Organizing Your Boxes of Family History Keepsakes
Organize Family History Photos and Documents Into Simple Binder Scrapbooks
The easiest way to organize that pile of family history photos and documents is into scrapbook binders. I'm not talking about the creative fancy scrapbooks that are a popular hobby right now. I'm just talking about a simple way to chronologically file and organize all that paper that tends to pile up, into easy-to-access three-ring binders.
Treasures in Chaos
Preserving and Organizing Your Family Keepsakes and Important Documents
Get a Handle On Your Box of Family Photos and Papers
Overwhelmed with the volume of family keepsakes, photos and important genealogical documents I had accumulated and inherited, I had to come up with an easy way to organize and preserve these treasures. If you're looking for a way to make pretty and creative keepsake books, keep looking. I'm talking about huge piles of sometimes ugly and musty, but also precious, papers that document a person's life.
I've found a very practical (and inexpensive) way to quickly assess, sort and preserve these documents in chronological order. The end result is a book that becomes a person's history in a page-by-page timeline of their life.
Once done, the boxes of musty paper disappear in favor of a neat row of family genealogy binders. Now you can go ahead and selectively choose from the raw material, those photos and documents you want to use or copy for your creative scrapbooking projects. Or when a child asks you about Grandpa, you can pull the binder down and thumb through an illustrated history that makes him come alive.
"I'm talking about huge piles of sometimes ugly and musty, but also precious, papers that document a person's life."
"When a child asks you about Grandpa, you can pull the binder down and thumb through an illustrated history that makes him come alive."
A Simple Way To Control the Keepsake Clutter
Nothing Fancy Here, But Very Functional
The first step is sorting. If papers and documents aren't already sorted into family groups, do that first. Use tubs or boxes and simply toss in papers and photos belonging to each family. As you go you will find obvious discards. If you're unsure, keep it for now.
Now, starting with just one family, decide which things to keep and which to toss. You will definitely keep any formal documents like birth certificates and marriage licenses. When it comes to shopping lists and postcards, it depends on how old they are, how many there are, and how important it is to you. It's important to do this sort quickly and not get bogged down. At this point, if you hesitate over something for more than ten seconds, keep it for now.
Now sort loosely into chronological order, birth to death. Don't worry about getting things into exact order. The beauty of this system is that you can easily change the chronological order at any time without messing up your previous work.
Now it's time to simply place the documents into protective sleeves, and the sleeves into binders. If something is out of chronological order, simply move it. Now you'll be making some final decisions about keeping or tossing. Again, if you're unsure, simply file it, it's only another page.
The beauty of this system is that you can easily change the chronological order at any time.
Treasures in Order
Sheet Protectors Are Amazingly Inexpensive - Buy in Boxes of 100
Be sure to choose acid free, archival quality top-loading sheet protectors. Most brands run around the same price per box of 100, so choose a brand known for high quality.
Get High Quality Binders - Cheaper Binders Will Crack and Split
Choosing a high quality binder large enough for all the documents in one family will save money in the long run. Cheaper binders crack and split, even if they're not handled frequently.
Clear spine and front pockets make it easy to label or customize for each separate family.
Operation Family Keepsake - To-Do List
Your checklist for getting a handle on disorganized family and genealogy papers and documents.
Work on one family or person at a time.
- Sort papers into family surnames (last name).
- Keep or toss? When in doubt, KEEP.
- Loosely sort chronologically.
- Purchase binders and sheet protectors.
- Put each document in a sheet protector, then into binder.
- Adjust chronological order as you add pages.
- Label binder and shelf it.
- That's all there is to it. Give yourself a pat on the back!
Organizing and Preserving Family Papers Brings Peace of Mind
No Need to Make Anything Fancy. . . .Unless You Want To
Remember, this isn't necessarily about a finished scrapbook -- highly decorative or otherwise. It's about preserving and organizing important documents and keepsakes from a living or deceased person's life. Once you've done this, you can create other family history projects from the organized material. Or, like me, you might be content with the idea that number one, all the papers are now safely stored and accessible to family members or for genealogy research, and number two, there is no longer an overwhelming pile of disorganized family keepsakes cluttering your home and mind.
How To Preserve Your Family's History
Making a Book Based On Your Keepsakes
The Story of Your Lifetime
Write your history directly into a bound volume. Questions prompt you to write your experiences, thoughts and feelings for generations to come.