Saving Precious Memories, One Photo at a Time – How I Do It

If you know me at all, then you know that I have been blessed with an abundance of ancestral photos.  Seriously, an abundance.  Like coming-out-of-my-ears-I-will-never-finish-scanning-in-my-lifetime kind of abundance.

This is both wonderful and challenging.  The wonderful definitely outweighs the challenging – definitely!  But we need to be careful not to underestimate the time, effort, expense, and organization required of those who work to digitize & share family photo collections.  It is so much work.  But those of us who do it, do it out of love, and we want to share!

Recently, one of my sisters sent me this text message:

If I want to print some pictures of ancestors would I just download them from the Facebook groups you’ve created?  Will that give me the best quality?

What fantastic questions!

First of all – hooray! that my sister is noticing the photos I’m sharing on Facebook, that’s why I do it.  Second of all – hooray! that she wants to display some of those precious photos in her home where her children will see them all of the time.  Third of all – hooray! that I was already all set and didn’t have to slow her project down by finding a way to share the images with her.  We were able to text back and forth a few times with simple instructions and answers to questions that easily led her to the highest quality version of the photos she was interested in.

This experience caused me to decide to share my process for dealing with photos right here.  I take several steps with each photo.  Each step has a very specific purpose for sharing, preservation/back-up, or both.  I hope my method will inspire you as you consider how you digitize, preserve, back-up, and share your treasures.  Remember, there is no perfect or “right” way.  We all have to find what works best for us.


My process for handling a photo includes the following steps:

  • Scan
  • Edit
  • Upload to multiple places:
    • WordPress, if I’m including it in a blog post
    • FamilySearch
    • My Ancestry Tree
    • Flickr
    • Costco Photo Center
    • Facebook
  • Back-up
  • Delete from laptop
  • Preservation of the original physical photo



There are so many options for scanning.  After many years of preserving photos in different ways, I have finally settled into a groove when it comes to scanning.  I use three different scanning methods depending on the circumstances.

At-home scanning of items in my possession is all done on my Epson Perfection V600 Photo Flatbed Scanner.  This is my preferred method because it yields the highest quality images.

A few simple scanning tips for this scanning method:

  • Make sure the scanner glass is clean.
  • Gently clean the photo with a clean, very soft cloth or brush – don’t blow on the photo, you never know when you might have a wee bit of saliva end up on your image.  Yikes!
  • Scan at 600 dpi, or higher, as a TIFF file.  300 dpi will create a replica, size wise, so base the dpi on what you plan to do with the image.  If you want the ability to print a 5×7 or 8×10 and the original photo is a 2×3 – scan at a higher dpi.  600 is my baseline.  For very small, rare, or special images I will go up to 1200 dpi.  Every once in a blue moon there will be a very rare, very small, AND very special photo and I will scan it at 2400 dpi.  But like I said, that is very rare.
  • TIFF files are lossless and can be saved as a jpeg for other purposes, but the TIFF file will become your digital negative.  Jpegs are lossy files and not the best format for photo preservation.  While TIFF files are much larger, digital storage has become much cheaper, so buy a few flash drives and scan those photos as TIFF files!  I would prefer to do it right and only do it once.  One additional tip is that if you scan at a higher dpi as a TIFF and then do a ‘save as’ into a jpeg, the jpeg will look better than if you scan as a jpeg in the first place.  Here is an example.  I shared this photo last week.  The photo on the left was originally a TIFF that I saved as a jpeg.  The photo on the right is a file I scanned as a jpeg to start with at 300 dpi.  Can you see the quality difference?  Try opening them in their own windows and zoom in, then you can really see it.  Of course, the biggest difference is when the photo is actually printed.  Our backlit screens make up for a lot of quality loss that can’t be fixed in printing.

I have two other on-the-fly scanning methods I also use.

1 – I have a ShotBox and DSLR camera that I take with me when I visit a relative.  That way I can capture images and treasures in the moment without having to “borrow” them or wait for a relative to scan and share when they have time.

