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Ever feel overwhelmed with albums and photos?  Looking at photos out of sequence is fun but leaves me wanting to understand more about the people in the photos.  Such was the case with the albums and loose photos that were Ed & Eva Garee’s, Elizabeth Bullard’s and my mother-in-law’s.

My mother-in-law provided me with photos, loose and in albums, that were hers as well as her mother’s and grandparent’s.  I spent months scanning these photos and used  flickr by posting photos and seeking input on identification from my mother-in-law and husband.

With the big chunks of identification complete, I knew that I also needed to organize the original photos and archive them for easier viewing and long term care.  This post is about how I broke the project into steps that ultimately worked for me.  While it felt overwhelming at times, I believe it was worth the effort.

Since a number of the photos were in the old magnetic type albums, I had to learn how to safely take the photos out (when I scanned them I left them in tact).  After researching various methods, I decided on the technique of putting an album page in the microwave for up to 15 seconds to warm the old glue then I used a thin metal spatula to assist in lifting the photos off the page.  A couple of photos were very stuck and have some of the back layer separated but the majority came out beautifully.

My next step was to sort the photos.  A few weekends ago I enlisted my husband’s help and we sorted photos into 20 groupings or boxes.  Listed below are the groupings I used in outline form that provide specifics but more importantly illustrate the concepts of the groupings.  I use these same grouping concepts for organizing my genealogy documents & images into computer folders.

  1. Dunaway – Eva Garee nee Dunaway’s parents and siblings
  2. Garee – Ed Garee’s parents and his wife and daughters before they married
    1. Stella (Ed & Eva’s child)- once she married
    2. Frances (Ed & Eva’s child) – once she married
    3. Lucy (Ed & Eva’s child) – once she married
    4. Elizabeth (Ed & Eva’s child) – once she married includes her children up until they moved out of her house
      1. Robert (Elizabeth’s child)- from the time he was on his own
      2. Irene (Elizabeth’s child) – from when she graduated high school until her first child was born
        1. David (Irene’s child)- once he was born until just before her second child was born
          • David – once he moved out
        2. Keith (Irene’s child)- once he was born until her third child was born
          • Keith – from when he moved out until we married
          • Keith & Kay – the strays from after we married
        3. Eric (Irene’s child)- once he was born until each of Irene’s sons moved out of the house
          • Eric – once he moved out
        4. Irene – from her second marriage to today
  3. Bauman – my husband’s father’s ancestors and siblings’ families
  4. Family friends
  5. Unknown scenic
  6. Unknown people

Some of the 'original' albums

We emptied about 10 albums then sorted those and all the other loose photos into the appropriate box.  After that, I put the photos from each box into its own ziplock bag and labeled it.  Six of the bags I will not do anything further to organize and will probably attempt to give them to a member in that direct line.  I have scanned copies of the photos but think the direct descendants might like to have the originals, I know I would.

The Ziplock System

The following day, Sunday, we did a finer sort of boxes 2,d,ii,c & d (Eric & Irene) as listed above by breaking them into four groupings by date & location:

  1. Philippines and San Diego (1962-1964)
  2. Las Vegas (1964-1966)
  3. Hawaii (1966-1970)
  4. Noble, OK (1970-1980) – as each son moved out of the house their stuff went into his own box.

To help with sorting into these boxes by date, I created a spreadsheet that listed where the family lived during what times, the ages & grades of the children.  To compile this spreadsheet required observing the content of the photos, asking lots of questions, reading the report cards and, where available, labels on photos.  This spreadsheet was very helpful in estimating a date because I could look for location clues in the photo and when at least two of the boys were in a photo I could see if the estimated date matched the ages they should have been.  Also, on school photos I was able to figure out what grade each child was in as well as the ages.

Next, I put each of these date & location groupings of photos into a ziplock bag and labeled each one accordingly.  As I found duplicates I placed them in smaller ziplocks inside the big bag.  I’m not sure what I should do with the duplicates, long term.  To make finding the bags easier, I arranged all them chronologically in boxes.

The next day, Monday, I pulled the bag containing Irene’s photos starting when she moved out of her mother’s house up until just before her first child was born and arranged the photos into sequential date order.  Using photo corners, I placed the photos into one of the scrapbook style archive albums.

Putting photos into an album

By the end of Monday I was halfway through Irene’s first child’s baby photos.  Just about every free moment that week was devoted to completing that first album.  By Thursday evening (January 6) I completed through Irene’s last child’s high school graduation.

To date, I have completed two albums using the same process for sorting and organizing.  I still have 2 or 3 albums to go to complete this project but have made great progress.

A completed album, ready to tell life stories

With the photos scanned and arranged by estimated date and two albums complete, I can say that I much prefer the actual physical album for viewing and understanding the life stories they tell.  I’m not sure how to present the digital version without spending lots and lots of time putting them into a scrapbook and duplicating my efforts.  I’d love to hear suggestions on how to do this without having to spend a tremendous amount of time on it.

Right now I’m reluctant to use iphoto for organizing because software is constantly superseded.  When I moved from a Windows operating system to a Macintosh I lost important details on my photos except on the ones where I put the information in the file name.  Consequently, I have learned that I only want to spend my time organizing and labeling in ways that are going to be here to stay a long time.  Currently, I use Adobe Bridge CS3 along with Photoshop Elements 6 for Macintosh.  Bridge has many organizing options that I use sparingly.  Most of my organizing is by file name and folder.

I know this isn’t an easy post to read and probably is only of interest to someone who is considering a project like this.  Thanks for visiting and, as always, I love feedback.

Posts about my other album and scanning projects: