Family history photos

Many comments on this topic were similar to those mentioned in our post on organizing your research and documents.

DariuszSankowski / Pixabay

How do you currently store your family photos (traditional and digital)? Have you started sorting, organising and digitising them?

Save your photos as TIF files, not JPG. JPG is lossy, which means we do not get back the same quality we put in. There are more losses every time it is saved as JPG. TIF files are not lossy and much higher quality images.

I tried to do some TIFF scanning but it was so awkward with our scanner/software combo. JPG is more useful.

Check with your local library if you don’t have your own scanner. Many have good photocopier/scanners that you can use to scan photos and save to a memory stick or email to yourself.

Been sorting/ digitizing #photos for years! Identifying them is the challenge! Originals (not scanned) are in archival boxes, while scanned ones go to interested family. Scans, IF known, are in digital folders & cited in research notes! Liam

older family ones I’ve scanned & identified where possible. My own photos I’ve gone back & written names, dates and places on the back.

Someone contacted me on FB recently as she had a photo with my name on it – taken waaaay back in my late teens, with a group of mutual friends. Was fab to see,

I went thru my own photos from school/college & was ruthless. If I didn’t remember the people in it, I threw it out, unless it was a good pic of me! I’m very unphotogenic, so anything half-decent must be kept!

It was mad, I barely recognised myself! It was the top I was wearing that I remembered

I found some old pics in mum’s stuff recently, scanned and sent to the children I grew up with. They were thrilled as they didn’t have a family camera. Fun!

We’ve scanned my grandmother’s photo album – she has captioned them all, and include wedding photos of friends. Would be lovely to share them with their family.

Our Buchanan family was from Airdrie, but I think they left from Glasgow #ANZAncestryTime The album is so beautiful and I guess the family kept it safe to remember the relatives that they never saw again #Keepsakes

I have had such problems with the new(er) Photos – so irritating to use. The earlier version iPhoto was better. I found a whole heap of “lost” photos that hadn’t migrated from one to the other – was distraught thinking they had disappeared somehow.

I’m thinking of taking my photos from the Apple photos software. They hide them away so I find it easiest to copy any I want to use in blog posts or other applications. Then I have a mess of duplicates. For work I just file in Finder as it is easier.

Maggie, know what you mean. I preferred iPhoto as well. I had some trouble migrating that I add my back up to photos. Then some reappeared. Now I have to open each one and check for the most metadata and delete one. If you find an alternative, pass it on. Thanks.

I bought a FlipPal years ago but very rarely use it.

What can I say about my photos – NO! Physical photos stuck in albums and digital ones lumped in my computer. I do back up. I have scanned my Father in Law’s photo album and selected many for a photo book for his children. They loved it.

I love using photobooks both for family and events but also family history. Who knows what will survive.

We do Christmas photoletters (like a comic strip format) and these are wonderful to look back on. I think the photobooks would be the same – and more likely to survive, hopefully.

Try to use a common naming pattern when saving digitally but otherwise they are in a box labelled Family Photos

I am trying to label every photo and document consistently. For example, Surname_firstname_event/place_year. Any other examples?

I use surname first name year then event as it keeps photos in timeline order for that person

My method too or almost :)) Surname_first nameYear_event_place if known. For group photos add the names descriptions in metadata or use a simple program like Paint to add white canvas to picture and put all the information there

Have some in Flickr albums flickr.com/gp/crg_flickr/… some in shared Google photo albums depending on where families lurk.

I’m saving some in offline programs like Google Photos…in case. I have a Flickr account but don’t use it anymore.

I have finally transferred almost all of my iphone photos to my computer. I have started using the Forever storage that I paid for at Rootstech a while ago but it takes time! That’s the plan

Well I do wonder why I’m bothering as there is nobody coming after me to take them on. Might just be better off to put them up on Flickr. Haven’t decided what to do yet

FastStone Image Viewer. Before that Picasa, which was very good and easy to caption

I started archiving our digital photos years ago. Have left a set of DVD data discs at my parents house as a backup. Whenever I visit family I’ll scan whatever I can get my hands on. Physical photo archiving still to do. File/folder naming important.