2 – I use the Google PhotoScan app for items too large to fit in my ShotBox.  I suggest everyone have this on their phone.  Be sure to practice a bit before you visit a relative.  While it’s easy to use, it definitely has some quirks.

Now about those all-in-one scan/print combo machines.  If that is all you have access to, go for it.  Scanned is better than not scanned.  But the image quality is much poorer.  Often there will be a library or Family History Center that has a flat-bed scanner you can use at little or no cost.  I suggest you look into that option.

Here is an example of a photo scanned using an all-in-one, then the same photo scanned using my flatbed scanner.

Estelle Duval at the desk of Duval Portraits

Scanned using an all-in-one scanner.

img066 - edited, slight lighten

Scanned using a flatbed scanner with some editing to lighten it up.

img066 - edited

Scanned using my flatbed scanner with no color/lightness correction.



I, admittedly, am a photo-editing snob.  I like to remove as much distraction as possible from my images.  Dust, scratches, stains – I like to get rid of those.  I want to focus on the faces.  For really special photos I will spend more time.  For most photos, I focus on the biggest distracting elements and remove those, and I always clean up all faces.  In the images above, the one on the right is not edited, the one on the left is.

My preferred photo-editing software is PhotoShop.  I know it’s an expensive program and not accessible to most, but I had a family member work for Adobe and got a sweet, sweet deal.  There are many other free, or low-cost editing software programs available.  Find something you like and edit – or not – as much as you prefer.

Here is a sampling of some photos before and after editing:




This sounds like a very long step, but it’s really not.  For starters, I open six windows with each website I will need.

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 11.53.27 AM

If I am using the photo in a blog post, I start with that and upload the photo into WordPress.

Then I upload the photo to my Ancestry Tree, FamilySearch, Flickr, Costco Photo Center, and Facebook.  It’s pretty fast to start the uploads in each one.  For most photos, I just copy and paste the description into each website.  Occasionally I tweak it based on the audience.  See examples below.


Why upload the photos to so many places?  Each serves a different purpose.


My Ancestry Tree is private, so this step is for me and the family members I have invited to view my tree.  I like to have my photos there – simple as that.  It also serves as cousin bait.  Cousins will still see that the photos exist, even though they can’t see the images, and often send me a message.  I always share and I have made some great discoveries because of these connections.  I upload the smaller jpegs that I saved from my TIFF files.  Ancestry has a 15MB limit.

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 1.13.07 PM


FamilySearch is next.  I add the photos to FamilySearch for four reasons.  First, preservation.  FamilySearch is really good at preservation and I know they will do their best to preserve those images in perpetuity.  Second, I feel a sense of responsibility to share the family treasures that have made their way to me as widely as possible.  It’s my way of showing gratitude for the abundance and trying to make the photos accessible to all of my relatives.  Third, cousin bait.  It’s great stuff that cousin bait.  When a cousin sees that you have added a photo, they can message you right inside of FamilySearch.  Great things can happen from those contacts.  Fourth, this one may seem weird, but my little one likes to play the Little Family Tree app.  Putting photos on FamilySearch means there is more cool stuff in his game experience.  I also upload the smaller jpegs that I saved from my TIFF files here.  FamilySearch also has a 15MB limit.


Next comes Flickr.  It is a great, free, photo storage website.  It has awesome privacy controls that can be set differently on each photo.  You can make each image completely private, viewable by people you have designated as family or friends (two separate categories, cool!), or public.  You can also make them searchable or not, within each of those categories.  Flickr has great organizing tools in the form of albums and tags.  Photos can be in more than one album.  The description area for each photo allows for very lengthy text.  You can comment on photos to add additional information or receive comments from family.  Photos can be tagged.  I like to tag people with their full name, no spaces, with capitals to make it legible, ie RonaldSkeenPeterson.  Clicking on a tag will bring up every item with that same tag within Flickr.  Albums can be collaborative so family members can work together.  I love that Flickr allows large file sizes, up to 200MB.  I upload the large TIFFS here.  If the people in the photos are deceased, I make them publicly accessible (this is where I directed my sister to get large files), if not, I restrict them to family members.  You can download the files at their original upload size.  Awesome!

