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Could You and Should You Part with a Family Photo?

Today our invited guest curator, genealogy expert Thomas MacEntee of, explores drastic methods used to ensure future access to precious family photos. You might just discover you have company in your own approach to old family photos!


I’ll admit I’m a sucker for click-bait news headlines like the recent one, 'I sold family heirloom to pay for my wedding - guests are now refusing to attend'. Basically, the eldest son in a family inherited a valuable family heirloom and decided to sell it in order to fund a lavish destination wedding. His reasoning? “I'm not much for big family traditions, so although it's a nice thing to have, I'm not massively attached to it. I have plenty of other good memories of my father and I don't need a fancy heirloom to remember him by.” 

I won’t weigh in with my opinion on this specific situation (well, okay, I will at the end of this article), but many of us experience similar dilemmas. The heirlooms we inherit are often not “high value” and consist mainly of family photographs. And many of these items hold no sentimental value for us. The challenge? What to do with the vast collection of family photos especially if we haven’t found a family member interested in keeping them? How do we ensure that these items are available for future generations? 

What Should Stay When I Go? Should I Keep or Should I Throw? 

I recently celebrated a Big Birthday (one that ends in a 0) which caused me to ponder my own mortality and what I would be leaving behind for my family to sort through. I have a HUGE collection of family photos dating back to the 1860s … literally over 4,000 photos. While I have spent many hours digitizing and cataloguing these images, what is the next logical step?  

The concept of “Swedish death cleaning” has always intrigued me: the process of cataloguing items accumulated during one’s life and attaching notes or instructions as to how they should be passed on or disposed of. Would I be willing to do the same with old family photos? Just like the article about selling an heirloom that one deems less important than other family members, what is my duty to hold on to and preserve family photos and what methods should I use?

Golf tally card and photo in an old scrapbook

Facing a similar dilemma with family scrapbooks?

My Decision and My Methodology 

I consider myself a “steward” for my family photos as well as my genealogy research. I don’t have a deep need to hold on to the actual photograph of my great-grandfather John Ralph Austin at age 18 months taken in 1897. The image has been scanned, catalogued, and I have even Artifcted it here.

Old fashioned black and white photo of a child in a long gone on a chair circa 1897

What I haven’t yet decided is:

    1. If I still want to keep this photo;  
    2. If I want to send it on to an organization like the Lewis County Historical Society in Lowville, New York where my great-grandfather was born; or  
    3. If I’ll simply include it in my estate plan and let my executors decide on the disposition.

A neat feature when creating an Artifct is the In The Future field where I can designate what I want done with the photo:

In the Future menu with options to sell, bequeath and more

Give it a try! Click the image to create a new Artifct. Or edit an existing Artifct and use the 'In the Future' field.

While every family historian has different approaches to preservation of heirlooms, I strongly recommend creating a digital copy of the item in case the original is lost due to fire, flood, natural disaster, etc. In addition, make sure that digital copy is somehow backed up to the Cloud, an external server or some mechanism providing redundancy.  


In terms of the valuable family heirloom mentioned at the beginning of this article, I thought it was very poor form for the groom not to consult with the rest of the family, especially the younger brother who had a keen interest in keeping the item. Again, this simple act is in line with my role as a steward for my family history and heirlooms. What may not seem sentimental to me, may have a strong attraction for one of my cousins or other family members.

Please put together a plan on managing your family heirlooms and seek input from others in the family. It’s so easy to do here at Artifcts. Spur conversations about valuable or sentimental items, even if it is just a phone call or video call. Often you’ll gain perspective by learning more about the heirloom: what you remember about the item could be very different from that of an aunt or a cousin. At the very least you’ll collect new information to expand the story of that precious family Artifct.


If photos are weighing on or inspiring you, we have additional ARTIcles by Artifcts that might interest you!


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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How to Share Genealogy Stories with Non-Genealogists

We drafted this piece for you today at the direct request of multiple Artifcts Community members. There seems to be some frustration out there when it comes to family history enthusiasts sharing the excitement after hours of toiling* away at genealogy research. For some, the issue is that friends and family refuse to even listen. We warned about this in an earlier post.

Others simply want their friends and family to sign into genealogy websites to look at the timelines, galleries, and trees they've built but the loved ones hit the same wall: intimidation. People tell us that they find the sheer volume of ancestry information and the hyper-detailed nature of it overwhelming. They just want the highlights.

Then there's the anxiety that genealogists report with regard to the 1000s of photos and documents that remain locked on their hard drives, behind subscription paywalls, or in their physical possession, all deterring easy sharing of the stories we’ve pieced together with our families.

A New Resource for Genealogy Story-Sharing

Here are some of the ways we’ve made story-sharing and storytelling simpler and more powerful than ever before for family genealogy and history.

