Preserving family history starts with you

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Rylee Kirk

Muriel Jackson said it is important to make digital copies of your family's photos.

As the pandemic has wound its way into the spring and then summer many families gave their home a spring cleaning. Sorting through closets, boxes, and even the attic often brings a walk down memory lane, especially if you find old photos tucked away. While the photos are placed in boxes and stowed away, how safe are they?

Muriel Jackson, head of genealogy at Washington Memorial Library, said that its time to do more than safely stow them away.

“Take images of the pictures that are in the family because sometimes that’s the only copy in a family and God forbid something happens, such as a fire or tornado, and that image is gone,” Jackson said. 

It is possible to take photos of the pictures or to scan them into a shared family Google Drive or Dropbox. 

While you may have heard your grandma explain the members of a photo a million times, Jackson said it is important to label the photos.

“Quite often there are pictures at a grandparent’s house and they know who they are or when the event occurred or what is the event, and then they pass, everybody realizes they never bothered to take it down to write down the information,” Jackson said. 

With more technology, it is easier to digitize photos. Now there are even apps such as “We Gather” that help create family discussions surrounding old photos. Instagram accounts such “Savefamilyphotos” are dedicated to admiring and loving the stories behind old photos. 

Jackson said it is important to label who is in the photos. (Rylee Kirk)

While having grandma or grandpa label photos is important, Jackson said listening and recording the stories your grandparents have is just as important.

“With these tablets and computers and telephones and stuff you can record the interviews that kids do with their grandparents, that they can transcribe them later,” Jackson said.

Jackson said asking simple questions such as where someone grew up, how many siblings they had, and what school they went to is important. However, it is important to ask creative questions as well.

“You always ask your grandpa, ‘Did you fight in the war?’ well, you need to ask grandma,” Jackson said. 

Jackson said that because people are older it is easy to forget they weren’t always old.

“We see Rosie the Riveter but placing your grandmother or your mother or someone into history like that, we want to make them delicate grannies,” she said. 

If you can’t think of your own questions Jackson has plenty of questions for you from Family Tree Magazine and Storycorps.

Jackson said it is important to preserve your family history. (Rylee Kirk)

Ultimately, Jackson said it is important to talk to those who have lived longer than you.

“We’re losing an opportunity if we don’t talk to our elders, and if you don’t have grandparents there’s always a chance to talk to great aunts and uncles or cousins.”

If its a long time until you visit grandma and grandpa Jackson said it is possible to start saving your own history. 

“Why not put together that the family has been cooking in the pandemic,” Jackson said.

Preserving what your family did while in quarantine could create memorable moments for the future generations, Jackson said.

“Kids today can tell their grandkids, ‘During the pandemic of 2020 we cooked this, this and this, because we couldn’t get out to get any food, or you couldn’t find that,’” Jackson said.