What's New!
You are here: Home > Featured Writers > Cindy Freed > Crafting Genealogy

Crafting Genealogy

I like to craft and I love researching my family history so what better way to combine these two obsessions of mine than to start Crafting Genealogy! This new monthly column will give us all a chance to express some of our creativity as well as work with copies of our well-loved family photos and memorabilia.

In my family, like I'm sure many of you have experienced, my children and extended family members are incredibly uninterested in my genealogy research. We've all had someone's eyes glaze over and roll back in their head when we start to share a recent family history find but it is different when I'm Crafting Genealogy.

When I have one of my completed projects on display in my house invariably someone will ask about it and the ancestor remembered in it. This opportunity gives me a chance to share a little bit about that long ago family member along with my craft. My hope is that some of that information sticks with the person and a future interest in genealogy will develop. At the very least my children will be aware of their great-great grandparents names and a tiny bit about them.

So what can you expect from this column? Each monthly project will be one I have completed with photos and detailed instructions. I'll include helpful tips along the way and if I botch something up I'll let you know so you can avoid making that same mistake. My hope is that you try new projects once you've seen them here and the opportunity to discuss your family history with your family members results. So let's take a look at this month's project.

To the Letter - Family Photo Collage


I think this is a great project and easy to do. First we need to gather our materials.

  • Paper mache or wood Letter of your choosing. I'm working with a wood letter. I chose a “C” for my first name since my photos are from both my maternal and paternal side but it would be really cool if you worked on one family line and chose that surname's first letter.
  • Acrylic paint/brush
  • Printed Photos* - Always use copies never, ever use the originals. I get all my copies of family photos from Walgreen. I wait until they have a 10 cent a print special and then do a bunch. I’m sure nearly every retailer that prints photos has similar specials.
  • Scissors
  • Modge Podge – foam brush
  • Brayer - optional
  •  Used gift card – optional
Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

The first thing I did was paint my letter** top and sides with black acrylic paint. (I used the paint that's about $1 a bottle.) I chose black since I was working with black and white photos but you could always choose a color to compliment a room's décor or color photos if you're working with them.

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

After allowing the letter to dry I gathered the photos I wanted to use. I laid the photos out on my letter and moved them around until I had the placement I liked best. This is the trickiest part. It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I tried to vary my photos so I didn't have several darker ones in a row or two right next to each other that were taken at the same location. After I had the pics where I wanted them I took a photo of my layout with my phone. That way I could always refer back to it if needed.

Next trim your photos to fit the form of your letter. I used a pencil and made light marks to cut the photos to fit the curve of the “C”. You might round off the corners on a couple of pictures if you like so they're not all square but do what's pleasing to your eye.

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

Now we're going to glue the pics on the letter with the Modge Podge. Take note of which photos overlap so that you're gluing the bottom ones down first. With your foam brush apply a thin coat of Modge Podge to the back of your print and another thin coat to your letter. Press your pic down on your modged podged letter and smooth out. This is where I slide the brayer over the pic to eliminate any air bubbles beneath the photo. You can also use your fingers to do the same thing smoothing the print out from the center to the edges. Once that first pic is down just keep going until they're all adhered to your letter.

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

Now that all your pics are glued down to your letter brush a coat of Modge Podge over the entire project to seal it. Modge Podge dries clear. Work quickly though, the Modge Podge will start to dry soon. It's here that I used the old gift card for a smoother finish but the brush finish is fine too. Once on the wall you're not noticing the finish. Let your project dry overnight. When dry attach a wall hanger to the back.

Voila! Now you have a really cool piece to hang in your genealogy space, home office, kids room or give as a gift. This is a great project for every level of creativity. Supplies are inexpensive and this project doesn't take long to make.

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

If you make a Family Photo Collage or a variation of it send me a pic or two. I’ll credit you and share them in a future article of ideas and inspiration.

Also stop by my website at Genealogy Circle and click on Crafting Genealogy at the top. You'll see some of my other Crafting Genealogy projects with photos and instructions.

Until next month have fun Crafting Genealogy!

*I accidentally used a photo I printed out on my printer and had the entire side of the print start to bleed as I was spreading out that final coat of Modge Podge. I recommend using store printed photos.


Photo Credit: Cindy Freed

Photo Credit: Cindy Freed


**I bought my wooden letter “C” at Hobby Lobby when it was 50% off. (I wish I had bought more but will buy additional letters when they're on sale again.) Even when it was not on sale it was only $2.97 or something like that. Very reasonable. My letter is 12 inches tall but size doesn't matter, it's up to you what size you work with.




About Cindy Freed

Cindy Freed
Cindy Freed is a genealogist, researcher and writer. Her blog Genealogy Circle (www.genealogycircle.com) documents her personal family research as well as her continuing interest in the Civil War. Along with her monthly IDG column, Tracing Blue and Gray, Cindy is a regular contributor to 4th Ohio, First Call quarterly magazine for the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry Descendants Association.

One comment

  1. Love this idea, so simple how you have explained it.I am going to try this very soon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *