Do you know about your immigrant ancestors? Childhood stories? Special heirlooms? These, among other questions, raise an important point about the value of preserving family history. Follow our tips to help you trace your heritage, build your family tree, and keep memorabilia (photos, heirlooms, and stories) safe for the future.
1 of 8
While no paper (document or photograph) can last forever, archived originals can last for years if they are properly cared for. Joe Callahan, chairman of the Scrapbook Preservation Society, recommends using acid free, buffered paper to preserve historical family items you want to use in a scrapbook. Original newspaper clippings should be treated with an archival spray (available at arts and crafts stores) to neutralize acids on the paper's surface, and placed into a protective sleeve, preferably one made from polyethylene, polypropylene, or polyester (avoid PVC).
2 of 8
Map out your family history by beginning your own genealogical search that involves conducting family interviews, collecting records, and getting in touch with others who share your interest or family name.
3 of 8
Not everyone is blessed with a close relative, but just about anyone can figure out where their ancestors come from and use that knowledge to enjoy family-roots travel, whether that means simply taking the kids to see the hometown where your parents or grandparents lived in New England, or going a bit further down the branches of the family tree in San Francisco.
4 of 8
Photographs, mementos, and historical records are the makings of an heirloom keepsake. Curate them into a shadow box, scrapbook album, framed print, or something else entirely unique, and it becomes a very special gift for relatives. Callahan's extra tip? "Money and postcards can be put into a special sleeve that allows them to be viewed from both sides."
5 of 8
Grandma's coffee cake, Mom's lasagna—there's something about a family member's specialty that makes it seem impossible to replicate. Film yourself cooking the special dishes step-by-step, in order to pass down your family's culinary traditions to future generations.
Swipe here for next slide
6 of 8
Preserve everything with a family scrapbook. Scan photographs into digital copies, then the pages can be printed and compiled into an album sent to family members. Just remember: "Any paper used in a scrapbook should be acid-free and buffered to increase the longevity of the paper placed atop it," Callahan says. "It's especially helpful if the paper is both acid-free and photo-safe."
7 of 8
Record Family Interviews
Discover family history straight from the source—your relatives. Record interviews from senior family members at a gathering by covering the basics (such as the subject's full name and place of birth). Then ask open-ended questions to prompt interesting life stories like, "When did our family first arrive in this country, and where did those relatives emigrate from?"
8 of 8
Keep the family spirit alive! Host a reunion to bring together relatives near and far. Make it a special ocassion: design a family logo to be printed on shirts, play games, and prepare a feast of family recipes. Designate someone as the photographer and take lots of pictures. At the end of the reunion, snap a group portrait. Afterward, you can have it printed for everyone in the family.