By Kimberly Brown, Family Historian
As you do your family history work, you're bound to accumulate piles of documents, photos, and memorabilia. Whether it's a marriage certificate your grandmother passed down to you, a census record you found online, or a photo you took of your kids, you'll want to keep and preserve these records for future generations. Here are a few tips for doing it successfully:
Get Organized. It doesn't matter if you have your entire family history documented with records and photos if you can't find the things you need when you're looking for them. Organizing these papers doesn't need to be a daunting task. If you don't know where to start, get a file box and label a folder for each surname or each ancestral family, then sort each record into its corresponding folder. If you have an abundance of records, you can break it down even further by sorting the records by time (for example, "Stephen Arthur Jones Family, 1900-1915).
Make it Acid-Free. Acidic paper, lamination, and ink will all cause papers to turn yellow and disintegrate over time. To make your records last longer, use acid-free paper or envelopes to store them. You can buy acid-free supplies at any scrapbooking store. You should also keep in mind that documents themselves could have been printed on acidic paper. These documents will turn yellow and brittle and eventually fall apart. This is especially the case with newspapers. For newspapers and other acidic documents, rather than keeping the clipping or document, it's better just to photocopy it. (Or if you're one of the folks who insist on keeping the actual newspaper clipping, go ahead and keep it. Just make sure that you also make a photocopy.)
Go Digital. Affordable scanners and computers with greater storage space now make digitizing your record collection easier than ever. You probably already have records that you found online stored on your hard drive; digitizing your other documents and photos is just a matter of scanning them in. Storing your records digitally minimizes storage space and eliminates the possibility of misplacing a document. However, keep in mind that if you store all your records digitally, you should always back up your data by burning a disc copy in case of computer crash or virus.
Duplicate it. The surest way to guarantee your records are available to pass on to future generations is to make more than one copy of record. If you store your family history digitally, it's a good idea to print a hard copy as well. It's also smart to make second copies of everything that you have and store them in a separate location, such as a family member's house. That way, if your basement floods, your house catches fire, or you misplace a box during a move, all your precious records that you spent years accumulating won't be lost.