Have you ever tried digging through family photos, scouring genealogy records, or examining heirlooms to learn more about your ancestors? It might have been frustrating to find so little information about them. Our ancestors didn’t have the same preservation tools as we do, so you’re lucky if you have several high-quality photographs of your great-grandparents or personal letters or journals. Exploring your ancestry may make you think about how to preserve family memories – and fortunately, with the many technologies and options we have available nowadays, keeping your family’s stories alive is relatively easy if you’re willing to put in a little effort.
It’s important to acknowledge the fragility of your family memories. It may feel as though everyone in your family, from generation to generation, will remember your grandpa’s booming laugh, your son’s talent for dancing, how lovely your mother looked on your wedding day, the story of your great-grandparents reaching Ellis Island, and so much more. But in reality, unless you preserve these memories in some way, they will likely become lost over time as fewer and fewer people mention them to your family’s younger generations. Use the tips below if you’re wondering how to preserve family memories for years to come.
How to Preserve Family Memories
Start by digitizing home movies and photographs ASAP.
Do you have a box of home movies gathering dust in your closet? Don’t let them deteriorate more than they already have. Reel-to-reel 8-mm tape typically only lasts about 20 years before breaking down, VHS cartridges begin to deteriorate after just 10 years, and CDs and DVDs can oxidize after just a few years (source). Photographs are also very susceptible to decay, especially if they’re stored in less-than-ideal environments. In fact, moisture, temperature, and sunlight can all inflict damage on photos.
Fortunately, numerous companies these days are able to digitize your old family films and photos – all you have to do is safely ship them. For example, Legacybox offers a variety of digital preservation services.
Scan and take pictures of everything.
Old letters and postcards, hospital records, certificates, plane tickets, recipes, artwork, and more can all be scanned for digital preservation. If you don’t have a fancy scanner, don’t worry! You can use a free app like Google PhotoScan to scan important photos and documents using your smartphone’s camera.
In addition, consider taking photos of family heirlooms so that you can label the digital files with important information. For example, if you have several important pieces of jewelry, take pictures of the items and then add details to the file names. For example, “Wedding Ring of Sarah Smith (1890-1972), Married in St. Louis in 1908.” If you do this, remember that it’s crucial to tell your younger family members about these digital files and make a note of them someplace (such as in your will).
Back up your images using multiple cloud services.
Things happen. Don’t let a fire, flood, leak, pest, or any other unfortunate accident ruin your family’s memories. Give yourself peace of mind by saving all important images online using a cloud service. Not only will this ensure that the images are protected in case of an accident, but also you can share the account login with other trusted family members so that multiple people have access to these important family memories.
Recruit younger family members to conduct video or audio interviews.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could hear your great-great grandfather sing, or hear your great-great grandmother talk about how her family moved to the United States? Unfortunately, they didn’t have the technology available to record these things for you. But you do! Take advantage of our modern technology with the help of younger family members. Ask them to interview other family members and preserve the video or audio as a digital file. Years from now, younger generations will be so thankful for the gift!
Consider typing up important memories.
You don’t have to be an amazing writer to type up some family memories. Simply write what you know! You could write about your own life, memories of your loved ones, or anything else you think future generations would find interesting. For example, if you’re not sure where to start and the idea of writing a memoir overwhelms you, you could just write brief pages about important events in your life (your wedding day, the birth of your child, a memorable vacation, a work accomplishment). Or, you could write your memories of important events in history (your experience in the war, your memories of JFK’s assassination or 9/11). Again, be sure to tell younger generations about these documents and save them on the cloud.
A family’s legacy depends on family members who are willing to spend a little time preserving stories, photographs, and heirlooms for future generations. What role will you play in the preservation of your family’s history?
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