When I’m tucked inside on these chilly winter days, I am using my time to access my growing collection of family history items. Whether you have a plethora of paper goods, jewelry, books, or furniture, you may want to think about where all these treasures will go. Let’s look at resources to help you.
So far in my family there has been some interest in genealogy, but I have yet to identify someone who would want part or all my collection. I’m hoping that as time goes on and people get to different stages of their lives that it might change. However, I have been labeling and identifying items that are family heirlooms and why they are important so that at least people will pause before they are scuttled off to good will. (Let’s hope they stay in the family!)
Internet Genealogy, December/January 2022 issue has an excellent article by Marian B. Wood called Finding Heirs for Your Family History. In this article she talks about the importance of preparing your collection. No one wants a box of jumbled up papers, photos and documents with no rhyme or reason to them. We know what is there, but we shouldn’t assume that our relatives will care to go through the information to find what is valuable. If you are like me, I still have collections that need attention—whether it is providing additional labels, stories, or context around the information.
And we need to remember our digital world of articles, documents, and photos. Because I started my genealogy research prior to personal computers, I have a mix of digital and physical documentation and photos. It is an ongoing project for me to carefully label online information in a format that future generations will be able to read and use. And my goal is to digitalize all my physical items as a backup. If this sounds like you, I get it. It takes time and dedication but doing some every day, week or month is better than giving up!
What do you do if your family has no interest in those family history collections? Original artifacts and items may be of interest to other organizations. This will require research to see who specifically might like information an ancestor’s WWI uniform or a local history book. Some time ago, I scanned many studio photos of relatives that were sent to my grandparents over the years. I still have a digital copy but have ensured that the direct descendants now have the original photos. For items that are specific to my family line I have kept both the originals and made digital copies.
In addition to the article mentioned, check out these resources and ideas for preserving and sharing information about family heirlooms:
Preservation | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
Genealogists Share Heirlooms and Tell Stories from Their Family Tree (familysearch.org)
Family Heirlooms: How to Care for the Most Common Types (familytreemagazine.com)
21 Most Common Family Heirlooms - Legacy.com
I would look at all of this as a process. As much as we would like to finish in a day or a week, this task might take us a lifetime. Just like our personal possessions, we continue to acquire more items related to our family history. As family historians, we have an obligation to ensure that these treasures are secured for future generations. Good luck organizing and sorting and finding future homes for these treasures.
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.