Did anyone else fall into the trap of buying tow of each copy when you had photos developed? Meaning to send them to relatives and then never doing it? I have way too many photos. It seems a daunting task

Purchased some archival folders and sleeves from @GouldGenealogy and as I digitised wrote on back in pencil, and added the photos – 2 albums for my side of family, 1 for husband’s side, photos with metadata in surname folders

My father has all our family photos and every now and then he scans some and sends to me. Especially if they relate to a blog post. He is super organized with hundreds of photo files on his computer

One thing I do as I’m scanning is write the names on each photo but anything I scan I write an S on it so I know it’s been scanned

everywhere – albums, my computer, my phone, Google photos – no organisation whatsoever

My family photos need some sorting. So many in old albums and dare I say shoe boxes!

I have mine backed up on an external hard drive, on Forever (well they are getting there) and on USB’s

Organised, moi? I think not. No, I save them in folders by event (travel), or family name and within that by generation. I do have way too many photos of my own. like Sharn I’m a shutterbug.

Clker-Free-Vector-Images / Pixabay

I have my mother’s photos – years ago I got her to get all negatives printed & photos into photo albums with labels – I’ve started scanning some of them & use them on my family history blogs – but still long way to finish scanning – I keep getting sidetracked

I haven’t had a play with Adobe Bridge yet (I’m on a Windows laptop). I’m curious about what else is out there. I was thinking of re-importing pic files from 1 drive to another because the photo import apps have some bulk naming capabilities.

I have many albums of my own family photos and boxes of loose ones. I think I overdid it when photographing my children, holidays etc. I probably need to get rid of some

I find digital images are the hardest to control. They proliferate and it’s too easy to ignore managing them. When I do them I categorise the same ways I do with traditional pics.

They are saved in surname files eg maiden name till married then under married name for women

I have them saved on flickr as well as on home computer and many in Google photos but they are harder to add to blog posts.

I have scanned the old albums and they are on my computer. The originals are in my safe. I will give them to my nephew. I have suggested he should install a larger safe (as he has inherited from several people) in his renovations. Then he will get mine.

I’m afraid the trad photos are in boxes & old albums. Digital photos are roughly grouped into family lines. I give myself a C, definite room for improvement.

Digitally – I save them in specific family folders on my hard drive and backed up on my portable hard drive.

Traditional photos have been in albums but as I scan them I’m storing them separately and dividing into people and places. My favourite slides have been digitised, stored and backed up.

My family photos are a project to do still. I have digitised Many of my old ones but not my own family photos. Some are uploaded to Forever but I have boxes and boxes of photos that need attending to.

While on Covid leave for 12 months I digitised all photos. But that’s all I’ve done.

It’s one of the next jobs on my list, but so far I haven’t started 🙂

fotshot / Pixabay

Do you have a plan or any tips for organising and preserving family photos into the future?

Hoping that many unknown #photographs can be identified, then grouped within the family units.  @Photomyne has proven very helpful copying pictures trapped in (too many!) glue-striped, cling film albums that were popular in the 70s-80s

I recently got sent some photos from mum’s oldest friend’s family. Even included a photo of my parents’ house when first built. Best of all, they all have info on the back incl my baby photos.

Excellent, one of my sisters friends had a photo of her mother as a nurse holding me at a few days old outside the hospital where I was born.

The main thing I do to ensure my photos survive is put them into blog posts. My blog is archived so I’m hoping somebody comes across them in future years.

Photos from our trips (remember those 😒) go into photo books from Snapfish. Otherwise they just get forgotten about on a hard drive somewhere. #ANZAncestryTime Could do something similar for the family history photos.

I also organise all my digital photos (travel – family) in folders by date & event – I transfer photos from my Android phone to these folders. I also keep camera sd cards. I accidentally deleted some pics from my hard drive but found them on sd card

i inherited a bundle of photos of Perth, taken by my grandfather in the 1950s. I got in touch with the WA State Library & they said they’d be interested in taking them. As you say Pauleen, they do reveal many changes.

