If you have French heritage, you may be interested in six new census collections that were recently added to FamilySearch.
How can these records help you if you have French ancestry? These census records are valuable because they provide a snapshot of families at a specific time—in this case, 1876, 1891, and 1906. As you find your family in multiple census records, you will see a more complete picture of that family over the years.
During these years, censuses were taken by department, or region, every 5 years. In the census records you will find:
Even though the census doesn’t give relationships between the people in a household, you can use the information in the census records to find other records that do prove relationships, such as christening or marriage records.
You might be trying to connect immigrant ancestors with their place of origin in France. Census records can help with that too. If you aren’t sure where some of your French ancestors originated, you can search the census by surname and potentially find your family.
These six collections bring the number of French census collections in FamilySearch to 13, including census records for the city of Toulouse and the departments of Dordogne and Saône-et-Loire. To see all collections for France, visit the France Research Page. And if you’d like to see more French records, why not help by participating in French indexing?
Collections are being indexed and published regularly, so please keep checking back for new or updated publications.
by John de Jong
I stood on a dike in the small village of Andijk, my ancestors’ home, looking out at the rough sea. It was easy to imagine my ancestors, hundreds of years earlier, preparing for an approaching gale. I was standing on a strong, modern dike. But in their day, only an earthen dike protected their homes from the rising waters—homes built on land they had reclaimed from the sea years before.
Each family in the village would have been responsible for a portion of the dike. During a storm, one of the villagers was assigned to ride along the top of the dike with a flag and watch for breaches. When he saw one, he would race to the home of the responsible family and alert them to repair the breach. I am sure neighbors would come to help. Together they fought to keep their families and community safe.
As I think about my Dutch ancestors from Andijk and elsewhere, I recognize gifts from them in the form of character traits, passed from generation to generation: their ingenuity in reclaiming land from the sea; their persistence in protecting that land; their quick willingness to lend a helping hand; and their focus on the most important priorities, especially family and religious freedom.
During World War II, my grandmother, who later emigrated with our family to the United States, used her skills as a seamstress to secure work mending the clothes of Dutch farmers. Their farms were still producing food, but the food was taken by the occupying German soldiers. Though my grandmother was paid with food, it was forbidden for her to take it to her family in Amsterdam. So she found ways to smuggle it back to them.
She told us how she was once given eggs, which she carefully placed in the wicker basket on her bicycle. When a guard stopped her at one of the checkpoints, he asked what was in her basket. At that moment, she recalled her father saying that she should always tell the truth. So she said to the guard, “There are eggs in the basket.”
The guard just laughed and said, “If you have eggs in your basket, you just go on through.” And she did.
Another time she had hidden a round of delicious Dutch cheese under her loose dress. This time, the checkpoint guards made her get off her bicycle, come into the guard shack, and sign some papers. Somehow, she kept the cheese from being discovered. She made it home safely and the cheese was enjoyed gratefully by her family and friends.
My grandmother took risks smuggling food, and fortunately she was never caught. However, she and my grandfather also hid Jews during the war. One day, while they were gone from the apartment where they lived, one of the hiding refugees flushed a toilet. A neighbor heard the noise through the thin apartment walls and alerted the police. As a result, my grandfather was sent to a concentration camp, which he endured for nine months. Thankfully, he survived. My grandparents had known the risks of helping someone else, but for them, the risks were worth it. Helping others in need was part of who they were.
Many years later I saw my mother and grandmother, then recent converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, reach out to help others in a different way. After our family emigrated from the Netherlands to the United States in 1963, they immediately began going to the Salt Lake Family History Library to work on their family history. They did this for a full day once each week over the next 30 years.
I remember going with my mother to the library as early as age 8. On one trip, she wrote down the name “van Nieuwenhuijs” for me. After putting a microfilm on the machine, she said to me, “Okay, you look for it.” So I looked through the microfilm, and I found the name! I was excited, and so was she. Even at that young age, I felt a connection to my ancestors.
Later I discovered how the Dutch focus on family and helping others had made that microfilm and thousands of other records available—all indexed by the Dutch. No other country on earth has such a large percentage of the available key genealogical records indexed. If you have Dutch family and the records exist, you can most likely find your family online.
Windmills are practically a symbol of the Netherlands, and they played a significant role in the establishment of the country. Through pumps run by windmills, the land was dried and made useful. The saying “God created the earth, but the Dutch created Holland” is not far from the truth. Through my family history research, I discovered multiple cousins who actually ran windmills to keep the land dry for over 200 years. Without this constant effort, a third of the country would be under water today. The creation of this elaborate system of hundreds of water-pumping windmills is a wonderful example of working together to accomplish a goal.
I am particularly proud of the Dutch cultural heritage of religious freedom, which has been in place since the late 1500s. It was a key belief of William of Orange, the founding father of the country. Those who sought refuge in the Netherlands from religious persecution included Sephardic Jews who fled Spain and Portugal in the 15th and 16th centuries, Huguenots from France in the 16th through the 18th centuries, and Pilgrims in the 16th and 17th centuries. Today, the Netherlands is a place of refuge for many Muslims.
My connection to my Dutch heritage was strengthened when I received my mission call to the Netherlands. Serving there, I had a strong feeling that I had come home. I was even assigned to the same stake where my grandfather had been a bishop.
Unexpectedly, after serving for about two months I began to have severe medical problems. Finally, my mission president telephoned my father and said he was feeling uncomfortable about keeping me on my mission when I was so ill. But my father responded, “Well, he was called to go to the Netherlands on his mission, and that’s where he needs to serve.” While it’s appropriate and necessary for some missionaries to return home before their scheduled release date, that wasn’t what I was supposed to do.
My family had been fasting for me, and after the phone call my mission president gave me a priesthood blessing. Miraculously, the pain stopped and I had no more trouble for the remainder of my mission. In fact, the reprieve lasted until a year and a half afterward. At that point the pains returned, and doctors determined that I had congenital kidney problems that required surgery.
I look back on that experience and feel gratitude for my father’s faith and persistence. His faith was rewarded, and I was blessed with the health I needed to complete my mission. I had a wonderful experience as a missionary, and I could have missed out on it without the determination and faith which came from my father and his forbears.
I am filled with gratitude for the gifts my ancestors have given me: their ingenuity, persistence, compassion for others, and priorities of family and religious freedom. I am a better person because of the gifts of my Dutch heritage.
For hundreds of years, access to historical records has been difficult and time-consuming for people trying to find information about their families. Searching for a record has often required scrolling through reels and reels of microfilm or looking through faded, age-worn books.
