Give the gift small icon
Give the gift big icon
Give the gift
of Artifcts

The perfect gift for the person
in your life who has everything.

Give a gift Close
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.

Read more
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.

Read more
Estate Planning of Things

Over the last several years, there has been a movement in technology called the “Internet of Things.” This is the growing interconnection, via the internet, of computing devices embedded in everyday objects. At some point in the future, all our home and business technology are expected to be seamless and interconnected.  

In the past, estate planning has been solely or almost completely concerned about passing a person’s assets at death. It has not been connected to other parts of life and especially not connected to the parts of all our lives that have no monetary value: family history, legacy, values, etc. If the IRS does not value it, we often ignore it in estate planning.  

We need to start thinking about Interconnected Estate Planning to make estate planning more wholistically connected with our lives. Especially in this age of downsizing and decluttering, we need to start thinking about how we plan to transfer our things to our children, families, and friends in a way that transfers not just the title and ownership, but also transfers the “Why” so those people and others will understand the importance and the stories behind those assets. We also can think about making those transfers during life when we have the chance to assure the best stewardship of the items for the future.  

You can watch the full episode of Evenings with Artifcts: Modern Estate Planning here.

How do we start Interconnected Estate Planning? Many of us are paralyzed or overwhelmed and do not start estate planning until late in life, or – at worst – when it is too late. Among the negative thoughts I have heard are: 

  •  “I’ll just leave this to be handled after I am gone.” 
  • “My children/grandchildren/friends/family all know what I want and they will divide everything fairly.” 
  • “I do not want to make any decisions that might make people mad after I am gone.” 
  • “I don’t want to dwell on my own death.” 

In my experience, it is much better to make a plan than to leave the disposition of your estate to chance. Many estate planning attorneys, accountants, insurance professionals, and others who help to manage assets for estates have stories of families broken apart because the person who died was not clear about disposition. There are lawsuits that have dragged on literally for decades where beneficiaries argue about these assets… and not always the most expensive items. 

 In my experience, it is much better to make a plan than to leave the disposition of your estate to chance

Fortunately, there is a solution. Creating an interconnected plan can start with considering just a few items, and without even going to an attorney. By considering these items, you have the chance to answer the most important question your beneficiaries will have after you are gone: Why? Why are these items important? Why did she save that? Why does it matter? 

In one of the episodes of Evening with Artifcts, Jeff Greenwald said, “When you are giving an object away, it motivates you to tell the story. Stories don’t take up much space at all.” So, start with a small list of items you value. Title the list “Personal Property Memorandum” and state at the start that you intend this to be included in your current or any future Will, and date it. Make the list and consider why you think those items are worth giving away, what they mean to you, name the beneficiary, and describe what the item might mean to the beneficiary.  

Artifcts can be a great way to start organizing your thoughts. Once you have the items in Artifcts, you could print out the items, and use the printout as part of your Memorandum. With Artifcts, you can also write directly in the "In the Future” field that the object in question is to be given to a particular person.  

By considering who should get the items, you can decide whether to wait to give it away now, or make it part of your estate. As you make these decisions, just update your Memorandum (and Artifcts!) at any time. 

This is a simple way to pass along items with the most meaning in your life to those who can most benefit. 


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Read more
A Family Story Shared for International Holocaust Remembrance Day

For many of us the history of the Holocaust is just that, history. If you have visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum you may have a somewhat deeper appreciation for its continuing resonance in our lives. If you have also traveled to those regions where the concentration and labor camps existed, you may have a still greater understanding as well as that overwhelming desire to see these lessons learned live on through us and unite us against these evils. 

Gates of Auschwitz with the words ARBEIT MACHT FREI

What we worry about at Artifcts is that as those of the generation who survived the horrors of the Holocaust dwindle in number, will enough of us take up the imperative to preserve those stories that exist within our own family histories? Today, on the International Remembrance Day, Arti Community member @Dr_Dani_Q shares her own family's stories of surviving the Holocaust in hopes of encouraging other families to look back in their family and community histories to ask the questions, document the answers, and share with others so it will not be lost. It will become a part of our living history.


My Grandfather’s Story: A Marriage of Survival, Pride, and Service

It was evening. My great grandmother approached and drew closed the curtains at the window where my then 12-year-old grandfather sat, sparing him from the sight of the SS soldiers lining up and summarily executing his Jewish neighbors who had lived across the street.

This was Kaunus, Lithuania. The year was 1942. SS soldiers occupied homes across Lithuania, including the farmhouse where my grandfather lived. Having already suffered months of servitude to the SS soldiers they were forced to house, my great uncle secured secret passage for his brother’s family that same night as their neighbors were executed via the railroad he worked on. They traveled through Europe and eventually onward to safety in Brooklyn, New York, in 1949.  The uncle stayed behind, working in secret to secure passage for all who he could.

Black and white photo of an ocean passenger ship

The ship my grandfather and his family took to the United States.

