Thursday, May 31, 2007

5 Reasons Why Every Genealogist Should Own Photoshop Elements

Why should a genealogist own PSE, aka Elements? What's so special about it?

Adobe Photoshop Elements, once thought of as the baby brother to Adobe Photoshop, is ideally suited for the genealogy hobbiest. Like it's big brother, PSE originally started out as a photo editing program. But from the start it was targeted for the home-hobby user as opposed to photography professionals. Now on version 5.0, PSE has continued to add features for photo editing but has also developed features for digital scrapbooking and creating slide shows and videos as well. You can do many things in PSE with one click that would take you several steps in Photoshop. If you're like me, looking for good results but always pressed for time, you'll appreciate that! And there's more...

Here's 5 reasons why I think every genealogist should own Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0 :

  1. Photo retouching/editing of family photos and documents. PSE makes photo retouching easy. Let's face it, genealogists accumulate lots of family photos... not all of them in pristine condition. Spots, tears, creases, and fading are all common maladies that PSE has easy-to-use tools to deal with. Could there be a clue you're missing in a faded photograph?

  2. Digital scrapbooking for creating family albums. PSE comes with scrapbook backgrounds, elements, photo frames, and even templates for easily creating scrapbook pages for your family album. What? You don't know why you'd want to create a scrapbook? A future post on that subject will be coming soon, but trust me, you want to do this.

  3. Organizing your photos and documents. PSE comes with a media organizer that is based on tagging your photos or documents with keywords, so finding them is easy. Genealogists not only accumulate family photos of numerous people from different periods of time but then there's all those related vital records and ephemera (.pdf, sound files, videos, and photos). How about this... type in one name and pull up every photo, photo document, and scan document for that person regardless of what file folder they are in on your hard drive. Have I got your attention yet?

  4. Ease of use. PSE is easier to use than Photoshop, but still more robust than say Picasa (another great program I wouldn't be without). There are a variety of tutorials, after-market books, and even podcasts available to give you lots of tips and tricks to minimize the learning curve. (I'll be featuring a few of these here too.) Less time learning software means more time for genealogy research!

  5. Help is everywhere. PSE is designed and engineered by Adobe, the leader in the photo editing/retouching industry. Adobe has forums, blogs, and loads of help files so you can get your questions answered if you get stuck. Lots of add-ons too! Genealogists are used to having all the questions but not all the answers. In this case, you can get your questions answered... that will be a novel experience, eh?
I've used Photoshop for 10+ years (took 3 college level, for-credit classes in it). It's a great program, very "rich" (read that complicated). PSE doesn't do everything Photoshop does but it does do somethings Photoshop doesn't do. Handy things. It's much more efficient to use if you don't need all the whistles and bells... and unless you're a professional photographer you probably don't.

So that's my take on why genealogists should own PSE. What are your thoughts? Do you use it? If not, why not? If so, what features do you like best? Are you using it for digital scrapbooking?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Custom Family Reunion T-shirts

One of the best things about families and family histories is that each family is unique and each family's story is unique. At the same time, families have common bonds that they share like a common surname, DNA, residence, community, and ethnicity. Genealogists uncover a lot of information in the course of their research, so they become keenly aware of both the uniqueness and commonness on family trees. That puts them in a unique position to create some wonderful one-of-a-kind items for all their family members. But how can something be one-of-a-kind and available to all family members at the same time?

Welcome to the world of!

CP is a wonderful resource for the creative genealogist. It's so easy to create a simple but unique piece of artwork and have it printed on a wide variety of items. T-shirts and sweatshirts, baseball caps and tote bags, calendars, ornaments, and much more are made to order with your unique artwork on them. You can create one design unique to your family and at the same time share the design with other family members!

Summer is here and it's a popular time for family reunions. Why not make up something special just for your family members to wear to the reunion? All you have to do is create one design. Then if you open a CafePress shop (for free) your family members can go online and order whatever style and color of t-shirt they like with your design on it. It will be mailed directly to them and you don't have be bothered guessing how many of which sizes to order. You don't have to be bothered with packing and mailing either. CafePress does it all for you! You can even use it as a family fund raising opportunity to raise money to cover some of the reunion expenses, make a family donation to a charity, or put the money towards the publication of a family history. The possibilities are endless.

Stuck for some design ideas? Here's some:

  • Use a flag representing your ethnic heritage and write the family surname below it.

  • If you have a funny or charming old family photograph, use that with short quip like "Can you believe we're related?" or "Beauty runs in our family" and put the surname below that.

