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Could You and Should You Part with a Family Photo?

Thomas MacEntee, Genealogy Bargains
May 31, 2023

Today our invited guest curator, genealogy expert Thomas MacEntee of GenealogyBargains.com, 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!

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I’ll admit I’m a sucker for click-bait news headlines like the recent one, 'I sold a 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.  

Conclusion

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.

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

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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10 Ways Genealogists are Using Artifcts That May Help You, Too

Reading time: 4 minutes 

No one knows how to use any product better than the power users among us. One of our power user groups at Artifcts is genealogists.

We've found genealogists as a whole to be tech savvy, detail oriented, creative, outside the box thinkers, and progressive leaning in the evolution of their methods. Curious what draws them to Artifcts and how they use it, surprising even the people who built Artifcts? Let’s go! 

10 Things Genealogists Have Taught Us About Artifcts 

If you are not a genealogist, you may think, “Don’t genealogists stick to family trees and research archives?” To some degree that was our expectation as we began building Artifcts. But the love of the details and the joy of bringing others in on their discoveries has meant Artifcts is solving a problem that genealogists couldn't quite put their collective fingers on until we came along. We suspect their tricks of the trade at Artifcts will help all of us non-genealogists in our quests, too! 

1. Tags are clearly limitless.

Folders are like corsets. Free yourself with tags! Create as many custom tags as you like on each of your Artifcts to later click on or search by (simply start your search term with #) by family member, location, document type and more.   

Fun fact: Genealogists were the first Arti Members we know of to add more than 10 tags to a single Artifct. 

2. The Artifcts timeline is a beautifully simple design and powerful resource.

Unlike traditional genealogy timelines, your Artifcts timeline is not weighed down by black and white details and restrictions on managing. With a click and drag you can reorder or choose to add more detail to your Artifcts. Creating a timeline for each family member? You can do that automatically by simply tagging each Artifct with the applicable family member and then sorting your timeline view by that tag, e.g. #DanielD or more specifically #DanielDb1938.  

BONUS! You can add public or private “time period notes” to your timeline to keep track of gaps you want to address or validate in your research and then Artifct. 

3. The stories and facts you need are available in fewer clicks

You can inter-link individual Artifcts you create using the familiar @ feature you likely know from social media, email, or even leaving comments in a Word document. Just build the people and Artifcts into your Artifcted "story” with by typing @ and making your selection. Once saved, you and others who can access the Artifct will be able to instantly segway to a related person or Artifct. No one you share your Artifct with will have to guess how all the dots connect. You will connect them as you create your Artifcts!  

Only because a genealogist asked did we ever try to write a “life story” in an Artifct. It’s easy to do when you have all your other Artifcts to help tell the story! Check it out in this ARTIcles story >

 
 
Here’s another sweet and silly example using the @ feature that we love from a summer vacation. Click the image to view the Artifct.

 

4. Brand/Artist is a perfect “free form” field.

A free form field, oh boy! Try using the Brand/Artist field to record Grandpa’s name and his link in the family tree for easy reference by anyone who you give access to view your Artifct. But remember, depending on where you build your family tree, you may need to grant them access there, too.

BONUS! Next time you fill in this field, you can select Grandpa again from the dropdown menu without having to retrieve the link. 

5. Location doesn’t have to be a physical place.

You can insert a link to the folder, share drive, or part of a family tree in whatever software you use to look for “more information” related to an Artifct if you need to dive deeper or reevaluate in the future. Remember, even if you privately share an Artifct with someone, no one else can see this field. If you are instead interested in including a video snippet in your private Artifct but want family you share it with to have access to the full hour long video, you could link to it from the Artifct "Description."

6. Artifcts sharing lists and circles bypass the usual pain of sharing.

Never again will you have to text, email, or airdrop a photo or audio or video snippet to a family member. With a free Artifcts account, anyone you specifically grant “view” access will have the option automatically to download any of the great photos, videos, and more you include in the Artifct in their original formats. No tiny, pixelated photos or videos (unless of course that's what you started with).