  • No ‘story’ is required. Or at least not what the weight the word “story” might carry for you. A few words will do! And if you’re capturing the history of an ancestor from long ago, consider using a photo, snapshot of their place in the family tree, and maybe a census record with their entry highlighted. You can always fill in more details about who that person was and their life, where they lived, and the heirlooms they left behind later.  
  • You can include video and audio snippets to bring your story to life! You learned that your ancestor founded a major port city in Virginia? Click record on your phone, tell the story, and add it to the Artifct. Move on! This becomes even more fun when you have a living relative to tell the story. No more second guessing, “What did Grandpa really say?” Grandma’s biscuits are legendary, and now so is the video of her showing you how to make them.   
  • To share or not to share, that is always up to you! Some memories will be private until the day we die. But, for others, sharing with a family member may help recall more story details (or an alternate version of events!). Import your contacts to Artifcts, create family invite-only circles for easy group sharing, and off you go!
  • Devil is in the details, and we’ve got your back! If you like to color code your ancestors, highlight key story gaps or points, or create custom folders for your research, Artifcts is here for you. As you write, you can easily format your story. You can even use the @ feature to link to other related Artifcts about the same collection or family line. And tags are infinitely custom with the rigid structure of folders – use a special tag like #MayFamily52 to easily click and sort your collection or tag related relatives and events that help you organize your work.
  • We help you balance details with privacy. Genealogists know, birth dates and other important biographical information for living family members need to stay out of any story or tree you might share with people outside the family or publicly, even at Artifcts. At the same time, we’ve learned you want to be able to share documentation—like a scanned collection of letters or the life story Grandpa wrote—privately with friends and family. Now you can!

What tips and tricks have you discovered for telling and sharing your family genealogy and stories with Artifcts? We’re all ears and would love to hear! You can contact us at

Happy Artifcting!

Check out related ARTIcles and tips about storytelling and genealogy with Artifcts: 
Genealogy Gems checklist – Free downloadable! 
Chasing Histories Can Be Exhausting and So Worthwhile! 
Artifcts Quick Tips – Free downloadable! 
Not sure what to write? Tips from author Jeff Greenwald

* Toiling, they'd have us believe! As though they aren't having fun? Hmm, we suspect otherwise.

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What Should You Artifct (Now)?

Even the most ardent Artifcts supporters struggle sometimes to get started. And then they do start and suddenly they are late for meetings because they are enjoying the experience.

If you find yourself stuck, or maybe you think you don’t even have much to Artifct, see if any of these experiences from around the Arti Community get your wheels turning.

No Idea Where to Start.  

One of Artifcts’ own advisory board members confessed, “I joined Artifcts because what you’ve built is amazing. It will change relationships and relationships to ‘stuff’ forever, but I was slow to start Artifcting. I just kept over thinking it! I wanted to start with the most meaningful items to me, but that was delaying me. So, I turned around at my desk and I Artifcted the first interesting thing I saw. It was a dried flower my daughter had picked for me outside her preschool. She’s thoughtful like that – it’s so her. That’s all it took to get going.”

grid of Artifcts from egoody

Well, Artifcts co-founder Ellen Goodwin has about as eclectic an Artifcts collection as it gets. Her recent Artifcts include a Mother's Day card, a rock from Tucson, a Taylor Swift concert, DAR insignia, furniture and more!

I Needed to Artifct the Most Valuable, Quickly. 

One woman shared, “At first, I went collection by collection and just added a few words about each item so I knew my most valuable possessions were safe in Artifcts. Now I’m going back through my Artifcts to add the stories. I want to be able to say these things, have them here. I’ve also started adding audio and video to some, too.” The "Alberto Lagos Print" Artifct captures the provenance of an item in a big way. Check it out ->

My Adult Daughter Inspires My Artifcting.

A gentleman wrote that his daughter is his Artifcting inspiration. “She Artifcts a lot at night and when I wake up, I have new Artifcts she’s shared with me waiting. They give me ideas about other things I want to Artifct."

Black outline of a bell with a coral colored dot Look for the alarm bell on and the Artifcts mobile app for your newest alerts!

He continued, "This morning my daughter’s Artifct about a purse she bought in Paris reminded me to Artifct my wallet. I bought it in a market in Brazil years ago during a work trip that my wife accompanied me on. She drove me crazy trying to pick the best one. I think of her every time I grab it. I don’t think I’ll ever finish Artifcting. It’s more like a way of life now.” His story reminded us of our #HabitChange story in ARTIcles ->

I don’t think I’ll ever finish Artifcting. It’s more like a way of life now.

It Usually Starts with a Story I Tell.

“Sometimes I catch myself telling a funny or very personal story, and realize in that moment, I really need to Artifct it. I’ll add or take a photo to go with it; other times I record a quick voice memo of myself telling the story. I think my family will really appreciate it one day.”

lightbulb Arti Tip! Use a tag like #LifeStories, #EarliestMemory, #LessonLearned, and #BestTallTales to help quickly find all the stories of yours you love best. Just click the tag to sort your Artifcts!

Don’t Judge: I Made an Outline.

At an Arti Workshop last month, one woman told us that in preparation for starting to Artifct, she made an outline. We were intrigued. “I wanted to capture objects from my personal and work lives, my childhood and adulthood, each of my hobbies (stained glassed, travel, and reading), and about key relationships. I’m working on each of those one at a time. I got the idea from an Artifcts post that talked about going room by room. I just used different life-based groupings!” 

Example checklist from Artifcts

If you like outlines and lists, you might like our inspirational checklists you can download.

