Are you now up to over 300 individuals in your family tree? Over 3,000? It is amazing how quickly your family tree grows as you dig for treasure about grandparents and their grandparents! Hopefully you will have remembered to add the source details to support all the information you have added to individual ancestors. This will help you explain to other relatives why you have written one Grandmother’s name as Eleanor even though she was always known as Ellie and her children thought her real name was Ellen! There are many such small issues that you will find as you look at original documents about your ancestors. And you will certainly find weird and wonderful spelling in the pre-1850 era! Keep copies of the original documents you find, and attach the document copies to each individual it relates to. That way, other relatives can see the same information you did, plus get excited about neighbors, or the value of their real estate, or exclaim about how many horses they had on their farms, and so on.

But the most wonderful additions you can make to your tree are VISUAL: photographs, maps, newspaper clippings, and more. As a beginner, you can contact as many of your relatives as possible in order to search through their photograph albums, boxes of slides and videos, etc. Perhaps your parents have their grandparents’ ship arrival information, or their parents passports or birth certificates. Perhaps one aunt kept funeral cards of all relatives – wow, what a treasure those would be. They often had details of the person’s life, including travel, association with organizations, education, and more. Adding all those boxes of information to your tree may look like a daunting task. However, you can break the task down into manageable chunks… like the old adage of how can you eat an elephant (one bite at a time).

This is where you need to be amazingly organized: Keep a Master List of all photographs, documents, cards, slides, and more. You may find it easiest to keep the master list organized by “who” owns the data so that you can add the detailed information into your tree, copy the photographs and slides, photograph or scan the documents, then finally give them all back to the owner. One person at a time, one document at a time.

Perhaps this month, you are going to copy those 38 photographs of your grandparents and their homes, relatives, cars, children, and more. Next month, you will scan the birth certificates and passports. Another month, you will photograph momentoes particularly if the item has engraving (do a close-up if possible). This summer you will add photos of gravestones and maps. And – always carefully and safely label each and every item: full name of the individuals in the photograph, place, date, and other details. Keep photos carefully in acid-free envelopes which are labeled by the owner’s name, so you can hand them back in the same shape you received them.

Almost all family tree software programs have ways of allowing you to add your photographs and copies of documents to individuals in the tree. Open up a Sample family tree and experiment with how to add a photo to Uncle Joe, or a scan of a map of a county that your Great Grandparents Kuhn lived in, showing their farm and nearby towns. With a little courageous trial and error, you should find it quite easy. If you keep having difficulties with adding images, call up the Support line and ask them to walk you through the process until you are successful. Adding visual items to your family tree will make your tree so much more exciting to relatives including your grandchildren.

Here are a few ideas of what could be added – try to limit yourself to a few key items:

– photos (and photos of slides) of family members at work, at play, at home, at celebrations

– photographs of baby books, baby gifts, bronzed baby shoes

– newspaper records of births, engagements, marriages

– newspaper articles of their 60th wedding anniversary celebration

– newspaper social articles

– newspaper obituaries, funeral cards

– photos of gravestones, with cemetery maps

– organization symbols: e.g., Masonic Lodge symbol and specific Lodge information

– military attestation records, or draft registration records

– military service in detail, any particular medals or battles

– if one particular piece of music is/was the #1 favourite, then a photo of that music (try online)

– school records, photograph of photo in year album, graduation photographs, prom photographs

– scans of registration certificates for birth, marriage, divorce, death

– scan of passports, of plane or boat passenger lists/tickets

– scan of naturalization documents

These are just a few ideas of visual additions to your family tree. The basics would likely be one or more personal photos of each individual at different stages of life, special events photographs (marriage, new baby), plus obituaries, gravestone. Keep yourself organized and tackle the visual additions in small chunks, and you will be amazed at how much you can achieve in a year. Enjoy your genealogy hobby.

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