7. “Documentation” is for more than receipts and appraisals.

Documentation in each Artifct you create accommodates letter collections, chapters of family books, PDF scans of family recipe books, and more. It’s not just for receipts, appraisals, and the like. And thanks to feedback from genealogists, when you click and share an Artifct, you can choose if you’d like to also share the attached documents. By default, no documentation is ever shared.

8. Colors matter, so use them!

The introduction of options to change your font color and highlight your text in various shades as you write the description/story for an Artifct is also thanks to genealogists. Why? Because in the world of genealogy, colors have very specific meanings and help keep branches of the family tree straight. Others may use them for fun, but genealogists reminded us of the value of color. 

9. Ditto: Image captions matter.

While we introduced the option to add captions to photos thinking it would tie each more easily to the stories and people written about in the Artifct, genealogists instead started using them to reinforce information in the photos in a citation format. “Bravo,” we say.

Artifcted diploma by @tmacentee

 
 
We love the detail genealogist @tmacentee uses to record important events and accomplishments. Click the image to view the Artifct.

10. Stories can last for generations with Artifcts.

Start with the mundane black and white details, add in the family lore and research-in-progress as the fuel, and you can capture the interest of your most stubborn friends and family. Okay, maybe we knew this going into the creation of Artifcts, but if research-oriented genealogists are willing to adapt their tried-and-true methods to pick up Artifcting to ensure the STORIES of the heirlooms, trees, photos and more live on, then surely the rest of us mere mortals should do the same.  

It can be a bridge too far for many people to enter the world of sophisticated and complex genealogy software. Artifcts is a powerful tool, with a friendly, warm, and easy to use experience layered on top to welcome all. 

How do you use Artifcts? We’d love to hear all of your tips, hacks, and best practices. Please join us on Instagram or Facebook or write to use at Editor@Artifcts.com.

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Artifcts Is Our Love Language

Reading time: 4 minutes 

In 1992, Baptist Minister Gary Chapman published the non-fiction book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. (Side note, if anyone out there has a copy, go Artifct That!) 

The book outlines five ways that romantic partners express and experience love, which he termed, “love languages.” In short, Chapman’s five love languages were words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.  

In our household, although acts of service and quality time are always encouraged, Artifcts has become our go-to love language. It transcends the generations, spans the distances, and lets us all know we are loved.  

Saying I Love You Artifcts Style 

My entire family knows I say I love you with Artifcts. There are freshly baked late-night chocolate chip cookies and banana breads when coming home from school, and of course, the recipes (and love notes) that follow via Artifcts. 

Gifts are given along with the Artifcts (and the explanations for why THIS gift) as are adventures. One of my favorite Artifcts surprises to date has been gifting our then 19-year-old a trip to Iceland, itinerary revealed and documented via Artifcts.  

I am lucky and thankful that the Artifcts go both ways in our household. My husband is especially sweet, Artifcting the moments, mementos, and memories (and cards!) that say, “I love you.” I was brought to tears when he Artifcted a piece of art he bought me AND included an audio recording of him explaining why he picked THAT piece and what it meant to him. Call me strictly sentimental, but I love having his voice safely paired with the Artifct. 

Saying I Love You Across Generations 

My mother-in-law and my husband have an especially meaningful love language in Artifcts. She’s been Artifcting since we launched and now has several hundred Artifcts and counting. She loves being able to share her stories and memories with her children and grandchildren, and my husband loves learning bits and pieces about his mom that he never knew before. (The grandchildren do too!) 

For instance, little did we know that @Grandmom counts an eight-foot python skin among her most prized possessions until she shared the Artifct with us! 

 

 
Who knew? We didn't until Grandmom Artifcted it!

My father has also recently gotten into the Artifcting mode, creating and privately sharing Artifcts with our family, documenting his life from 4H to retirement. I learned things about my father I never knew, and that is the greatest gift of all.  