It Was Bulk Trash Day.

Sometimes the act of giving or throwing stuff away is your ultimate motivator. “I dragged this old trunk to the curb that first I had used for sleepaway camp and then my son, too. And I looked at it and realized I needed to Artifct it! It held so many memories. I couldn’t let it go completely.” 

Black travel trunk sitting on cement curb

Sometimes our stuff outlasts the memories. But with Artifcts, you can let go of the stuff and hold onto the memories!

What will you Artifct first? Next? Share with us at; we’d love to feature your own stories!

Happy Artifcting!


Artifcting Starter Resources 

We have all sorts of helpful resources that we want to be sure you know about to take the pressure off and let the fun begin: 

Inspiration Checklists

Videos on YouTube

Artifcting Quick Tips


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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What Should You Do With Old Scrapbooks?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Scrapbooking is more than a hobby. It’s a time-consuming, big-hearted passion and nearly infinite outlet for creativity. These works of art visualize people’s stories.

The thing is, scrapbooks also take up space and collect dust. They feature people no longer in our lives. They raise more questions than answers with the items they feature. And then, the physical reality – they fall apart. Read on for more on scrapbooking dilemmas and possible solutions.

Scrapbooking Dilemmas

They decay. The glue and tape decay and quite often that very same glue and tape damages permanently whatever it was holding in place. And then these damaged items slip out of place, and you may never again be very sure what went where, particularly if it’s not your scrapbook to begin with.

They are singular, unique. That means whether moving boxes get lost, your home has a fire or flood, or you simply lose track of them, they are easy to lose and irreplaceable. You can’t exactly go online and order another copy! (By the way, that can hold true for photobooks you create, too! Co-founder Ellen Goodwin was frustrated to discover she couldn’t reorder hers from a particular popular online photobook site because the specific formats are no longer supported. So sad.)

They are singular, unique. (Yes, we repeated that on purpose!) You can’t share a scrapbook. One person is the keeper. Who’s it going to be? You could offer visitation rights, we suppose. Or take turns? Just keep in mind that it is not the ownership of the physical scrapbook that matters but the connection it offers to the memories captured within.

They tend to be highly visual, with little story. Scrapbooks are often designed to have the stories told/shared by the person who created it as you page through it together. At best you typically get a description of only a line or two. The rest is just a visual walk through some aspect of a person’s life. So then if you inherit a scrapbook, so much history is truly lost. You are left to guess.

They are usually 2D. You don’t have audio or video options, unless you include a thumb drive, or similar, to support it.

How Can You Preserve Scrapbooks?

We went to four sources for advice on what to do with scrapbooks that are falling apart and/or have run their useful purpose: A parent of young children, a 70-year-old woman who is downsizing, a professional archivist, and the National Archives. We hope their tips will help you. 

I can’t help you! I gave up on scrapbooks after my first kid. It’s just too much guilt.

I keep some mementos in a fire-safe box for each kid, and the rest is in digital photo storage and the occasional photobook for holidays.

And, in full disclosure, I know one of the founders of Artifcts, so I adopted it early on. Artifcts is my go-to source for almost everything now, even the stuff that goes into the memento box I Artifct first. It’s too easy to forget what is what and which of my kids even made it. I write in pencil on the back of some things, but not everything. Artifcts is more reliable and fun, and they can take the Artifcts I create for them to college without embarrassment.


“Scrapbooks were more time consuming than figuring out what to do with the entirety of my sewing room!” she told us. Here’s the downsizer’s version of events:

First, I had to find them. I knew I had two somewhere.

Then, I asked my two kids if either of them wanted the scrapbooks. That was like opening Pandora’s Box! I had never actually talked them through the scrapbooks, and they wanted to know more about what was in each. I had the mini-golf tally card from our first date. I even had music albums glued in. I couldn't tackle that time commitment right then because my kids do not even live near me.

I took the albums to a local camera store that has a special scanner and they digitized each page and gave it to me as a collection of photos on a thumb drive and they sent me a second version I could download from the cloud.

I decided to keep the scrapbooks for now. I want to record more of the stories that are in the pictures. I will give them to my eldest daughter when I’m done because she’s more curious about the family history and her daughter liked to page through them when I briefly kept them on my coffee table. Tell people: Do NOT keep them on the coffee table. It was a mistake. They are a mess!



Monocurate’s motto is “archives for all” and that’s how they work one-on-one with their clients. Professionals can help stabilize your scrapbooks so you can keep them for longer to share with the next generation. Guidelines from an archivist:

    1. Digitize them as-is.
    2. Carefully remove important items. Don't force it! Did you know … Sometimes people would repurpose books, like old phone books, to scrapbook. Upcycling is great, but may make for a bit more fragile scrapbook!
    3. Interleave the scrapbook pages with acid-free paper or tissue.
    4. Most importantly, stop scrapbooking.

It pains archivists to know the future of items consigned to scrapbooks and what the glues, metals, tapes and more will do to their contents.


The position of the Archives is clearest in this statement: “[Scrapbooks are] unique gatherings of material that are best preserved as a unit.” Much like archivists who work with individuals and families, the US National Archives suggests:

    • Store scrapbooks in cool, dry, dark places.
    • House them flat and in archival quality boxes.

