Genealogy New Year's Resolutions
9/28/2009
I'll admit it: I don't make the typical New Year's resolutions. Instead, I make a flexible list of goals for the new year. Posting that list where I can see it keeps me on track and reminds me of what's important. You can do the same with general goals or a few specific projects. Here are a few photo-related ones to keep in mind:

1. Learn your family's story one photo at a time.
Select a single image from your box of unidentified pictures, and try to solve its mystery using the photographic method, photographer's imprint, subjects' clothing and genealogical data as clues. Setting this reasonable goal will help you move ahead on your research checklist.

2. Listen to your pictures.
You know the old saying: A picture's worth a thousand words. Listen to the stories your photos tell about your family. Pictures of lost loves and family travels can lead to new discoveries about your family tree. Here are a couple to consider:
  • Migration patterns: Lay out your photographs, and plot on a map all the places your ancestor had their pictures taken (based on the photographer's imprint). Use different-colored pins or stickers for each branch of the family, and hang up the map wherever you work on your genealogy. You'll have a visual reminder of your roots.
  • Family celebrations: What traditions appear in your pictures? What can you discern from images of baptisms, marriages and other family events? Do they reveal beliefs or customs? Use family pictures to explore your heritage, start traditions or reintroduce old ones.
3. Carry your pictures with you.
Pictures can trigger memories, so carry a file of your unidentified images with you every day. That way, they'll be accessible the next time you visit a relative or unexpectedly connect with a cousin. You can photocopy your images and carry the copies with you. Or using today's technology, take along digitized versions in your personal digital assistant (PDA).

4. Be preservation-minded.
Don't forget to preserve your digital images. Be sure to back them up, and print them using preservation-quality inks and papers. Store all images in an environment with a stable temperature and low humidity.

Don't worry about accomplishing everything on your list. These are just practical ways to make progress on your family history, tell a good story and be mindful of the value of your pictures.
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