Securing and Sharing
 Your Family Heritage

A Step-By-Step
Guide and Suggestions
Provided by Perry Sprawls
This is the second in our series of activities encouraging and helping families to develop and preserve and archive  records of their family heritage for future generations.  The urgency is if actions are not take now much of a families' history and heritage will be lost forever.

 The first activity discussed earlier was to encourage families to get the different generations together and begin discussions about the family. especially the older generations, and gathering stories and notes that should be preserved.  An important part of a Family Heritage is represented by photographs.  They are the most valuable items for preserving a family's  history and heritage because they show many things about a person's life and relationships.  

They are records of not only physical appearance but also family relationships, events and activities, living conditions, interests, and transitions throughout life.  For years, “taking pictures” has been a family activity, especially associated with special events including holidays, birthdays, school, leisure activities, and especially at family gatherings and reunions.  Most families have been well photographed over several generations. 

Our activity now is not to make more photographs, but to find, select, identify, label, and digitize some of the existing photographs for preservation and passing on to future generations. The several methods for sharing and passing on to other generations will be considered in the following activities.  An overview of our activity for now is shown here.


Each generation  has a major role in the preservation of family heritages, especially with the photographs.

  • The senior generations are the ones who can provide many of the photographs and identify individuals and provide information for the labels and legends. They can select the ones that are most significant for "telling the family stories".
  • The younger generations are the technology experts, with computers, i-phones, etc.  They are the ones who will take the family heritage into the future.   
Let's Get Started by Looking Under the Bed!
..and wherever the family photos might be put away

This is a good time to get the family together to search and sort through the collection of pictures, especially those of more senior and deceased generations. In addition to family photograph collections this should include those published in school yearbooks, newspapers, and by various organizations including churches. 
While many of us want to keep and preserve all of the old family pictures, that is not our project for now

It is to select some, let's say about 5-10 at the most, for each individual or family group, in which all can be identified and related information (dates, places, events, etc.) can be added.   

Photographs not identified and dated are considered worthless  for the preservation of a family heritage.

Now that some photographs have been selected and identified it is time to add labels or legions that will be displayed along with the pictures. The example on the right is a photo published in the 1953 Barnwell, SC newspaper including my father, Perry Sprawls, Sr.  It is in his online biography as an element in the preservation of our family heritage.

There are several methods for adding legends to digitized photographs. It depends on what technology is available and being used.

If a computer is being used with basic image processing software the legends can be typed in and added as part of the image digitizing or editing process discussed below.  This in my preferred method.

If the photos are being digitized with a camera, including a phone camera, and additional imaging processing is not available, legends can be written on paper and digitized along with the photographs.

 The younger generations will know how!

Digital Photographs, the Present and the Future

We all have experienced the evolution and transition in photography from using cameras with film and getting prints to digital photos now made with our phones as shown at the right.
There are many advantages in having photographs in a digital form. These include the ability to easily send and share photos with friends and family, preserve in secure files, and especially publish on the internet and world-wide web (WWW) as elements for the preservation of our Family Heritage...that is what we will be doing!

Most photographs made in recent years are digital and  ready to be included in activities to share and preserve our Family Heritage.  

Our project now is to recover, select, and digitize some of the printed family photographs
before they are lost forever.
Digitizing Old Family Pictures
Digitizing is the process of converting a printed photograph into an electronic digital form similar to those made with modern cameras and i-phones. There are two major choices for doing this.  There are many commercial organizations or shops that will do it for a price.  The other is "do it yourself" within the family.  That is what we suggest.  Today within most families, especially with the younger generations, there is the ability to digitize old photographs using one of the methods described below. 
Flatbed Scanners
A so-called flatbed scanner connected to a personal computer (PC) is a preferred method. Images can be cropped to selected areas in the scanning process.  Typically the computer software can be used to add legends to the photos.

There is usually someone within each family that has this capability.
Digitizing with Phone Cameras and iPads

The great advantage of using phone cameras is that most members of a family have one.  Digitizing a printed picture is just by making a photograph of it with the phone.  This can also be dome with ipads.

The major challenge is holding and positioning the camera to photograph the desired area of the picture without shadows and reflections from other objects.  That comes with practice and patience.
The digitized pictures can then be uploaded or transferred to PCs or ipads for adding legends and posting into family heritage archives as we will do later.
Digitizing Slides or Negatives

For many years making photographs as slides was popular, especially when  they could be shown with projectors for groups to view.  There is the possibility that some valuable family pictures that are to be used in the preservation of your heritage are slides. 

There are several methods for digitizing slides, including commercial services, using flatbed scanners with the special adapters, or dedicated slide scanners that can be expensive.

The method I prefer, and especially for use by families, is shown here.  It is a very simple and inexpensive device by Kodak.  It is a holder for a phone camera that contains a built in light to illuminate the slides or negatives.

The quality of the digitized images depends on the capabilities of the phone camera. Most modern phone cameras produce good high-quality digitized images which makes this a practical method for families to "do it yourself". 


Our Objective and Results
Our objective for this step in preserving our Family Heritage is to search for and collect family pictures,  select some that are significant in telling the family stories, add legends (names, dates, etc.) and digitize. An example that I prepared going through this process  for my family is shown below.

The next step (#3) will be moving these images into a permanent archive

 for the preservation and sharing of our individual Family Heritages.