Archival Methods logo

Check out Archival Methods in our Allies in 'Stuff' for a discount code to box your scrapbook!  
    • If you "must" handle them, be careful! Put back anything that falls out, keep your hands clean, and obviously keep food and water away.
    • Do not attempt to repair scrapbooks you wish to pass on to future generations. Seek professional help or you risk further damaging what remains.
    • Avoid stressing the binding and contents by using copy machines. Use a hand-held camera or a face-up copier or scanner. Or, again, seek out a professional for digitization services.


While you will not hear Artifcts say, “Stop scrapbooking!” we do strongly encourage you to think about why you scrapbook, what you hope to do with the product of your work one day, and how you can ensure that the stories woven into the contents are not lost.

We don't want your scrapbook and its memories in a trashcan someday, a casualty of too much stuff, too little space, too little interest in figuring out the stories and secrets it holds!

If you are taking the time to create the scrapbook, maybe take time to create an additional Artifct or two to go with the scrapbook, even if the Artifct is of the scrapbook itself, and is your story of why you created it, what it means to you, etc. Bonus, you can include audio and video and bring your scrapbook to life for the next generation.  


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Top 5 Vintage Shops in the World

Reading time: 3 minutes 
Ready for the list? This is from real world experience, based on 1000s of conversations with people just like you.

      1. Your closet 
      2. Your workshop 
      3. Your craft room 
      4. Your attic 
      5. Your storage unit

Maybe not in that order.  And maybe replace "your" with Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, or Neighbor Alice.

You surely have read the headlines that convey “No one wants your stuff," and yet we know, nostalgia and vintage are all the rage and antiquing a constant. Just because your family may not want large pieces of furniture or a complete set of non-dishwasher safe china, it does not mean they care any less about you, your stories, and specific mementos from your home. 

Your home is truly the best vintage shop in the world. 

Let your children and grandchildren into your closet.

If not them, your “people,” whoever they are! We guarantee that the items they choose they will also keep and use more than any of the stuff you may assume they should have or will want. This is especially true if they know the stories behind the objects.

--> That was the blanket you bought in Peru on your first solo trip abroad.

--> These are vintage t-shirts your grandpa sent to you from his collection.

--> And  that  is a painting of the first car of the first train your great grandfather ran on his railroad.

three folded vintage t-shirts side by side

Sometimes items lurk in our drawers, bins, and closets simply because they give us reassurance just by being there. But imagine setting them free to be enjoyed. You can even set your own return policy or date if it will make you feel better! And you can always see them anytime here on Artifcts if you capture them first!

"Exactly! I’m bound by a return policy. I asked my parents about a music box that I have always loved and was just collecting dust in an upstairs closet. They agreed I could take it under one condition: At any time they might ask me to bring it back. Deal!" recalled Artifcts co-founder Ellen Goodwin. "I'm still working on getting them to let me borrow a couple of old photos, too."

black and white photo of two men in suits on old bikes

A photo that provokes more questions than enjoyment right now. View Artifct ->


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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The Three Things I Wish My Mother Had Artifcted

Reading time: 3 minutes 

Losing a parent is never easy. For me, the loss of my mother also equated to the loss of our family keeper. The recipe remember-er, the re-teller of funny and sometimes true stories, the arbitrator of family history (not to mention all those dates, locations, and relations).

There are moments even now when I stop and think, “If only I could ask Mom.” Instead, for better or worse, I am now our family keeper, or, more aptly, our family can-you-remember-er with what details I do recall.

There are three things that I wish my mother had Artifcted. Of course, she would have to do it old school, with scrapbooks or maybe journals with photos inserted since nothing like Artifcts existed yet.

1.  Her recipes.  

My mother was an amazing cook, baker, and overall entertainer. Her cookies, cakes, and pies were famous, as was her award-winning blueberry buckle. I was fortunate to grow up watching her cook and learning the recipes by sight. Still. There are some substitutions I am left to guess. Some ingredients I am left to wonder, “Did she really put this in the recipe?” And some recipes that I simply can’t find and have yet to replicate. I KNOW she cooked them; I remember the dishes, and most of the ingredients. Where is the recipe?

2.  Her jewelry. 

My mother had some beautiful pieces of jewelry, but she was the only one that knew the stories behind them. I am left to guess at the details and try to piece together the who, what, when, where, and WHY. These are the details I would love to pass down to my daughter along with the actual jewelry, but I’m stuck relying on my six-year-old memory of what she might have told me the umpteenth time she caught me going through her jewelry box.

3.  Her books.  

Or rather, her favorite book(s). My mother was an avid reader, with 1000s of books in her collection. Some were old and well-loved; others were brand new and never opened. I wish I knew which books left an impact on her as a young adult and as an aging adult. Which ones did she go back to again and again? I’ll never know these little pieces of my mother that have somehow taken on even greater weight now that she is gone.


I cannot change the past, so instead of being sad about what I do not have, I have turned it around to be glad and proactive about what I do have. I have my stories, my memories, and my history that I am busy creating every day. I have an inquisitive and smarter than smart daughter that is my everything.