As for us, and our generation? My husband and I Artifct FOR our children since we know they may not always remember the small moments and otherwise important details. My husband Artifcted the older kids’ swim trophies as we downsized, and I routinely Artifct special moments for my daughter, from learning to ride a bike to skiing her first black diamond. Sure, she’ll have the photos, thousands of them, but photos can’t talk and one day she’ll want to know the stories behind those photos.  

 

First time skiing a black diamond.Important firsts, remembered always. Made with love on Artifcts. 

Saying I Love You Across Distances 

One of the great things about Artifcts is that you don’t have to physically be there to send and share Artifcts. Part of my family lives in Denmark, and we capture and share the small moments, favorite recipes, and special memories via Artifcts.  

I love waking up to a new Artifct from my Danish family. We’ve even utilized Artifcts to subvert the insanely slow snail mail process. This year for my birthday, my Danish family Artifcted my birthday card, complete with photos, a funny story, and videos! It was the best and greenest birthday greeting yet.  

We also create Artifcts Circles when we travel together, or celebrate holidays together, sharing Artifcts, stories, and memories for all to see. It helps make the distances between seem not so large and gives us all something to look back on and cherish until our next time together.  

Creating A Sixth Love Language? 

We’ve come to think of Artifcts as our sixth love language, although I suppose it’s more of an amalgamation of several of Chapman’s original love languages. In our house, Artifcts always include positive words of affirmation. Creating the Artifcts requires quality time and is without a doubt a service to the next (and current!) generation, in addition to being one of the best gifts ever. 

We’re biased for sure, but we can’t think of a better way to say I love you than Artifcts!  

Wishing you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day.

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane, No Car Required 

Reading time: 3 minutes 

Did you know that over the past 2.5 years, our co-founders and guest editors have authored 218 ARTIcles by Artifcts? That’s a lot of writing AND a lot of information!  

With the genealogy conference RootsTech fast approaching, we thought it would be fun to resurface some of our most popular family history pieces to get us all thinking about how DO we preserve our family histories and tell our stories. We suspect that just like the Artifcts we each create, no two answers will be exactly the same.  

Winning By A Landslide 

First up, and winning by a landslide by number of views and clicks in recent weeks, is What Should You Do With Old Scrapbooks. 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 can 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. 

A fun and not-too distant second is Could You And Should You Part With a Family Photo, authored by guest editor and genealogist legend, Thomas MacEntee. In this piece, Thomas 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! 

How To’s and Family Stories Near the Top 

It seems our members have also really enjoyed digging in and learning HOW to Artifct to preserve all their family stories, memories, and histories tied to the items they keep and pass down for the next generation. Our How to Artifct Family History and Heirlooms was our most popular “How-To” series, and our ARTIcles story titled, I’m The Family Keeper, What Do I Do With It All was wildly popular with folks looking for answers to the perpetual question of “What do I do with all my ‘stuff’!” 

Another fan favorite has been How Two Sisters Overcame the Guilt To Lighten The Load Of Family Heirlooms, authored by guest editor Rachel Donnelly, co-founder of PALS. Rachel shares her heartful and funny story of how she and her sister successfully navigated an 1890s family home chock full of family heirlooms.  

Just Because 

And in our “just because” category our co-founders Heather and Ellen decided to get in on the fun and share their favorite family history themed ARTIcles from the past two years. For Heather, it’s A Family History in Five Artifcts, where Artifcts Community member @Grandmom accepted the challenge of documenting her family story with five Artifcts. Amazing, and daunting when you think about it.  

As for Ellen, her favorite is Did You Know Great Grandpa Was an Inventor? When we don’t pause to ask the questions and listen to the answers, so many great tales—fish tales and those more ... verifiable—are lost to time. 

We hope you’ll enjoy this trip down memory lane as much as we did when we researched it! And, if you plan on being in Salt Lake City for RootsTech 2024, please stop by Booth #1517 to say hello to our co-founders and team. We love meeting our Artifcts members in real life! 

© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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