Many do not realize that millions of non-Jews, even those blonde-haired blue-eyed Lithuanians like my grandfather, were forced to serve in non-disclosed labor camps and executed by the Nazis during WWII. Unlike some who survived, as you will read about next, my grandfather spent his life telling his personal story from his youth during WWII in eastern Europe, lest we forget. He also traveled back to Lithuania, always returning to us with presents like amber and carved eggs, urging us to remember and embrace our cultural heritage. And he served for freedom and democracy, working as a translator in 10 languages for the US Army. 

Amber Necklaces

Homemade necklace of amber from Lithuania


My Grandmother’s Story: Twin Pillars of Survival and Trauma

My grandfather met my grandmother in New York in 1957 at a Belarusian cultural center. You know the type, even if only from movies: native food, dances, and all other aspects of community. The community center was the only place my grandmother would be among her own for the rest of her life. 

Unlike my grandfather, my grandmother's experience in 1943 as an 11-year-old Russian Orthodox Catholic child in a Nazi labor camp turned her away from her Belarusian homeland and the whole of Eastern Europe forever.


scanned photo of a ship passenger manifest from May 1951Scanned copy of a ship passenger manifest validating when my grandmother,
parents, and siblings arrived in NYC, NY, in May 1951... under Polish papers!

I have always been interested in my family history and genealogy. But it wasn’t until a year ago that I asked my uncle to tell me more about my grandmother’s experiences during WWII. All I knew was that as a child she was in a labor camp in Nazi-occupied Europe, and that one day, while bending down to pick up a piece of laundry she dropped while folding in the officers’ barracks, bullets were sprayed across the building by American troops who arrived to liberate the camp. The fallen laundry saved her life. “You still believe that story,” exclaimed my shocked and disbelieving uncle. 

He then told the me, the 32-year-old adult me, at last, the true story. 

My grandmother was lined up in an execution ditch. She watched as the SS officers executed one person after another. She was number 10. They were on number seven when American troops stormed into the camp, saving her (and her entire family).

Let me tell you, my grandmother, she was 5 feet tall and really fierce. The eldest of four siblings, survivor of a Nazi labor camp, ... you can understand why! I just wish I had known her story when she was alive, because knowing it made me understand and respect her that much more. I would have understood better the generational trauma I witnessed through her decisions and behaviors. I would have understood why she was so tough and closed-off, refusing to speak of her past. And why she chose to assimilate to her new life in the United States to such a degree that she never spoke her native languages again; never visited her homeland again. I just wish I had known. 


Our Story 

Today my family honors and preserves our heritage through food, certainly—cold borscht, balandelai, and koldunai/kolduny!—as well as travel, sharing of the trinkets my grandfather first bought for us with our own children, and of course by sharing our stories. 

You’ll see if you read the Artifcts I have shared that Artifcts has become our outlet to secure this history. I get to keep so many things that I wish I had from my mom and grandparents. It relieves a weird amount of stress from the “What if” category, and what I would leave behind in the terrible event that something happens to me. That’s why I am sharing my family’s story today. To urge you all, how ever, where ever you feel comfortable – capture your history so it can live on.

- Dr. Dani Q


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

Read more
Father, World Traveler, and Now Downsizer: The True Story of One Man's Triumph Over 'Stuff'

World traveler and five kids. Need I say more to justify how so much stuff can accumulate over time?

At one point in my life, I was moving every few years - living in four different countries overseas in a span of what seemed like no time at all. I've lived the last 19 years in the same house without the natural “cleansing” of a move (although I’ll admit I once had a trash canwith trashthat got packed and moved). And now, as the fourth child goes to college and we have only one left at home, it's time to downsize. It's time to change the narrative of our daily lives.

The children's reactions so far have included stress, from the change, and frustration with the perceived erasing of memories as we ask them to realize they’re moving on and we want to as well. As a person who looks to logic to control emotion and justify circumstances, I try to rationalize that the memories are just that, memories that cannot be taken away. However, those memories are triggered by objects that connect me to a specific time or moment in my past. Objects that often have stories behind them. 

Picture of a cardboard box full of sticks, rocks, and railroad ties

Some people tell fish tales. This Artifct is about survival.
Click the image to view the Artifct.

I’ve realized during this downsizing process just how many of my memories exist in boxes that no one has laid eyes on for a decade or more. If I had collected an actual object to trigger each memory I wish I could recall, I would have run out of space long ago. I've also accepted that nobody, including me, will reminisce those forgotten times or places if those memory triggers are not available.

Along came Artifcts. As I downsize not only what's around the house, in my office, and otherwise a part of our daily lives, but also everything that remained in boxes for decades, I’ve started documenting them in Artifcts.

1980 yearbook from Stonewall "Sabres" Middle School in Manassas, Virginia

Well, hello yearbooks! Click to view the Artifct.


It’s much easier for me to share and show those objects, and more frequently recall and tell the stories, using the ‘story box’ (aka the Artifcts app) I now carry around in my phone. There’s little chance of me being near my real boxes of stuff when I want to humble-brag about an object or tell a story about a commonality I discover with someone I've just met. But I’m almost guaranteed to have my phone on hand and the Artifcts app with it.