So, what do I do? I Artifct for her, and whoever comes after her. I tell her my story, one Artifct at a time. I share with her all the details—big and small—that make me, well, me. And although she may not be ready to hear everything I have to say (I am after all “way vintage” if you ask her), I take comfort knowing that one day she will appreciate those details, and she will know me. The real me. I will not be a mystery to my daughter. She’ll have my Artifcts.


Artifcts Gift

Consider gifting the mom in your life Artifcts. Imagine all those "I never knew that about you!" moments that await.

© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Latest Features and Improvements | May 2023

Reading time: 3 minutes 

We’ve been on a non-stop learning journey with new and old members of the Arti Community all year.

We started with passionate genealogists, then innovators in longevitech, and onward to photo organizers, estate planners, and those moving, downsizing, and/or decluttering (along with the pros who help them). On top of all that has been the precious one-on-one time with families and individuals concierge Artifcting their prized collectibles, one-of-a-kind pieces, and sentimental mementos.

An overarching lesson from this all is that sometimes the devil really is in the details. So, we focused there – the details. Check out the newest updates, and you’ll see what we mean.

Product Updates, Spring 2023: Devil in the Details  


Now when you share an Artifct privately with individuals, circles, or lists, you can choose to share the Artifct's private documentation, too. This is perfect when you ... 

    • Scan a bundle of old letters together as a PDF that you want your siblings to be able to access and read them anytime; 
    • Write up your genealogy research notes and family history and share with your extended family;  
    • Want to file an insurance claim, with the photos, receipt, and appraisal report so your insurer can process the claim faster and with fewer questions;
    • Include the original high resolution photo file and want to allow others to access it and print or use themselves.

So many scenarios, each now supported with (optional) documentation sharing. Just click the box to include documents the next time you share an Artifct. You can revoke this decision instantly, too. Simply click ‘Share’ again and delete the share that includes the documentation. Done!

Sharing pop up on Artifcts with new option to share documentation


New parents, new retirees, new homeowners, those experiencing grief – so many occasions for which Artifcts is a beautiful, fun, and lasting gift. Now you can choose the occasion of your Artifcts gift so that the gift email, as well as the printable gift card, match the mood.

Choose the gift occasion with Artifcts

Give it a try this Mother’s Day for any of the moms in your life! Sure beats another candle. Gift memberships are 30% off now through Mother's Day.

Buy now ->


The thoroughness and creativity of genealogists begs each of us to rise to our A games. For genealogists colors carry meaning: one color for the “maternal” side of the family, another for “paternal,” and so on. In addition, those black and white details can start to make your attention wander. What story can’t use a little “color,” really?  

Now you can select the font color as well as a highlight color to emphasize key details in any Artifct story. 

Customize the appearance of your text in your story with Artifcts

Create an Artifct and try it out ->


Invite-only circles are quickly gaining popularity. They provide community with whom and around whatever theme you care about without the noise of social media, the boredom and sad experience of a shared drive or long document, or the disorganization of chats and emails. 

We’ve heard about private circles organized around:

    • Family, e.g. all my cousins, aunts, and uncles, to reunite old and share new family heirlooms;  
    • A love of travel, and the friends who you can count on to Artifct all the great details so you can follow in their footsteps (and shops!);  
    • Membership groups, like chruch groups and local seniors villages who love to story-share through Artifcts; and
    • Collections. One woman told us she invited all her friends and acquaintances who collect Star Wars memorabilia. A man in Denmark created a circle just for his wine-loving friends. 

We upgraded circles so you can now see and easily follow individual circle members, see a note from the circle creator about why the circle exists, and quickly sort to see your favorite Artifcts within the circle and those you have contributed. 

 Invite-only circles on Artifcts provide new details about the circle and its member

Create a circle -> 

We have an open door.  

Is there something you wish Artifcts could do or help you with? Is there a feature driving you a bit crazy or confusing you in any way? You can write us a And be sure to catch up on past product updates, too!

button to jump to past product updates with Artifcts


Helpful resources as you get started and continue enjoying Artifcting:

Quick Start Guide

Inspiration Lists

FAQs & Videos on YouTube


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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Before You Thin Out That Stuffed Animal Collection, Consider What Scientists Have to Say

Why do we have and keep so many stuffed animals to start with? It turns out, this is exactly the right question to be asking as we mark the start of May - Mental Health Month.
In a recent decluttering spree with my daughter, I found myself unexpectedly sentimental over so many she was ready to part with because I not only remembered when and from whom she got each, but I could picture her toting them around with her, cuddling them on car trips and during naps, and setting them up to play school.  
My conversations with my daughter about these stuffed toys all went something like this:

Me: You don’t want kitty? 
My kid: No, she’s really big. 
Me: But you and your cousin each got one together when we went to Disney. You insisted they watch the fireworks with you. 
My kid: I don’t remember. 
Me: O-kay. [Into the donation bag it goes.]

Imagine my surprise when trying to pick some of the stuffed animals to rehome and donate that I learned about a series of studies, first published back in 2014 in the journal Psychological Science by researchers at VU University Amsterdam that touched on my stuffed animal dilemma. “These toys are more than toys,” I consoled myself.