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 11.16.34 AMScreen Shot 2018-07-21 at 11.17.26 AM


Then comes, Costco.  I upload all of my photos to Costco Photo Center into albums.  This way I can print photos anytime I need them without having to find them and upload them.  My albums are chronological for my children, but by name for ancestors, ie Ronald & Margaret Peterson fam.  I upload the TIFF files here as well.  The file size limit is 95MB.

Screen Shot 2018-07-21 at 11.30.44 AM


Lastly, I upload all photos to Facebook.  I have different albums and they are set to be viewed only by my family members.  This is a great way to give my non-genealogy family members little bits of our history.  It’s also an easy way for them to “find” our old family photos in a simple, non-genealogy way.  Plus, it’s that whole social aspect of social media.  It gets family members thinking and talking about their ancestors.

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 1.08.05 PMScreen Shot 2018-07-19 at 1.10.45 PM



Once I have my photo everywhere that I want it, I move it onto an external drive.



After making my backup copy, I delete the files from my computer.  Gotta keep that hard drive nice and clean.


Preservation of the Original

This step is really important.  I’m still working on a long-term, one and done plan for this.  My problem is volume.  There are simply so many, many photos that it’s hard to physically store them all in the best way.  But I’m working on it.
And that folks, is my method for digitizing, sharing, and preserving photos one image at a time.  My focus now is to try to O.H.I.O. – only handle it once.  Take a photo from start to finish and move on to the next.  I know some people like the idea of “scanning everything” and just “getting it done”.  My problem with this is that often the images sit somewhere and nothing else happens with them.  There is also the added challenge of technology changing.  My goal isn’t to “get it all done”.  My goal is to do it right.  I know that my method isn’t the fastest, but it works for me and my family.

So family members, if you want to find a nice sized original of a photo I have shared here on my blog or elsewhere, go to my Flickr account.  The largest files are found there.  Remember, if anyone in the photo is alive, it will be marked private and you won’t find it.  You will need to request to follow me and then I can mark you as family.


Happy Monday, I hope it’s a great week filled with genealogy goodness!  xoxo



Ellis Album, Photos 12 & 13 – Uncle Dale & Aunt Jean

These two wonderful people are my GrandUncle Dale & GrandAunt Jean.  Dale is the son of my 2nd great-grandparents, Claude Albert Ellis & Blanche Octavia Huband.  Dale was a math teacher.  These pictures strike me as yearbook photos.  Do they have that feel for you?  I love the bow tie!



These photos come from the sixth page of the album.  Here are pages six and seven to give context for this photo:

IMG_1652 copy

This post is part of a series sharing this wonderful old family photo album.  You can learn more about the album here.  Living descendants of Dale & Jean, please feel free to contact me to obtain scans of the photos that contain living family members.  My email address is on the sidebar.  🙂




Ellis Album, Photo 2 – A Trio of Little Darlings


ELLIS, Beth Margaret Dale - smaller

Beth, Margaret – my grandmother, & Dale Ellis, likely 1929

Oh my goodness!  Isn’t my Grandma absolutely adorable?!  She is the wee one in the middle.  Really, they are all adorable.  I love all of the details in this beautiful portrait, one of my favorites has to be Grandma’s shoes.  I’ve never seen shoes quite like them before – so many cute little straps.

Beth was born in 1919, Dale in 1922, and Grandma in 1927.  All three have passed.  Grandma went first in 2004, then Beth in 2011, then Dale in 2014.  I had never seen this photo before.  What a treasure!



Here are the first two pages of the album to give context for this photo:



This post is part of a series sharing this wonderful old family photo album.  You can learn more about the album here.



Treasures: The Old Ellis Family Photo Album


Wow, isn’t she a beauty?


That lovely red album up there was created by my great-grandmother, Blanche Octavia Huband.  The cover of the album is very worn, in fact, the front cover is completely detached from the spine, but the inside of the album is in perfect condition.

