When you preserve the treasures in your home and the homes of your loved ones, you magnify the depth of your family history. Family history and genealogy research are incomplete without personal stories.
Writing personal history might stop you in your tracks and suck the fun out of your genealogy journey. However, if you look around at the treasures in your home, you have the perfect place to start writing and preserving your personal history.
Look up from this post at your home. What do you see?
Do you have anything adorning your walls?
Are your shelves filled with souvenirs or collections?
What keepsakes lay tucked away in boxes for safekeeping?
What treasures are in your kitchen, bedroom, living room?
Or, what do you fit into a one-room flat?
After looking around, did you say:
“Not much. I’m keeping things simple.”
“Too much. I can’t even keep track of it all.”
“Just enough. I have functional pieces surrounded by the treasures of my life.”
None of the above
The Treasures in Your Home Deserve Are Worth Preserving
Whatever your circumstance, you likely keep things because they have a purpose and possibly a special meaning. Within the functionality and sentimentality of these items, you have the ingredients to write your personal history.
In my living room, I have a display case featuring many items from around the world. My husband collected some keepsakes on business trips. Others are gifts from his brothers. Still, other treasures were collected while my husband and I traveled to Taiwan.
Each of these items has a story worth sharing. In so doing, I preserved my legacy.
How should you preserve the stories of your treasures?
Use a camera.
I may not photograph items as a professional photographer, but I have learned a few simple tips to help you preserve the treasures in your home.
Tip 1 – Photograph Clothing on a Model
Whenever possible, put clothing on a model. A model brings the clothing pieces to life. Have the model pose so you can photograph the fine details of the item.
Then, let the model have fun. Granted, you want the model to be careful with delicate items, but sometimes when they have fun in the clothes, great pictures result.
Tip 2 – Photograph Treasures Using a Simple Background
A plain white cloth can be your heirloom’s best friend (see photo above). However, not all pieces look great on white (such as a white object).
This item looks terrible on a white background.
You’ll want to use an uncluttered background, so each keepsake takes center stage in your pictures.
However, you can put a few items ‘in a setting’ to great effect. A baseball photographed on grass or a baseball field tells a greater story than a ball on a white background.
Choose your background intentionally.
Tip 3 – Photograph Your Treasures From Multiple Angles
One picture can rarely preserve the multi-dimensional aspect of the treasures in our homes.
My best discovery involved turning objects around to photograph all sides. For instance, I have a college ring with rich details on all three ‘viewable’ sides.
A Texas A&M University ring has many symbols on three sides.
If I only photographed the top, I would miss out on the rich details and symbolism from the sides. I would fail to preserve my college ring's history, which is one of my greatest treasures.
Additionally, try photographing stuffed animals from many angles.
Try the following positions: shoot from above, straight-on, and the side.
Manipulate your family treasures by stuffing, fluffing, propping, and twisting to capture a memory-evoking shot.
Tip 4 – Tell a Better Story by Grouping Items
Not every keepsake is a stand-alone object. To further preserve the treasures in your home, photograph individual pieces as a group.
Objects associated with high school graduation can rarely stand alone in a photo. Instead of photographing a mortarboard, tassel, and cord separately, try creating a scene.
Photographed individually, the items tell a dull story.
A group of objects can recall a multiplicity of memories and capture collectibles, interests, activities, and significant rites of passage.
When you have a collection of items, be sure to capture the objects as a group and then individually as necessary.
Preserve the Treasures in Your Home Through Words
Once you have photographed your items, ensure that they remain valuable by pairing the photos with words.
If you do not record the stories behind the treasures, you will reduce the value of the keepsakes in your home. Therefore I plead with you to:
Write about the treasure.
There are several ways you can do this. Try them all to find the one you most enjoy creating.
Label Your Prints
Print photos of your keepsakes and write the story on the back of the picture.
Write the date when you obtained the item, who it belonged to (if it belongs to a loved one), and what it represents.
Keep the photos in an archival safe photo box or album.
Create a Photo Journal
Print the photos of your keepsakes and paste them into a physical journal. Beside each picture, describe the object, when it was obtained, and to whom it belonged.
Record any memories the item triggers.
Since you have more room to write (in contrast to the back of a photo), record why it was received or purchased. Then conclude your writing with why it is a family treasure.
A thorough genealogist will also record who owned the item before you and should receive it after you pass.
Create a Keepsake Photobook
Preserve the treasures in your home by printing a digital photobook, such a company such as Mixbook or Shutterfly.
You can have one page in a photo book with a large picture of your item with the facing page sharing the story.
You could have the story on one page while the opposite page has several photos of the same item (such as the three sides of the Aggie Ring).
Your photobook might feature all your keepsakes in one book, or you can break up your collections into themes. Themes such as high school, Christmas ornaments, quilts, coffee mugs, or porcelain figurines would make fantastic coffee table picture books.
Consider adding an introductory page with the origin story of your collections.
Chose your favorite object and put it on your front cover. Then, you’re done!
Include Pictures Treasures on a Scrapbook Layout
You don’t have to segregate your treasures into their own project. You can incorporate the pictures and stories of keepsakes on an individual page in a scrapbook.
If you made a page about your involvement in track and field, you could include the photo of your 1st place state finals trophy on the page.
Include Treasures in a Family History Book
Family histories read like a non-fiction tome without photos. Use pictures of your keepsakes, alongside the text, to help readers visualize your world or that of your ancestors.
Make mention of the item and the story behind it. Add these stories to the overall story or in the caption space under each photo.
This method is fantastic for those who think scrapbooking is too crafty.
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Post the Family Treasure Photos Online
One final way to preserve the treasures of your home is to share your pictures of the items and the written story online:
Utilize the FamilySearch Memories section and tag the owners of the treasures.
Upload the images to individuals on Ancestry.com.
Write a blog about your items and label the post “Treasure Chest Thursday.”
Share your photos on Instagram or Facebook.
Take time to write your story using your treasures. You will be surprised how easy and fun it can be.
Additionally, by preserving your family treasures in this way, you’re ahead of the game when it comes time to downsize your home with family history in mind.