3 top tips for taming "genealogy boxes"

3 top tips for taming "genealogy boxes"

On the EasyGenie Facebook page, we spotted a group of commenters commiserating about the difficulty organizing genealogy research, specifically the piles of "genealogy boxes" containing documents, photos, and heirlooms:

Sandy: "This is what my family tree looks like. Boxes."

Diane: "Me, too! Boxes of records back 12 generations! How do I chart them or collate to distribute. Just hope someone in the family values the ancestor stories, after I pass."

genealogy unorganized papers and folders

We totally get it. There's a palpable sense of dread when you open up a genealogy box or storage bin and see an unorganized mass of old papers, hanging folders, and random photos.

What's the best way to whip everything into some semblance of order? How can it be shared? And who will serve as the guardian of our family history once we are gone?

3 best practices to handle an overflowing genealogy box

Considering everyone's situation is different when it comes to records and family connections, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. But here are 3 best practices that we advise:

  1. Share core information from your family tree and important stories with relatives. You can use paper genealogy kits or fillable genealogy PDFs to do this, or consider making a family history book (see our recent interview with Devon Noel Lee).
  2. For original documents, photos, and copies of official records (such as downloaded census forms or BMD certificates), organize them by family branch using binders or other archival preservation materials (see our recommendations for archival storage vendors here).
  3. Try to identify someone who is truly interested in carrying the torch for the next generations. Or, seed interest in the younger generations.

On this last point, a customer once suggested preparing binders for each grandchild. The idea was to include summary charts and stories and photocopies of key documents, as well as original photos of ancestors split up among the binders.

The risk of keeping loose records in genealogy boxes is they will forgotten and eventually discarded by someone who doesn't know their value ... or is too grief-stricken to sort through them.

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