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Family History Month ... Your Way!

October 05, 2022

We’ve all heard the expression “greeting card holiday,” sometimes even used against one of your personal favorites, no doubt. So many love-hate relationships out there with national days for everything from your dog to your sibling to tacos and doughnuts.  

Then there are the months generally preserved for themes of broad societal significance, like heart health, breast cancer, black history and even … family history – October! And this is a special year for this honorary month because Senator Hatch, who sponsored Senate Resolution 160 to officially recognize family history month, passed away in April. Among the justifications for the month was “an ever-growing number in our Nation and in other nations [who] are collecting, preserving, and sharing genealogies, personal documents, and memorabilia that detail the life and times of families around the world.” Now that we understand! 

This October we’re sharing a few ideas from the Artifcts Community to help even those of you who may think you have no interest in family history to find some value in a month dedicated to exactly that. Use the month as an excuse or opportunity to get to know and capture your own family history and legacy a bit better.

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Hello, Family Genealogists (In the Making?)

“I’ve spent so much time and money researching all of this history, and I have the files, but I really haven’t taken that next step to share with my extended or even immediate family. Without me they’d have to start over.”  

And, womp, womp, she told us that all her research is locked up behind a subscription-paywall. Hmmm. If you can relate, here are some tips: 

  • Purchase a second research subscription for someone who can pick up the research alongside you to carry it forward to the next generation. Guide them through the myriad of resources online and through special archives and libraries as well as in your own family collection.  
  • Take a class or catch a speaker! You can find a plethora of them by searching online or go local. Check your library, community center, museums, or local genealogical society for special events this month (and beyond). In Austin, Texas, for example, the Austin Genealogical Society has regular speakers and research resources covering the state. Likewise, the George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural, and Genealogy Center has resources available to help people get started. 
  • Create a family videography to highlight key moments in your family’s history, roles family members have played in historical events, and the modern-day family branches. For beautiful, professional videographies, we adore Lori and her team at Whole Story Productions.  
  • Self-publish a book(let) to document your research findings in black and white. Distribute during a family reunion, taking preorders (and payments) ahead of time. If you need an assist in your family history, we recommend our partner at Family History Intelligence
  • At Artifcts you can share Artifcts publicly or privately, including with family members who are not Artifcts members. Import your contacts to Artifcts, create family invite-only circles for easy group sharing, and off you go! Plus, free members of Artifcts can contribute up to five Artifcts to the family history. We recommend using a special tag like #MayFamily52 to easily sort your collection. You can also preserve sensitive information in the 'Documentation' section of an Artifct where only you, the owner of the Artifct, can see or access it. Some of genealogists at Artifcts also use the ‘Location’ field when they create an Artifct to list a URL or folder path where additional information is stored. 

Experiences Only, Please!

You’ve been away from home for months or years, you return, and as you walk in the door, dinner is on, and you get that first smell of your favorite dish. Do you have the recipe? Who came up with it? Do you know the key steps? Special or secret ingredients?  

Some family favorites are born very directly out of the original farm-to-table concept, before it was so hip, and those origins become a key part of the family recipe story. You grew potatoes and found a million ways to prepare them. You had fresh citrus, wild asparagus, or vibrant rhubarb all around you, and the specialties of your youth reflect it. Capture that history! 

  • Start a virtual family dinner club. You could create a group online to swap recipes or go a step further and once a month someone is the virtual host. Send the recipe ahead (as an Artifct!) so everyone has the ingredients on hand. Then run your own cooking show and enjoy the spoils together after. You might even play some theme-related music from the 60s or 70s or from the German, Czech, Sri Lankan, Indian, Brazilian, Chinese or other roots of the meal! 
  • Road trip! Whether literally or figuratively, go to the original homestead, watch a family member perform live music at a local hotspot, visit a museum that hosts a family member’s artwork, visit each tombstone at a local plot or somewhere like Arlington National Cemetery, or maybe attend a cultural festival that ties to your origins.  
  • Collaborate on a special photobook. We’ve said this before, we’ll say it 100s of more times – photos cannot talk. You can morph them into sharper images or even make them move nowadays, but no photo can tell you its story. Create a photobook that builds all the family history and the stories that go with those photos. Refuse photo-only contributions. Details matter! You’d be surprised, but even one generation removed, family members will start to lose track of who is who in photos never mind recalling the relevance of the photos. 
  • At Artifcts… photos, recipes, and objects come alive through stories and histories, but also with supplementary video and audio snippets. Each is easily accessible and reusable from Artifcts – no digging through chats, emails, cloud folders etc. And you don’t get just one crack at it. You can edit and share through time, collecting more information, and more versions of the ‘real story,’ as you go.  