Thanks to indexers, it’s now easier and quicker to find information in an ever-growing number of these valuable resources. Over the past 10 years, more than 1 million volunteers have indexed over 5 billion names. The records in FamilySearch Historical Records that help you connect to your family are in that database because of indexers.Thank an Indexer
Hundreds of FamilySearch patrons took a moment this month to thank indexing volunteers like you. Read their stories below and get a sense of their profound gratitude.
Thank you, indexers!
I just want to thank the person who indexed a census record that helped me solve a 70-year-old mystery. I had been looking for 24 years and it wasn’t until I could search the database that the right record came up. A week later I had 50,000 names to add to my tree. Thank you for your diligent work!
I spent years looking through microfilms of census records trying to find Susan who lived in Illinois from France. It just wasn’t enough to go on. I tried to find her using the information my great-grandfather had provided, but it turned out those were lies. When the 1870 Illinois census was indexed, I found 9 Susans born in France living in Illinois in 1870. After doing some reverse genealogy, I discovered my Susan was the first one on the list. A week later, I had 50,000 names to add to my Tree.
Because of all the work of indexers, I have completed the records for over 1,200 members of my Inupiat Eskimo family and tribe. The temple work is in process for my Lamanite [American-Indian] family. Taikuu! (Thank you!)
The Inupiat history is oral. Our family had researched as far as we could and got stuck ten years ago. We never knew census records were done in that region of Alaska in 1920, ’30, and ’40. The last two years I have taken what I already had, plus tribal records, and correlated them with FamilySearch census records.
Indexing of the Freedman’s Bureau records helped connect me to my ancestors beyond the shrouds of slavery. The indexing helped me Identify who my 4th-great-grandparents were along with where exactly they came from. Through this record, I’ve found so much information about my African-American family dating back to 1740 in Amelia County, Virginia! Thanks for your hard work!
I have found countless records using this service. I am grateful for all those who give of their time to help others find their ancestors. I have found where my husband’s family came from in Germany through marriage records on FamilySearch.
Even the seemingly inconsequential draft records helped me a great deal. The family I was researching had six sons! They were in three or four locations. I got their occupations, their employers, their physical descriptions, and health, broken bones, etc. The youngest of the brothers didn’t have to register until 1918, so his draft record had not been indexed yet, but I FOUND IT BY ARROWING BACK on his brothers’ pages.
I remember my mother writing letter after letter to England and then having to wait for weeks for a letter to come with a birth, marriage or death record. How grateful I am for those who donate so much time and patience in their indexing labors. God bless you and yours.
I have no words to express my deepest gratitude for all the countless hours you spend indexing. I was able to find records that I’ve been looking for for over 30 years, and I did not have to travel to the country of my origin. I was able to find my ancestors from countries in Italy, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Without you, I would have never found the info on my grandmother; I can’t thank you enough. You made me cry tears of joy! There were many conversations that maybe my grandma never married my grandpa, but the document I found showed they were married!
A Tool to Help You Prepare Successful Family History Experiences
As a family history consultant, you facilitate one-on-one, heart-turning family history experiences. To make it simpler to prepare and deliver personalized lesson plans, the Family History Department has created an online tool called the “consultant planner.” Using the planner, any member can help others have a personal family history experience. To review the principles for creating heart-turning experiences, visit the consultant calling training page on LDS.org.The Consultant Planner
To use the consultant planner, click Get Help in the top right of the FamilySearch.org home page, and then click Help Others.
The planner is an all-in-one tool where you can request access to member trees, review and access a member’s tree, prayerfully plan the lesson you will share, and monitor the member’s progress. Here is a more detailed look at the major sections of the planner.Help Others: Easier Access to Member Trees
A key to preparing for a heart-turning family history experience is being able to research in the person’s tree before your visit. The planner offers a couple of easy ways to get permission to access someone else’s tree. In the top left of the page, under the Help Others heading, you will find two blue buttons.
The Invite Person button allows you to send an invitation to someone via email. The person will receive a link to log in to his or her account on FamilySearch and give you permission to view his or her tree.
The Add Person button is like the Help Others button in Family Tree that you may already be familiar with. Clicking this blue button opens a box in which you can enter a person’s name, helper number, and birthdate to add him or her to your helper list.
Once people are added to your list, you will be able to click their names to access their trees (in fan chart form) and see if there are personalized record hints or search results from special FamilySearch collections such as obituaries or Mormon pioneers.
In the planner, you can click the name of a person’s ancestor in the fan chart and go directly to the person’s tree to discover a good path for him or her to find an ancestor name for the temple. What you find as you research can be included in the lesson plan.Prepare a Meaningful Plan
Develop a plan for each visit you make, whether the visit takes place in the member’s home or in a one-on-one situation during church. The planner provides a couple of tools to help.Helping Others to Love Family History Lesson Plan
Clicking Create Lesson Plan opens a window with four fields to fill in as part of your planning process.
The lesson plan is where you will outline the path you will lead the family on as they navigate their family tree (with you acting as a verbal guide) to discover the temple opportunity you identified in your research beforehand. A printable version of the lesson plan is also available.Track Progress
The research log is a place to record any thoughts or future actions that come to mind as you complete the research. Think of this log as a digital notepad where you can include a summary of your visits, track your progress in general, and create notes about things you don’t want to forget.Monitor Progress
Once you can view the member’s tree, the planner shows you important milestones and progress. With this information, you are better able to help.
Those are the main features of the planner. Give it a try, and let us know what you think by using the Feedback link on the side of the window.Try the consultant planner
Some of the information in this post was taken from the “Understanding Your Family History Calling” session at RootsTech, given by Rod DeGiulio, director of the Priesthood and Area Support division of the Family History Department. Click here to view Rod’s full presentation.
Nothing connects you with your ancestors like helping them receive sacred, essential temple ordinances. To help as many patrons have this experience as possible, FamilySearch periodically conducts automated searches to identify potential ancestor ordinances that appear to be ready to be performed in the temple. You may receive an email from FamilySearch that shares such an opportunity. You should take time to review these names, review the relationships and information for accuracy, and check for possible duplicates prior to submitting the names for temple work.
We’ve prepared this FAQ to address common questions regarding these opportunities.How do you know the person mentioned in the hint is my relative?
We search your tree for an ancestor or cousin awaiting temple ordinances. There are resources on the site to help you review the relationship and ensure that the ordinances have not already been completed.How do I reserve the ordinance?
To reserve the ordinances, follow these simple steps:
The ordinances will be added to your temple reservation list.What if I cannot attend the temple soon?
