How to store family history documents

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How to store family history documents?

Have you inherited a huge amount of family keepsakes, but not sure how to store it?

When you inherit a large number of family memorabilia it can be overwhelming to know how to preserve it, especially considering the amount of space they take over!

Not to mention your own personal family documents that you wish to keep and cherish as you watch your children grow.

In this post, we will look at creative and practical ways you can organise, preserve and pass on important family history documents. While adding your own personal family memorabilia in an organised and simple way.

 

Let’s begin…

Step 1: Declutter the pile!

First of all, gather all of your family history documents and decide what you’ll keep and what you’ll get rid of.

What to keep?

Family tree magazine recommends categorising these documents into three distinct piles, vital, colourful and non-archival:

1.  Vital

Vital documents are important documentation that has genealogical information or key facts that inform us about the individual (birth, marriage, death), these can even include job, place, events, personal letters and photographs.

2.  Add Colour

We’re not talking about colourful paper here, but information that shows a person’s personality or interesting information surrounding them.

3.  Non-Archival

Some people will keep anything and everything. Receipts, takeaway menus, newspapers with no significance. These are the items that aren’t important and that you don’t need to keep. If they don’t serve a purpose to your genealogical records or help paint an interesting picture for family memorabilia, then do yourself the favour and save yourself the extra space for more important items.

 

This can be a difficult step in the organising process for many, as we can find value in anything of our ancestors. But it’s important here to be strong and feel ok with throwing out old pieces of paper that serve no importance or historical importance.

 

When deciding what to keep and throw away it’s important to remember the goal of this task is to preserve your family history.

 

Step 2: Organising and storing your family memorabilia

There are numerous ways you can preserve and store your family history documentation.

You can be creative and have fun with family newsletters and scrapbooks.

You can be focused on digitizing everything to dramatically reduce physical storage space.

Or maybe you just want to organise your family documentation for safekeeping Marie Kondo style (If you don’t understand this reference just think of the Japanese method of extremely efficient and neat!)

 

1.  Creating family newsletters

I for one love the idea of creating a family newsletter.

This is certainly a trending method of capturing family history, with presenting all the big family achievements in a one-page document each year. If you take a browse on Pinterest, you can see all the creative ways that a family newsletter is presented.

 

A family friend did a similar thing, written in the form of a newspaper- the whole family looked forward to receiving it each year! He took a comedic approach to writing it and filled it full of the big milestones everyone in the family achieved.

Pinterest Family newsletter

Family Newsletter Image sourced from Pinterest

There are many ways to present your family newsletter. Many people include images and pictures of the family, which is also a nice idea for future families to look back on. These are often given to family and friends at Christmas instead of a Christmas card like the image below.

 

Tips for creating a family newsletter

 

  1. Keep it to one page or 2 A4 size pages
  2. Create it in PDF form as well as printed versions
  3. Give it a catchy title
  4. Put in all the big events of the year plus achievements and fun memories with photographs, drawings, captions or quotes
  5. Ask your family to make contributions to your family newsletter throughout the year so it’s easy for you to compile the final draft.
  6. If you have a big family to cover once every quarter is good to issue your newsletter, but often families focus on one year.
  7. Keep information short and condensed. Captioning photographs is an easy way to achieve this if you’re not a good writer.
  8. If there is space, you can include things that will be treasured throughout the family. This can include secret family recipes or old family stories that have been passed down.
  9. Keep lots of white space so the newsletter is easy to read and enjoyable to look at.
  10. Look for inspiration on Pinterest for great designs!

Newsletters are an amazing way to not only entertain the family each year but also to have an important documentation year on year of the family that can be preserved for generations to come.

2.  Create a memorabilia scrapbook

Scrapbooking is a huge hobby, it’s an amazing way to display memories and photographs while being incredibly fun! It’s so popular in fact that the trade association for craft says scrapbooking is now a US$2.5 billion industry.

 

So why not present your family history documents in a creative and beautiful scrapbook.

When it comes to your precious documentation there are a few things to keep in mind for the correct preservation and handling.