The photos are pristine.  Many of them are 8x10s or 5x7s.   They are a wonderful collection of the best photos of Grandma Ellis’ children, grandchildren, and other family members.  It is exactly what a photo album should be – the best of the best, representing everyone you love.

Because the album is so well preserved and orderly, I will be scanning the photos in order and sharing the entire album one photo at a time in the order Grandma Ellis has arranged them in her album.

To that end, I’m going to be starting a new series of posts here entitled “Ellis Album”.  This post serves as an introduction to that series.  I think I’ll shoot for one post each week.  I’m so excited to preserve and share this wonderful album.  I hope my distant Ellis cousins will find it here and enjoy!


ps – Grandma Ellis was brilliant in her use of photo corners.  She picked good ones, they still work and are still attached to the pages.  ❤️

pps – I know I said I’m going to share every photo in the order she put them in the album, but I’m waffling on one thing, should I share the photos of living people…?  (With permission, of course.)  Or just acknowledge that I have skipped a photo(s) because some of the subjects are living and cousins should reach out if interested…?  Hmmm…




A Cautionary Tale of Digital Loss



Daniel Ramon Costello & Barbara Ann Deno Costello, my granduncle & grandaunt at their home in Spokane, Washington.



I am sick.


Like, really, really heartsick.

Almost four years ago I went on a trip to Spokane, Washington to visit my Grandma and interview her.  I saw, and also interviewed, other family members including my Uncle Dan & Aunt Barbara, and my fabulous Auntie V.  It was a fantastic trip.  My sister and Mom drove up to be there too.  I had brought along a digital audio recorder to capture all of the conversations.

Grandma told me stories I had never heard.  She talked about being a single mom in the 60s.  She described being a rescue diver for years and the moment she decided she couldn’t do it anymore.  She answered questions about family members who she knew, but my Mom and I did not.  She described people and places.  She went over photos with me identifying people and adding details about those people and the events in the photos.  She talked about how hard it was when her father went to prison for a year.  We talked and talked and talked.  I captured it all on my little digital audio recorder.

Uncle Dan and Aunt Barbara told me about John Costello and Mary Brown Young, my great grandparents.  I knew Mary, but John died when my mother was a child.  They shared how sorry they were in later years that they hadn’t asked Grandpa Costello more questions about his family in Spain before he passed.  Uncle Dan talked about his time in the service during WWII.  Aunt Barbara started to tell us about how sad my biological grandfather was when he and my Grandma divorced before my Mom and aunt cut her off.

My Auntie V shared some insights, when we were alone, about various family members from the past.  Her “unvarnished truth” to balance what Grandma had shared.

My Grandpa told me detailed stories from Viet Nam that are so fascinating.  I’ll leave it at that since he is still living.

All of these gems and much more were recorded on my handy little digital audio recorder.

I returned home from my trip and was immediately swept back up in daily life with my children who were 16, 13, and 2.  I was able to process some new data and information, but my trusty little audio recorder didn’t make the cut.

More than a year passed and one of my uncles from my dad’s side of the family needed to borrow my audio recorder for a family reunion I wasn’t able to attend.  I wrote up a short list of instructions and stood holding that recorder, struggling with whether or not to leave the micro sd card inside.  It has an internal memory that was more than sufficient, but what if the contents on the sd card were somehow erased?  After going back and forth I popped that oh-so-tiny micro sd card out and set it on my dresser.

I think.

Here is the moment in the book where you want to scream at the character, “No!  Don’t do it!!”

The recorder was used by my uncle at that reunion and then returned and placed on top of my dresser.

I think.

This week I am going back up to Spokane to help with an archiving project, among other things.  I will see Aunt Barbara, my Mom, Auntie V, and Grandpa.  Grandma and Uncle Dan have both passed away.

I need to be able to record and I debated – do I use my digital audio recorder or do I use my phone?

I pulled out that recorder and thought I had better pull the audio files off of it.  I plugged it into my computer and searched the files.

There were five.

Four nonsense practice files that last just a few seconds and a 33-minute file from the reunion.

That is all.

