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Gathering treasure from trash

Dec 06, 2018 08:30AM
By Ginny Ackerson Shortly after the funeral of your recently deceased relative, you are invited to help to clear and pack up their house. There are many boxes of papers along with the furniture, household goods, clothing and linens to sort through. How do you know what papers are important, what papers should be archived and which papers you should just throw out?

The Society of American Archivists makes some of the following suggestions on their website: (http://www.archivists.org/publications/donating-familyrecs.asp) Among the types of materials in personal and family papers of interest to researchers are letters, memoirs, reminiscences, diaries, scrapbooks and photo albums, professional papers such as diplomas, military records, and achievement certificates, previously compiled genealogical information, speeches, presentations and lectures, business records, legal documents including birth, marriage, divorce decrees and death certificates, passports and deeds, Christmas letters, birth announcements, wedding invitations, funeral cards or programs, photographs (please label them as they are useless otherwise), films, videos and audio tapes (labeled), and church records such as blessing certificates, priesthood ordinations, mission calls and journals.

One of the foremost genealogical archivists is Denise May Levenick, author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes, suggests naming the collection, doing no harm to the items in restoration attempts, maintaining the original order, following a “keep, skim or throw away” protocol, preserving items in archival quality containers, preserving the heirloom originals, going paperless with digital copies in conjunction with printing less, using specific scanning procedures, planning for research success, using a checklist for your archiving goals, and having a sourcing cheat sheet. How you choose to organize these precious items determines whether they are a blessing or just another box of junk.

Since this is the time of year we are searching for meaningful Christmas gifts and for exciting New Year projects, going through those old boxes and discovering their treasures could be just the ticket. A friend of mine, who is in her 90’s, has toted around many boxes of “stuff” throughout her life. She determined to go through them and oh! the family gold she found!! Her father was a newspaper writer who eventually became a columnist and she found piles of his dated press passes showing where he was at every major historical happening during his lifetime! She is making a book with the press passes, the articles he wrote at the time the passes were issued with brief historical comments to tie it all together. All of her family will receive copies and be able to know their Grandpa much better.