Share the History

The reality is not all families have a family keeper, that person who by choice or default holds onto the heirlooms, photos, recipes, and slews of documents that represent sometimes generations of a family’s history. Or maybe you are the last keeper or recent inheritor of all this family history and are thinking, “Now what? I really don’t want this stuff.” 

There’s a second reality that is then important to recognize: family history is not only family history. Sometimes family history is part of local, national, or even global history. It offers clues to key figures, ways of living, and the social, political and religious practices of a place in time in history. So, consider sharing pieces of your family history with the big wide world through donations. 

  • Philanthropic donations. Consider galleries, libraries, research centers, foundations, and museums with specialties that may overlap with your items. Donations are not necessarily only in the realm of inherently valuable objects. Often, you guessed it, the story behind the object is the key. Don’t know the story either? That’s okay. Reach out to an institution, share your items, and give them the opportunity to tell you!  
  • Archival donations. Transform your personal family history into elements of a shared community history by offering your items to professional archives. What types of items might fit this category? As a starter: original works of fiction or non-fiction; scrapbooks, journals, letters, and diaries; original business materials (certificates, advertising, shares, board documents, voting records); media (photographs, slides, film, even websites too). You can learn more at the Society of American Archivists
  • At Artifcts... Before you donate, Artifct to retain the family lore and history that’s relevant to you, and then share with family. Make sure no one else is interested in the item. And attach any documentation related to your donation to the Aritfct. It could add to the story about the full history of that family heirloom and where it ended up as well as support potential tax deductions. And then, rest easy. Your family’s history will be in the capable professional hands of institutions that will preserve and protect them for generations to come. 

Talk Wills, From a Happy Place: Your Legacy

Yes, yes, wills are about death. But what they are really about is easing the burden on those we leave behind. What we love to ignore to our detriment is all – that - stuff. And, no, it will not literally all go into a dumpster or a local donation shop. First someone must go through it all, a family member or two, or maybe a specialist hired to help. And in the end, someone will have to make 1000s of decisions about what becomes of every single item. Do you really want to leave a burden as your legacy? 

Wouldn’t you rather everyone be better prepared and informed? Not only will making a plan and creating documents make it easier for your family to pick up the pieces, but they can also help loved ones understand why you valued the items you are leaving behind. For example, wouldn’t you rather share THAT was the guitar Dad used to serenade Mom on their first date? THAT was the medal you were awarded for your last promotion in the US Navy. THAT was part of a costume you wore in your first school play (before you became an actress!).  

Wouldn’t you rather reminisce together than leave friends and family to wonder and have no way to get answers later? Maybe even know each other a bit better, now, while you can still enjoy? 

(Dramatically) Simplified checklist: 

  • Don’t have a Will? There are many wonderful estate planning attorneys in each community who can help you with this process. But this is an industry transformed by the digital revolution, and then some. If you are looking for a digital, self-guided approach, check out the results of an independent review by Investopedia here.  
  • Haven’t really, um, seen your Will in a while? Give it a checkup. There's no time like the present, truly. Add it to your to-do list this month! 
        • When editing or updating your Will and related documents, see if you can add some non-legal, advisory language to help to explain why you made the decisions or gave the gifts you did.  
  • Confirm: Are the major themes covered?  
        • Estate 
        • Minor children 
        • Relatives with disabilities 
        • Retirement 
        • Powers of Attorney 
        • Living Will 
        • Stewardship of digital assets (profiles, accounts, photos, web pages, etc.) 
  • Is there a list of tangible assets referenced in your Will? Your Will may provide for a separate “Memorandum” that can be updated and changed at any time without making any changes to your Will.  
        • No list? Start. Just take a first cut by looking around the house (or your Artifcts collection!). 
        • Already listed? Are you sure it covers at least those items of greatest financial or heart (sentimental) value? Do you want to leave something to your favorite charity, neighbor, your best friend, your … you get the idea. And, if so, did each person and item get listed? Double check! 
  • At Artifcts… pick three or four of your most treasured items to Artifct and let your loved ones know why each item matters to you. Use the "In the Future" field to think through and record what you would like to happen to this item one day. Will it be passed down? Rehomed? Sold? Consider sharing the Artifct with your estate planner or attorney to list with other tangible assets referenced in your Will.   

