How to Organize Old Family Photos

Family Photos by Family Tree Video
Old Family Photos by Family Tree Video

If you grew up before the digital age you probably feel overwhelmed by the number of family photos you have stored in boxes and albums. Most of my clients grew up in 1930’s, 40’s or 50’s and comment on this often.

I finally felt their angst after helping my own 80 year old mother sort through a lifetime of her own photos. Along the way I picked up a number of tips that I now share with my clients on how to organize hundreds (if not thousands!) of their old family photos.

Organizing Old Family Photos

What you will need:
A large table or surface area as a work space, several boxes of large ziploc bags, a permanent marker, a number 2 pencil, rubber bands or envelopes and at least 8 shoe boxes or shopping bags.

The key:
Work fast so you aren’t bogged down by memories and your dining table isn’t covered for months on end. You will have plenty of time to reminisce after the photos are organized.

Sorting and Filing

  1. Label every ziploc bag with a year and every box or shopping bag by decade.
  2. On the table or large surface area, sort your photos into piles by year or estimated time period.
  3. Rubber band each pile or insert the pile into an envelope.
  4. When a year is complete or a pile too big, insert the photos into the ziploc bag marked with the year.
  5. Place the ziploc bag into it’s box or shopping bag marked with the decade.

Now that your old family photos are neatly sorted, it will be easier to whittle down the numbers.

Weeding and Labeling

  1. Spread out the photos from one year or grouping.
  2. Discard the photos that are redundant, duplicates or poor shots.
  3. Identify favorites and label the backs with names, dates, location and event using a number 2 pencil. Replace in their respective bag.
  4. Move on to the next year until you make your way through all the bags.
  5. Repeat the process until you are content with the quantity and selection of every year and event.

Once your old family photos are pared down, have them digitally scanned. This way the photos and the stories behind them can be easily shared with family members.

Your old family photos are windows into your family history. Preserving them now means they will be enjoyed for generations to come.

(Do you have a tip for organizing old family photos? If so, post it in the comment section below for others to see!)


For Family History Quotes that remind us of the importance of our ancestors, visit my post ‘18 Great Family History Quotes’.

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~ Legacy Videos ~

Give your parent or grandparent the gift of a lifetime by capturing their life story for your family to know!

Legacy Videos by Family Tree Video

Here at Family Tree Video we produce Legacy Videos, modern-day memoirs that weave a filmed interview with a parent or grandparent together with family photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia. The result is a beautiful “moving portrait” capturing your loved one sharing their life story, family history and memories – a gift your family will treasure for generations to come.

To learn more about capturing your parent or grandparent’s life story in a Legacy Video, visit us at

Family Tree Video LLC
Legacy Video Production
(312) 402-6406

Susan Saunders
Legacy Video Producer

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‘Family Photos’

Life Story Interview Questions

Family Photos

Life Story Interview Questions

Legacy Videos

Capturing Life Stories & Family History
for Future Generations

~ The Gift of a Lifetime ~

Life Story Interview Questions
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