A previous post in this series mentioned home sources. This post may help a new researcher recognize what is a home source and what is leftover paper. Anything that helps to prove a name, date, place, or gender has potential of being a “home source.” Mediums vary widely from paper to fabric and even painted wood, or glass but anything that is a family heirloom with particular reference to family Bibles “counts.” IRS tax records after some time are useful. Medical records, old pictures, photographs or paintings, furniture, or anything that a person typically might find in older historic museum with more than one person’s history displayed are fair game.
My family has had a lot of deaths in recent years. That said, funeral cards/books and programs feel almost like baseball cards (no irreverence intended) with collecting the deck. Although this is a rather unique way of seeing those items, I prefer paper to ephemera personally. Smaller, lightweight, portable, easily scanned and preservable in the digital realm. Do not get rid of originals. I cannot stress this enough!
Preserve for sharing purposes and in case something bad happens as in a natural disaster. Given the insane state of most weather phenomena over the past five or more years, this is more of a “when” than an “if.” My very first post on this blog mentioned using a fire-proof lock box. Well, that takes care of fires. Now how about floods, hurricanes, typhoons, lightning (it’s possible), bugs, extreme heat, earthquakes, something shattering, and generally anything that can hurt you is also possible for hurting documents. Documents are not more important than people. That said, scan your documents and keep them in multiple online repositories in addition to a tiny multi-gig flash drive on a key chain.
Any place where a person may host a blog can become an instant archive. Also, sites like DropBox.com play host to the Internet’s seemingly never-ending supply of data storage space. I regularly use my email as a storage facility. I remember who I sent what document to, and if I use my keyword system then it’s not too hard to find something quickly. My only reservation is that it is harder to find documents older than 2006 using Gmail, especially when there are a few thousand emails in the box.
What Counts As a Family Source
Preservationist intentions aside, start with the most recent document that shows a name and a date or a place to it. Job offers, business cards (I keep a few of these from each different job; at the least, it helps with remembering for resume purposes), ecclesiastical certificates, insurance information, birth, marriage certificates, school transcripts, immigration materials, immunity boosters and shot records, passports, drivers licenses, school IDs, and generally anything that a person would use normally for identification are things that count. Military IDs and information, letters, diplomas, certificates of completion, wedding dresses, sampler stitchery pieces, quilts, ceramics, and in some cases even older bureaus may give hints and clues.
Don’t forget scrapbooks. These may or likely may not look like modern scrapbooks. Most likely not. I love old leather-bound volumes that usually have no identification as to provenance, source materials inside, etc., excepting that the materials were in a newspaper once upon a time. Hunting down newspaper articles is also a passion. If a person notices an errant newspaper kept whole in a separate or special area, do not throw out the paper until combing through all sections for possibilities of a relative reference. The reference might not be highlighted. Start with obituaries and then work through other areas like weddings and births, and then check the regular articles. Worst case scenario, look through classifieds and ads.
This should help to start on the path of home sources. If not, leave a comment for more discussion on the topic.
The Genealogy Dr