A couple of years ago, I made the decision to ensure I had a robust method in place to ensure my genealogy research is preserved for future generations. I do have my own self-hosted family history website, but I decided to contribute as much as I can to FamilySearch Family Tree. Since making that decision for my digital stuff, I’ve reflected on what I can do for my physical collection. I started giving this much more thought at the beginning of the year after DearMyrtle announced her 2016 Get Organized Checklists series.
Currently, I have many 3-ring binders of paper, plastic bins with even more papers that I use as a catch-all, and family mementos scattered here and there. When I need to find something, it can sometimes be a pain.
One of my boxes of family history stuff. This one has on top a letter my great-uncle wrote to my grandmother, Kalonji’s parent’s marriage certificate, and my high school graduation announcement. This is not the way to keep family history. #shameful
I knew I had to do better so I began devising a new plan. My goals for my new organization plan included the following:
- when it comes to vital records I will keep the physical form only if it is not readily or easily available elsewhere (a somewhat subjective determination) or if I paid quite a bit to obtain it
- keep the physical stuff to a minimum so that when I am no longer around (I’m thinking about the future here!), my family won’t have to worry about going through my things and trying to figure out what should be kept
- use a more “browsing-friendly” approach to what I keep, rather than numbering systems, surname binders, etc. By this, I mean that I want to keep the files and items organized, but in a way that makes it appealing just to look through, rather than keeping documents organized by a specific person or family. My digital record-keeping is where info is tracked by each individual & family, so I don’t feel I need to replicate that for my physical collection.
With these principles in mind, I decided to create what I will call my Family Treasure Boxes!
Setting Up the Family Treasure Box
Taking advantage of Michael’s sale today – 50% off all decorative boxes, I picked up 4 of them to start my Family Treasure Box collection. The box sizes vary, but the are between 15-17 inches wide, 11-14 inches deep, and 5-8 inches high. These 4 boxes will be used for 1) my maternal family, 2) my paternal family, 3) my husband’s family (both sides combined for now), and 4) for my husband and I.
Family Treasure Box for my maternal family
Family Treasure Box for my paternal family
Family Treasure Box for my husband’s family
Family Treasure Box for my Kalonji and I
For the documents that will go in each box, I’ll use file folders with labels such as “Birth Certificates,” “Marriage Certificates,” “Death Certificates,” “Obituaries,” “Funeral Programs,” etc. The folders will then be placed in larger, expandable folders to keep them together.
file folders to organize documents like certificates and funeral programs
I will place mementos in envelopes or small bins. For now, my materials are not archival quality, but I once I get the boxes established, I will switch to archival quality materials. My family pictures are stored elsewhere, in photo books, but I may put a select few in each box. It will take me awhile to move my stuff into their new box homes, as I will need to sort through all my current papers and make sure every item I decide to keep in physical form is digitized and digitally archived. But, once I do, I’ll share pics of the insides.
I think the concept of a “treasure box” will make our family history items much more interesting to look through than what I am currently doing. And besides, they just look so pretty on my shelf! 🙂 And, even my tween daughter will know that THESE are the important family history things – she’s already told me she wants her own treasure box. What do you think?