  • Make up a genealogy definition for your family (like a dictionary definition): Killian (kill-ee-ann) 1. A family with roots in Bukowina, Poland. 2. Descendants of Michael Killian (1803-1871). 3. One heck of a great family!
Summer goes by quickly so get busy! Create that art work and those unique family reunion t-shirts. Leave a comment and let me know what other design ideas you come up with!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

An Overview of Scrapbooking for Genealogy Hobbiests

People have been creating scrapbook pages as long as they've had access to paper and pen. Even before photographs were invented people would buy books with blank pages and fill them with ticket stubs, silhouettes, dried flowers, theater programs, newspaper clippings and such in an effort to record their life experiences. They were extremely popular in the Victorian Era. Once photographs became available they naturally included those too. Often they would write a bit of story about their experience or compose a poem. These days this is known as "journaling" in a scrapbook.

Marielen Christensen of Spanish Forks, Utah is credited with giving birth to the commercial scrapbook industry that has become so popular today. Back in 1976 she began designing creative pages for her family's photo collection. Then she inserted the pages into sheet protectors and put those in 3-ring binders and, Voila! From there an entire industry was born.

As soon as computers allowed people to assemble photos and text on a page and print it out, digital scrapbooking began. Affordable home scanners allowed people to scan in family photos and ephemera and put together their own memory pages. When software like Adobe Photoshop started offering multiple layers as a feature, it allowed those with the artistic skills and software knowledge to take digital scrapbooking to another level.

Several years ago the digital scrapbooking (DS) industry took off when designers starting creating "kits" including color coordinated background papers, templates, ephemera elements, and matching alphabet letters. Font designers created handwriting or hand-lettering type fonts to make journaling look more personal. Then some designers put on their thinking caps and created "quick pages" for those who like the look of scrapbook pages but don't have the time to create them. Quick pages are already assembled and all you have to do is add your photographs and some journaling and you're done.

Scrapbook pages, both digital and traditional, are usually either 12"x12" or 8"x10". Digital scrapbook pages at 12"x12" are sometimes a challenge to print at home since most home printers won't print 12 inches wide. But in the last few years some leading brands of printer manufacturers have brought to market versions that will print wider than standard pages. Canon, Epson and HP have capitalized on this market and now have entire sections of their web sites offering free downloadable scrapbook papers to help promote their larger scale printers.

Along with the development of home printers for printing scrapbook pages there has been a plethora of software developed for digital scrapbooking as well. Adobe Photoshop Elements is without a doubt the leader in the industry but there are other software programs that are available as well. iRemember, Scrapbook Factory Deluxe, Creating Keepsakes Scrapbook Designer, and Hallmark Scrapbook Studio to name a few. There is a very nice review of current digital scrapbooking software available, unfortunately they don't include Photoshop Elements. This is most likely because Photoshop Elements is really photo editing software that happens to also be extremely well designed for digital scrapbooking. It's a cut above the rest.

Most recently a couple of new sites have started offering digital scrapbooking as a web app. Lifehacker recently featured a post about is another site that's available for assembling online scrapbooks. These sites create finished online products as opposed to printed ones.

Digital scrapbooking has truly become an art form unto itself. It's not just about putting pages together in album form anymore. Now many retail craft stores offer 12"x12" frames for your finished scrapbook pages so you can display them gallery style at home. Now you can take that old stoic photo of Uncle Stanley and give it new life with with color backgrounds, a theme to match his hobby or work, and journaling to explain what a character he was. It gives his picture visual interest and adds a whole new dimension to your family history!

The digital scrapbook page shown above is one I put together using Jen Reed's, "Butterfly Kisses". It includes photos of my mother as a young child.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007


Welcome to the Creative Genealogy blog! If you're interested in taking your genealogy to the next level, come join me in exploring creative ways to share your family's history.

Genealogy research is entertaining, educational and rewarding. But if you've done it for any length of time you know it's also the result of a lot of hard work, frustration, and perseverance. Most researchers find a great deal of satisfaction from adding names to their family tree but many don't think much beyond basic document discovery when it comes to their genealogy research. But genealogy shouldn't end there, with just names and dates. There is even more satisfaction to be gained in sharing it with others!

Writing up one's family history in a fact-filled book with vintage photographs is the standard way to compile genealogy research. And that's a fine, traditional approach to telling one's family history. But let's face it, if you haven't been bitten by the genealogy bug you'll likely find the standard family history text a bit (or quite a bit ;-) dry and boring. But it doesn't have to be that way!

This blog will look at a myriad of creative ways you can share the fruits of your genealogy research with your friends and family. And I assure you these ways will be anything but dry and boring! I hope you'll become a regular visitor here at the Creative Genealogy Blog :-D For your convenience the RSS feed and mailing list sign up are available in the side column.

Come back soon!