The Archive Lady: Preserving Old Family Recipes



The Archive Lady: Preserving Old Family Recipes

Judy from Florida asks: “I have many of my Grandmother’s original, handwritten recipe cards. What is the best way to archive and preserve my Grandmother’s recipe cards for future generations?”

Judy has a true treasure with her Grandmother’s original, handwritten recipe cards. They are just as much part of our genealogy history as the rest of our family documents and should be preserved.

Recipe Boxes of Agnes Marie (Curtis) LeMaster, Melissa Barker’s Grandmother
Recipe Boxes of Agnes Marie (Curtis) LeMaster, Melissa Barker’s Grandmother

One of the first preservation methods that we should do for any document, photograph and even recipes, is to digitize them. Putting our records into a digital format and keeping that format current will go a long way to preserving our genealogical records for our descendants. If the original records are destroyed, the digital version could be the only remaining version that survives for us to reference.

To physically preserve and archive recipe cards is a simple process and one that anyone can accomplish.

It is important to make sure the recipe cards are free of any metal. There should be no staples, metal paper clips or any other metal fasteners attached to the cards. If there are metal fasteners, remove them and replace them with a plastic paper clip. Sometimes recipes are very long and take two cards and they are fastened together with a metal fastener.

Examples of metal fasteners
Examples of metal fasteners

Place the recipe cards into archival plastic sleeves that are acid free and lignin free and can be purchased through any online archival materials store (see list below). These archival sleeves come in many different sizes and there should be a size available to fit just about any recipe card. Individual sleeves can be purchased or sleeve pages can be used that will hold up to four recipe cards and have holes so they will fit nicely in a 3-ring binder.

Preserving and archiving the original recipe cards are important but sharing these recipes with family and friends is also a good idea. Consider putting together a family recipe book using your ancestor’s recipes to give to family members. Sharing these family favorites just might get your family members interested in genealogy or at least interested in talking about family history.

Fudge Pie Recipe, author unknown, Houston County, TN. Archives
Fudge Pie Recipe, author unknown, Houston County, TN. Archives

Another great idea for the annual family reunion or holiday, make up a couple of the more well known family recipes and bring them to the event. Have copies of the recipes in hand to give to family members so they can carry on the traditions of making the old family recipes.

Just like family stories that we pass down from one generation to the next, the dishes that our ancestors made are an important part of our family heritage. Many times tasting a treasured family dish could bring back memories of our family members and recording those members can add to our genealogy research and our family story as a whole.

Online Archival Material Websites

Here is a listing of online archival materials stores. Archival sleeves for letters can be purchased at any of the following online archival stores. They all have online catalogs and paper catalogs that can be sent to your home. Also, be sure to sign up for email notifications because they periodically have sales and will send out email notifications.

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Melissa Barker - The Archive Lady

Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation. 

©2018, copyright Melissa Barker. All rights Reserved.


3 Responses

  1. Doretta Irwin

    19 April 2018 6:30 pm

    My grandma passed away in 1995. Before she passed away, she copied a lot of her recipes to a spiral notebook. I have the spiral notebook. How do I preserve it?

  2. Doretta Irwin

    19 April 2018 6:38 pm

    Any tips on preserving old hinged metal recipe boxes or told would recipe boxes with a wooden,lid?

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