I use as many old family photos as I can to illustrate blog posts. And I make photo books. That way they are hopefully preserved for some time to come

My files on my computer of digital photos are organised. It is the boxes of photos that need sorting and scanning that is my problem

I do plan to sort first & actually discard some old photos. Scan. Then put them in archival albums. I have so many of my grandmothers’ photos.

A great tip I got at a writing seminar (for research docs, but works just as well for photos) is to put words in the file name that you would search for & let the computer’s search engine do the rest. So if its a group photo put many names in, etc.

I want to recaption my family photos – these date back to the 19th century. My own digital photos from 2005 have yet to be gone through to see which should be kept. Then I have the many boxes of slides from the 1960s to 1990s to scan plus the colour negatives

My parents and I had lots of old family photos scanned professionally, which has been fantastic, so they’re preserved in case anything happens to the originals. Plus easier to share with wider family. Haven’t got to the organising part, though.

A key preservation strategy is to share photos with others, especially heritage photos, present them in an appealing way, and keep backup copies off site where possible.

My fear is that in the coming decades we will lose a lot of history from our digital photos. I used photobooks for particular activities but that’s ironic -preserving digital in traditional ways.

Hoping that this #tweetchat will inspire me to get organised. Just realised the images on my computer are in an even bigger mess as I started filing them a while back so need to figure out where I am presently, create measurable goals, etc.

congerdesign / Pixabay

Share where you have found the best advice about organising, storing and preserving family photos ie books, conferences, courses, websites


The photography studio will at least you give you a place to start from and date range when they were in business. Perhaps then post on local area history site/society?

Perhaps back in Scotland where they originated – family history groups or facebook groups, or maybe they were families who came out together to Australia, so check where they settled here

Do you have access to the records of people leaving from Glasgow? If you can search for Buchanan and see if any families come close to the ages or age differences of the people in the photos…. Good luck!!


Contact Sunshine Coast Libraries they probably would digitise them, Noosa has done that for folks up here, borrowed old photos from locals and added them heritage.noosa.qld.gov.au anyone can login and add

Yes they have a promotional collection online that they gave us access to for the Waves in Time conference so they will probably be happy to add to the collection. Also I have heard they are working on an archive/

My best advice has always come from attending RootsTech. Though I have been tempted to employ The Filing Fairy who I met after speaking at the Botany bay FHS

About 10-15 years ago I came across a book Keeping Found Things Found – booktopia.com.au/keeping-found-… – it really helped my organise my files professionally and then my family history

somewhat off-topic. So you preserve your images in archival quality storage as recommended by the experts? I confess I don’t though I do have some stored safely apart from that

The best advice for scanning and saving photos is invest in a good scanner. The scanner in your printer is likely to be not as clear as a dedicated scanner. I like Epson scanners. Save photos across multiple devices and mediums..

I am a bower bird when it comes to collecting ideas about this….no one site. Sometimes tips from other genies can be as helpful as other experts’.

OpenClipart-Vectors / Pixabay

Suggest tips for maintaining family photos, ensuring image types remain current and preparing for disasters both digital and natural.

I started to write a blog post about my plans to preserve & digitise, but so many others have done that already. Q. What do you do with photos of friend’s weddings? A. Friends, keep an eye on your mailbox.

A great way to slim down your photo collection and give photos to those who would cherish them and pass them down in their own family!

For photos that are not my immediate family, I have sent them to cousins and friends of the family who I feel would treasure them more.

Regular backups: thumb drives, external drive, share originals (after scanning) to ensure an off-site copy. Upload to your website/blog: “Gramma took these vacation pictures; do you recognize any bunny?” Liam

I wonder how many of us have a disaster plan for our photographic archives? Bushfires, cyclones, storms, floods are real risks. When I lived in Darwin I was much more attentive to this.

It’s a good question. Grabbing the NAS hard drive is in our Bush Fire Survival Plan. It has everything backed up to it. Our most precious albums go into plastic crates during bush fire season.

Good strategies Greg. At least with cyclones there’s usually more notice and we kept plastic tubs for that purpose too.

