Sunday, August 28, 2011

Preserving the History of our Immediate Family

Dick Eastman posted a comment in his online Genealogy Newsletter on Monday August 22, 2011 about, " Where is Your Family Photo Album?" Every day I look forward to reading his newsletter. It helps me stay current in the genealogy world and provides food for thought as I process the day's events. I took this topic one step further and would like to discuss how we can preserve the history of our immediate family.

About twenty years ago I put together our immediate family picture albums and one for each of our six children. Of course I used the popular sticky page photo albums, which are horrible for pictures. This year I am redoing them with acid free materials, scanning them and making myself printed copies. I find it easier to mount them in albums and identify them before scanning. My children are going to receive their own albums when I am finished. Then I need to work on the five boxes of pictures from the last twenty years. This is going to take some time, but now is the time to get started. Most of the pictures have duplicate copies, so sharing is pretty easy. Our youngest son was born after the original process and he has never seen most of his pictures. The other kids love looking at their albums.

Once a year I have my online digital pictures that are on my computer and online through my Costco account, backed up to CDs and keep them in a fire proof safe. This is a fairly easy process, but I am left with many more pictures than in the past. Now in some fashion I need to decide on a selection of pictures from this collection that I want to preserve in a physical collection. My daughter recently lost a year's worth of pictures when her laptop died. This could have been prevented. While I had some of them on my computer, there were others that she had not backed up. The loss of her videos was very upsetting to her. We have years of videos that need to be preserved in a more useful manner, but those are going to wait a bit longer.

When my grandmother finally agreed to allow me to take her piles of pictures that were scattered all around her house, I created three picture albums for her. The first was for her childhood and her first marriage, the second was for her second marriage and the third had sections for pictures of her children later in life. She treasured those albums for the remainder of her life. I shared digital and physical copies with her children and at her death I was given the originals.

Now comes the part of the paper documents. These are as important as the pictures and in some cases are irreplaceable. Sometimes we don't even take the time to make copies or preserve records that might add to the family history. Even with new modes of communication, I  have been careful to retain computer files and paper notebooks of our family correspondence. Not every one, but significant ones that will help future generations to know us better. These are far more complicated, but I do believe we need to make a concerted effort to create physical document albums to share with our families.

For the documents of my relatives I have created albums for each family. Some have a limited number of pictures with the family documents and records. These have been scanned and there are about 1,000 scans from what I call our pre-marriage collection for my side of the family. This has been shared with many people and is on several computers and CDs.

In doing our family history research we often overlook the records of our immediate family and close relatives. For my children, my husband and myself, I have our birth certificates, marriage certificates and social security cards, as they have been required for tax purposes for some time. My mother supplied me with their birth, death and other records after my father passed away.

When I applied for DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) in 2005, I was surprised at the documents I was lacking to prove my ancestral lineage of over two hundred and seventy seven years. The two key pieces I was lacking were a copy of my mother's birth certificate and my parent's marriage certificate. Actually she had the birth certificate, but her name is not listed, the line is left blank. For further proof I was able to use school records that her mother signed acknowledging the receipt of the records. For the marriage certificate I actually had to request a copy from the county where they were married. As an after thought I decided to get a copy for my mother, as she did not have one. When I did this, I also asked for the application which provided some additional information.

Recently, as I was going through my family database to verify which close relatives that I have records for, I realized I do not have my grandmother's birth or death records. When I asked my mother about these, she mentioned that she had a tub full of my grandmother's paper work. Since then, I brought the tub to my house and one of my first projects this fall is to go through these materials, create a notebook of the documents, scan them and make paper copies for me, before returning the notebook to my mother. You see, she does not want the whole tub of stuff, but wants it preserved in a more useable fashion.

So, what documents are missing from your immediate family information? Can it be as simple as asking our relative for a copy for genealogy purposes? Do you have pictures that need to be organized and shared with your relatives? Sitting on a gold mine of family memorabilia is not very conducive to furthering our research and sharing it with others. With the fall weather upon us, make it a goal to work on this gold mine and unearth those long buried treasures.

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