Family photo albums part of history

By Helena Rodriquez

I didn’t realize how unorganized I was when it comes to documenting my family history until I began doing a scrapbook of my trip last summer to Mexico and started organizing my photo albums.

Now granted I’m not a big genealogy buff, although there’s nothing wrong with that, I just don’t have the time. Besides, there’s this little paper called a thesis I have to get written so I can graduate with my master’s degree in May.

I just wanted to do this one scrapbook of my adventures in the Yucatan Peninsula and wanted to also make sure my family photos were properly labeled and dated for future generations.

I quickly realized, however, that I had fallen years behind on this task and now it’s a chore that will take me weeks to complete. It’s important though. You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget in just a year or two when events happened and who is in photos. So as I started organizing my family photo albums, I thought of the words of TV comedian George Lopez who I tend to quote a lot. Lopez says, “We Hispanics take a lot of photos; we just never develop the film.”

It’s important to not only develop that film, but label your photos and protect them. They’re a part of your family history and your heritage. Many children today don’t know enough about their own family histories beyond two or three generations.

These projects began when I wrote a story a few weeks ago about women who do scrapbooking. I decided to do a scrapbook of my adventures in Mexico last summer, which included taking part in a Spanish immersion program through Eastern New Mexico University and a Hurricane Emily scare.

I didn’t think it would be that big of a chore; afterall, I wasn’t planning anything fancy. Next thing I knew, however, I was purchasing all kinds of scrapbook paraphernalia at Wal-Mart and spending late nights designing colorful layout spreads and detailing experiences I didn’t want to forget. A one-day project turned into a week-long obsession. And just when I thought I had the perfect vacation scrapbook, I decided to go to my friend Marsha Salazar’s house to see if she had any shots from Mexico that I didn’t get.

It turns out Marsha had taken advantage of some great photo opportunities that I didn’t. She was thinking more like a photojournalist while I was thinking more in terms of a newspaper columnist. Marsha had pictures of the Mayan Village we went to, a shot of the house we stayed in and other great photos. So I went back to Wal-Mart to make copies of the photos and buy more pages to insert in my scrapbook.

When I was done, I was pleased with the outcome and moved on to my family photo albums, which I thought would be a simpler task. But as I discovered, I had chaos going on in these photo albums, some of which were yellowing, falling apart and were an unorganized smorgasbord of randomly scattered photos.

I purchased new photo albums and started organizing the photos and making computer labels to make note of the occasions and dates. The efforts will be appreciated in years to come as they help us remember the dates of important family events.

I also came across wedding photos from some of my sisters who are divorced now but I opted to keep these in the photo album because they are a part of our family history as well and I think their children will appreciate them someday.

More importantly, these photo albums can be shared with others. They are a good way to share our lives with our children and they provide for great walks down memory lane.