What Research Tells Us About Stuffed Toys

The research team at VU University Amsterdam investigated how interpersonal touch, including holding a teddy bear, influenced self-esteem in those who are more prone to depression and anxiety. And these are certainly anxious times in the world for us all with global pandemics, extreme weather, and a sea change in the US education system to name a few culprits.

Care Bear Cousins Plush Purple Stuffed Animal - COZY HEART PENGUIN 14"

Some stuffed animals even have “care” built into the name,  
like the Care Bears, popular in the 1980s.
You’ll probably not be surprised to learn that the study confirmed what many of us sense intuitively: touch can calm our fears and anxieties. The study also suggested touch is a means of increasing social connectedness and found that these effects are strongest among those of us who have strong intrinsic motivation.  
I mean, what’s the alternative when you’re on your own? Snuggling up to a digital device? Or, as in the researchers’ study, a cardboard box? We didn’t think so.  
We’re sharing this in hopes you go easy on yourself and your kids when you’re feeling overwhelmed by so much stuff, including stuffed animals. Stuffed toys can play an important role in how we relate to the world and cope with whatever it throws at us.
collection of stuffed bunnies
Some bunnies in this little girl’s collection made the cut, others did not. First, she Artifcted them.

Bonus! Want to learn more about the science of stuffed toys?

If you want to dig into some of the science yourself, check out some of the resources we also explored:

Kid ‘stuff’ on your mind? You may also enjoy these related stories from ARTIcles by Artifcts: 
Pint-Sized Perspective on Decluttering and Moving
15 Decluttering Targets for Artifcters
Who Wants This Rocking Chair?

© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

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Can Your DNA Test Results Be Considered an Artifct?

There are so many technological innovations that have become a part of family history research. These include online databases of vital records and other documents. Hand-writing recognition tools to help decipher and index census images. And personal DNA test kits to help understand your ethnic background as well as connect you with relatives you never knew before.

While the technology itself is innocent, how it is used opens up an entire Pandora’s box of issues and ethical questions. DNA test results are the most problematic since the data is, after all, the ESSENCE of a person. They are the ultimate identifier. They are unique just like you. And the same data that advances the ability to better understand ourselves, our heritage, and our family… can be used to implicate a person in a criminal cold case or discriminate against those with certain ethnicities or even specific medical conditions.

Should You Document Your DNA Test Results?

I’ve been testing my own DNA since 2008 when AncestryDNA was still in beta test mode. I’ve tested with all the major companies, and I’ve not only compiled the results, but I have also documented the process for each test.

As I tell my followers, genealogical and family history research is not just names and dates. I want to “fill in the dash” meaning what happens between the birth date and death date for a person. This includes me and my life story. I am leaving a legacy for future generations of family members as well as researchers. So, I definitely am in favor of sharing my DNA results and journey with others.

DNA test results can cause a major “shift change” in research for some. Each week it seems that there is a media story about an adoptee locating birth family, or a person discovering that their grandfather had other children that were not documented. With a belief that “knowledge is power” I always make sure that I put my DNA test results to good use, but responsibly. Once my results are available, I download the data and secure it. Going forward I make sure that what I share does not compromise my own privacy or the privacy of those with whom I connect.

What Should You Share and What Should You Keep Private?

Your level of sharing when it comes to DNA test results depends on your comfort level. Most of the personal DNA test kit vendors allow you to “opt out” of sharing results with other testers in order to look for a “match.” Some testers even go so far as using a fake name and a “burner” email address for anonymity. Remember: your data, your choice.

I feel comfortable sharing my ethnicity breakdown with family and even publicly. I also always opt in to the “matching” aspect at each DNA vendor with whom I’ve tested since it has led to many advances in my genealogy research.

I don’t share the medical and health related aspects of my DNA especially on social media. While here in the US health insurance companies cannot use DNA test results in determining your coverage, there is no law preventing life insurance companies from doing so.

Before I upload my data to a third party site like GEDmatch, I make sure to read the Terms and Conditions and the Privacy Policy of the site. I also recommend signing up for email updates on these policies. I even go so far as setting up a Google Alert for the company so I can keep tabs on the latest news including anytime a vendor has been bought or sold, or even when they’ve experienced a data breach.

Best Practices for Getting the Most Out of Your DNA Test Results

Here’s my advice on the best ways to work with your DNA test results. The goal is to preserve and document the process and results in a way that still ensures your privacy and the privacy of others.

Record the Story

        • Write or record the story of why you wanted to take a DNA test, the process, and the results. Make sure you cover which DNA testing company you used, why you selected that company, how the test kit worked, and the anticipation of waiting for the results. Check out my AncestryDNA Artifct where I followed my own advice!
        • In your story also describe your reaction to the results. Were you surprised by anything? Did the results run counter to a family story or your genealogy research? Did the results put you on the path to a new research journey?
        • Use photos when possible including the test kit and a screen capture of the ethnicity results. Also consider sharing your haplogroup information so you can connect with others in the same group. However, don’t share detailed results including chromosomes and mapping and other information.