You can still reserve the ordinance now and take the family name on your next temple trip. Your reservation will remain in your temple list for up to two years. If you are unable to attend the temple soon, you can also reserve the ordinances and then share them with family, friends, or the temple. Here’s how:
While the email itself can technically be forwarded, the opportunity in the email was specifically matched to you and won’t work correctly for the person you forward it to. The technology used to provide you with this opportunity relies on the connection with your account to function.How soon do I need to reserve the ordinance?
These opportunities are time sensitive and, while they are available at the time the email is sent, there is no guarantee that someone else, such as another relative, won’t find the temple opportunity on their own in Family Tree and reserve it. To avoid this happening, it is important to reserve the ordinances in a timely manner.How can I get help?
Your ward or branch temple and family history consultants can help. For additional questions, contact FamilySearch support.
Almost every family has a collection of papers and artifacts that provides glimpses into their family story. These collections can include anything from great-grandpa’s war medal to a 200-year-old original birth certificate to a photo the family took last summer.
While most families intend to pass these items on to their children and their children’s children, the items might sit in boxes in garages or on shelves collecting dust for a long time. Unfortunately, the hard truth is that these items are often more fragile than we realize. In most cases, it doesn’t take an expert conservator to ensure these pieces of your family story survive for generations—but it does take some thought and planning.
Choose from the categories below to get started preserving your precious family memories for generations to come.
Don’t foget to add everything to the Memories Gallery when you’re done!
One of the most treasured family history possessions a person can inherit is a family Bible, sometimes complete with a front page with family names and dates going back generations. A close contender for the best family history possession might be a family scrapbook that could contain a collection of newspaper articles, photos, school report cards, and perhaps even dried flowers or locks of hair. Recipes books and even just cherished volumes belonging to distant ancestors also sometimes make their way down through generations. If you’re someone fortunate enough to inherit an item such as one of these treasures, you likely recognize its importance—but that doesn’t mean you know what to do with it. While these bound books share some similarities with documents in preservation techniques, they also come with a host of their own unique problems—and solutions. Read on to learn some tips and tricks to help you prolong the life of your most valuable books.Storing and Handling
To prolong the life of your family books, keep in mind some basic storage and handling principles:
To say that the great majority of the scrapbooks of yesteryear were not made with preservation in mind would be an understatement. Most older family scrapbooks are brimming with preservation problems. For starters, they were made of poor-quality, acidic paper that deteriorates rapidly and damages photos or other objects attached to it. Adhesives such as tape, glue, and rubber cement that were often used to connect everything damaged papers, photos, and other items on the pages. Also, those fun extras, such as badges, dried flowers, multipage letters, or brochures, increase a book’s thickness, which makes it difficult for it to close properly and harms the binding.
These problems could make anyone want to throw her hands in the air—or at least get to work taking everything apart in an effort to save the items. But don’t do either of these things! Most experts recommend leaving the scrapbook together when possible. Leaving it as it is provides a richer historical context and prevents further damage that could occur by trying to peel and pry pieces apart. If the binding allows, place thin, archival-quality papers between the pages. As with other fragile books, store family scrapbooks flat in archival safe containers.Creating Copies
Finding a way to digitize these historical treasures is an important step in their preservation. Depending on the book and its condition, it may be possible to scan it as you would a document. Do not force pages open. Instead of laying a book flat on a scanner, you can use a handheld scanner to minimize stress on the book. And of course, it isn’t necessary to digitize the entire book of Isaiah in your family Bible—just scan the relevant family pages. Another option for creating a digital copy, particularly for scrapbooks, is to take photos of the pages.
So start preserving your important books now. And as you create new scrapbooks or recipe books, make sure you do it with preservation in mind—and skip the bottles of rubber cement.For More Information
1) The Library of Congress, “Care, Handling, and Storage of Books,” and “Preservation Basics: Preservation of Scrapbooks and Albums”
2) Smithsonian.com, “How to Preserve a Family Album Smithsonian-Style”
3) Archival Methods, “Archivally Preserving Old Books”
Don’t foget to add everything to the Memories Gallery when you’re done!
Marriage is one of life’s most meaningful events. It marks the beginning of a new family and the blending of two extended families and their unique traditions. A marriage can also bring with it a collection of hallowed family stories, learned and shared just as the new couple is beginning to make new ones. But, in many cases, precious family details have been lost in the sands of time, and it is left to the living to piece them together.
Historical records can fill in the holes of a family story, and marriage records, particularly, are among the most helpful. These unique records often have a piece of information that is a key to unlocking hard-to-find generations in a family tree—the bride’s maiden name and sometimes even her parents’ names.
Indexing marriage records makes information within the records searchable and helps reconnect people with their family stories. With the help of thousands of volunteer indexers, the US Marriages Project is doing just that. You can check the progress of the project and see which states are in the most need of indexing at familysearch.org/marriage.My Marriage Record Story
We asked our volunteers (you!) how a marriage record has helped in your family history work, and you have shared over 400 stories with us. Each one of them is inspirational and testifies to the great work you are doing. You can add your own story of how a marriage record has helped you here.
“I was working on indexing Nebraska marriage licenses, and I was able to index my own great-grandparents’ marriage license. It was a true blessing to do this. I was so blessed to be able to do this. I had no idea where they were married until this record came up. I truly am so happy that Heavenly Father allowed me to do this great work.” — Ron
“Marriage records can give not only the names and dates of a couple, but the couple’s family’s information: a place, witnesses who may be related, and, often, the office or church connection of the officiator. The latter can give me a hint about the relatives’ faith so I can search in a church graveyard for further relatives. I cannot tell you how many times our family had picnics in graveyards across the country, seeking out family members from headstones or records. Indexing marriage records has taught me how much information is available on a record such as this, causing me to take every opportunity to look at the actual image in order to glean this extra insight.” — Allyson
“My mother and her sisters were all put into the Colorado Home for Dependent Children in 1935. The youngest sister, Flora Emma Fox, was 3 years old at the time. The older girls all went to various foster homes, but Flora was adopted by a couple that lived in California. Their names were George Newton Hale and Clara Buckland Hale. Flora was re-named Barbara Ann Hale. When their biological mother passed away in 1955 there was a small insurance payment for each of the sisters. When the lawyer contacted the Hale family, he was told that Barbara had married young and they did not know where to find her. My mother, aunt, and I spent over 30 years trying to find a name to do more research on so we could find her. Finally, thanks to indexing, about a year ago I had a breakthrough! I found a marriage record for Barbara Ann Hale. She married a man named Albert Edward Hurst on April 1, 1950 in Los Angeles, California. I know it was her because the names of her adoptive parents were included on the marriage record. At this point in time, I have not yet been able to find any additional information, but at least I have a place to begin looking. I can try and find births of children, a divorce record, or even obituaries and possibly find more information on my aunt. She was born on January 14, 1932 so she could possibly still be alive. At least, I hope, sometime in the future to be able to find her or at least her descendants. This marriage record was the piece of information that has opened more doors for continued research.” — Kim
“Yesterday, February 13th, I was indexing Connecticut marriage, birth, and death records. I actually came across one that didn’t have the town list. I recognized a lot of the names as from my own family history. I went onto Ancestry and put the name of Hezekiah Brainerd in my family tree. I found that it was the same person. Previously, I didn’t have the information about his marriage date or place, who he married, or who his children were. They were all on the document I was working on. It was amazing. I am going to enter all their information into FamilySearch and submit to do their temple work. When I checked on Ancestry, it only had a couple of his children, but not any birth dates, etc. This was amazing! On the same document I found two other families and their information also. This was in the town of Haddam, Connecticut. These families settled that town, so this was very exciting and wonderful for my family and for me.
