Preserving a Female Ancestor’s Photographs with Vivid-Pix Memory Station

Are precious details about the lives of your female ancestors hidden in old family photographs?  Most of us have bins or boxes of treasured memories just waiting to be uncovered and shared. 

Photo of Sr. Mary Camilla Alzo
Photo of my aunt, Sister Mary Camilla Alzo 

As a long-time genealogist, I have been researching the maternal lines in my family tree for more than 30 years. I wrote my book, Three Slovak Women as a tribute to my maternal grandmother and mother. Along the way I accumulated quite the collection of photographs, documents, and memorabilia. Since 2019, I have been on a mission to sort, scan, and share digital copies of the prints with my relatives.

Since March is Women’s History Month, I have decided to focus on the pictures that depict some of my female ancestors. But, where to begin?

With hundreds of photographs to process, I realized what a monumental task I had ahead of me. I needed a system to make things easier. I decided to follow a four-step process:

1. Sort – Organize photographs by family and then by date or event when possible.

2. Scan – Digitize the photographs using a scanner and correct any problems or imperfections using software (see below for details).

3. Store – Initially save the digital images to my computer (then move to an external hard drive with backup to cloud storage). 

4. Share – Share digital copies of the images with my cousins and other interested relatives.

I won’t bore you with the details of the sorting process, but I usually set aside an hour or two each week to go through the boxes and bins, sort the photos by family and then year/event where possible, and make sure they are put into archival safe storage boxes. The bigger decision for me was how to approach the scanning and storing. While I have a very nice Epson flatbed scanner to do the job, lifting the lid up and down is a bit cumbersome. And using my smartphone did not seem like the best option either. 

Enter the Vivid-Pix Memory Station

Recently I was given the opportunity to try out the Memory Station [affiliate link]. This is a combination of a Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 + Vivid-Pix RESTORE software. In the bundle, Vivid-Pix includes FileShadow cloud archive if desired, providing storage for 1,000 images for free and additional fee for more storage).

The ScanSnap was easy to set up (I use it with a Windows laptop but it works with Mac too). I created a folder called ScanSnap Scans on my computer. I followed the instructions outlined on the Vivid-Pix website to get the best resolution and other specifications for saving the scans as high-quality JPEG image files. The ScanSnap allows for continuous scanning and for image correction if so desired. Each scan takes just a few seconds and can be done with either a simple press of the “Scan” button on the unit, or by clicking on the SCAN button in the ScanSnap software. Before I began the scanning process, I downloaded and installed the Vivid-Pix RESTORE software [affiliate link] – just $49.99 for a one-time fee and the ability to install on 2 computers (Mac and/or Windows). RESTORE is on sale this month, just $39.99 during the month of March, 2022 and they also offer a trial to fix 10 images for free. 

I tried out the Memory Station on a treasured scrapbook of photographs that belonged to my father’s sister, Anna, a Roman Catholic nun (she changed her name to Sr. Mary Camilla after taking her vows) who lived in Victoria, Texas most of her life. I called her “Auntie.”

I previously wrote about this scrapbook in a March 8, 2010 blog postThe album pages are falling apart and many of the photographs are faded, so I knew this was the perfect scanning project.  With the ScanSnap I could scan multiple photos, benefiting from the overhead scanner on these delicate items, and the ScanSnap separates them out so I can name them. 

Once scanned, the photos can be imported into Vivid-Pix RESTORE to restore the images with 1-click. There is also an option to fine-tune with easy controls. Below is a sample scanned photo of my Auntie and her two sisters (Betty and Helen) taken on Easter Sunday in 1941 in Duquesne, Pennsylvania. 

Photograph scanned with MemoryScan (not cropped)

The Vivid-Pix software adjusted color, contrast, lightness and sharpened the original photograph. As people have different perspective on “keeping age” (fade), less fade (or even back to the original black and white photo), below is the original and the 2 variations. [Note: I left the original photo on its black album backing but can crop the images as desired.]

My goal for this March is to scan the entire photo album and then create a digital version that I can share with others. I will likely share some of the results here on the blog as I work through the process.

Want to know more about the Memory Station?  Click here for more information.

Copyright 2022, Lisa A. Alzo

All Rights Reserved.

[Thank you for supporting The Accidental Genealogist by purchasing any products mentioned above, which are a part of the income stream for my writing/genealogy business].

Remembering Dad and His Generosity on Giving Tuesday

Today marks 13 years since the passing of my father, John Alzo. I created this short tribute video* to celebrate his life and his generous heart.

                                                                                  Video created with Animoto

Time passes and life moves on, but I still look for Dad reading his newspaper at the dining room table, or sitting in the recliner in our family room. Even after all this time, I also clearly remember the significant moments from the days before he died.

I knew for at least two weeks that Dad did not have much time left. Still, it was difficult when I received the phone call from the Hospice that Friday afternoon. 

“Lisa, this is Joanie from Lakeside. Your dad is not responding.”

“We tried to wake him up for breakfast and he did not answer us.”

