Thursday, December 3, 2015

ANCESTOR WALL OF PHOTOS ~ It’s finished–Here’s how I did it

Ancestor wall_finished slanted view

This was such an exciting project.  I have wanted to create an ancestor wall in my “genie cave” for about 10 years.  I have a lot of ancestor photos and have collected more in that ensuing ten years.

I began by taking a look at all the frames I had purchased over the years.

- What size photos would I need?
- Which pictures should be in which frames?
- How would I group them?

I made the decision on the photos, downloaded them to a flash drive and went to Walmart.  I’d never used their photo center. I found it easy to use.  You can crop or enhance the photos, to a limited ability, right there on their screen.  They print immediately. 
Cost – 79 cents for a 4 x 6 and $3.99 for an 8 x 10

Once I got home I realized there were a couple of additional enlargements that I needed.  This time I decided to use Costco photo service.  I uploaded the pictures directly to their site and they were ready the next day.  Cost – $1.79 for an 8 x 10 (cheaper than Walmart)

Now I have what I need to begin.  Here is what I did:
  • Took the frames apart and cleaned each piece of glass and the frame.
  • Created labels for each photo stating who the people in the photo were and a date and location, if I knew.  And, in many cases, how they were related to me.
  • Placed the photos in the frames.
  • Laid the frames out on the carpet in my office and moved them around until I was happy with the layout.
  • I took a photo of the layout. 
Ancestor wall_laid out on carpet
  • Got a large piece of glass from an old table top and laid it on the carpet so I could trace a template of each frame.
  • Using brown painter’s paper I traced each frame, and cut it out, and as I did, I numbered each template and each frame.  It didn’t matter what number or that they were in any special order.  Once the template is on the wall you just match the frame number when you are ready to hang.
Starting with the center photos I began hanging the templates on the wall with blue painters tape.  A few tweaks to the layout were made, as I went.
Ancestor wall_templates
  • Check the back of each frame to determine what type of hanger it had or if it needed one.  Then be sure we had the items we needed for the process of hanging them.
  • All that was left now was to ask my husband to help me hang the frames.  He is always very helpful and in about an hour we were finished.
Here is the progress of the wall from beginning to end:
Ancestor wall_prior to templates Ancestor wall_laid out on carpet

Ancestor wall_templates Ancestor wall_finished straight view

On a scale of 1-10 I was an 11 when this was finished.
To have all of these family members that I’ve studied and gotten to know over the last 13+ years, right there where I could see them everyday…..PRICELESS!

Yes, they are on my computer in digital files.  Yes, they are in archival boxes in my closet.  Yes, they are in my Legacy program.
BUT, this is different.  Now they are right here where I sit every day. Not to mention that I think they look just great.

Who is the oldest generation on my wall?  That would be my 2nd great grandparents, Horace Henry Thorp and his wife Catherine Dorsey. He was born in 1836 in Skaneateles, Onondaga, New York and she was born about 1842 in Dublin, Ireland.  Their photos are courtesy of my 3rd cousin Jim Nymberg and his wife, Bonnie.

THORP_Horace & Catherine in brown frame

It’s a matter of personal taste as to whether you mix and match your frames, or have them all the same.  I like them mixed.

There are many suggestions I’ve found on Pinterest that gave me inspiration for this project.  Here is a link to my Pinterest board, where I’ve saved some things I’ve found. Gallery Walls

If you have done this in your home, I’d love to know how yours turned out.  Leave me a comment or send me an email at michiganfamilytrails(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Happy hunting,
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2015   Diane Gould Hall


  1. Beautiful ancestral wall Diane. I probably have enough photos to do a project like this. Finding a wall would be the biggest problem. I know the paper trick works because we did this to figure out how to hang apple crates on a wall above the TV.

    1. Thanks Cathy. When you get yours up send me a photo.

  2. Love it! I have always envied my genie buddy's wall of family pictures going up her stairway. What I did was using a tree wall cling from Target, $1 4x6 frames from Meijer, and command hooks (in case I changed my mind about each placement) to make a family tree. I have a PictureMate picture printer that prints 4x6 so I could take any of my photos, scan them and print. The frames are very light weight and the frame itself is very narrow so the picture "pops."

    Barbara in SE Michigan

    1. Barbara - hello to another Michigander. I think whatever we can do to have those ancestor photos where we can see them, is what works.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Your wall is beautiful! Thank you for sharing it, and sharing the steps you took to create it. I have a question. You made labels for the photos. Did you put the labels on the back of the photos or the back of the frame?

    1. Hi - I put the labels on the backs of the photos. Never know when you might change a frame after all. :) I just hand wrote them. I figured, what kind of genealogist am I if I don't label my own photos? After all, I'm always saying "gosh, I wish someone would have labeled this picture or that one."
      Thanks for your comment.

  4. Diane,

    Your ancestor photo display looks wonderful!

    I want to let you know that three of your blog posts are listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

  5. Replies
    1. Amanda. What beautiful walls! I am a fan of a whole variety of frames. Love what you did.
      Thanks for sharing it with me.

  6. Looks great Diane, I love the idea of an ancestor wall!

    1. Dara,
      It's a small dream come true. Although as excited as I was the day we put it up, it felt more like a big dream. They warm my heart as I sit here and know they are right there for me to see.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Replies
    1. Anna - Thank you so much. Seeing them here in my office brings a smile to my face and warms my heart.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Lorraine Shum HowardDecember 10, 2015 at 9:14 AM

    Hi Disne. Thank you for your encouragement in doing s blog. I am going to take the plunge and do it. Even starting it will be a challenge as I have never done anything like this before now. My ancestors are traceable to the 1500's so a daunting task ahead. But I shall get there!

    1. Lorraine - You are so welcome. I look forward to reading your posts. Remember, you will never be able to write about all of them. However, the daily prompts help a lot. Whether it is Tombstone Tuesday or Mystery Monday, it gives you a theme. You will find many other things to write about and you'll be amazed how your research is enhanced by your blogging. I research as I write, realizing that I need more information or proof as I go along. Have fun.

  9. Thanks so much for sharing this. Incredibly useful tips!!! Still finishing up the school year, but I will TRY to get my wall done this summer. It's a big project, but from your wall I can see it is worth it! And, what a way to share your family with other family members. I'm sure they must ask you questions when you show your wall. :)

    1. Dana. Can't wait to see your wall when it's finished. Once I got started it was only a few days before it was finished. I have a very helpful husband, who jumped right in to help me hang all of them. Yes, it does make for wonderful conversation with both family and friends.

  10. Thank you, Diane, for the inspiration for me to make or finally put up a hallway family tree. Here is my blogpost about it. I also gave you the credit.

    1. Your tree looks beautiful Mary. I'm glad I inspired you and I know you'll inspire others. My ancestor photos make me smile every day as I'm sure yours do too.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.