Saturday, September 18, 2021

Reorganizing Family History, Part 2


I'm beginning to reorganize family history by moving some old photos from archival boxes (which I love) into archival albums (to encourage browsing). My handsome new archival photo album just arrived (made by Pioneer Photo Album). As the photo above shows, each page has room for 5 photos, each up to 4 inches by 6 inches in size, two vertical and three horizontal. 

The pages are bound. They can't be added, removed, or moved. Of course, photos can be moved out of individual sleeves. But once captions are written, they stay where they are. This means I have to be sure of my organization before I write captions.

Still, the new album is good-looking and sturdy...with a total capacity of 500 photos. I think I can make it work without having to redo the flow of photos more than once (or twice).

Still experimenting, open to changes

Clearly, I'm still experimenting as I transition to archival albums for most photos. I'm willing to try a different album or format. My goal is to save these photos and organize them so they make sense to people who never knew these faces or names. If I have to make a change, I'll do it. In fact...

Next time, I'll buy albums with pages that can be moved. As I develop my organizational strategy, it would be more convenient to move an entire page (photos with captions) instead of having to unload photos from a page that isn't in my preferred order and load them onto an entirely different page. 

Many old family photos/postcards fit 4x6

As shown above, I tested sleeve size by inserting two photos of my hubby's uncle, one at the wheel of a toy car and one in the saddle of a pony. They are the typical size/shape of US postcard photos produced a century ago, and they fit perfectly in the album's archival sleeves. 

Unlike the postcard photos, many photos left by my late dad-in-law are quite small (2 inches by 3.5 inches). I'll try putting two side-by-side in a single sleeve.

Photos larger than 4 inches by 6 inches will have to go in a separate album. That's a project for later in the year.

Inside the album

This particular archival album has room for writing captions in between the photo sleeves. My usual preference is to type instead of writing by hand, but this format will encourage me to be especially neat and careful in captioning.

Looking ahead, I'll clearly hand print captions, guessing future generations may not be able to read cursive.

The sleeves aren't see-through on both sides, so backs of photos won't be visible. So I'll either transcribe captions or indicate that a caption is on back if viewers are really interested.

Also, the album is quite tall and wide. Most likely I'll stack albums on a bookshelf, rather than having them upright on the shelf with the spine out. Or I'll try a different album format for my next purchase. 

Organize chronologically or ... ?

Because many of the old photos have no dates, but are interleaved with photos that have dates, I may begin by sorting according to decade (1900-1910, 1911-1920, etc.). This is only one possibility, but it seems most logical to try chronological order first.

After sorting chronologically and scanning, I would slip photos into the album and judge how things look. Wherever possible, I'll keep photos grouped together if they are clearly from the same day or occasion. 

In some cases, I may choose to group photos according to (1) ancestor (baby/child/adult photos of a paternal grandfather on consecutive pages) or (2) occasion (wedding or vacation) or (3) place (Cleveland, Toledo, etc.). If I use one of these groupings, I'll guesstimate a decade or date to put these pages in an approximate order.

My plan is to wait to write captions until the photos are in sleeves and my husband and I like the flow from first page to last. 

More adventures in reorganization await. 


  1. I have a version of these albums. You may try what I did. Get some narrow post-it notes and write your captions on them. Stick them beside the photos until you're positive of your order.

  2. I’d caution that the album could become rather heavy. You might find that it’s better to have multiple alums with fewer pages to encourage getting them out and looked at. Don’t reject the scrapbooking albums by pioneer. They are archival and you can use photo corners (colored or clear) to place the photos on pages. You can then also easily add your typed narrative. There is no need to decorate the pages, the albums often come in white or black pages and you can change the archival paper if you desire. Finally, there is a clear cover over the page to protect it from fingerprints and/or sticking to the opposite side photos. I’ve removed photos from old albums that were falling apart and added some loose photos to the new albums. I also scanned the backsides and added a print of the scan (well the part that had anything written in it) by the photo. I found that to be comfortable to use the album I needed to keep the albums at far less than 500 photos. They were too heavy, especially for older relatives, and cumbersome when I made them larger.

  3. Good idea to print, of course future generations won't be able to read cursive. Also, good thing today's genealogists are transcribing "yesterday's" records, which are primarily in cursive.