Thank you for this! Also, this was a record that was partly done, so I was grateful for that too!” — Ann
“Family starts with marriage usually. I think of how happy they are as they head with their special friends over to see the judge or justice or other leader, religious, usually. How special marriage is. We found about 55 people in a direct line from my husband’s grandmother due to Tennessee marriage records batches. We helped index about 995 of the records when the projects first came out. Though we never got to do one of our own ancestors, as far as we know, we helped others get their ancestors, and the records have helped us to the tune of 55 more names just in my husband’s line alone. We logged in and saw the sources, and marriage records have blessed us most recently. The search continues. The word search is in the title FamilySearch for a reason. THANKS!” — Dee
“We always knew that my father-in-law had been married before (a WWII end-of-war marriage) he met and married my mother-in-law. We only knew his first wife’s first name: Frances. After years of searching and finding no links to the mysterious Frances, I finally found an indexed marriage record, which gave me her full name and the place they were married, which was totally unexpected because the place was very different than the family lore. This record led us to finding the actual marriage document. That marriage record led to the names of both of her parents and her two sisters. It also informed us that Frances was the daughter of the minister that married them. Though they were divorced (or perhaps the marriage was annulled, since no divorce record has ever been located) soon after the marriage took place, and they had no children, Frances never remarried. She lived and died within 50 miles of where my father-in-law eventually raised his family. I’m not sure he ever knew that, since I only found that information through an indexed Social Security death record as I was tying up the ‘rest of the story’ of Frances.” — Colleen
Read More Marriage Record Stories
While documents and photos can provide valuable insights into the lives of our ancestors, audio and video recordings give an even fuller look at family members by communicating their personalities through voice and visuals. That’s why many families have at least a small stash of audiovisual media, including such items as cassette tape interviews of older relatives or home videos of reunions from decades ago. These recordings are often played back at family events and watched by many, accompanied with some laughter and even good-natured ribbing.
Who wouldn’t want to ensure that these family memories can be enjoyed for generations to come? Yet as with anything else, if you want it to last, you must take some precautions now. Here are some ideas to help you preserve these fun and important family moments.Caring for Audiovisual Materials
Many of the basic care instructions for audiovisual material are similar to those for documents, photos, and other historical items. It’s important to store cassette tapes, videos, or other electronic media in moderate temperatures and to keep them safe from dust. Never touch their playing surfaces. Avoid handling them if you don’t have to. Also keep sharp objects, including pens, along with food or drink away from your audiovisual collection. If you have damaged cassettes, don’t try to play them. Playing them could make the problem worse. Instead, contact an expert who can convert the content to digital files. (See below for more information.)
When storing or shipping electronic media, be sure to use archival-quality material. Check out the Library of Congress guides listed below for specific instructions for each type of material. And don’t forget to label everything. Detailed labeling helps minimize unnecessary handling and protects against the scenario where the only recording of great-grandma is mistaken for a tape of your favorite popular songs from middle school—and thrown out.Making It Digital
While taking steps to preserve the physical discs or cassettes is a good start, it isn’t enough. Electronic media require some sort of playback equipment, such as a tape player or VCR. As time passes, playback equipment becomes obsolete, making it difficult to access your recordings. That’s why it’s so important to digitize these collections.
Unfortunately, digitizing electronic media requires more skill and equipment than digitizing documents or photos. It’s certainly possible to give it a whirl yourself—as long as you have the right equipment or are willing to purchase it. To convert video tapes to digital files, you need a capture card, a device that converts analog footage into a language your computer understands, as well as capture software. Follow this advice if you’d like to try. If these technical terms sound like a foreign language to you, there are plenty of professionals who can help.
Also remember that, as with documents and photos, you can attach audio files (but not videos yet) to your FamilySearch Family Tree. This resource offers another form of preservation and enables others to access the files easily.Converting Sounds to Text
Audio material provides an opportunity to preserve the sounds of our ancestors—to hear their voices and inflections as they tell stories—and it’s worth the effort to preserve those sounds. But there are also other compelling reasons to get those spoken words down in text. Besides providing another backup, it’s much easier to use and access stories in text than it is by fast-forwarding and rewinding a tape a dozen times.
Years ago, if you wanted to transcribe a tape, you had little choice but to listen and type, repeating that process until you finished. Now there are other options. You can use computer programs, some of which are available online for free, or you can send your cassette tapes to a professional transcription service. A quick online search will reveal lots of possibilities for both of these options.
Follow these suggestions, and you can rest assured your audiovisual family treasures will survive—and your grandchildren will be able to listen to grandpa tell in his own words about hitting a homerun in the last inning of the championship high school baseball game.
For More Information
1. The Library of Congress, “Frequently Asked Questions, Audiovisual Materials,” and “Care, Handling and Storage of Audiovisual Materials”
2. The New York Times, “Tips on Archiving Family History”
Don’t foget to add everything to the Memories Gallery when you’re done!
by Diane Sagers, with Angelyn Hutchinson and Christine Armstrong
April 6, 2017, marks the centennial of the entry of the United States into World War I. Millions of young American men registered for the draft, and nearly five million of them answered the call to duty. About 116,000 American military died during that war—nearly half of whom died before they reached France, victims of the Spanish Flu Pandemic that swept the world, killing millions.
Living through the Great War
At home, Americans held divided opinions about United States involvement in the war, but all shared the uncertainties it created. Harry Nelson, a 20-year-old first-generation American, married his sweetheart, Eudora Eschler, on March 6, 1918; then, just six days later, he boarded a Union Pacific train in Salt Lake City, Utah, for San Antonio, Texas, and army life. Army food has never been hailed as fine cuisine, and the canned corned beef, canned tomatoes, and bread that made up the “doughboy” diets en route proved the point.