I must have checked the micro sd card slot at least 15 times hoping for something to appear that simply wasn’t there.  I even used a flashlight just to be certain.  I went through the folders on the internal memory over and over hoping to find something more but coming up empty every single time.

Panic set in.

I started tearing apart every place in my house I could imagine myself considering “a safe place” for that teeny-tiny-little micro sd card.  (Carefully, of course, but definitely fervently.)  All the while I was racking my brain and praying for a memory to pop to the surface.  Did I really just set that invaluable sd card on my dresser?  That miniscule, but more precious than gold, fragile tiny card on the edge of a dresser?!

That seems like a terrible decision.  And the thing is, I don’t know for sure what I did.  I just know that there is not a micro sd card inside of that digital audio recorder.

So far I have found one micro sd card – but not the one I need – but seriously, where did that come from? – and one regular sd card.  What is happening here?  Why aren’t these properly stored?  Why is my organizational system falling apart?!  What on earth?

Why didn’t I transfer those files immediately after my trip?!

Why didn’t I transfer those files while I was still on my trip?!!!!!  I had my laptop with me.

And this is the point where I could ramble on and on about my laptop being super full and being a busy mom with big and tiny children and being the Relief Society President in my ward and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

You know that moment I mentioned, the one where we all want to scream at the character, “No!!  Don’t do it!!”?  Well, I didn’t listen.  If I could have even had a tiny glimpse of my present anguish, I would have moved mountains to get those files transferred to AT LEAST two other places.

But I didn’t.

And now I am heartsick.

So terribly heartsick.

Real tears have been shed several times now as I continue to search and continue to come up with nothing.


There are two very small glimmers of hope.

One, my Mom interviewed my Grandma about 2 years ago and still has that recording – that I will immediately move heaven and earth to transfer to AT LEAST two places the minute it gets into my hot little hand.  There are two major disappointments with this – one, I love you Mom, but I ask better questions 😳 – and two, my Mom says it’s all fiction.  But let’s be real, would I know the difference?  And is my Mom’s opinion of Grandma’s stories accurate or fair?  I don’t know.

Two, I just might still find that micro sd card.  I believe in miracles.  I’ve experienced miracles plenty of times.  I don’t know if I actually need a miracle this time or just more time searching, but I’ll take that treasure anyway it comes to me.  So I’ll hold out hope that somehow, someway, those hours of audio files will make their way back to me.  And no matter the path it takes, I will consider it a miracle.  But I have learned a VERY BIG lesson.


Good preservation requires having multiple copies in multiple places.  So guess what I will be doing over the next month?  Assessing and addressing my current level of preservation of family photos, home movies, and priceless papers and artifacts.


But I still really, really, really want to have that oh-so-precious and oh-so-tiny micro sd card back.  Please.


I’ll take any good vibes, happy successful treasure hunting thoughts, or prayers you want to send my way.  I could definitely use them.


And friends, I hope you will learn from my mistake and avoid a similar bout of sorrow and loss.  What do you need to digitize, duplicate, or store in another place today?  Don’t wait.  Please, don’t wait.

Good luck.




Salt Lake Tribune Negative Collection


Yesterday, while reading a post from the NGS blog, I noticed a link to a Utah photo collection that is new to me.  It’s the Salt Lake Tribune Negative Collection.  I clicked on over to check it out and discovered this cool photo of my great grandfather.

This photo was taken 1 February 1957.  These fellas were somehow connected to the Utah State Livestock Association.  My great grandpa, Rulon Powell Peterson, is on the right, holding his hat and wearing glasses.  He was a very successful cattle rancher.  The other two men are named as John E Booth and Clemm Schramm, but I don’t know which one is which.

I did a little perusing of the collection and didn’t find anything else related to my family.  The collection is hosted by Utah State History.  They have a few other collections.  If you have any Utah family, you may want to check it out.

And once again, I am so thankful that I quickly read a post listing various online collections.  You just never know what you might find in some obscure online collection.


Happy Thursday, I hope you make a surprisingly delightful genealogy discovery today!