How to get help from others with scrapbook journaling


School Days by Kitty Designs, PeaAngeDawn font

One of my (Katie’s) favorite ways to trick get someone to help me with scrapbook journaling is to ask them about a specific photograph. You could do this in person just in casual conversation, or while you are looking at photos together, but it’s difficult to remember everything they say. You could pull out a tape recorder (many smart phones have voice recorders), but that adds pressure to the situation and pretty much tips them off to what you are doing. Instead, I use one of my favorite journaling tools – email. Yes, it’s just as simple as sending an email message! Let me share a few emails I sent yesterday.


I attached this photo to an email and sent it with this message to my Mom. (she had no idea I was doing this for the purpose of this post)

Do you know how old I am here? Did you make my dress? Anything else you can think of about this photo, or this general time period?


She sent back a quick reply that gives me some helpful information, even if it isn’t overly detailed Sometimes all you need are a few specifics.

I think you were about 2-1/2 or 3. I did make the dress. I believe the photo was taken at a studio – probably Penney’s or Sears, and pretty sure it was in California.


Can you believe this next picture I dug up to send my Mom? Talk about vintage Mickey! And also vintage Katie! Open-mouthed smile I decided to ask about this trip to Disneyland that I barely remember.

I vaguely remember this trip. I’m pretty sure it was when I was in 2nd grade. I have no idea what time of year it was, where we stayed, or how long we were there. I do remember that we flew there because that was very unusual for us. I remember spending a lot of time thinking about how I wanted to use the tickets for Disneyland because that was back in the days when some rides were “E tickets” and so forth, but that’s all kind of fuzzy for me. What do you remember about this trip? Can you help me fill in any of the blanks?


Her reply:

I think it was probably 2nd grade. I have to think about this one. I think the trip may have been in conjunction with a business trip of Dad’s.

Of course I was hoping for all the details, but I’m actually glad she is going to take some time to think about this. Maybe she will even ask my Dad about this memory? It will also be fun for me to discuss with her and maybe we can piece together the mystery as a team. I would have never thought we took this trip as part of my Dad’s business travel because I just don’t remember that part of it. This took place about 34 years ago so it’s not surprising that we don’t remember much.


I decided to send a picture to my husband. I wasn’t sure how quickly he would respond since he had a busy day. He also had no idea what I was up to. I attached this photo to an email and wrote this message:

This is from the trip you took to Japan for business with Jeff ____. Do you know what these signs are about? What part of Japan was this? Does this photo bring up any other thoughts or memories about your trip, or the time you have spent in Japan?

Japan street

I was very interested to read his reply since I had no clue what this picture was about, or why he even took it. He said:

This is likely in Shibuya Japan. Close to Tokyo. We were pulling our luggage through this very busy part of town and there was a festival or something going on. It was crazy. There we were, two Americans in the heart of Japan, pulling very large luggage through the middle of a festival-like atmosphere. It was crazy. I tried to get some photos on the move.


I decided to send one more to my husband since he was in the answering mood. I try to only send 1 or 2 of these types of emails at a time so I don’t overwhelm the recipient. I looked through my files and found a picture of him on a fishing trip. I had no information about this photo and would have had very little material for journaling without his input.

Do you know where this picture was taken? You were with Brett at the time because we also have a picture of him in the same place. Any other thoughts or memories associated with this photo?


This was a trip to fish the Logan river. It was cold and snowy, but we had a great day (always a good day with Brett). We caught a lot of white fish, but also got into some rainbow trout. The original plan was to go to Brett’s Father-in-law’s secret spot, but Brett mentioned this to him at breakfast, and he absolutely exploded. (I wasn’t there, but this is how Brett described it.) Brett was forbidden from taking me to the spot, so we went to the Logan River instead. It was a bit of a let down because Brett had told me that we would have many large fish (guaranteed). We still had a great day, but I relearned a valuable lesson, never bank on the guarantee of a fisherman.

I’m not sure my husband realized what a journaling gem he gave me, but I’ll be sure to tell him now that this post is done! Not only did I get details about the fishing, I got a very interesting background story, and even FEELINGS about how much he enjoys fishing with his friend. I also love his little “life story” summary at the end. Won’t that make a great title for the page?


I’d like to encourage you to give this a try. I think you will be amazed at some of the great stories you learn, and you will be more inspired to scrap the photos you have journaling for. I have a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Start off by sending only 1 photo to each friend or family member that you want to involve. See how they respond. Some might never reply (I have those in my life). Others might be thrilled that you asked! It might take a few emails back and forth to bring the memory back to life. Enjoy the process!
  • Create an email folder to file the conversations in. That way you will have a resource to go to when you are ready to scrap those photos.
  • Be patient. it might take a while for some people to answer. They might not be checking their email every day, or able to spend time writing back immediately. Don’t send a photo that you need information for that very same day, you might not get it.
  • Jog their memory by writing a few things that you remember. You might worry that you are influencing what they will write, but it really just gets the ball rolling.
  • Send full resolution size photos when possible (another argument for only sending 1 at a time). You will probably find that the recipients are happy to get a copy of these photographs and they will be more likely to respond because you are sending them something of value to them as well.

Have fun sending lots of emails!

katie big