I will give FOREVER another plug. For a one off payment I have a personal and business account. It’s just time I am short of!

I must tell you my family photos disaster: Egged on by my uber-organised-scrapbooker-sister I made an album of my first-born’s baby photos. Was quite proud of myself. I left it on the floor & the cat peed on it 😳

Scanning will save the information. I back up and store one PHD in the safe. I put photos on my WikiTree profiles. I had to add new photo corners to the oldest album and rethread the pages to hold them in place

Another of the great challenges for the future which is another reason I like including images in photobooks or blog posts. With thousands of images how do you ensure you keep the standards current let alone your inheritors.

Not really as I don’t have a huge lot of photos. House fire! Also digitised all paperwork. Was a relief to get it done

I don’t have many from my life growing up Jennifer. I lost them in the 1974 Brisbane floods, My mother lost hers in a house fire.  For years I have had a selection of photos packed and ready to evacuate which we had to do several times for bushfires. I still have those boxes ready.

We have an emergency ‘run’ box too. Haven’t had to use it yet. But we are surrounded by heavy bush so it will happen one day. There was no warning for our house fire so even if we’d had it then it wouldn’t have been taken

My dad has been really good at getting copies of photos from cousins, or borrowing them and scanning. I’ve been lucky!

I wonder how many of us have a disaster plan for our photographic archives? Bushfires, cyclones, storms, floods are real risks. When I lived in Darwin I was much more attentive to this.

Our oldest photos

My great grandparents in Melbourne. Before June 1868 as that is when she died. The first in my grandmother’s album which went from Victoria to New Zealand. Most not named or dated, such a shame. #ANZAncestryTime

Brooke gave lots of posts to help with looking after photos

Tame your photo collection

Digitizing your family collection

Organize family photos

Blog posts relating to photos

Marian: Those duplicates,

Carmel: Adding Flickr photos to Trove,

Brooke: Who is in the wedding photo?

Sue: Photo essay, using images,

Readers: How do you look after your family history photos?

Advice for beginners

Another great #ANZAncestryTime twitterchat. Hope these tips and mistakes not to make help you in your journey as family historians.

Tips for starting your family history journey

Free-Photos / Pixabay

The most common tips were:

  • Start with yourself and work back one generation at a time.
  • Get proof for every fact by having documents, certificates, newspaper reports etc
  • Talk to the older members of your family including cousins – record these stories if possible with their permission; photos and newspapers are good prompts
  • Keep records using charts, notebooks, digital files, folders – whichever suits you best
  • Buy certificates if possible – check all information on these including witnesses; in New Zealand get printouts rather than certificates
  • Don’t believe everything that you see online without seeing the proof
  • Keep a note of where you searched (research log), and what you found (or didn’t).
  • Cite your sources so you find information again
  • For beginners listen to this brilliant podcast (see link at end of post)  it talks you through every single step in a logical sequence brilliant for beginners @AFHpodcast
  • There is not just one way to do family history research. We need to be able to adapt to the circumstances when necessary for better results.
  • BACK UP your research. You don’t want to lose all those hours of work!
  • Surround yourself with support by joining a local family history society
  • Do a workshop or course in the how.
  • Look for a list of questions to use when asking your elders about ancestors. eg
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How and where to record the information you find

Thinking about slow cooking, slow family history might be a thing. Many variations of way to record your family history being listed. Use the method that makes it easy for you such as paper, charts, or digital with software.

When I volunteer with people at the library, we start with pedigree chart, family group sheets then if they want to connect to others especially DNA, then online tree with ancestry

Can I be an alternate voice? I loathe being straight jacketed by those forms, even back in my earliest days decades ago. I probably kept the same info but in my own way.

Try a few genealogy software programs and pick one you like, where you record everything you find. Also, think about a digital filing system for your computer. I started out mostly using A5 notebooks, and I still use them, but am waaaay behind in transferring info

I decided to put all my digital stuff in one folder with useful file names. Searching for things on the mac has always been easy (according to me) and I only need one copy in one place. Not multiple versions for different people. (Make sense?)