Test Again

        • Keep in mind that ethnicity results can change over time. What? That’s right, over time your ethnicity results may change due to more and more people testing their DNA. This means more results in the databases and a “refinement” of results. Example: Instead of just being Western European, you may see a breakdown of results listing percentage of French or German ethnicity.

Benefit from the Best of Social Media

        • If you are a social media user, remember to ask others with whom you “match” before you post results publicly. If you locate a new cousin, don’t automatically take a screen capture of the match listing the cMs (centimorgans) and their name. When it comes to DNA results it is better to ask for permission rather than forgiveness later. The Internet is a “copy machine” and once posted it is almost impossible to remove that information.

Get Artistic

One neat way to document and share the ethnicity breakdown based on your DNA test results is to create a colorful print that includes the world map marking the regions related to your background. Family ChartMasters is a US-based company that lets you enter your ethnicity information and generates an amazing Personalized DNA Ethnicity Chart measuring 20” x 24” and suitable for framing. The staff at Family ChartMasters are super helpful and can be reached via email at Learn more >

Example DNA chart from Family ChartMasters


DNA testing is still an emerging technology especially for family history enthusiasts. Each week the media offers stories of incredible family reunions as well as the heartbreak of learning a truth that conflicts with the belief in a family story passed down for generations.

Remember that these are YOUR DNA test results and you have the ability to use them wisely. Do so in a way that you can share them as part of your legacy story yet still ensure the privacy aspects of such data.


Eager for more? Connect with Thomas. You can also download his latest Genealogy Tech with Thomas cheat sheet.


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Going Green. With Artifcts.

Who says it's not easy being green? 

In honor of Earth Day 2023 we created a special downloadable for all those items from around your home that through decluttering, moving, or otherwise "clearing on out," you want to move on without adding to the landfills. For our first edition, we’ve gone 100% eclectic, like the Artifcts you all create every day. Before the 'stuff' goes, Artifct that! 

Click the image to download your copy. All ideas are linked so you can learn more!

And if you want to upcycle, and still aren't sure where to start, check out companies like UpycleThat for inspiration on repurposing and options to buy and sell items. You can also call or visit local charities and similar to learn about their ongoing needs. Local charities abound, but here are some examples to get you started that range from nationally represented to always local:

      • Dress for Success (Clothing)
      • Habitat for Humanity (Tools)
      • Goodwill (Donates millions of crutches, wheelchairs and more every year to veterans' groups. We realize you might only Artifct these as a good ridance moment, but those matter, too!)
      • Disaster relief organizations, such as the Red Cross and fire stations (Clothing, blankets ...)
      • Universities (Your graudate's gown)
      • Hospitals (Needs vary widely, but some accept games and stuffed animals.)

We also strongly encourag reaching out to professional organizers and estate sellers who tend to be incredibly knowledgeable about uniquely local resources.

Happy Artifcting!


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Upcycling Stuff After You Declutter: Create Personalized Art

Stepping into a football stadium you expect energy.

Setting down your bag of materials in quilting circle, calm and friendship.

Standing inside Magpie in Your Eye’s workshop – joy.

If you have yet to discover the joy of Magpie in Your Eye, by Maggie Stephens—one of Artifcts' Allies in 'Stuff'—you’re in for a treat.

Maggie could not help but wonder why we are all throwing away the small treasures we accumulate and collect in our lives. We’re talking about the small stuff – the less than 5-inch-tall knickknacks, tchotchkes, thingamabobs, and mementos on our shelves, in our bins, and maybe even our junk drawers.


Maggie makes wreaths out of treasures people part with at estate sales, thrift shops, and charity stores. Rarely does she shop the likes of eBay; too expensive when you need more than 100 pieces for a single wreath. Leave those "pricey" thingamabobs for special treats or to meet a critical need.  

Maggie’s selectivity goes beyond just cost and size. “If you take a bunch of ugly things and put them together, you have something interesting.” Something with a character of its own. So there’s an essence of the object itself to consider, too. 

If you take a bunch of ugly things and put them together, you have something interesting.

That is what drew us at Artifcts to Maggie. Not only was she upcycling before it was cool, but can you imagine a better housewarming gift for someone who has moved away from home (think adult children) or recently downsized, and so many bits and bops simply get left behind? Make them into a wreath and you can continue to enjoy them for years to come! 

That’s exactly what one US expat living in Switzerland did! She saw Maggie’s holiday display at ByGeorge in Austin, Texas, and brought Maggie an interesting challenge.  

Could she transform a box of toys the women’s children had outgrown into a wreath? Why yes, yes, she could, and the result was heartwarming.

Read more about this toy wreath here.

Sometimes Maggie’s wreaths feature a color, other times a theme—bananas, jungle animals, Mexican crafts—and of course holidays.

Wreath with small red objects   Wreath with random orange objects   Yellow wreath objects Artifcts

It can take her over a year to collect enough pieces for a wreath since the pieces are all under $5, under 5”, and never purchased new. Maggie can get unexpected boosts when she buys a bag full of itty-bitty objects because there were two she really wanted, and then later several others in the bag round out a collection she didn’t even realize she had growing.

Case in point, a client last summer requested a fall wreath. Maggie wasn’t confident she had autumn themed items never mind enough of them. But once she started breaking down the essence of the season, out from the bins leapt mini pies, canned soup, dried vegetables, and more to create a distinctively autumnal wreath. 


