How to Store Your Family History

How to Store Your Family History

Storing family history can be quite the bother. 

Let's start with the physical stuff. I love all things family history but I'll be the first person to tell you that you shouldn't keep everything. Inheriting things from relatives who pass on is very special but if you're lucky enough to be loved by many people in your family, you're eventually going to end up curating a whole museum's worth of other people's lives. It's too much, even if you don't live in a small house like I do.

(1) Storing all of that might mean it lives in boxes and closets so then you aren't even enjoying it.

(2) What happens to all of the stuff that represents you and your life if your home is crowded with the memories of others? 

I won't lie. It's not like I've gotten rid of everything. However, I'm very mindful about what I let stay AND I'm very mindful on how exactly I let things go. 

The things that stay:

  • Favorite photos. There are a lot and I keep them in photo boxes, once they're scanned. I don't handle the print copies very often but I've used the scanned images to make photo albums for my family (and I add them to the Family Tree Notebooks, of course.)
  • A few items per person. For the things I've inherited, I try to never take much and what I do take is out on display 99% of the time. 
  • Irreplaceable paper records. Things like correspondence, diaries, and other personal writings don't get donated and even though I scan them, I do keep the original copies. It's all within reason - the not-so-important paper gets scanned, backed up, and thrown out. 
  • Other people's photo albums. Usually I just scan the photos and then pass the album on to someone else in the family but I do have a handful that I've kept and have on my shelf (scanned, of course). The difference seems to be how much handwriting is in the album and/or how old and delicate it is. 

Everything that stays only takes up a few boxes since it's mostly flat things (photos, papers). Like I mentioned, the larger heirlooms are scattered around my home as decoration so we can enjoy them.  I'm also still in the part of life where we're collecting our own memories and we're building the archives of our kids' childhoods so storage space is at a premium around here. 

The things that I couldn't keep were all scanned or photographed before I let them go, even if they didn't seem that important. Those scans are backed up and many are in shared cloud folders so other people in that part of the family have access to them. I try to rehome things with other family members first, walking that fine line between gifting cherished items or making it someone else's storage problem, and when nobody wanted to take something on it was generally donated. 

Now let's talk about the online stuff. Obviously, I keep scans of everything. I also have all of those online records that I've found with the help of big sites like Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, etc. mixed in with the things I've found online from smaller libraries and repositories. Where does all of that stuff live? 

It's a combination, but the easy answer is that I have it all on cloud storage and the stuff I can easily attach to an ancestor lives on my desktop in specific folders. That makes it easier for me to access things when I'm working on my family tree notebooks. Here's a video kind of giving you an overview: 

It might seem like a pain to go back through your folders or your online accounts to download, sort, and file everything into these kinds of folders, but it's so worth it to have everything where you want it. Plus, after that initial push, it becomes second nature to save and file things in the right folder as soon as you find them. You definitely don't want to let things just sit in your accounts on those online services because technical glitches happen and you might lose all your hard work! 

Hopefully this was a little helpful if you're overwhelmed with family history chaos right now. Any storage tips or tricks that you've learned that might help the community? 

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