His bride suffered the uncertainties of war brides everywhere. Once her soldier was overseas, Eudora heard nothing from him for months—never knowing if he was dead or alive. Finally, she received a stack of letters that the Army had held back to prevent enemy interception.
Nelson’s unit trained in France and was finally headed to active duty when the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. The Spanish Flu pandemic had raged among the soldiers, and although Henry helped care for the sick and dying, he was spared from becoming infected.William Earl Potts during his service
Unlike Nelson who trained for months in France, William Potts, of Juab County, Utah, trained in Camp Lewis, Washington, and then was shipped to Europe for active duty. His machine gun unit stood on over-crowded trains to make their way through France. The unit then marched through Europe at night, hiding in the woods during the day, and facing enemy gunfire, battlefields, and bombs along the way. As they marched back through Europe at the war’s end, awaiting their return to the United States, they saw thousands of displaced Europeans making their way on foot across the country to the wreckage of their homes to reclaim their lives.
Separation was difficult for soldiers and their families. Potts recalled that as he boarded the train to leave, “Mother was brave about it and kept her control high, as long as I was present at least. Her grave was five months old when I returned home. As I experienced the war then and as I reflect back on it now, it seems that the hardships and the experience of the battlefield were too much for any man to endure. Then I remember the mothers, wives, sweethearts, children, and dads who could but wait and pray and wonder. Surely no soldier went through a greater hell than those we loved and left behind.”
Despite differing views on the war, the country rejoiced universally when the Armistice was signed. Zola Christensen remembered the day her uncle dashed across the street in Richfield, Utah, excitedly calling to her parents that the war was over. The entire city was jubilant. Bells rang and the entire community took to the streets to celebrate. She said she didn’t really understand what was going on, but as a typical six-year-old, she was excited to be excited and joined the celebration. The war hadn’t meant much to her young life—only that they had to put molasses on their cereal rather than sugar, and she, with other young children, had clipped old rags into small pieces to fill pillows for the soldiers overseas. Older girls had knitted stockings for the soldiers in France. Nevertheless, their lives at home were affected by the war.Centennial Commemoration of World War I
Today, a hundred years later, none remain who served in “The Great War” or “The War to End All Wars.” But their service was a part of their life stories and the heritage they left to their children, grandchildren, and country.
Military records can provide important insights into ancestors’ lives and clues about the lives of those around them. As men marched off to war, having children was put on hold, and parents, spouses, and children worked to support themselves. Sadly for the families of those who did not come home, the family dynamic changed permanently.
Finding the heritage of military families is important. The search seems challenging, but records relating to the war still exist, and many are readily available on FamilySearch.org. The Family History Research Wiki provides background and directs users to related documents.Indexing Makes World War I Records Searchable
Through the diligent efforts of volunteer indexers, FamilySearch.org offers searchable collections relating to soldiers of World War I.
The United States World War One Centennial Commission is hosting a project, “Family Ties,” to document the stories of service and family relationships of those who served in World War I. They encourage families to help tell the stories of their forbears and relatives.
For further information, see FamilySearch Marks World War I Centennial with Free Historic Record Collections
The other articles in this series cover a variety of specific types of family history items. But what about family heirlooms that don’t fall into one of these tidy categories? These heirlooms could include a wide variety of objects of sentimental importance to a family, such as a baby blessing or christening dress, a piece of jewelry, a quilt, a war medal, a musical instrument, a vase, or just about anything else that a family feels is a treasure. Although each type of object has its own challenges, here are some suggestions to help you figure out what to do with those family objects that just don’t fit in the document or photo box.Sorting and Choosing
The first step in preserving family artifacts is deciding which ones to preserve. More than documents or data, family artifacts tend to take up space and present conservation challenges. There are no hard and fast rules about what can be an heirloom and what can’t be. Choose items that hold sentimental value and tell family stories and that make sense logistically for you to preserve. If space is at a premium for you, consider other family members who might also value the item and be better equipped to house it.
Make labeling part of your process. Include basic information explaining not only what the item is but why it’s important. A quilt or medal with no accompanying information is like a photo with no caption. If people don’t know its story, it will have no value to them and be at risk of getting thrown out.Clean, Cool, and Collected
A few general suggestions can apply to most family heirlooms. First, keep artifacts clean and free of dust. Minimize handling, and store the artifacts safely. If you have dirty or damaged artifacts, use preservation-safe techniques to clean or repair them, or consult a professional conservator. “It’s very easy to damage an artifact irreversibly through lack of knowledge and experience,” says Chris McAfee, head conservator of rare books and manuscripts at Brigham Young University Library.
Find a suitable storage place for your items—cool, dry environments work best. Archival boxes or containers exist in many sizes, and you may be able to find one suitable for your artifact. You can even have custom boxes made or cover the items with a sheet to protect them from dust. If you need to move an artifact, lift it carefully, picking it up by its sturdiest part—which is likely not a handle. Also consider the trade-offs to making an object available and conserving it, and figure out what makes sense to you. Do you want to keep grandma’s quilt on a bed so you can enjoy it or store it in a box where it will be safer?
Do a little research to learn the best practices for preserving your specific artifact. Here are ideas for two of the most common types of artifacts.Textiles, including clothing
When using or displaying textiles, touch them only with clean, dry hands. When storing textiles, lay them flat in environmentally-controlled temperatures with minimal light; particularly avoid sunlight. If you decide to hang clothing, use preservation-safe hangers. If a delicate textile needs cleaning, consider calling a professional conservator for help.Jewelry
To clean jewelry of value (even if it’s just sentimental value), take it to a jeweler, or follow specific guidelines instead of attempting a do-it-yourself project at home with bleach and a toothbrush. For storage, keep diamonds wrapped separately from other jewelry pieces to keep them from scratching softer stones. Wrap stones with archival tissue. For silver, use silver cloth to wrap it. Then store all jewelry in acid free boxes.Back Ups?
Part of what makes family artifacts so special is how unique they are. Generally, as one-of-a-kind items, they are not replaceable, nor can you make a back-up or digital copy of something like a wedding dress or war medallion. In most cases, taking digital photos that you keep in a labeled album is as close to creating back-ups as you can get it.
The trick to preserving family artifacts is deciding now which objects are worth the designation of heirloom and then taking the necessary steps to ensure that’s what they become.For More Information
1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church History Department, Preserving History: Instructional Videos
2. Kansas Historical Society, “Preserving Textiles”
3) Antique Trader, “Preserving Your Family Heirlooms”
Don’t foget to add everything to the Memories Gallery when you’re done!
by Cora Foley
When you were young, family traditions probably seemed like something that happened naturally—and for you as a child, they probably did. Since you most likely were not involved in planning and carrying out these events year after year, the effort needed to create these traditions may not have been obvious to you. Usually, both effort and persistence are needed for new family traditions to take hold.