The wreaths start out with a 14” foam ring and are about 24” when completed. 

Wrap the foam ring in tinsel.  

Attach the hanger (before it’s too late)!

Then build layer by layer, starting by placing the largest of the items as the anchors around the wreath.  

Drying time between layers prolongs the building process a bit. Maggie never ever recommends accelerating it by using hot glue, because hot glue shrinks over time and then the pieces will fall off. “Sad!” Instead, she uses E600. The type of glue that will certainly outlast us all.

Want to try it for yourself? Here’s a helpful how-to video to create similar wreaths, but remember Maggie’s hot glue warning!


We should warn that some of Maggie’s pieces require more than wild creativity and crafting skills. Sometimes you need to phone a friend with metal working skills! Surely we all have one … or not, ha. Maggie’s friend Anne Woods creates the necessary metal support arms and frames for larger custom pieces, like the rainbow piece Maggie displayed at By George last winter. 

Rainbow wreath for ByGeorge

A small segment of the ByGeorge wreath in the workshop.

We wanted to know what in this process was most challenging. Surprisingly, it was about the pieces themselves. Maggie laughed and said it’s a bit like getting a tattoo. Once she commits a piece to a wreath, that’s it, it’s gone. She might never find another like it.  

The hope is the piece, the collection reprised from dustbins and forgotten corners, will bring joy. “People always connect with one object or another in a wreath. It must be like Artifcts in that way. Stuff unites us.”  

People always connect with one object or another in a wreath. It must be like Artifcts in that way. Stuff unites us.


Have tiny stuff that might make a great wreath? Contact Maggie at She’ll be delighted to work with you.


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Free Genealogy Resources and Other Tips from a Pro

Thomas MacEntee knows his (genealogy) stuff. He’s spent decades on his own family research and long before that was steeped in the tech industry. Having tech skills, natural curiosity, and boundless energy are hallmarks of a great genealogist, and he possesses these traits and then some. We can add perseverance to that mix, too. 

During a recent Evenings with Artifcts, our audience had questions for Thomas that we do not want you to miss. Here are just a few: 

Q: How can I stay apprised of sales for memberships and DNA test kits, genealogy events near me, and even changes to the privacy terms of sites I use? 

A: Approve the sender email addresses for sites you work with to ensure emails from them do not go to spam. And set Google Alerts! It’s easy to do and to change or delete when you no longer need them. Create a Google alert -> 

Q: How can I export my genealogy research to share with family who do not want to sign into the platform I used to build our family tree? The file I got was not usable. 

A: Ah, GEDCOM, yes; it’s the default format you’ll get genealogy data in and isn’t meant to be read as is. Try a different site from the one you’ve been using to see if you like it better for engaging your family. You can download the free version of RootsMagic or create a free account on MyHeritage and then import your GEDCOM file and evaluate its fit for you. Review each site’s terms and conditions before importing your GEDCOM data so you know what they will do with the data. 

And watch out because the old GEDCOM formats do NOT download your media files. You have to download each photo, document, and other media file one-by-one. Always back up your media files locally before posting anywhere. That's a great bonus of Artifcts, which offers members non-proprietary, usable formats to download individual Artifcts and/or your complete collection. Simply click download and choose your preferred format. Done! And Artifcts does not compress (shrink) your media files either.  

Q: I’m new to genealogy research. Where can I find some easy and free resources to get started? 

A: Genealogists as a collective are very active in private and public Facebook groups. Historical societies are often great resources as well. Check your local libraries and museums for free workshops and access to digital research tools. 

Thomas shared two additional free resources during the event. Click play! 

Want to hear Thomas’ other great tips, including his thoughts on Evernote vs OneNote, top scanners for photos, negatives, and slides, and more? Watch the full replay on YouTube -> 

Keep Privacy and Security and Mind as You Work! 

It’s worth emphasizing the vital importance of privacy and record keeping throughout any family history and genealogy research endeavor.  


Data about living people, personal details (addresses, DNA results, birth and anniversary dates), and even the photos and videos you share should all be done with consideration given to all those affected.  

And if you have interviewed a family member and want to include their story, share the transcription with them before you upload it anywhere, so they retain control over their history! 


For real. Do not rely on a three-ring binder, fire safe, or, please no, a plastic bin or filing cabinet to be your vault. Embrace tech:  

    • A solid-state hard drive (you can easily find reviews from established sources like CNET) can provide you with speed, capacity, and longevity, helping future proof your research! 
    • And consider a secondary backup with a cloud-based solution or a digital vault service. There are many vault services available to store documents, photos, videos, passwords, and the like. Some also bake in estate planning, medical directives, and other tools to ensure you’re planning forward. Check out Keylu, one of our Allies in ‘Stuff,’ and others including Trustworthy and GoodTrust to find the best fit. 

For more technology tips and recommendations, download Genealogy Tech with Thomas


Are you a genealogist or family historian and curious to try Artifcts? 

Start here with Artifcts In Real Life and download our checklist of Genealogy Gems. And stay tuned for new genealogy-themed videos on our YouTube channel, too! 


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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