“Do you think I need to be there now?” I asked.

“That’s up to you,” she replied, “But it would probably be a good idea.” “I just wanted you to know.”

I put down the phone.

“We have to go to Lakeside NOW.” I said to my husband. “My dad is not responding.”

“I’m sorry, Lis.” he replied.

I had been up since 6:00 a.m. cooking. It was the day after Thanksgiving and I had just spent the two previous days preparing turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes that I took to the hospice to share with my dad. But that morning, I felt the irrepressible need to cook again. I was looking ahead to Christmas, specifically Christmas Eve. I had this awful feeling that my father would not make it until Christmas so I wanted to prepare a few of his favorite Slovak foods for him to have that weekend.

But it was not meant to be.

When I arrived at Lakeside that afternoon Dad was unconscious. He was breathing but his eyes were closed tight and no matter what I said to him he would not wake up or respond. I wasn’t prepared to see him in this state.

When we left him the night before, which just happened to be Thanksgiving night, he was laughing and joking with us. His final words included, “Put the Pitt game on Lis,” (he loved to watch football and follow his Pittsburgh teams), and “okay honey, I’ll see you.” 

That was the last conversation I had with my dad, but by that time we had already said everything that needed to be said. A few months before Dad was hospitalized we had a brief conversation where he thanked me (and my husband) for taking such good care of him. He said that his biggest regret was that he “could not do more for us” and that he wanted to “stay around longer so he could also continue to serve others.” 

Less than 72 hours later I held Dad’s hand as he took his final breath and peacefully left this earth.

My father was one of the most generous souls I have ever known. He gave of his time, his talents, and his money to help his family, friends, and neighbors, never expecting anything in return. He was the kind of guy you could have a beer with, tell a joke to, or ask a favor of whenever you needed a ride to the doctor’s office, help with house repairs, or money to get you through a tough time. 

I think it is fitting that the 13th anniversary of Dad’s passing away takes place on Giving Tuesday a day that celebrates giving and philanthropy.

So, today I am finding my own small ways to give of my time, talents, and money to help others and honor my father’s memory and his generosity.

* [I created the tribute video for my father using the online service Animoto. I like their product so much that I recently became an Animoto affiliate, so if you click on the link and subscribe to their service, I will earn a small commission].

Copyright 2018, Lisa A. Alzo, All rights reserved.

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Thank You for Your Service, Dad: A Veterans Day Tribute

Thank you for your service, Dad. On this Veterans Day, I honor my father John Alzo, a member of The Greatest Generation who served in the United States Navy during World War II. 

“Entered the service on 16th of August 1943. Boot training at Great Lakes” 

This was the first entry in a diary my father kept during his time on a naval ship in the Pacific. (See my post from 19 August 2006).

Navy diary belonging to John Alzo [image held for private use]

The brief entries in this diary offer a snapshot into the daily life of my father during this important time in history.

“Boarded U.S.S. Tablerock on 15th of December”

“Dec. 25th – First Christmas away from home.”

“December 27 picked up invasion barges in Wilmington, CA.”

“Dec. 28 – Left Wilmington for Pearl Harbor at 5:00 p.m.”

“Dec. 29 – 1st verge of seasickness.

“June 11 – Arrived in Panama 10:00 p.m. Eleven hrs. to get thru locks.”

And, a very important entry in Dad’s diary is:

“Ships position at time of surrender: August 14, 1945. Time 12:31 10º N by 164º W.”

My father was honorably discharged from the United States Navy on 17 March 1946.

Navy diary belonging to John Alzo [image held for private use]

This month marks 13 years since my father passed away and I miss him every day. 

I created the short tribute video above to remember and honor Dad.*

On this Veterans Day I want to not only thank him, but all those who have served and are currently serving to protect our country and our freedoms.  

*Video tribute created with Animoto [not an affiliate, just a satisfied customer]

[Want to learn how I created my video tribute? Check out my Share Your Stories Webinar Bundle. Save 50% through 12 November 2018 with coupon code: NOV50].

Copyright 2018, Lisa A. Alzo, All Rights Reserved.

Fearless Females 29 March 2016: Honoring a Female Ancestor

The prompt for 29 March 2016 is to honor a female ancestor with a tribute page, trading card, or using some other format of your choice. 

March 29 — Create a free Fold3 (formerly Footnote) Memorial Page or a Genealogy Trading Card at Big Huge Labs for a female ancestor. Some of you may have created your own card back in September 2009 following Sheri Fenley’s post over at The Educated Genealogist. This time, the card is for your ancestor.

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

Fold3 Memorial Page for Elizabeth Alzo

I chose to create a free Fold3 Page for Elizabeth Alzo (my grandmother). I used data from the Fold3 database to help build the page – there are links to the 1930 census entry for her and to her naturalization petitions. I also added an image of her obituary, and plan to add some stories, and more information down the line.

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Fearless Females 28 March 2016: Best Friend

The prompt for 28 March 2016 is to write about either your mother’s or grandmother’s best friend. 

