Tuesday, April 5, 2011

LifeWriting Layouts

Why is documenting your family history, your ancestry, so important?  The Church of Latter Day Saints in Utah believes it is of such high importance that they've devoted themselves to assist everyone on earth in tracking their heritage.

"Who Do You Think You Are," the TV show sponsored by Ancestry.com, is now a Friday family favorite in many households. 

Studies have proven that learning about your roots, your ancestors, gives you a greater sense of self-worth.
•Part of self-esteem is feeling that you have a place in the world where you belong—that you are part of a family where you matter.

◦It is knowing about your roots and having confidence in your future.

◦This can be a problem for children who have come from other countries and lost touch with their ‘roots’.

◦It can also be a problem for children who have been part of a family break-up, if they are split off from part of their family and the history of that part of the family  (http://www.parentlink.act.gov.au/parenting_guides/all_ages/self-esteem)

What if your family ancestry doesn't include Mayflower descendents but a lot of closet skeletons instead?  That doesn't seem to affect the discovery of the soil your tree is planted in.  I've learned this personally in my in-depth ancestry search.  When my Dad was just a young boy, he threw his father out of the home because of his abusive treatment of my grandmother.  My grandfather on my mother's side was no winner either.

However, the fact that both my parents survived extremely dark times in their lives and managed to survive and raise a family means more to me than a few bad apples on my family tree. 

I come from amazingly resilient people.  Some of them crossed the Atlantic during the great German immigration, where voyages lasted months and sickness and death abounded.  They held onto their goal through everything to set foot on American soil. 

This knowledge has taught me I have the power to remain steadfast in my goals and to never to give up when life gets hard.

Digital Book Pages ~~ Because I'm writing my family history using photos in book form, I find it's easier to go digital.  I still love scrapbooking with my cardstock and paper elements and seeing my albums stand proudly on bookshelves, but for this current project which I will have bound and published, digital is the way.

I've used a variety of software for this purpose, from free to expensive, and I may have finally settled on the one that fits my bill:  ACDsee Photo Editor

I also have PhotoShop Elements on my husband's desktop computer, and I have  Picasa 3, Google's photo organizing and editing program, a free download, on my hardworking laptop. 

I posted recently a link to a Picasa Scrapbooking tutorial I came across, written by a talented girl on her Clover Lane blog.  Picasa uses photo collages for scrapbook pages, and you can also see at Clover Lane how to create your own blog banner.  The only drawback to Picasa is the inability to properly use elements with the png file extension, which most other software uses, along with some jpg files.  Picasa does use jpg formats.

Creative Memories has a super easy software program for both organizing and editing as well as their Storybook Maker package.  On their site, click "digital scrapbooking."  I used both these programs for several years.  The Storybook Maker recognizes all digital files that PhotoShop uses.

While PhotoShop is at the top of the list, and I'm sure the best selling digital program in this niche, something just clicked with me when I tried my free trial of ACDsee.  The best of both worlds are wrapped in this tidy package for me--ease of use as with Creative Memories and the sophistication of PhotoShop.  All at a reasonal price. 

Free digital and downloadable scrapbook templates, background papers and elements are available on the web.  One of my favorites is Cottage Arts; I like the grunge-shabby chic look, and they also have some beautiful heritage packages for sale.  You can start with some free products and move up as you go.

Here's a good post by Tammy Murks on Free Digital Scrapbooking Templates that will give you more sites to try.

Digital Ancestry Add-Ons: 

This family tree is a free downloadable PDF from About.com_Genealogy, and can be filled in and printed or inserted into your digi book.

Below is also a "pedigree chart" which you can only print out and fill in by hand.  It's not too hard to create one of these yourself on your word processor and copy as a page in your book. 

Ancestry.com provides a number of forms for you to use in this regard. 

About LifeWriting: When creating your layouts, whether digital or physical, aim for enough space on your page for writing. It's the stories that will live on forever. The stories your family will cherish.

As with genealogy and family trees, start with yourself and work backwards.  Do this with your scrapbook writing too.  Start with your present life, who you are, who you've become, your day-to-day life, what you value, the things that drive you, the places you visit, and on and on.  Give a good picture of yourself.

Then, genealogical style, introduce your father, or significant male perhaps.  Your mother, your siblings if any.  Then work backwards to grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins.

See how far back you can go.  You don't have to have pictures for everyone.  Paint a word picture if you have any stories passed down to you.  Make this a family project, involving your children if they're old enough, or your parents, your siblings.  Creating the history itself is an awesome family memory!
 We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies. ~Shirley Abbott


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