Family Legacy Photobooks are one of my favourite projects to work on with clients. I love hearing their stories and helping them make their dream of sharing their family history a reality.

This book begins with a family tree spread of two generations. It shows my client’s parents and their parents with a touch of the “Kelly” green and a Celtic pattern to celebrate their Irish roots.


My client and I discussed her preferences for the design after she saw the family tree that I had created. We agreed on a simple and tasteful style with only a few design elements to embellish the pages, and a colour theme for each section. She wanted to include over 500 photos so the backgrounds were kept subtle. For the spread about her mother’s love of her grandchildren, I got more creative and designed a soft, dreamy background. I screened back a sweet image of her mother holding her 4-year-old granddaughter’s hand at the beach for the background, and then placed the other photos around it.

This page features the grandchildren

My client collected photos, newspaper articles, historical documents, memorabilia and obituaries and we shared all our files on Dropbox. She created subfolders for the chapters in the order that she wanted them in the book which saved us so much time.


The history of Molloy’s Bar, which is South of San Francisco

After I reviewed all of her materials, we had a couple of long phone calls. We talked about the scope of the book and I asked some interview-style questions. I talked to her mother, who was understandably shy to disclose more personal things to me over the phone, but it set the tone to build trust and she opened up as she saw the initial pages. I was able to convey that I cared about getting their stories correct, in a truthful and tasteful way.

I love photos that show the hairstyles of the 1940s and 50s!

It was such a delight to have so many great stories to tell about this large Irish family. The book is told from the point of view of my client’s 87-year-old mother who has 7 children and 20 grandchildren. We kept the text in her voice. She lost her husband in 2012 so the photobook is as much of a tribute to him as it is a retelling of their family history. It took us 90 pages and many months of emails and phone calls, but we did it!

A tribute page to Lanty Molloy, the patriarch of the family

On a technical note, my client had not done a lot of scanning before this, but knew to set the dpi larger rather than smaller for better quality. I reduced the files that were too big down to an 8×10 at 300 dpi since her book was 12×12 inches. In some cases, the only available option for my client was to take a photo with her phone of a framed image, reflections on the glass and all, and send that to me. I was then able to fix and edit the image so it looked as good as the others when printed in the book.

I am so grateful to have had this incredible photobook project to work on during Covid. It gave me a sense of satisfaction that is hard to describe because we were creating a book for future generations in a time of so much uncertainty. I would love to meet Deirdre the next time I am in California and to have a pint at Molloy’s Bar. She dedicated a lot of time to this photobook as a precious gift to her mother and is an inspiration to me and my future clients.


About the Author:

Marilyn Gillespie is a professional photographer, who creates custom-designed legacy photobooks for clients worldwide. She also offers photo scanning, retouching and photo restoration services. Marilyn can be reached by email and loves chatting to clients about how best to archive and preserve their family history or life stories.

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  • Brian February 12, 2022   Reply →

    Nicely done, Marilyn! You have a real eye for detail.

    • MarilynGillespie February 12, 2022   Reply →

      Thanks Brian! I have admired your work for all these years, so that means a lot.

  • Michaela Simpson February 26, 2022   Reply →

    I love the work you and my sister did to put together such a beautiful tribute to our family and history.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • MarilynGillespie February 27, 2022   Reply →

      It was my pleasure!

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