How do you store family documents and memorabilia?

(9 Posts)
PrideOfChanur Fri 12-Oct-12 09:10:47

That's it really! I have a lot of family documents/old letters/photos etc,mainly still in boxes after clearing my parents' house a few years ago.
I would like to restart tracing my family tree,but realistically I just don't have the time at the moment and thought organising what I have and storing it better might be better than nothing.
Any advice would be gratefully received - apart from wanting it more accessible I don't want it all to be damaged by how I'm keeping it,but I look at it and don't know where/how to begin!

Maybe a folder? The ones where you can add more and more of those plastic file things. Have the label things when a new person/decade (however you want to order it, I find decade is easier) so you can flip to where you want quickly.

Before doing that, photocopy anything you don't have a copy of and/or scan it into the computer. That means that if anything happens, you have copies left over.

Of course, I might be underestimating how much you have. Boxes and boxes? Or just a couple of smaller boxes? Or just one small box? If it's the last two, then do the folder thing, if it's boxes and boxes, sort out the letters from the photos from the docs- or get your family to. You don't need to read or look. Then store them in a number of labelled for if it's a photo/doc/letter.

SeveredEdMcDunnough Sat 13-Oct-12 20:02:49

I think a solid metal box, or even a strong suitcase would do well.

I'm selling our huge old filing cabinet having sorted out the papers - now have a very small, two drawer one - and the important stuff, like certificates, red books, passports and letters from people I have to keep even if I don't want to - together with bank stuff and insurance documents - are all in a small, locked metal case with a handle which I plan to rescue if there is a flood or fire or something!

It's taken me years to put them all in the right place but you sound like you have the stuff sorted, just need somewhere appropriate to put it - I'd say a fireproof safe but they are a bit ££ I think.

mum47 Sat 13-Oct-12 20:07:30

Whatever you decide to do, store all important documents in one place, and make sure you all know where that is. I speak from the experience of someone who has not done that in the past and has lost our whole families passports - twice!
First time they have never turned up. Second time just this year I eventually found them in a random place - having put them in a "safe plcae" after the first lost passports debacle and then turned the house upside down over many weeks looking for them - only to discover that the dc's were out of date. No holiday abroad for us this year. blush My dcs are only just speaking to me now. I have since purchased a rather lovely red metal filing box to keep all important documents in. I wonder when I will get around to putting them in it..

SeveredEdMcDunnough Sat 13-Oct-12 20:15:44

Tell me about it - I had to get a new driving license about 6 months ago and have already lost it. <screams>

PrideOfChanur Sun 14-Oct-12 15:12:31

Thanks for the input.There are 2 different issues here,I think, as my question was mainly about storing family histrory type documents,though tbh the advice on storing important current documents is very timely as I need to do that too!
At the moment I think I know where everything is,but if anything happened to me DH wouldn't have a chance of finding it - not ideal at all.I do like the metal box idea,and that could go in the loft.

oopsydaisy,I've got boxes and boxes - well,more than a couple of small boxes,though some of the contents are objects,not paper stuff.I'm also worried about photos/letters etc getting damaged by not being stored properly.Sorting stuff by decade sounds like a good idea,and more easily managable than sorting by person.

That sounds like a lot! At home, the only historical things I have are about twelve photos, one schoolbook, a sampler by a Victorian ancestor and an army sign up thing. Oh, and a series of mugshots of a criminal ancestor. It doesn't even fill half a box.

There are some important things to think about-
- Preserving them. Storing them in a box in somewhere damp won't be good for them, and letters could end up crumpled if they aren't in folders.

- Finding them. You should be able to have a criteria to order them in, so you can find what you're looking for easily.

- Importance. Old photos, interesting and very old letters or similar are often nice up on display, or in some place where people can flick through them. So for more interesting things, storing them in an album might be better.

- Easy to get access to. If you want to take them out and look through them later, then it'll be easier if you don't have to climb over things to get there. You're more likely to remember and use them when you have the time if it's easy to find and get to them. Somewhere like a storage cabinet or files on a shelf will be better than storing them in the loft.

PrideOfChanur Sun 14-Oct-12 18:35:13

My family were hoarders,so I have all sorts of stuff from both sides (and it is only half as my DSis has some as well...)
Yes,I had thought that I don't want them permanantly in the loft,because it feels a bit cold and damp,and because I have kept them because I am interested in them,so don't want them inaccessible.
That means findind more space in the house proper though!
I think I need to get some folders and at least get the easily filed things like letters into that.Or an album - maybe get both and see how what I have fits best.At the moment they are only split into which side of the family they came from,so I could start with the smallest box and see how it goes.I think sorting by time period would be useful.

Thanks,oopsydaisy - just posting the question and getting comments back has helped me get an idea of where to start.(any more suggestions gratefully received!)

Nicola80 Thu 08-Nov-12 20:34:08

If you are worrying about preserving your documents, storing them in an attic or a cellar is probably not the best place for them. Damp can cause havoc with documents (mould being the main offender). Also putting anything near radiators and in direct sunlight are very damaging. There are however specialist storage materials that you can buy that can help preserve your documents, a couple of website examples are;
Conservation by design
PEL: preservation/conservation materials

The best place for advice on caring for your documents would be to visit the icon (the institute of conservation) website.

http://www.icon.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9&Itemid=10

It's mainly all about the materials you are using to store your documents in (acid free ph balanced storage boxes and folders which can only be bought from the above suppliers are best). You can also get what is known as melinex/Mylar polyester sleeves (a type of see through plastic wallet) for photographs. Photographs are extremely sensitive in light and when being handled.

I hope this is useful information for you and I haven't rambled too much.
I work at a county archive were we care for historical documents. We get inquiries from members of the public all the time on how best to Care for their family history documents. You can always contact your own local archive to get more advice or perhaps purchase some storage materials such as acid free boxes and folders.

Good luck x

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