Just as families grow and change, so do traditions. Sometimes traditions evolve, and sometimes they are abandoned entirely to make way for something different. While change can be unsettling, do not be upset when a tradition evolves or ends. Every life event (a baby, a marriage, a new job, or a big move) presents opportunities for you to create new traditions as well as to enjoy exciting and precious family memories.What Are Traditions, and Why Do I Need Them?
Traditions are a set of customs or rituals passed down from one generation to the next. They help shape a family’s legacy, while also instilling family values in its newest members, whether they be a baby or a spouse. Family traditions can also help solidify the bond between all family members, no matter the age or distance between them. If you document these family times with photos, videos, or written stories, the memories can be shared for generations, ensuring that your family legacy is always protected.How Do I Create Traditions?
Traditions are an amazing way to help your family come together and create new memories. While it does take effort to start a new tradition or change an old one, any effort you make now will be worth it and may last for generations to come.
Cora Foley works at Smooth Photo Scanning Services and is a passionate advocate for memory creation and preservation.
For many of us, the biggest threat to the safety of our family history information may not be papers yellowing with age or photos fading in the sunlight but instead the possibility of our computer crashing or our phone dying a painful death in the washing machine.
These days nearly everyone keeps important family information such as photos, scanned documents, GEDCOMs, and other files on their computers, digital cameras, cell phones, and tablets. While most people recognize that documents and photos are fragile, it’s easy to forget that electronic files are just as fragile, only in different ways. In fact, in some ways, electronic files are more at risk. While the old tactic of “store and ignore” might work for papers or photos, it doesn’t work for electronic files. With technology constantly changing, anything left alone for more than a handful of years is going to become difficult to access or read—something you’ve experienced if you’ve ever tried to access files on an old floppy disk.
Two main tasks can save the day for your electronic files: organizing and backing up your information.Sifting and Sorting: Organizing Your Info
Before you can back up your digital information, you have to figure out what information to back up. “Without organization, there is no preservation,” says Chris McAfee, head conservator of rare books and manuscripts at the BYU Library. Follow these simple steps to make this overwhelming project conquerable.
Backing up files is not a one-time event but instead an ongoing process. Develop a system that works for you—and then follow it consistently. Here are suggestions.
Follow these steps, and you can breathe easy knowing that your electronic information is safe from whatever technology mishap might head your way.For More Information
2. FamilySearch, Preserving Your Family History Records Digitally (three-part series)
3. Cyndi Ingall, Legacy Family Tree Webinar, “Be Your Own Digital Archivist: Preserve Your Research” (sometimes a fee is charged to view)
Don’t foget to add everything to the Memories Gallery when you’re done!
One thing every family seems to have is an abundance of papers. Stacks of paper can accumulate in basements, in desk drawers, and even on kitchen cupboards. Somewhere in the stacks of junk mail, kids’ school papers, and work assignments are often important family memorabilia. Besides your own family’s important papers, you might have collected family information from generations past. These papers could include everything from love letters sent between great-grandparents to original birth certificates or naturalization papers. The papers might have come to you in envelopes or file folders, rolled up with rubber bands around them, or stuffed inside an overflowing box. They might be in relatively good condition or already yellowing, fading, or even crumbling on the edges.
So what should you do with these papers to ensure that your children and their children after them can continue to enjoy them?Preserving Your Papers
While no document, letter, or other family paper can last forever, they can last an awfully long time if they are properly cared for. Follow these guidelines for storing, handling, and displaying your important documents, and you can maximize the long-term health of your papers.Storage
The first step in preserving your papers is to lay them flat. Unfold them, take them out of envelopes, and remove all rubber bands or paperclips. If the papers resist, proceed carefully instead of forcing. The LDS Church History Department’s video “Conservation” provides more help.
Next, choose archival-quality folders and boxes that are acid and lignin free for storage. Finally, pay attention to temperature. Although it might be tempting to keep papers out of the way in basements or garages, these often hot, humid locations are not the best locations for them. Cool temperatures (below 75 degrees) and low relative humidity (below 65 percent) slow decay and reduce the chances of mold and insects wreaking havoc on your papers. Temperature-regulated basements in dry states work fine as long as there is no risk of flooding.Handling
The basic rule for how much to handle your documents or letters is simple: the less you handle them, the better. One way to minimize handling is to digitize the documents (as discussed below) so you can work with the digital copy instead of the original.
If you must handle the papers, wash and dry your hands first. For most papers, gloves aren’t necessary and can make working with them more difficult. Be sure to set papers on a clean, prepared space. Also, make sure you don’t drink or eat or allow smoke around valuable family papers.Displaying
Although it might sound appealing to hang an attractive, old family document on the wall, proceed with caution. Displaying comes with a cost. Most significantly, exposure to light, especially sunlight, causes documents to fade. Consider framing a copy and storing the original.Mold, Bugs, and Water, Oh My!—Dealing with Special Circumstances
The points above work well if you have inherited papers in reasonably good condition. But what about papers that aren’t in good condition? What should you do with papers that smell, are brittle, have water damage, or, even worse, are mold or insect infested? (Yikes!)
For extreme situations, evaluate the value of the papers. As hard as it is for a genealogist to hear, it might be time to throw the papers away. Otherwise, you can hire a conservator. Check out the National Archives link below for more information.Digitizing Your Documents
One of the best ways to preserve family history papers is to create digital copies of them. Digitizing documents provides a great backup plan in case of flood, fire, or other damage. It also allows you to handle the documents without damaging them.
Digitizing documents and letters also allows you to share them easily. You can email digital documents or attach them to an online family tree. One great way to attach digital documents to an online tree is through FamilySearch’s Family Tree. Upload documents in the Memories section, and store them in folders there or attach them to the relevant ancestors on your tree. Then relatives who may be interested will be able to find and view the documents as well.
Give these suggestions a try, and you can protect your family’s most important papers for generations to come.For More Information
1. The National Archives, “How to Preserve Family Papers and Photographs”
2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church History Department, Preserving History: Instructional Videos
3. American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, “Caring for Your Treasures”
Don’t foget to add everything to the Memories Gallery when you’re done!