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Emergency Go Bag: Don't Forget the Memories

Reading time: 5 minutes

As spring cleaning continues and storms rage, we’re taking a moment to help you make the most of that frenzy to also boost your preparedness, a key theme here at Artifcts.

We’ve shared with you the true story of our co-founder Ellen who experienced a home fire at the age of seven and encouraged you to consider what objects in your home matter most. Whether you’re in a location prone to wildfires, floods, tornados, or other extreme weather events, preparation is key.

We also recently shared the story of a woman who proactively relocated her cherished belongings to a secure, climate-controlled storage facility out of harm’s way from the California wildfires only to have a flood at the storage facility destroy many of her belongings, photos, videos, and documents included.

Today is all about your emergency go-bag. Do you have one? Think twice, and consider these essential questions:

      • Does your go-bag address the needs of each person in your household? 
      • Are the items inside fully charged?
      • Have any medicine or food items expired?
      • Did you borrow an item from the bag and never replace it?
      • Have you done anything to include the heart-value items in life that will see you through and beyond a life-changing disaster?

Let's take a closer look at the important elements of your go bag. Read on!

How to Prepare Against the Unexpected – Digital for the Win!

Well, maybe there’s no "winning" when it comes to disasters. Loss is real and painful. But we can mitigate our losses with less effort and time than ever before, along with the promise of far greater security and resiliency. How? Digitizing key personal information is your answer to recover faster and with less stress.

Just like we take advantage of advances in modern medicine to live longer, healthier, more active lives, we should take advantage of advances in digitization that make it easier and cheaper than ever to keep digital copies at our fingertips for critical documents. In an emergency, please have digitized and securely stored:

      • IDs, including driver’s license, military ID, employment ID, passport; it’s especially important to have at least one form of ID digitized that has your photo on it.  
      • Insurance cards 
      • Mortgages and titles for homes, cars, and other high-value assets 
      • Financial details, most likely in the form of online access to your accounts. But we also recommend securely stored digital copies of credit and debit cards for deactivation against fraud and rapid replacement. 
      • Contact lists. Do you know the phone numbers of your neighbors, your financial planner, your insurance company? We’d be shocked if you did. They are likely only stored on your phone. 
      • Photos. Okay, hear us out. We are talking about photos you might have in hardcopy and photos that you may have stored digitally on a drive and not yet backed up elsewhere. We strongly recommend using a backup for your digitized photos and other media.

With all these items digitized, you could in theory gain access to resources to replace what you lose if you need to leave your home urgently.  

Notice that Artifcts will be publishing an article about digital vaults soon

Now, About That Go Bag

Your go bags—which we hope are light weight and at least water resistant—will offer immediate, short-term security. Backpacks are your best bet for any variety of circumstances. DO NOT bet on carting around bins or boxes of any kind. You should hope these are fireproof and redundant. See our earlier point about digitization! 

Suggested contents for a bag can be absurdly loooong. Having consulted those lists and experienced go-bag moments ourselves, here’s what’s always in ours. The big exception is cold weather environments – at the start of the season, we add gloves, hats, hand warmers, and foil wraps.

      • Slip photocopies of a driver’s license, passport, or other ID for each adult in the household and your insurance information (home, car, and health) in an easily accessible waterproof pouch. A plethora of inexpensive pouches are available online and in retail stores, especially sporting goods and luggage.  
      • Changes of clothing, especially undergarments. 
      • Medicines, but be careful they do not expire, and ear plugs. You don’t know where you may need to sleep, and quality sleep is vital. 
      • Multiple battery packs (to charge devices we hope you’ll be able to have with you) 
      • A water purification device, such as a Grayl, so no matter where you are displaced to, you’ll have access to safe drinking water. On the topic of water, we also keep Nuun or similar in our bag for a hydration boost. If you’re in a hot climate, chugging water, working hard clearing property or otherwise on your feet, you may need some electrolytes on your side to pop into your water. 
      • Long shelf-life, macronutrient complete snacks. No, we shouldn’t subsist on meal-replacement bars, but if there were ever a time, this is it. Just make sure whatever you choose aligns with your dietary restrictions. Shelf-stable protein shakes work great, too. Jerkies, nuts and dried fruits, as well, but watch out for nuts which expire more quickly.

