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Preserving Keepsake Memories

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Whether they have pride of place on your mantle or are tucked away in a drawer out of sight, all of us have keepsakes or even family heirlooms with stories to tell. As genealogists, we focus on people, places, events, and relationships. Objects have history too.

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For example, you have an old Punch and Judy tea set. Your mother’s uncle owned a storage and moving company. After a family didn’t pick up the tea set, the uncle gave it to your mother. The tea spout has been imperfectly glued back together and the old-fashioned pattern doesn’t appeal to kids these days, but its charm is that your mother played with it as a girl. You can tuck the story of its provenance inside that teapot.

Your grandfather built dollhouse furniture for all of his grandchildren, or at least for all of the girls. Your grandmother painted all the pieces, from beds and dressers to tables, rocking chairs, and grandfather clocks. Although the dollhouse didn’t survive and some of the furniture has broken or gone missing, what remains are pieces of your childhood. Look through your photo albums for pictures of you playing with the dollhouse. You may be able to date when the furniture was made by looking at pictures, but at least you’ll be able to pass on who made it and why. Write a note and attach a photo to place in one of the drawers.

If you collect Christmas ornaments, you can photograph them as you’re taking down the tree. Use one of the online photo gift companies such as Shutterfly to create a photo book. You can include captions under each picture, telling about the special memories attached to each ornament.

Paper Goods

If you collect postcards, you can write something on the back about the place, why it was special, and the date you visited. If you keep holiday newsletters written by family members (or yourself), you can compile them in a three-ring binder, putting the individual pages in sheet protectors back to back so you can read it like a book. If you save greeting cards, you can group ones that match a theme (say, Valentine’s Day, summer, or cards from Germany), then mount and frame them. If you hold onto holiday photo cards, you can store them in a box, using dividers to separate the years. And, it goes without saying, if you have photographs, label them all!

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