 

  1. Avoid hole punching, glue or any adhesive, instead use pre-punched sleeves made of stable plastics like polyester, polypropylene or polyethene. Or pre-punched, acid-free sheet protectors in between documents.
  2. The cover of your scrapbook needs to be stiff with sturdy rings.
  3. Store your book in a dark place, with a steady temperature and humidity. Have it easily accessible in case of emergency, and avoid damp or uninsulated rooms such as garages, lofts or basements.

 

Organising your memorabilia scrapbook

Work from past to present. This gives you the opportunity to continue to update and add family events as they occur. Each family member can have one page or two dedicated to them. We imagine this will grow into a few more pages per person the further into the present you document.

If you have letters, keep them with their correspondence within their envelope. You can even make copies of these and any newspaper clippings to be used in the scrapbook, while you keep the original copies stored somewhere else safely.

 

3.  Upload and store digitally

If you want to declutter completely and free up your storage space, then going digital may be the organisation method for you. Digital family documentation also enables you to share your collated data with other family members and even access or add to it anytime and anyplace if you use a dedicated family tree app with cloud sharing.

However, when digitizing your original documentation we always recommend you do keep the most important items and store them somewhere safely.

 

Our best tips for digitizing your family history documentation:

 

  1. Store your digitized files in 3 places, a dedicated family history app, an M-DISC and a hard drive. Follow the 3, 2, 1 rule– Make 3 copies, store in 2 different sources and keep one copy off-site.
  2. Use a dedicated family tree app. This is because you can expand and deepen your family history documentation with dedicated genealogy features such as
  • Family tree building
  • Profile editing of family members on your tree
  • Interview recording to capture the stories and memories of your family who are still with us
  • Family sharing
  • Media storage to accompany family tree profiles with photographs or videos. You can even scan and save documentation such as birth, marriage and death certificates and so forth.

 

Tips when scanning documentation for digitizing:

  1. Make sure the paper fits on the scanner surface and that you aren’t crushing and creasing the documents when closing the scanner lid.
  2. Use a flatbed scanner when copying books
  3. Avoid automatic feed scanners as there is a chance you can damage documentation with jamming and bending.

 

4.  Storing physical memorabilia and heirlooms

If you truly can’t bring yourself to get rid of any of your precious inherited documents, then there are ways you can neatly organise and store everything to preserve them most effectively and use less space.

 

Organising and storing effectively

Decide first how you want to organise your family history documentation.

By items or by the person in chronological order.

Photos:

  • Decide your order, whether by size, date, person etc.
  • Keep similar sizes together and store within a similar size envelope or box to avoid moving and scratching to the image surface.
  • Use a hardback cover photo album, avoid overstuffing the pockets.
  • Store in a dark, cold room to avoid damage to images- especially colour photographs as these tend to be affected by light easier.

 

Paper documentation:

  • Store papers in order of choice (date, person, documentation type etc)
  • Keep flat and straightened out in clear pockets or a similar size box to the paper. Do not bend paper!!
  • Ensure the paper is within the folder/box to avoid outer edges crumbling and getting damaged.
  • Don’t overstuff boxes or files.
  • Use a plastic storage box with a lid and a tight airlock. If you have lots of documentation these can be stacked.
  • Wash and thoroughly dry your hands before handling ANY documentation to the natural oils in your fingertips from leaving stains and damage.
  • Never laminate documentation as it’s irreversible and decreases the document value.
  • Avoid all metal pins, clips and as we’ve already mentioned avoiding glue and adhesive.

 

Artefacts

If you have physical artefacts these are also ideal to be stored in boxes too to avoid damage. You may even want to display proud family heirlooms. If this is the case, display in a safe place like the inside of a glass cabinet. It can be viewed easily through the glass but is more likely to be out of harm’s way, unlike the accidental knocks that can occur if displayed on a mantle or side table.

 

Be sure to take photographs of your inherited artefacts to include in your documentation. That way future generations have a traceable link to where it originated from as stories can be lost in translation if not written down.

 

 

Conclusion

Preserving your family history needn’t be stressful or difficult. Take the time today to carefully organise a plan for your family history documentation for easy access and for it to easily be inherited from you.

This will not only make your home a happier place to be, but you can easily and effectively add to your family history documentation in a simple and enjoyable way.

 

 

We hope you’ve found our post on how to store family history documents helpful. We will expand on creative ways to document your family history in a future blog post.