I’d recommend a software program or spreadsheet at first to get started

A few people have suggested spreadsheets & I’m curious to know how you use them

I’ve used them for shipping data, census details, timelines and a checklist for possible sources and if I’ve checked them. Do as I say not as I always do 😉

I use them for my DNA matches adding them from every source where I have it. Add info on whether has tree, what likely family, & if added to my tree & the relationship. I download DNA data from some sites.

Spreadsheets for timeline of a persons life, or for downloading a range of search results for analysis and sorting or for keeping track of certificates bought, or #genealogy expenditure just a few for starters

One way I use them is for NZ electoral rolls, for example. I have all the names down the left and dates of electoral roll across the top. Black out cells when people to young to vote, migrated or dead. Then mark of in each cell when found with a ref. FH software.

I do this for UK census records – note the ages down for each census I’ve found them in, group with family, mark off years before born and after died, so I know who I’ve found in each census (and who I haven’t). Interesting to contrast ages across decades too!

I have columns for DOB,DOM, DOD, Where Living, Where died, Occupation. IF you’re clever, and I’m not you can have the spreadsheet do the calcuations of age etc and codes to cross ref

Export the names and info from your family tree software. It is so much easier to see the gaps with a spread sheet. Have another one with UK census info. It is easy to see families together and then when person moves.

Use 1. pedigree charts 2. family tree charts 3. research logs so you know what sources you have already consulted and when, this very much helps avoiding unnecessary repetition

I would suggest an online tree either public or subscription based plus family tree software for recording your tree. A research log for information and sources

Assuming you have a computer try various software programs or start a blog

Write it down and store it somewhere safe. I would say type it up too but PLEASE back it up.

Invest in the best family tree software you can afford e.g. if you think you might want to publish a book down the track, look for software that will help you do that. Also record on paper using standardised templates available for free on Ancestry. Back up!

Always & Everywhere. Go mobile – start with audio recording & scanning apps & build up to local family tree software alongside online platforms with confidence & affordability + keep a notebook or journal whether paper or online to record progress

join a free website such as @WikiTreers where you can keep living family private but connect to deceased ancestors

I started with a dedicated notebook, still precious to me, moved to a timeline format in Word, supplemented by narrative format in Word

depends on how comfortable one is with computers. Pen and paper initially is good start to see what info you have. Talk to other family historians before using genealogy software. Spreadsheets can a good way to record too.

Craig_Steffan / Pixabay

Mistakes to avoid when starting out

Remember no family is perfect. We all have black sheep ancestors and skeletons on the closet. Don’t ever assume all your discoveries will be happy.

Ensure you record all the details and look at first few pages and last pages of a book and for margin notes or errata message

And I use their bibliography for future reference.

Never assume family stories are correct, or that you are getting the full story. Details change, recollections alter over time and sometimes people muddy the truth for a variety of reasons

Don’t think that everything is online. Visit libraries, archives, societies

I have found that libraries in larger towns can have resources for other places. I used to spend time in the @Library_Vic doing NZ research. So pays to check in larger places.

When I lived in Darwin I would keep a running file for future research in QLd archives and libraries, then hit them hard when visiting. Did better then than I manage now.

Do not copy other people’s online trees or information. Research and find the evidence yourself

Don’t dismiss anything as hearsay make a note and look for proof

Assuming everyone in your own family will be excited as you about any if it – you need to find your people (we are your people)

The biggest mistake I made was not writing down where I found something for everything I found. Even acknowledging who told you is important. When you want to check it later it cannot.

1. Not accessing an original document when possible (#Digital or #Paper ) & just relying on #index entries helpful though they are. 2. Basing my own research on the research of others without verifying 2. Not citing/recording sources

when I started I recorded everything in one notebook at a time. Advantage: in one place to find. Disadvantage: separating out the families’ data later on. You won’t believe how much info you’ll accumulate over time!

Beginners should be wary of ordering anything through a third party try to order directly from the official office

Don’t go blindly accepting Ancestry hints assuming they are all the same person

And if someone goes out of their way to tell you you have the “wrong ” person in your tree, do yourself a favor and investigate their data. Don’t just immediately blow them off.

