Preserving Your Family Tree Like an Archivist


Preserving Your Family Tree Like an Archivist

By Kieran Robertson

As we all begin to face at least a few more weeks under a stay-at-home order, many of us are looking for new hobbies or distractions. It’s very possible that an interesting new activity may be sitting in your basement or attic and you didn’t even know it! I’ve heard from a handful of people that they have been passing their time at home by beginning the process that is preserving their family history.

Looking through the documents, photographs, or scrapbooks that your family has compiled over the years can be entertaining, enlightening, or even affirming. A friend recently shared this report card from her great grandfather with me. He was in school during the Spanish Flu Pandemic, and you can see where his teacher marked “no school.” Seeing this report card helped remind me that one day COVID-19 will also be history.

The items that make up your family story are meant to be enjoyed however you see fit. If you want to frame them, scrapbook them, or give the responsibility away to a sibling or cousin- it’s up to you! If you want to try to preserve your family papers, we have some tips you can follow to preserve like an archivist. Below you will find a fun how-to guide with tips and tricks that we use in the Archives at the Ohio History Connection.

Click Here For Our Preservation Guide!

There are a few extra notes we should make for family history in the time of COVID-19. Here’s a few new things to consider as you use this guide:

  • Don’t order disposable nitrile gloves to handle your photographs. Medical professionals need these right now. Try ordering cotton gloves. If you can’t get your hands on a set of gloves (pun intended) be sure to handle your photographs around the edges, to limit any fingerprints you’re leaving behind.
  • Finding supplies in general might be hard right now. Deliveries are delayed, and you might not have access to the best acid free supplies. That’s okay. Papers neatly organized in acidic file folders are still going to fair better than papers folded and tangled at the bottom of a box. Do what you can with what you have,and move your items to the acid free containers when you can get them.

The number one rule of archival preservation is to always wash your hands- which we assume you are doing anyways!
Have fun and let us know what you find!

Stay tuned to the History Blog for more tips and tricks on preservation at home!

Do you have a story to share? Right now, our team is documenting how Ohioans are experiencing today’s historic pandemic. As Ohio’s public history organization, the stories you share with us will help us understand the day-to-day impacts of COVID-19.
If you have images, videos, objects or a personal story to share, click here to learn how you can contribute.

Posted April 17, 2020

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