March 28 — Do you remember your mother’s best friend? Your grandmother’s? How and where did they meet? How long were they friends? What activities did they share?

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

Image credit: Pixabay

My mother’s best friend growing up was Dolores. I don’t want to infringe on her privacy so I won’t post her last name or a photograph or any more details. But I know that my mother was very close with her. While Dolores moved to another state, the two still kept in touch over the years with letters and Christmas cards. Many years ago, when I threw a surprise party for my parents 50th wedding anniversary, I invited Dolores and she came! My mother was so surprised–the two hugged and cried and spent the weekend sharing memories. I know it meant so much to my mom to have her best friend there. It was one of those extra special moments in time that you will always remember. 

I’m not sure about my grandmothers. They were close to many of their neighbors and women they knew from the churches they attended.

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Fearless Females 25 March 2016: Women and Children

The prompt for 25 March is to describe a female ancestors interactions with her children.

March 25 — Tell how a female ancestor interacted with her children. Was she loving or supportive? A disciplinarian? A bit of both?

My mother was loving and supportive, but also taught me to have respect for others, especially my elders. My mother was strict but I always knew she loved me and had my best interests at heart. 

Me with my mom, Anna

Now that I am adult I can really appreciate my mother’s style of parenting. I also thank her for always believing in me and supporting my goals. She was my role model, especially with the way she cared for her own parents. I followed in her footsteps, caring for her and my father during their respective illnesses. My mother taught by example.

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Fearless Females 24 March 2016: Shared Traits

The prompt for 24 March 2016 is to list and physical or personality traits you share with a female ancestor.

March 24 — Do you share any physical resemblance or personality trait with one of your female ancestors? Who? What is it?

I inherited fine hair and fine eyebrows from my paternal grandmother–this trait appears to run on her side of the family. My three aunts had fine hair and eyebrows too. 

Elizabeth Alzo


In terms of personality, I tend to take after my mother. She was a generous lady who always tried to see the good in others even if they were not always good to her. I think in many ways, however, that I am tougher than my mother because I don’t let people take advantage of my good nature.  I also have inherited my mother’s “worry” gene. I tend to imagine the worst and often worry about things that are beyond my control. I have been trying to do better in this area.

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Fearless Females 23 March 2016: Create a Timeline

The prompt for 23 March 2016 is to create a timeline to highlight events in a female ancestor’s life.

March 23 — Create a timeline for a female ancestor using your favorite software program or an online timeline generator such as OurTimelines.

Below is a one of my timeline images for Elizabeth Fencsak Alzo (using Our Timelines) that spans from 1897 to 1915 (the date of her marriage).

Timelines are a great way to get a bird’s eye view of a female ancestor’s life.  They will help you see the gaps in your research and give you ideas of where to look next for more information.

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Fearless Females Blog Post: 20 March 2016: Elusive or Brick Wall Ancestor

The prompt for 20 March 2016 is to write about an elusive female ancestor in your family tree.

March 20 — Is there a female ancestor who is your brick wall? Why? List possible sources for finding more information.

I’ve actually been pretty fortunate that my female ancestors have been fairly easy to trace. This is in part due to the excellent collection of microfilmed records available from the Family History Library –church and census records from my ancestral villages in Slovakia. I would like to learn a bit more about my great-grandmothers if possible. In particular, I’m hoping to learn more about my paternal grandfather’s mother, Borbala Manovsky Alzo.

Borbala Manovsky Alzo

I know very little about her so hope to find out whatever I can. She died in 1961–the same year (just a few months apart) as her son (my grandfather), and I thought this was an interesting coincidence. I have her marriage record thanks to my cousin. I also have some pictures from her funeral. From family I learned that she had several sisters so I’d like to learn more about them too. I am in the processing of doing more research and am hoping to obtain a copy of her death record from Slovakia, and hopefully will be able  to find some other documents, as well.

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved

Fearless Females 18 March 2016: Shining Star

The prompt for 18 March 2016 is to write about talented female ancestors in your family tree.

March 18 — Shining star: Did you have a female ancestor who had a special talent? Artist, singer, actress, athlete, seamstress, or other? Describe.

[Note: This post originally ran during the Fearless Females series in March 2010]

I always said that my mother should have opened her own bakery. She was a great cook, but she had a real talent for making cakes, cookies, and other desserts. Her specialty: Lady Locks–dainty puffed pastry with creme filling. She made them for every wedding, baptism, graduation, and other special event in our family and they would disappear from the cookie table in a flash! Making these cookies requires patience and precision and I remember watching my mother labor for hours–working to get the dough just right before wrapping it around the special pins, and then after they came out of the oven would carefully fill each one using a pastry bag, and then delicately coat them with powdered sugar from her “magical” powdered sugar can.

Anna Alzo (right) with her cousin Mary, baking cookies for a family wedding.

They weren’t just cookies–they were works of art!

Copyright 2016, Lisa A. Alzo
All Rights Reserved