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Family history, certificates, videos, photos… What’s MOST important to you?!

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The most important thing to remember, when you have piles of stuff to “organize” is, “What are your PRIORITIES?”  A rare ancestor’s photo is more important than one of a hundred shots of the dog at the beach. So, selectively go through your piles and set aside the most irreplaceable, important items: certificates, ancestor’s photos, prescriptions and medical records, passports and other legal papers…  If you wait till the last minute before an emergency, you may have very little time, if any, to GRAB n’ GO! For instance, I’d hate to loose the photo of me in the buff (see photo on left) that my Mom hand colored in oil. Do you have treasured family history items that are “one of a kind”?  Start thinking about saving your most important things FIRST.

So, here are two great tips, after you’ve decided what’s a priority:
1. Make a copy of these super important items (scan onto computer or photocopy) and send a copy to a relative or friend to keep for you. And keep a copy in another location besides your house.
2.  Putting those few “super important” items into an album (a high quality archival album costs $10 at Walmart!) and store them in an easy-to-get-to place (grab n’ go).

If a disaster hasn’t happened to you yet, you have time to prepare before a disaster occurs.  For more tips and instructions, check out what’s on There’s lots of free stuff to download.

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20 Responses to "Family history, certificates, videos, photos… What’s MOST important to you?!"
  1. phil tisdale says:

    Living in AZ we think we’re safe from earthquakes and floods. But, you know, fire is always a risk. And maybe we’re not so safe when it comes to earthquakes, who knows? Thanks for your suggestions. We’re going to talk about it in our family and get some important things ready to grab and go.

  2. Scott says:

    Good comments: being prepared is a family project. Make it fun for the kids! When you are putting together your stuff to “grab ‘n go” think “memories, valuables, emotional items.” Here’s a good suggestion. The things you can make copies of, keep a copy someplace else… even in another city!

  3. Ruth Anne says:

    Having lived in New Orleans for sometime, I can attest to how right you are about keeping all of those treasured items out of piles and in a safe place. It only will take a few minutes for generations of physical keepsakes to wash away. Thanks for the great advice.

  4. Memories are very important to remember for our families. These we’ll never forget in our life. Thanks for giving help, advice and info.

  5. Keeley Weber says:

    Thank you for hosting such a creative weblog. Your website subject and stories are so interesting! Thanks for posting free articles to download also. I downloaded one of your chapters of the book that interested me as I live in hurricane country. Keep up the good work

  6. I’ve learned so much from you Scott!

    Here’s a question…how long will tapes be good on CD’s and is that the best way to transfer them… and then get rid of the old VCR style tapes?
    Or is there a better way to archive or store them as a family who wishes
    to save their kid’s movies who are grown now and their 1st b’day parties…:)

  7. Scott says:

    Great question Robyn.

    The answer is this. While the plastic of a CD/DVD may be a material that won’t fall apart (archival) there are two reasons why NO VIDEO TAPE/CD/DVD material will last.
    1. the magnetic recording on the plastic is not stable
    2. the technology changes so that in ten years (maybe) we won’t have CD players anymore! The same technology changes are the reason why even the software on your computer will have changed and won’t play todays movies on a hard drive in ten years… or less!

    The only thing I can suggest is to transfer the most important videos to a new media every so often. I know that sounds like a hassle but at the same time you can make a copy and keep it someplace else which is a real big added benefit (disaster preparedness).

    I’ll look into storage services on-line. They have to keep up with technology software changes and so your movies would automatically be updated, in theory. Some services allow huge amounts of memory download making it possible for movie download. I’ll check and get back to you with details. This would be a good back up method.

  8. Forea Robotea says:

    Great information! A friend of mine had water damage in a box when they were moving. She threw it all out. I can see that was not the best thing to do. This website is so interesting! Thanks!

  9. Cherry says:

    Hi Scott: So lovely to hear from you and read your posts! I signed up for the Preservation Tips and thank you for this helpful information … it is much appreciated.
    Warmest regards to all,

  10. Louise Elam says:

    Thank you for the photo archival information that you sent to me as a Preservation Tips that I signed up for. It’s been very useful. I put the info in your book to use recently. I found a ton of photos of my parents from the 1940s on. A lot of photos of my dad’s from WW2. I quickly put them in photo albums to protect them per your recommendation. I found a scrap book of my Mother’s from the 40s that’s falling apart. She wrote names on the paper pages so I need to retain those, but they are disintegrating. The photos are attached with those corner triangular shaped things that the photos slide into. Any ideas?

    Louise Elam
    Park and Rec Dept. (Care of Public Art Work)
    City of Dallas, TX

    • Scott says:

      Congratulations of taking action! There are two things you can/should do:
      1. Scan or take high-resolution photos of the original pages and have them printed onto acid free paper with a laser printer. This will make an archival copy. You can have the pages bound or you can put them into page protectors into a notebook of your choice. See other blog posts that talk about these ideas. But of course, this does nothing to protect the originals.
      2. The mounting paper onto which the photos are connected can be deacidified with a product called “Bookkeeper” which can be sprayed. Usually, a photo conservator will tell you NOT to spray the original photos because the chemicals interact with the materials in the black and white photos. But I like to give the reverse side a light spray anyway (don’t soak the paper).
      Let me know how it goes!

  11. Mara says:

    Family history, certificates, videos, photos are very important. But what’s more important to me is photos and videos – These things remind me of good memories that happened in the past. I always do photo scanning every time I miss my family and old folks.

    • Scott says:

      Thanks for the comment Mara. I like scanning photos too. It’s a trip down memory lane. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that scanning an important photo is the same as preserving it. The original photo may be important and needs to be taken care of. Another suggestion: keep a copy of your photos on an online service or at someone else’s house in another region of the country. If fire, earthquakes, hurricanes strike, you’ll have a back up. For a good example see the 2 min. video at

  12. Grace Harnois says:

    Setting priorities is a self preservation technique. Otherwise you’ll go nuts. Thanks for the tips.

  13. Barbara Wright says:

    Setting priorities when dealing with you stuff is so important… otherwise it gets overwhelming and you forget what is the important stuff to keep and which stuff should be given away or tossed.

  14. Sydney says:

    Yes it should necessary for us to save most important photos !! I think you are arsing right question !! But as you know about the most person thought will go with their family !! They want to save their family photos !!

  15. Pam Melbourne says:

    All the things have importance. But I think family history and photos have more importance because they are the mirror of our remember able moments. It is important to capture image of any occasion to remember it.

  16. Chris David says:

    Setting priorities is a self preservation technique. Otherwise you’ll go nuts. Thanks for the tips.

  17. Great information! A friend of mine had water damage in a box when they were moving. She threw it all out. I can see that was not the best thing to do. This website is so interesting! Thanks!

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