Mat Tam Photography – Boston Family Photographer


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Making Family History Fun: Ways to Preserve Family Memories

4 month old girl photos session at shannon beach in Winchester, MA with parents. Family photo. With dad and Mum. sitting down shot. Laughing. dad with daughter. Mother and daughter

Making Family History Fun:  Ways to Preserve Family Memories

There are many ways to preserve your family history. Family history is my favorite pastime. Because of this, I have a lot of information about my family and it took a while to decide how best to preserve it. I also learned some tips from My History is America’s History15 Things You Can Do To Save America’s Stories (1999).

If you are interested more in preserving your data, provides free software for organizing your family’s birth and death dates, locations, and other factual information. My focus is going to be on preserving the spirit of your family rather than on the numbers.

One good thing you can do to preserve stories from your life and those family members you met are keeping a diary. I have kept a diary since I was thirteen years old and it follows me from being an awkward junior high school student to a 32-year-old mother of two. Memories of those I lost during that time period abound in the diary such as my grandmother’s death when I was 22 years old.

A fascinating idea for me is one I have not attempted yet. Family quilts can be created out of items that are significant to your family. First, decide on the number of family members to include in the quilt to see what size and shape it will be. Secondly, be sure each square emphasizes something special to your family such as pictures of people, pets, proverbs, family coat of arms, etc. Give each person involved in the project four squares so they can practice in case of a mistake. Thirdly, make sure to sketch your quilt design before beginning. With larger families, it is very easy to make the quilt too big. You will need a beginner’s quilting book, paper, and pencil, four squares of pre-washed, unbleached muslin cut down to size, fabric paints or photograph appliqués, cotton batting cut to size, and sewing supplies.

Investigate your photographs and make copies of the damaged ones. Place the photographs in acid-free boxes to store and do not pack too tightly. One thing I have done that I should not have is laminate special records. Rather than laminate the records, consult a conservator, store them in darkness, and ration the time the item spends in the light.

Investigate photographs for clues to whom and what are pictured. Write down where the photograph was taken if you know when it was taken, and why it was taken. Never give up on learning who is pictured in one of the older photographs. In my quest to learn about a paternal ancestor, I gained a box of tintype and early paper photographs. One picture was of an elderly woman and the picture was likely taken at the beginning of the twentieth century. I met a distant relative online whose great-grandfather was the brother of my great-great-great grandmother. In sending me photos, she included one of the ones I owned but could not identify. The photo was of my great-great-great grandmother. Now I have the information on who is in the photograph and can preserve it for future generations.

There are many ways to preserve the story of your family outside of photographs in a manner where they eventually disintegrate and need repair. I have a special item that belonged to each great-grandparent, grandparents, parent, me, my husband, my husband’s family, and our two children. I placed the item in a Ziploc bag along with a written paper including the information I knew about the item. For example, my grandmother’s ceramic cat is in the box. When I was about six years old, my mom bought her the cat for Christmas. Grandma asked me what she was going to get from my parents that year and I told her. I wrote the date of the purchase of the Cat (1982-1984), who it belonged to, the story and included a picture of my grandma. This is one of the heavier items in the box. When possible, I used baby bracelets, rings, and smaller items to preserve so the box would be light enough to carry in case of a fire. Preserving family history should be fun and not a hassle. Be creative. Think about ways to make your family’s history meaningful for future generations.

(This article was written by a blogger; Not by Mat Tam)

My History is America’s History: 15 Things You Can Do To Save America’s Stories.The National Endowment For The Humanities and The White House Millennium Council. 1999.