We are the keepers of the record, the protectors of family photos, and the font of all family lore: We are the record keepers. The “Chief Memory Officers.” And we keep a lot of stuff in our quest for preserving our histories. Cleaning and organizing all those papers, photos, and memorabilia is a big job. Here are some little ideas that might make for a big difference this Spring:
- Get the boxes out of the attic/basement. Papers and photos need to live where you live – free of moisture and humidity. While doing your normal spring cleaning, designate some newly cleaned space for your genealogical information.
- Organize in baby steps. Too many boxes? Try setting aside time to go through a box, but only to take out information for one family (not a whole surname, it is easier to file papers and memorabilia by couple or individual). Take out the pages just for Uncle Jehoshaphat Blank and his wife Aunt Jemina (Someone) Blank. Go through them and see if any thing needs to be a) scanned and uploaded to your online family tree, b) used for future research and put in your research log, or c) thrown away because you have duplicates of the same 1820 census. Take them and simply put them in a labeled file folder in a dedicated filing cabinet. Then repeat with the next couple. Maybe put on some classic 1940s or even early jazz albums to get you in the mood while you shuffle through that box.
- Learn about photo preservation for your originals. You don’t need to scrapbook them (yet), but you may avoid future damage by putting them in a safer environment (rather than that ziplock bag or sticky album). There are some great how-to articles online, try NARA’s article on removing photos from sticky albums or About.com’s section on Preserving the Past.
- Get help. Genealogy is about family, so why not make organizing your family history a family affair? Plan an organizing-get-to-know-our-ancestors party with your cousins, children, or grandchildren.
- Make a date. Cleaning and organizing can be overwhelming. Plan and calendar when you will organize in the next month. Can you spare an hour once a week? Two hours a month? A little progress is still progress, and you may find that you are enjoying your hands-on family history much more than you thought.
I can’t promise that organizing will be easy, but it will always be worth it. How many times have I found something I didn’t realize I had, or more often I find something I forgot I had but that now has new significance in light of the research I’ve recently done. A little time here and there goes a long way.