Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Preserving My Generation's History, One Manila At A Time

I inherited my mother's genealogy and photos many years ago, and the hardest part was sorting through everything. We use to bemoan how many photos she used to take, andthe task seemed daunting.  However, we are very grateful for the photos she took.  (That's my kooky Mom and Dad at right, who are very much missed to this day.)

I soon learned that my new best friend became the ol' manila envelope.  Yes I tried file folders, but nothing like the secure edges of a manila envelope to house (and haul around) your treasures.  Read on and you'll see why.

 As I gathered photos and mementos I sorted the items based on the following:
  1. A manila envelope for each sibling and parent (for individual photos and documents only)
  2. A manila envelope for "family group shots" (when one or more of my siblings or parents were photographed together - easier to find these and share with everyone later) 
  3. Manila envelopes for each of my uncles and aunts' families, plus manila envelopes for my ancestors which I called my "Butler ancestors" and "Morris ancestors."   I have 43 first cousins on my Mom's side, so needless to say I needed quite a few manila envelopes.  (Needless to say, our family took the commandment "mutliply and replenish the earth" literally!)
  4. Unidentified photos - and there will be many if you don't start soon!
  5. I later added electronic file folders on my computer hard drive that mimic these same manila envelopes  and their contents.
It was a simple method, but I soon realized I needed more envelopes.  Regardless, since it was so simple it was easier to just get started.  Sometimes that's the hardest part - starting the project!

As I would collect information in the envelopes, I loved how transportable the envelopes became.  I would take those envelopes to family reunions, weddings, funerals, etc., and would ask cousins and ancestors to help identify ancestors.  (Always keep a pencil handy to write on the back of your photos.).  And, I would turn over those manila envelopes to the recipients named therein as well.  What a nice present to give them photos of their loved ones.  In fact, one family actually had a house fire and lost all of their photos many years ago, so my little manila envelope turned out to be a family treasure to them.  I still maintain all of these manila envelopes to this date, though the contents may have changed over the years (as I give away photos, etc).

My only regret:  not thinking I'd need copies (or digital images) of all of the photos in those manila envelopes.  Now, I make sure every photo is scanned and processed to an identical electronic file folder for safekeeping before I give away original photos.  Lessons learned. 

I am also now uploading digital photos to ancestry.com under my family tree.  Sharing the photos on ancestry.com has helped me connect with many more extended cousins.  It is nice to receive emails from relatives who have never seen these items before, and share in their joy.

Sure - manila envelopes may not be the answer for you, but it worked well for me.  Get the larger manila envelopes too -- 10 x 13 is sufficient to start.  And, these manila envelopes can become the precursor for future scrapbooking projects or family histories (if you are so inclined).  It's a great place to start, and that's the point -- get started!


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