With Artifcts, I’m also more apt to capture and preserve the objects and stories in the moment as I acquire something (or even sometimes skip the acquisition and just document the memory). Just as importantly, I realized I'm regularly using Artifcts to capture memories as I go through boxes with my mother and other family members, and I have them tell the stories. When a loved one is gone, or I’m gone, it gives me great solace to know my memories can carry on and be used to tell the next generation about what Dad or Grandpop had and did in life. All these little objects form a mosaic, painting a wonderful picture of why we are who we are.

Again, it's rarely the actual object that’s important. It’s the memories triggered by the objects. Artifcts has enabled me to let the objects go as I downsize, or consciously document the importance of an object I keep so my kids will understand what it is when I’m not around to tell the story. Until then, I want to easily access to my objects, or memory triggers, so I can tell the story in person. My kids will probably want a “number of stories told” counter added to Artifcts so they can limit the number of times I reminisce. But reminiscing is a parental right, right?

- Matt Ramsey


© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Read more
Preserving Your Best Travel Memories

As co-founders, Ellen and I are always meeting interesting people at Artifcts. We were very fortunate to be introduced this spring to Rainer Jenss, founder of the Family Travel Association, former senior executive with National Geographic, and an avid traveler. We loved talking with Rainer so much that we invited him to be our first guest author at ARTIcles. Read on to learn more about his story and experience using Artifcts to remember his May 2022 travels in Africa.


My wife Carol and I recently returned from a vacation we took to Africa with 25 other people, most of whom we’d never met before, but all who had some kind of connection to the tour’s organizers, Henry and Claire Kartagener. In my case, I’ve worked in the travel industry with Henry Kartagener for years. He’s also been directly responsible for getting Carol and me to Southern Africa several times already, including our first visit back in 1992 that took us on a safari during which we actually ended up getting engaged. Thirty years later, we found ourselves returning yet again, but this time as part of a “Friends of Henry” contingent, some of whom had been to the continent before, many of whom had not.

As I’ve noticed on other trips we’ve been on as part of a group, conversations between people often turn to sharing travel stories. Some just recount something that happened that day, while others recall experiences from previous adventures. It’s as though the act of sharing travel memories with others somehow reinforces their meaning – and all the while, hopefully inspiring those who are listening.

It’s as though the act of sharing travel memories with others somehow reinforces their meaning...

I can relate. For me personally the tales from my life’s adventures traversing the planet and displaying some of the things I picked up along the way represent some of my favorite memories and what I’m most fond of in my life. I think we all probably feel that way in some way no matter how much of the world we’ve traveled. Either way, this idea only strengthens my conviction that traveling is one of the most important things we can do in our lives.

...Travelling is one of the most important things we can do in our lives.

Taking it a step further, if I were asked to recall what our conversations were about, I’d say they usually revolved around the things most of us do while traveling, which include (in no particular order): visiting new places, trying new things, meeting new people, buying souvenirs, and of course, sharing pictures. In fact, it would be pretty easy to argue that thanks to the advances in cellphone technology, capturing and sharing the highlights of our journeys through pictures, whether they be bucket list vacations or just weekend getaways, seems to be the most common activity we almost all now seem to engage in.


Victoria falls at sunriseVictoria Falls at sunrise. Click the photo to view the Artifct.

But while putting our best-looking pictures on social media has become such an integral part of what we do while traveling, we usually do so without telling the broader stories behind the images we post. Sure, the photos themselves may look great and often make those we share them with envious. But on their own, they rarely capture why the person took it or what it means to them personally.


The king protea, national flower of South AfricaThe national flora of South Africa is the King Protea, symbolizing diversity, change and courage.

After recently having discovered Artifcts, I’ve found that it’s now possible to not only preserve and organize the special moments from my travels, I can now do so by also documenting the stories behind them. The very same stories I just might share with fellow travelers somewhere down the road.

Which brings us to what happened when I returned home after spending more than two weeks in Africa with 25 of my new best friends. As usual, I had 100s of images to sort through and edit. But this time, I did so with a different purpose and perspective. Sure, I still tried to pick out the ones that were the most visually compelling. But this time I made sure to set aside some photos of things I usually wouldn’t display in an album or share on social media. Instead, I paid special attention to the photos and videos of those things that best told the story of our trip. Best of all, I used the Artifcts I created to produce a virtual album I shared with those I spent my vacation with. For the purpose of this story, I’ve also made it available to the public in hopes it might inspire others to give it a try. Just go to my Artifcts page to check it out.

Happy Trails . . . and Happy Artifcting!

- Rainer Jenss


© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Read more
Articles Themes
Contact the Editor
Have feedback? Artifacts to feature? We’d love to hear from you.
Your privacy

This website uses only essential cookies to provide reliable and secure services, streamline your experience, allow you to share content from this website on social media, and to analyze how our Site is used. Learn more about these cookies and cookie settings.

Accept & Continue
Oops! This Web Browser Version is Unsupported

You received this warning because you are using an unsupported browser. Some features of Artifcts will not be available or will be displayed improperly until you update to the latest version or change browsers.

Image for unsupported banner Oops! This Web Browser is Unsupported

You received this warning because you are using an unsupported browser. Some features of Artifcts will not be available or will be displayed improperly until you update to the latest version or change browsers.

Unsupported banner close icon Close