26 August 2007

The Organized Genealogist, Part II

Now it's time to get started on that huge pile of photos. You know the one that keeps getting stuffed into drawers, in boxes and thrown in the basement. No more! You want to start organizing and preserving your history so that not only can future generations know who you were, but so they can also see you, and the rest of the family.

To me the most rewarding part of my search for my ancestor are the photos I find and that others so graciously share. When you can put a face to the name and see that they really did exist it's indescribable the way you feel.

There are several different ways you can organize and preserve your photos. You can chose one or a combination of methods.
  • Scrapbooks This method is fun. It is also a great way to show off your photos and include information about the people and events in the photos. However be careful when scrapbooking to make sure that all material is acid free. Also as much as you want to do not cut your photos. What may not be important to you now may be invaluable to a genealogist in the future. Such as a car with a license plate, or a picture of the family in front of the house that 10 years later is torn down, these items can help to date a photo. If you would like to do scrapbooking you can check it out by searching the internet, there are too many sites to list, check out your arts and crafts store, photos shop, or even Wal Mart carries a good selection of scrapbooking material, though read every label to make sure it is archival safe.
  • Boxes Okay I know I told you to get your photos out of the boxes, but you can still use boxes, but they just need to be organized and labeled in some fashion that will make it easy for future generations to search through and view your life. There is a large variety of boxes out there for photo storage, Clamshell boxes, crafted removable lid boxes, photo frame boxes, wooden, plastic or cardboard. It doesn't matter what style you use, what you need to make sure is that it is archival safe and organized. Now you can organize them by surname if your purpose if for mostly family research, or by events in chronological order, or a combination. Maybe you want a tab with a surname behind that tab are all pictures that pertain to that surname, but then maybe behind that you want a tab for weddings with those pictures, anniversaries, reunions, graduations, and so forth.
  • Photo Albums These are the great old time favorites of most families. I'm sure some of your photos are already in a few. These are also just as great as scrapbooking, though not as decorative. However, they are still a great way to create a book with pictures and captions talking about the people in the photos so that you can share them with others. Some people find photo albums a little easier to do the scrapbooks. There are also many beautiful photo albums out there to use. Again make sure that the pages are archival safe.

What ever method you choose to use, here is what you must consider.

  1. Is is archival safe? I can't stress that enough. You don't want your great granddaughter to come across you wedding photo some day in an album and not be able to see your face because the photo has faded beyond recognition.
  2. Is it simple enough that you will continue to use it? Don't choose scrapbooking as your only method if you are only going to get one book started and then throw everything back in a boxes and give it back to the dark, dreary basement again. That doesn't serve the purpose. If you don't have a lot of time then simply choose the box method. Make tabs and then organize your photo in the boxes. Make sure to write information on the back with a soft pencil as you go.
  3. Will future generations be able to view and understand the people and events when you are gone? Make sure to label all photos either on the back or with a caption below it. Include name, dates, places, and events.
  4. Last but not least make copies and give to other family members. This way in the event something catastrophic happens to your home and contents those photos will not be lost forever. I'm sure they will be gracious enough to make copies and give back to you.

The last thing to think about is what will happen with your photos and heirlooms when you are gone. Make sure that you have a data base or a file somewhere that expresses who is to get what item when you pass away. This way there is no question to your intentions. The best method is to have a will with every precious item listed and the recipient. Then to further enforce it find a way to put that person's name on the item, or on the container it is stored in. If each generation the item is passed down to continues to do this then it will also serve as a record of each person who has owned the item.

If you have any other methods that you and your family use to preserve, label and designate the next heir of your precious heirlooms and photo please share them with us. I'm sure there are many other methods out there. What ever works for you just make sure it will preserve and be very clear for the next generation to come.

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