Thank you for joining me today!
I hope you enjoyed the presentation! I have summarized the main points for you on this page. If I skipped something you want to know more about, or have a question, just give me a call at 215-645-7766 or email me at email@example.com.
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Organizing / Triage
For photos and documents, remember the three triage categories:
Your favorites which you definitely want saved, scanned, and shared.
The ones you want to keep but aren't your favorites.
The ones to throw away (duplicates, damaged beyond repair, unrecognizable, no sentimental value).
Before you get started, make sure you gather everything together. It's very annoying to sort through several boxes and think you're done, only to discover a couple other boxes in the guest bedroom closet.
Labeling: There is no perfect method to labeling, only what works for you. As long as you pick one system and stick with it, that is already a big step forward. The two main methods are chronological (i.e. everything up until the kids left for college) and thematic (i.e. our vacations, everything from the Jones side of the family vs. the Smith side, and so on).
For folder and file names, I like "Last name, first name, date, occasion" (i.e. Jones, Elizabeth, 1942, graduation). If you have two people with the same name, just add their birth year.
For Philadelphians: If you are not up to scanning photos yourself, there are some good options. The PhotoLounge on the 1900 block of Chestnut Street does all sorts of digitizing (VHS tapes, cassette tapes, photos, slides, negatives, etc.) and they will give you a discount if you tell them I sent you. They also have a very convenient drop-off and pick-up service.
There is an enormous amount of information on the internet. A good place to start is here with my beginners guide to archiving. If you want more information, the Library of Congress has terrific guides to download as well.
Pro tip: Archival storage materials are expensive. Make sure not to skip the triage steps above as you may not want to spend the money to scan or store your entire family history collection.
Archiving basics: Avoid glues, tapes, lamination. Remove items that damage other items, such as paper clips, staples, and newspaper clippings. Unfold items like correspondence when you can.
Storage: For physical materials, avoid damp places with no climate control such as attics, basements, and garages. For digital items keep several distinct copies to serve as back up. For example, you can keep one copy on your computer, one on your external hard drive, and one in the cloud.
Useful cloud services:
Forever.com: Forever provides cloud storage for photos, videos, and more. They are unique in providing permanent storage for a flat fee. There are also built in photobook-making, printing capabilities, and many other services.
Smugmug.com: Smugmug is an online storage website for photos which focuses more on organization than on community. One of its benefits is the ability to handle metadata well. You can save 15% off any new SmugMug account when you click this link.
The website Collectionaire is not a storage site but can be very useful gathering materials from different sources. Instead of uploading all your materials, it links to the places your materials are already stored. The image below shows a layout example.
Hiring a professional:
Costs anywhere from $40 to $150/hr.
You can find one at The Association of Professional Genealogists, or by calling your local historical society (most offer this service at a reasonable fee plus you're supporting a local institution), or call me. I know several genealogists and can refer you.
If you plan to do genealogy research yourself remember to always check the privacy settings (if you care about this sort of thing) before you get started. The big four in the world of genealogy are:
Ancestry.com: They have about 20 billion records to sift through. Their fees range about $190-$390 annually, though monthly options are available. They also sell DNA tests.
Family Search: This is the only totally free service with such a big data set (7.25 billion records). They do not do DNA testing. You will need to sign up in order to use their service but no credit card is required.
Find My Past: This organization focuses on records of the UK, Australia, New Zealand, US, and Canada. Their annual fees range from about $130-$180 annually.
My Heritage: Here you will find a hybrid model where you can set up a tree for free but the ability to search documents is limited unless you are a paid subscriber. My Heritage has a specific focus on European records and Jewish records.
Don't forget the specialty sites! There are hundreds if not thousands of small websites with very local, specific data. Google is your friend here: don't be afraid to use it to search for your area of interest.
Now that you have organized and scanned your materials, and done a little research, you are in a perfect place to tie that all in with your stories.
Getting your stories and/or your family stories down on paper is a no small task. But it is the best way to preserve your family history and cement your legacy. Many life experiences are universal. Knowing how our parents, grandparents, and so on faced life's ups and downs creates the unifying connection that defines family.
Lots of people get sidetracked or discouraged because of these three myths. Don't let the false impression that writing your memoirs or your family history is some kind of ego trip. It's not! If any part of you is worried about that, please read my short blog post about that and the other myths which keep people from engaging in this task.
What kind of book should you work on? You have a lot of choices. You can:
Write a comprehensive memoir about your life
Write just about a specific point in time (i.e. my years in the Navy)
Write about your family history
Write about just one person in your family
Create a book of correspondence, recipes, traditions, or family trips
I know the idea of writing your memoir can seem daunting. If you need a place to start and useful tips for how to tackle such a project, try reading my Memoir Guide.
I wish you the very best of luck as you take on the incredibly meaningful work to preserve you and your family's legacy. If you hit any bumps in the road, please don't hesitate to call 215-645-7766 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.