or listened to music. Mostly TV.

I could get through a stack of 50 photos in about an hour, taking one or two breaks.  I didn’t count the pictures, that took too long. I just scanned and labeled the prints.

The labeling part is important.

My grandma had diligently labeled every single photo with the names, location and year.  I didn’t follow any pattern (which was a mistake) but I tried to capture her notes in the file name.

Scanned photos went into another pile and eventually were sorted by family. My grandparents had four children so each family had a tupperware container. Pictures of my parents, brother or myself went into our container and so on.  Pictures of more than one family or older pictures went into a general container.

I scanned obituaries, birth notices, certificates and about 3,000 photos.  Some were duplicates but it took less time to scan them than it did to find the duplicate, see which copy was better and scan the second one anyway.

When I was nearly done (we still have another 1,000 to go) I began to make copies. Instead of relying on my 5 year old laptop – now going on 7 years – I copied the files to USB drives and shipped them out. Each family got the originals photos that once belonged to them and a USB drive with copies of every picture.

This settled so many disagreements.

Now that everyone at least had a copy my aunt was able to fill in the family history she keeps. My cousins were able to see pictures of their parents in horrible 70s outfits. And I used the old photos to make a slideshow for Grandpa’s 80th birthday party.

The original family photos are still taking up real estate in my office, I am slowly getting through the pictures from a trip to Dollywood in the 80s and a few hundred pictures of now deceased pets.  The most important ones are done and I even have most of the prints my parents could find from my childhood.

I can’t even estimate how much time was spent.

The important thing is to get the equipment set up and learn how to use it.  Take a small stack every night and just scan. Worry about organizing the files later and just get them scanned. If you back up your files online this is a great way to hold onto memories.

And if you have children who can be trusted with the equipment make them a deal – a certain cash incentive for every 100 photos properly scanned and labeled.  Most teens under 16 can’t get a summer job anyway but know how to use a computer.

Don’t get hung up on creating photobooks or slideshows. Just get the pictures in digital format and figure out the rest later. It’s a relatively frugal way to take a trip down memory lane.


4 thoughts on “Family Photos

  1. What a wonderful gift for your family. I hope they realize how lucky they are that you took on that (huge!) project!

    Totally agree about just getting the scanning done and worrying about the “presentation” later. I’m still debating with myself about how best to combine photos from my son’s first year (he’s three!) but at least they are sorted by month and backed up.

  2. Congratulations on a job well done!

    Excellent timing as I was just thinking this morning of the boxes in my basement storage locker that hold a ton of inherited family photos and memory items. Now I just need a scanner and I can help preserve those memories! Babysteps is what it will take.

  3. Wow, good job! I think it was very sweet of you to move in and take care of your grandma. I bet you have lots of wonderful memories to cherish.

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