It’s the Holiday Season and many of us are spending time visiting relatives and catching up with those we don’t see often. This year, it may be the perfect time to multi-task by preserving relative’s memories and histories in your family history files or organizing old photos and clippings you may find.
Recently, I visited my parents at the home I grew up in. While looking for something in my childhood closet, I stumbled upon a box my mother had kept from my childhood filled with newspaper clippings, photos, old journals, school projects and even a couple cassette tapes from when I was a baby. It was Family History heaven – and not just for me. One of the cassettes had a recording of my Grandpa singing on it, who has since passed on. What a treasure to find after all these years! So I now have a project ahead of me and I’m working on digitizing and organizing this information. It’s a big project, so I came up with a list to serve as a framework.
Here are 4 practical and simple tips to help you along:
1. Go Looking!
When visiting your parents or relatives homes, go looking for preserved information and photos. I recently was at my Grandma’s home who lives out of town and the first thing I did was go straight to the hall closet where I knew the photo albums were. We all thumbed through the photos and found many we had never seen before. When you visit relatives or your childhood home, ask if you can go on a “finding mission” and search for photo albums, keepsakes, journals, cassette tapes, home movies or printed histories. Many times, these types of things have been stored away and remain un-seen for years.
2. Ask Questions!
Turn on your phone video recorder and start asking questions. Your relatives don’t have to be elderly to make a video interview valuable for family records. Some relatives have information that only they are aware of. You can simply turn on your camera, ask the relative basic facts such as name, birthdate and then ask them to tell you about their life, or you can come prepared with a list of questions.
You can find good sample lists online such as here on pinterest, but basic questions usually include birth dates, names of family members, notable dates such as weddings, etc. Ask about all the names you can. You can even look up the names online as you talk with them and double check your facts! For example, if you heard a distant story of a relative named John Waskowski, ask your relative the particulars and double check online to make sure you have your facts straight.
3. Save Your Own History!
It can seem daunting to journal, organize photos or document your own history. I have found some easy, simple ways to do this that help preserve the facts, your voice and don’t take up so much time.
– “Copy and Paste Journaling”
Have you ever realized how much life information we actually document without thinking about it? Save the time on journaling and simply copy and paste what you’ve already written! Though I am an avid journaler, I also copy and paste some Facebook updates, telling To Do Lists from my phone, calendar events and even group texts. You’d be amazed how much interesting and helpful information you can find right there. You may not find it interesting now, but just think how you’d feel if you could find a daily To Do list from your ancestor in the 1700’s!
– Save Cards
I went through a period where I threw Christmas, Birthday and other types of cards away because storing the sheer volume stressed me out. Then I found a way to easily store old cards to take up little space and be accessible – key rings! Simply get a single hole punch tool, a couple key rings and hole punch away! The cards take up little room on your shelf and when you do want to go check them out, they all flip easily on your key rings. This also makes it easy to add and take away.
4. Use Technology the Smart Way
Digitize the physical records you find. Don’t be overwhelmed by imagining a huge project spending hours in front of a scanner. Make it simple! If you have to, use your high grade camera on your phone to take a photo of a photo! Another trick is using places such as Costco to digitize old cassette and other records for you. If you don’t want to spend money on that, your local Family History Library might have a converter for you to check out and use for free. I have an app on my phone that lets me digitize and PDF documents simple by taking a photo of them. Think smart and use technology to your advantage.