Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, shares tips and tricks on what to do with documents and family photos once they’ve been scanned!
Joyce from Utah asks: “After photos and documents are scanned, what do I do with them? Throw out or keep?”
Joyce has asked a question that many genealogists have thought about but perhaps were afraid to ask. She has done the right thing by scanning and digitizing her photos and documents and she doesn’t know what to do with the actual records themselves. Some genealogists are truly fortunate to have many genealogical records and the first step is to digitize them so if anything happens to the originals, you will have the digital copy. But then what to do with the originals?
Lyle Family Records Collection, Houston County, Tennessee Archives
Many original genealogical records are one-of-a-kind records that cannot be found anywhere else. I would encourage anyone who has these kinds of original records to not throw them away. If you do not want them anymore or just do not have room for them, please consider donating them to an archive, library, museum, etc. in the areas where your ancestors lived. It is always best to contact the archive you wish to donate the records to make sure they will take them. Many of our archives have specific criteria of what they will and will not accept.
If you have copies of records that are not one-of-a-kind records such as census records, deeds, tax records, etc. I would still reach out to an archive in the area where your ancestors lived to see if they would like to have them. If you cannot find an archive that is interested in them and you know for a fact these records can be found in one or more places such as on microfilm, digitized or on Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com or FamilySearch.org, then it would be okay to get rid of these types of records. But I would caution you to do your homework and make 100% sure these records can be found in other places before you throw them out.
If you decide to keep the records, it is important to store them in archival sleeves and boxes to protect them from damage or deterioration. The best thing you can do for your records is store them in a cool, dark, and dry place. Temperature and humidity fluctuations is the worst thing for records. Keeping consistent temperature and humidity levels is more important than what you choose to store your records in. Preserving your records now will mean that future generations will be able to enjoy them.
Hollinger Archival Boxes, Gaylord Archival
Whether your records are donated to an archive or they are kept and archived at home, remember to share them with family. Our family members may not be interested in genealogy, but if you share the stories of your family’s history and show them the actual records, they may just become interested. A project I did several years ago was I started on January 1st and I emailed one photo a day for the entire year to any family member who wanted to receive it and I ask them to tell me anything they could about that photo. I sent one photo a day for the whole year and by the end of the project I had more information about 365 of my family photographs that I ever thought I could get. Sometimes engaging your family and including them in the genealogy fun is just the move you need to make.
So, if you are like Joyce and not sure what to do with the actual record you have digitized, these are some ideas that might help you make that decision.
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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.
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