When is the Best Time to Preserve Family History? Now.

When is the best time to preserve your family’s history? Now.

A lovely example of why to protect your family’s history is found in the article, “Too much easily collectible family history is lost” from Payson Roundup:

We had a family reunion at my house the other day…Seeing all four of them together again for the first time in several decades gave me a lot of pleasure.

What didn’t give me pleasure, though, was something that happened — something minor but, I thought, meaningful.

Lolly and her sister and brothers got to talking about old times. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was digging out albums and boxes of old photographs for them. Watching them look at them and reminisce was good fun…Out of a box came a very old black and white photo.

“This is Mom,” Lolly’s younger brother said, “but I don’t recognize any of these other faces.”

…The only person they recognized was their mother. The picture got turned over and over, but there was nothing on the back, or written on its margins. There were five people in the photograph, four of them unknown faces, even though the context of the picture clearly showed that they were relatives or close friends of Lolly’s mother.

It got me thinking.

Yesterday, I bought some small labels. I’m going to stick them on the bottom of, or on the back of, some of the things in the house, things like hand-made pieces of furniture, pottery, paintings, and on the backs of some otherwise unlabeled photographs. Why? To record some small bits of history before they’re gone forever.

For example, right at the foot of the stairs leading down from the room where I’m writing this column stands a mahogany plant pedestal. It’s nothing spectacular, but I know some things about it that no one else knows. Here’s what I’m going to type on the label that I’m going to stick under its base: Turned out on a wood lathe in his sophomore year (1946) at Chapman Technical High School, New London, Conn. by Tom Garrett.

We are surrounded by family memorabilia, but who will know the meaning of these things in one, two, or twenty years.

I recently spent a few months with my mother back home. Having spent too long overseas and away from home, I delighted in seeing and touching things that brought back so many memories. A hand-blown glass owl I bought for her on my first trip to Italy, hand-carrying it back with care to add to her owl collection. She has now moved on to collecting miniature cats knickknacks when she travels, with one from every trip she’s taken in the past few years. Where she found them, though, I don’t know. This one looks like it might be Mexico, but the other one looks like it might have been from France, Austria, or Switzerland. How would I know?

My mother and I went through hundreds and hundreds of photographs as I helped her scan them into her computer to preserve them. She remembered some of the events in the photographs, even as a small child, as if they were taken yesterday. Others, she wasn’t even sure where they came from, though she could recognize some of the people.

Memories are fleeting, and it’s important to just make a small note, put a post-it note on the back of a picture or label it in some way with a name, place, and date, anything to help us remember who and where this is, especially once there is no one left to remember. Who will remember then?

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About Lorelle VanFossen

Lorelle VanFossen hosts Family History Blog covering her ancestors and related family members. She is one of the top bloggers in the world, and host of the Lorelle on WordPress, providing WordPress and blogging tips for bloggers of all levels. A popular keynote speaker and trainer, she is also editor, producer, contributor, and official disruptive thinker for Bitwire Media which includes WordCast, Making My Life Network, Stories of Our Journeys, Life on the Road, WordCast Conversations, and the very popular WordCast Podcast.
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