Photos are usually among a family’s most treasured possessions—whether they are old black-and-white photos of distant relatives sitting in formal poses, staring solemnly at the camera, or more recent, brightly-colored photos of sun-kissed children on vacation, laughing as they glance backward at the camera. Our family photos tell stories, capture memories, and allow glimpses into lives we often can get in no other way. While photos themselves might not be invincible, if you follow a few tips, you can prove that all good things don’t have to come to an end after all.Keeping Cool: Preservation Tips for Photos and Slides
Many of the same rules that apply to documents and letters apply to photos. Store photos in cool, dry places to protect them from mold, insects, and hot temperatures that can cause them to discolor, curl, or stick together. If you do have extremely damaged photos (such as from insects or mold), weigh how important the photos are to you and then consider calling a conservator. Store slides in their carousels in boxes to protect them from dust and light. If you must touch photographs, negatives, or slides, wear gloves. Damaging substances on your hands can cause permanent stains.Putting a Name with a Face: Labeling
Perhaps the most important way to ensure your valuable family photos aren’t lost is by labeling them. A photo without a name quickly becomes meaningless and can easily get thrown out or tossed into a box in the basement and forgotten. There are techniques to help you play the detective and figure out who might be in your photo. But if you recognize the people in the photos now, save future family detectives the work, and label the photos!
More than just knowing you should label photographs, it’s important to know how to label them. Remember that markers and ink can damage photos. Try writing on the back of the photos with pencil. If the photo won’t accept pencil, use an acid-free scrapbooking pen to write on the back, in the margin, or on an accompanying plastic sleeve. Include in the label the names of the people in the photos and information about the event, location, and date. Here are some other ideas on labeling.Sharing Your Smiles: Display Tips
What good is a photo if you can’t share it? Nearly every family has photos hanging on their walls and arranged in books or albums on shelves. A few simple steps can help keep your photos safe while you display them:
To learn how to best preserve photos that are already in scrapbooks, read about Preserving Artifacts.Storing and Restoring: The Benefits of Digitization
Scanning and saving your photos to your computer creates important, versatile backups. Digitizing photos also allows you to restore and share them. Specialized software can help even out the coloring and correct faded or dark spots and patch together torn sections. You can hire a professional to do these tasks, or you can attempt them yourself. Read FamilySearch’s series Restoring Damaged Photographs to learn how.
As with documents, digitized copies of your family photos can become part of your online family tree. This online platform allows anyone researching your family, even if it’s someone you’ve never met, to find the photos of deceased relatives. One great way to feature family history photos is with FamilySearch’s Memories. Upload photos and attach them to your tree. Or download the Memories App to take new photos, and add them directly to your tree from your phone.
Maybe today is the day to take some steps to ensure your photographs last. There has never been a better time.For More Information
2. Maureen Taylor, “Learn from the Photo Detective”
3. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church History Department, Preserving History: Instructional Videos
Don’t foget to add everything to the Memories Gallery when you’re done!
by Kathryn Grant
It’s a common dilemma: When trying to find names for the temple, how do you know where to start looking, whether you’re working on your own lines or someone else’s?
Sometimes I’ve struggled for quite a while to find a good starting place. But when I seek the Spirit’s guidance, finding a starting place is a lot easier.
Seeking the guidance of the Spirit involves listening, but it also involves prayer and action. Here are some basic steps that have worked for me:
Two experiences illustrate this process.
One Sunday afternoon I was helping missionaries at the Provo MTC get started on their family history. As I was working with one sister missionary, another sister, Sister Montgomery, stopped to talk to us. She seemed disappointed as she mentioned that her lines had already been thoroughly researched, and she probably wouldn’t be able to find any family names.
Although I was working with the first sister, I felt impressed to offer to help Sister Montgomery. I knew from experience that names can usually be found even on full trees, and I was confident we could find names for her.
When I offered to help, she still seemed doubtful that anything could be found. But when I asked if she would pray for me, she willingly agreed. She gave me her helper information, and we planned to meet the following week.
Later, after going to a quiet place, I prayed earnestly for the guidance of the Spirit. Then I looked at the fan chart for Sister Montgomery’s family. I found myself drawn to the name of Abraham Chadwick. Abraham was one of the first converts in Sister Montgomery’s line, and his faithfulness and testimony were apparent from his record in Family Tree. It wasn’t surprising to see that he’d done temple work for much of his family.
But then I began to look at Abraham’s siblings. One of his sisters caught my eye. Her work was done, but as I looked at her children, few had spouses and those who did had few or no children. It didn’t take long to find historical records showing spouses and children who needed to be added to Family Tree.
So when I earnestly seek the guidance of the Spirit to find a starting place, does that mean it’s always simple? No. There are times when the path has twists and turns. Fortunately, the Spirit is there to help along the way.
For example, my friend Darla asked if I could help her and her teenage daughter, Chloe, find names for the temple. We arranged a time to meet, and I asked her to pray for me as I prepared.
I went to a quiet place and prayerfully reviewed the fan chart. But this time, I didn’t feel any particular guidance. I kept looking and praying. That was when I noticed a problem with Darla’s grandmother, Sarah Helen Harvey: she appeared to have the same parents as her husband! Something was clearly wrong.
A little checking revealed that Sarah was linked to her own parents and to her husband’s parents (something I could have fixed, but I felt impressed to leave it for Chloe to do). I also felt impressed that the “hidden” line—the one I hadn’t seen on the fan chart because of the wrong parents—was the one I should work on. So I displayed that line on the fan chart and soon felt an impression to look at the line of John Kellett, Darla’s 4th great-grandfather.
Checking historical records showed that John had descendants who were missing from Family Tree. During my meeting with Darla and Chloe, Chloe was able to add several of them to Family Tree and reserve their temple work.
Listening for the Spirit’s guidance in finding a starting place takes practice, but it has gotten easier the more I’ve done it. The Lord knows exactly where I should be working. If I’m willing to seek that guidance instead of thinking I have to figure it out on my own, I find a better starting place more quickly.
After years on the sidelines, Kathryn started her family history and discovered a new passion. Her specialty is mentoring new family historians and helping them find success—and maybe even helping them avoid some of the mistakes she’s made. She presents frequently at family history events and serves as the lead temple and family history consultant in her stake.
When I visited my grandma a while back, she told me she had accidentally deleted the internet and needed me to help her reinstall it. Hmmm. Turns out she had actually just deleted the Internet Explorer icon on her desktop! So, imagine my surprise just a few days later when she liked one of my photos on Instagram. The next time I saw her, I said, “Grandma, I didn’t know you knew about Instagram!” When I suggested she start posting her own pictures she replied, “Oh, I don’t have anything to add. Nothing is going on in my life that people are interested in. I just like looking.”
