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What is a Family Archive?

What is a family archive?  Find more #genealogy blogs at #FamilyTree.comDoes your family have a family archive? Are you sure? It is possible that someone in your family inadvertently started one. They might not even have realized it, especially if they don’t happen to know what a family archive is.

What is a family archive? Sunny McClellan Morton, at, explains it this way:

A family archive is an organized collection of heirlooms and meaningful documents. Every family should have a collection like this – not just rich or famous families. The objects don’t have to be valuable to anyone but your family. They don’t have to be well-rounded collections; it might be just a hodge-podge of things handed down. The purpose of a family archive is to gather, document, and preserve those objects for current and future generations to enjoy.

What should you put into your family archive? It can include anything that has a special significance to your family. Start by gathering up some family heirlooms. They don’t have to be expensive things. Start with the things that have been handed down from one generation to the next. Add in the items that instantly evoke a memory of a relative. Informational items are also a good choice.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

* Baby blankets (ones that a baby came home from the hospital wrapped in, or blankets that a relative used as a comfort item when he or she was a baby)

* Christening gowns (and other religious items that a relative wore or used)

* High school diplomas (college diplomas are great to add, too)

* Yearbooks from junior high, high school, or college

* Newspaper clippings (ones that show photos of relatives, that describe an event a relative participated in, that mention an award a relative earned, or that are an obituary of a relative)

* Boy Scout or Girl Scout uniforms, sashes, badges, and other awards

* Military items (uniforms, folded flags, photos of relatives taken when they were in the military)

* Wedding gowns (and photos of weddings, clippings of wedding announcements from newspapers)

* Vital records (birth certificates, wedding licenses, death certificates)

Do your best to preserve these kinds of items. You may need to take them to a place that can help restore or protect them. The family archive should be kept safe. Put the collection together and display it in a way that it can be enjoyed (and also preserved).

Don’t forget to document what those items are, and why they are important to your family. Make a note that says who the relative was that owned or used the item. Tell the story that goes with it. Include a list of the previous owners of that particular item before it came to you.

Image by nessguide on Flickr.

Related Articles at

* Heirlooms on eBay

* Why Keep Old Family Stuff (Oh, I Mean Heirlooms)?

* Heirlooms Missing?

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