Forgetting Something? What Says Home, Comfort, and Family to You?

Creature comforts and irreplaceable items need to make that go-bag. Will you die without them? No. Will you feel better, have an excuse to smile, in a sad and stressful situation? Very likely.

This weekend, ask each person in your home what one or two items would they most want to take in an emergency, and record that information digitally in your mobile phone, so if time permits you are prepared to act, not ask.

      • When kids are young, creature comforts might be a lovey, but you could also prepack a spare of that lovey, along with small games and a cozy blanket and an inflatable pillow.
      • For us adults, your backup drives can live in your go bag if you do not have a cloud-based backup. Any cherished or valuable to you items tucked safely away? Can they go safely in this pre-packed bag instead of the back of a closet or box? When a fire sweeps a home, you may have only seconds to grab and go before smoke or fire stops you.

If your first step is to purchase a pre-made emergency go bag from the myriad of online and brick-and-mortar shops, super. But we hope you'll choose to take steps for you and your loved ones toward a more personal go-bag to protect yourselves. Explore our Allies in 'Stuff' as well for resources and professionals that can help lift the burden off you.

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Use Your Voice: Artifcts Now Offers In-App Audio & Video Recording

There’s something magical about hearing a story from the voice of the original storyteller. The melody of their voice, their points of emphasis, the word choices that are uniquely them.

While you might be the type who has lots of videos and voice memos on your phone at the ready to Artifct, others of us might be more of the spontaneous variety. 

Our newest update to the Artifcts app is going to support you as you capture these stories. 

Update the Artifcts App Today: Record Audio and Video Directly in the App! 

Next time you open the Artifcts app, you’ll see an update is required. Accept it, wait moments, and voila, you’ll have our brand new recording feature. (Haven’t downloaded our app yet? Eek! Here you go for iOS/App Store and Android/Google Play.) 

When you click to create a new Artifct—or add a new media file to an existing Artifct—you will be able to choose to record audio or video in the moment.  

And we went a step further, too, to remove any frustration by making it simple to: 

  • Trim your recording to fit the file size available for your Artifct.
  • Compress your recording if you want to make room for longer recordings.
  • Strip out the video to keep the audio only.
  • Download your recording to your device to edit later.

Here’s a case when “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” In the pictures that follow, we show you what it looks like step by step to record a video within the Artifcts app when you are creating a new Artifct.

Step 1 - Open the Artifcts App

Step 2 - Choose '+ Artifcts', Artifcts App

Step 3 - Record and Save, Artifcts App

Step 4 - Enjoy & Share, Artifcts App

Try it out and see what you think! 

Next time you’re inspired, or a friend or family starts telling a great tall tale, grab your phone, open up the app and record.

Don’t worry if your story runs long. You will have an option to trim it, compress it, or save it to your device in its entirety before trimming the best part to include in the Artifct. You can always link later in your Artifct to the full hour-long saga if you wish for posterity!

Need inspiration? The options are endless. Here are a few from the Arti Community: 

      • Ghost stories: Grandpa telling a ghost story + photo of the person who was a ghost.
      • Attic cleanout: Auntie Tess holding up an old gown + recording of her talking about her Broadway debut (Broadway Street in Kansas City, Missouri, that is).
      • Get cookin’! Photos of the recipe card, key ingredients, and end result + video explaining how to wrap the dumpling just so.

Great Great Grandma's Wedding Ring, Artifcts

 
 
Bonus example: Our co-founder @egoody captured some family history in a sitdown with her great aunt. Whose ring was it originally anyway?

As always with all of the features of Artifcts, but especially major new deliveries like this one, we love and appreciate your feedback. You can contact us at Hello@Artifcts.com.

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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What Should You Do With Old Photo Albums?

Reading time: 5 minutes 

Dusty albums. Bulky albums. What do we do with you? We want to lighten our loads and declutter without guilt. 