A new feature on FamilySearch.org may be just the way to get Grandma more excited about sharing her own photos. You can now preserve and share your Instagram and Facebook photos directly to FamilySearch. This new integration makes it is easy to choose which photos from these social networks you’d like to link to people in Family Tree and preserve for future generations—a more permanent way for Grandma to leave a photo legacy.
How to Import Photos to FamilySearch
Take note that it is not yet possible to import photos from these social sites using the FamilySearch mobile apps. Also, be aware that you might encounter problems with this feature in the Edge and Internet Explorer 11 browsers due to the trusted site settings. Try adding FamilySearch.org to your trusted sites list or use another browser.
This integration with Facebook and Instagram makes it that much easier to organize and preserve your important family photos. We’ll see if it’s enough to convice Grandma to take the plunge. I hope so!
Each month, FamilySearch publishes a list of new changes and updates to the FamilySearch.org website. This list includes changes to Family Tree as well as other parts of FamilySearch.org. In some cases, these changes will also be published as individual articles where the need to do so exists.
Recently Released Search Records
There is a new banner inviting you to sign in to FamilySearch to see which individuals in the search results are already linked to your Family Tree.
In search results, if you are signed in, you can now see if a record is linked to someone in your Family Tree. Looking at the individual in Family Tree may help you discover other attached records, photos, and stories of the ancestor. If you are not logged in, we will prompt you to sign in to learn more about your ancestors, participate in the community, and learn from the discoveries of others.Memories
FamilySearch Memories have been improved to help you in your family history efforts:New Actions Menu
A new Actions menu allows you to rotate photos and documents to the left or right, change photos to documents or documents to photos, download, and perform other tasks.The Not in an Album Option
A new option allows you to filter the memories in your gallery to see which ones are not in an album:Social Media Sites
You will soon be able to import your memories into FamilySearch from different social media platforms.Indexing
Web indexing will be replacing the desktop indexing application and is being slowing rolled out during 2017. Stake temple and family history consultants with an indexing assignment, along with priesthood leaders worldwide, were given access for testing this platform at the end of January. These consultants should be learning the application and preparing to train their stake members once web indexing is made available to the public in coming months.
Consultants were giving a head start on learning the new program at the start of this year. In coming months, web indexing will be made public. By the end of the year, FamilySearch hopes to have all indexers using web indexing so they can retire the desktop version. New features are still being added to web indexing and will continue to be added throughout the year.
Share Your Comment or Question
The bottom of every FamilySearch page has a “Feedback” link. Clicking that link is the best way to provide suggestions, compliments, or complaints to the people at FamilySearch who can do something about it. While they may not be able to respond personally to every suggestion, FamilySearch engineers personally review each piece of feedback and consider what might be done. Your voice will be heard. Don’t be shy!
Our desire to preserve memories and memorabilia of the past is anything but logical. How can having our great-grandfather’s shaving kit help us in the era of monthly shave club subscriptions? What can a candid photo of our grandmother, or an audio recording that captures the lilt of her voice when she teases our grandpa do in a world of Snapchats and tweets? In short, how can a tangible yet essentially useless artifact benefit us in an increasingly virtual world?
While the desire to preserve isn’t logical by nature, the logical reason for preserving history is that history promotes nostalgia, and nostalgia is good for us, our families, and our communities. Nostalgia is important and strengthening—an antidote to the stresses of today that is, as it turns out, easy to bottle.
Nostalgia was coined in 1688 to describe a medical condition. The root meaning of the word is “an aching for home” or “homesickness.” When soldiers exhibited symptoms of what we today would call anxiety, doctors would diagnose their illness as nostalgia. The only known cure was to return the soldier to his home. The results of this treatment were surprisingly beneficial and soldiers would begin recovering as soon as they started their journey home.
As the world has become more mobile and we’ve become more accustomed to being away from home, severe symptoms of nostalgia have become less common. Today nostalgia is most commonly used to describe pleasant feelings stemming from pondering the past. Nonetheless, nostalgia remains a topic of scientific study, and researchers are finding that it has positive effects. While we may not have a need to physically return home, revisiting our past can be good for us and our communities. Nostalgizing, as some researchers call it, reduces feeling of loneliness and anxiety. It also increases generosity and tolerance towards others. It is an elevating, motivating, and unifying force that helps us feel grounded and connected to those around us.
There are close ties between nostalgia and the preservation of cultural heritage. Cultural heritage is made up of the stories, artifacts, and places that define a culture. Nostalgia prompts us to preserve our cultural heritage and our cultural heritage promotes a sense of nostalgia. Even the most hardened military strategists understand the power of that connection. Throughout history, when killing their enemies wasn’t enough, destruction of enemies’ cultural institutions such as libraries, museums, landmarks, and historic sites has been used to demoralize people and eradicate cultures. Conversely, governments who want to promote a sense of community, unity, and patriotism strive to preserve their cultural heritage. If the documents, photographs, and other artifacts that make up our histories have such power, then preserving them becomes important.
Consider what happens when you experience the power of memoirs or memorabilia. Over the years, I’ve noticed that certain items bring me feelings of joy, belonging, and connectedness. When I ponder my past by looking through old photographs, yearbooks, or letters, I feel connected to humanity. When I visit Ohio, the place where I was born, and my Aunt Sharon drives me to all the places my family members have lived, died, and are buried, I feel connected to my family. I’ve seen this power work on others as they’ve been moved to tears or action when interacting with artifacts. People may have heard the stories of their ancestors, their community, or their nations, but seeing the respective artifacts moves them.
It was a sense of nostalgia brought on by artifacts that motivated me to become a conservator and preservation specialist. In 1994, a slow leak from a water heater created a minor disaster in an adjacent closet. That closet is where I stored three cardboard boxes filled with 28 years of my personal memoirs. Those boxes absorbed the water and all my memoirs were severely damaged. As I sat there on the floor staring at wet documents, bleeding ink, mold, and disfigured photographs, my heart ached for what I had lost. Once I got myself through the five stages of grief, I asked two questions. “How can I repair these things?” and “How can I prevent this from happening again?” Then I asked a third question. “How can I help others prevent this from happening?”
Since that time, I’ve been conserving and preserving books, documents, photographs, and artifacts, and I’ve dedicated much of my time to sharing with others how to preserve their own memorabilia. Over that time, I’ve witnessed the power of artifacts to move people to a better sense of self, to feel connected to their community, and to serve people around the world. If artifacts can have that kind of positive power, then who needs logic?Read more:
FamilySearch Newsroom: Lesson of the National Personnel Records Center Fire
“What Is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows,”The New York Times
“The Little-Known Medical History of Homesickness,” New York Magazine
“Look Back in Joy: The Power of Nostalgia,” The Guardian