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28 April 2017

6 Tips on Preserving Your Family’s Legacy

by Chris Pattillo

Are you beginning to think about where all of your cherished photos, letter, documents and other family mementos will one day find a home? 

As the Chair of the current Capital Campaign for The California Genealogical Society (CGS), I have been hearing this concern voiced by many of the donors that our committee members (myself, Jane Lindsey & Sandy Fryer) have met with recently.

With that in mind, here are 6 things you can get started on right now that will allow you to begin preserving and sharing your family’s story:

1.   Label Your Family Photos

We’ve all got that big, messy and intimidating box or boxes of old, unlabeled photos that we’re dreading tackling.  Sorting them would be a great opportunity to kick-off conversations with your family, especially the grandchildren, and help draw them into their own family's stories.

Check out this great article from the Ancestry Blog that gives you detailed instructions on how to accomplish this important task.

2. Buy the Right Tools
Photo courtesy of Chris Pattillo
We’ve all heard that having the right tools makes any job easier, right?  So, do yourself a favor and consider getting these two essential tools that allow your scanning and recording endeavors to be both mobile and easy to accomplish. 

I recommend a photo scanner and voice audio recorder.  You will need to budget about $150 currently for good quality items, but it’s really worth it.

I personally have a VuPoint Solutions Magic Wand portable scanner and an Olympus VN 702-PC digital recorder.  Both of which are available from Amazon at reasonable prices. 

I have been very satisfied with both since they have regularly handled all of my needs. When shopping, please be 
sure to buy devices that enable you to easily download files to your computer.

3. Scan Your Photo
You’ve got your scanner and you’ve labeled the photos, so next it’s time to digitally preserve them. When scanning an image, I use the JPEG format at 300 dpi.

In addition to the boxes of photos you’ve scanned, you more than likely also have images that are in photo albums or are framed.  What should you do?

Ideally you should remove photos from their frames before scanning, but sometimes you just can’t. In that situation I’ve scanned through the glass. The scan may not be perfect, but it’s better than not having any copy of the photo. Another option is to take a photograph of your photo with a camera. Again, this is not optimal, but it is better than nothing.

4. Share Your Photos
You’ve done the hard work of scanning and labeling, now share them and reap the benefits of getting help from other genealogists, family and friends.  You may have some photos that you can’t identify, but asking your network might yield positive results. 

A good place to start is Facebook.  Upload them to your Facebook page or your grandchild’s Facebook page (if you’re confident they will like it). 

Not interested in using social media?  Go low-tech and put the images on a flash drive and mail it to descendants.  Either way, you’ve distributed your treasures to those most likely to value them one day.

5. Collect and Explain Other Family Documents
Don’t forget about these other important sources of research material and keepsakes that you or other family members are likely to have in your possession.  By cataloguing these items, it might help tell a story about family members or places they have lived.  You’re providing context and this makes your story much more compelling to the next generation. 

Ideas for collection are family bibles, photo albums, old love letters, school records, newspaper clippings, business documents, yearbooks, and awards received.

6. Record Your Oral History
Imagine how you would feel if you could listen to a recording from your great grandmother and hear her tell you about what her life was like.  Wouldn’t that be amazing?

After purchasing a digital recorder (covered in Tip #2) you‘re ready to start. Even though you may not find your own life very interesting, someone will one day.  How to begin?  Start by telling your own personal life history.  Here are just a few ideas on how to create an amazing experience for your descendants:
  • If married or in a committed relationship, describe how you met your spouse or partner.
  • Describe your wedding.
  • Talk about how you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan or similar holiday.  
  • It is better to record in several short pieces, about 3 minutes in length---keep in mind that most people have short attention spans.

After completing the recordings, don’t forget to share your audio files via flash drive, your blog, personal website, etc.

There are many more ways to help you begin preserving your family’s legacy, but these 6 tips will get you started off on the right foot.

Future Planning
Remember that we have the expertise, resources and volunteers devoted to preserving your family legacy.  Let us help you accomplish your goals.

Currently, we’re developing a presentation that we hope to begin giving by the fall on preserving your family legacy.  In the meantime, if you have questions on this topic or anything related to our Capital Campaign, then please send either Jane Lindsey or myself an email.  We’d love to hear from you! Thank you.

Copyright © 2017 by California Genealogical Society


Anonymous said...

Wonderful suggestions! It would have made things so much easier if my grandparents had followed your advice!

dustbunny8 said...

Great article! The only thing I disagree with is scanning photos at 300 dpi in jpg. Almost all archivist and photo experts recommend 600 dpi in Tiff format.This gives you maximum clarity for reprint and repair options.