shoebox full of photos

Story submitted by Keith Kestner

Like many other people you might have this problem. A shoebox filled with family pictures given to you by other family members. Perhaps over the years you have put in some of your own pictures. You know that you should do something about the pictures but you have a hard time getting started.

Let’s look at three stories about individuals faced with this situation.
family photo

  1. Bill and Sally were in their mid- seventies. Bill had inherited a box full of family photos when his parents had died. He knew that he had to work on these pictures someday. Then totally unexpectedly Bill dies of a heart attack. Now it is up to Sally to do something with Bill’s family photos. Now what can Sally do with Bill’s pictures and where does she start?
  2. Mary’s mother has given her daughter a shoebox of pictures hoping that she might do something with them. Unfortunately, Mary is busy at work and also at home so she keeps putting it off. Then just that quickly Mary’s mother dies. With the death of her greatest resource Mary’s job just got more difficult.
  3. Sarah is having a hard time dealing with her mom’s dementia. Whenever Sarah sees her mother having a period of coherency she drags out the shoebox. She asks her mother to help her identify people that she doesn’t know. If Mary gets lucky she might get some ages or dates that she might be able to use later on. Mary will have the satisfaction of having her mother’s involvement in making the photo journal even as her mother drifts off again. Sarah is doing something now.

Let us all follow the third example and first get the names on the back of the pictures. Start with the pictures that have large groups of people because it will be the easiest way to compare people’s ages. These group photos should be divided into family groups based on each of the grandparents. Once you have piles for set for the past generations, you can make a pile for your current family and one for your friends (not used in family photo album). Finally, sort each pile according to chronology with the newest picture on top. Then, group each family’s pictures together in a photo album. Use either a photo album with an entire page free for pictures or one with five or six photos per page so pictures can be viewed together. Include names, dates and notes on each photo and you now will have a good story of your family. You can stop here and enjoy your family photo album.

family history example However, with just a little more effort you will be able to complete a family history book. This book should be bound with a hardcover to ensure durability over time. Copies of this book can be given to each of your family members as a keepsake. I, personally, have found the process and the book very rewarding. I was surprised at how little time it took to make the family history book. You can easily create the book by following the steps within the attached file, Born a Grandchild, Now a Grandmother. The PDF is available for free download for personal use in completing your family history book. I am available for group consultants with women’s groups, scrap-booking clubs, fellowship nights, or as needed by your parish. If you have questions please email Keith at

© 2017 Greater Milwaukee Synod

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