Absolutely!!! In one of the cases there were 14 or something people with the wrong one. I didn’t have the mental capacity to tell them all. I will when I have a chance.

Yes. Most ancestors have hints for records in the US. Only one ancestor ever went to America and that was when he worked on ships, he never stayed there.

Accepting hints on Ancestry and discoveries & smart matches on MyHeritage – both are often wrong. Assuming that anyone else’s tree is correct without doing your own research

Assume everyone in the family is interested and want to know all details – they don’t. Don’t assume all online tree owners have done research thoroughly – many haven’t, just copied from others and don’t even show any proof.

Biggest mistake: believing anything you read or anything anyone tells you – go and investigate, find out as much of the truth yourself as you can. Next biggest mistake: not listening, not reading between the lines.

procrastination can lose you personal knowledge as the older generation passes away. I got fabulous info from some but didn’t get round to all my contacts.

Thinking I’ll write down that source later. Or not having a plan. Or thinking you know the answer and not considering other options. Not asking for help is probably a biggie. And of course….thinking that it’s all online. It most definitely is not.

Keep record of sources; prove other’s work online – don’t believe everything is correct; visit archives and towns if possible for museums etc

you won’t remember where you found everything as your research progresses. Record when and where you found info and the name of the source. This lets you and others find it again.

listen to what you’re told by family, read and record what you find BUT also look at it critically. Test the consistency of the data and between what you find. Some stories may be 100% true, some 1% and some 0%. Follow up what you discover in other records
Where to find help when getting started


1. your local & other Genealogy family history societies 2. archives libraries 3. community groups 4. religious political & fraternal organisations … go where the journey takes you 😀

Find a genealogy friend to buddy up with who can help with where to look. Check out Family Search’s wikis for learning, attend seminars, webinars, read books. HAVE FUN!!

1. Get help by joining a local family history society. 2. Purchase a beginners book. 3. Check out YouTube. 4. Legacy Family Tree Webinars @legacyfamily. 5. @RootsTechConf sessions. 6. Many societies have Zoom meetings. 7. Family History magazines.

The wiki from @FamilySearch will have answers to most questions including a section for beginners. familysearch.org/wiki/en/How_to…

For those in Australia there is help on starting your family history info at the @nlagovau website. nla.gov.au/getting-starte…

Family history societies and libraries are a fab resource to begin with for the area you are researching as they have knowledge of the streets and general history.

Facebook groups, twitter groups like #ANZAncestryTime , Library, YouTube and other online sources.

locate a family history society near you and join up. There’s lots of knowledge in the membership + learning opportunities,seminars etc. they will usually have access to the big pay-to-view genie sites

Also join, or visit, a family history society where your ancestors lived. They know the local history and will likely have indexed local records.

If you need more information and thinking of buying certificates in England or Wales see if available as pdf and only use gro.gov.uk/gro/content/ho…

if in Hobart on a Friday, book in a one hour session with me (Sue) at Rosny Library haha

Not everything is online! There’s still mountains of info undigitised in archives and libraries. Learn the skills you need to explore them and don’t be intimidated. Use discoveries from Trove as clues about where to look.

Join a family history group Look at free websites such as @FamilySearch which has a Wiki Join @WikiTreers and check out their pages Join Genealogy Facebook groups

Help is everywhere families, books, libraries, local societies, YouTube, webinars, Facebook, Twitter etc.etc.

The #NZSG have three video tutorials available on their website, very useful when you’re starting out: genealogy.org.nz/Getting-It-Rig…

I actually learnt quite a lots from @AFHpodcast Andy’s brilliant podcast, stuff that I’m sure I really should have known!

Blogging posts

Hilary – importance of documenting what you do and find

Paul – Top ten sins of a genealogist

Daniel – Double check those Ancestry hints

Alona – 27 do’s and do not’s when researching family history.

Amanda from Geni – 5 Things to Do to Get Started on Your Family Tree

Amateur family historian – podcast about beginning your journey

Readers: What tips would you give to people starting their family history journey?