Who among us compiles physical photo albums anymore? "Back in the day” a store like Target would have had a huge photo department. You could purchase and process film and buy photo frames and albums, along with supplemental inserts in a dizzying array of designs and sizes. 

No, not so anymore.

As we’ve shifted to digital photos, we’ve likewise replaced physical albums with digital-friendly options, including build-your-own photo books, shared digital albums on social media and cloud storage sites, and digital photo frames, like the beautiful frames from Aura. Physical photo albums today are usually reserved for major milestone events, like weddings, trips, and anniversaries, when we feel it’s worthwhile to sit down and thoughtfully curate those experiences.  

Those of us with photo albums tucked in our closets and bookshelves, those that we have created and inherited, not to mention the albums our parents and grandparents own and we’ll inherit one day, need solutions. What do we do with all the existing albums, so they avoid landing in a craft shop or, worse, a dumpster when the details about the people and stories within are lost to time? 

Photo Albums Have Problematic Similarities to Scrapbooks 

Like scrapbooks, photo albums are designed to be shared, in person, and talked through, reminiscing about and reliving with the telling the places you’ve been, the experiences you have had, and more. Unfortunately, also like scrapbooks, photo albums present long-term challenges: 

      1. Do you know the stories behind the photos? (We have tips for that!) Will you remember them? Scrapbooks tend to at least provide more leeway to add notes and stories than photo albums. Stories behind the photos are incredibly vulnerable to being forgotten. We can animate photos in creepy ways, but they cannot remember for us the stories lost. Look back through your albums. Do you recall all the people and events in a way that’s meaningful anymore? 
      2. Albums, the pages within, and the photos will deteriorate. Little known fact outside the photo industry: Those photo prints you ordered in single and even triplicate were never meant to last more than a dozen years, and that's for the highest quality pritns! That’s why the colors change as the chemicals used to create the images degrade and the paper eventually becomes more fragile, too. 
      3. Your album is singular and unique, unless you have access to the negatives. But even then, those are decaying with every passing day as well, so ... 
      4. Albums can be bulky. Do you have room to continue to store them? What about those you may inherit? They are substantial in size and often uncooperative with short shelves and shallow storage. In the words of one Arti Community member, "I’m in my 40s and my albums are still at my parents’ house. I didn't feel the need to take them with me, but, yes, someday I’ll hold onto them. I don’t want to throw them away."

How Can You Preserve Photo Albums?  

And maybe even let some photo albums go ... 

Share the love. At the risk of making a lot of people very angry, we have to say it: You are not beholden to anyone to hold onto your own albums or anyone else's albums. Ask! Do YOU want them? 

Don’t fall for the guilt trip you are getting or think you’ll get. Ideally, you should consider yourself a steward of the history within those albums and as such, ask family members if they want the albums before you take them apart or get rid of them. It’s the kind thing to do. But beyond that, ...

... Digitization has never been easier or more affordable. We have shared tips about digitization in general. You can buy machines to do it yourself, but there’s a catch. We turned to Cathi Nelson, founder and CEO of The Photo Managers, to explain: 

"Many people created scrapbook photo albums during the decades of scrapbooking and those albums are often 12x12, which is too big for traditional flatbed scanners. You can outsource this project to a professional photo manager whose scans allow them to capture the entire page and individual photos.  

If that is not in your budget, and you have a flatbed scanner, such as the Epson v600, scan each page and use photo stitching software to magically merge the pages.  

Another option is to carefullly remove the photos and scan them (front and back). If they are stuck to the pages, you can use a butter knife or dental floss to gently remove the photos."

We want to also celebrate the amazing ease with which apps from modern photo companies like Photomyne and VividPix —with scanners at local museums, libraries, and historical societies that can scan whole album pages up to 11.8" x 17″—can slice up each photo on the page into its own file photo or image file. No need to take the pages apart or tediously scan them one by one. This is great for do-it-yourselfers!

Digitization Wisdom

Before you and as you digitize, keep three things in mind:  

  • Photo layouts may be a part of the story. Some albums may be chronological or thematic. Others are designed for people to arrange photos in a way that may inherently help them to share stories, too. Take this example:

yellowed photo album page with baby photos

Had I scanned each photo and then disassembled the photo album, I would have disconnected these photos from the story of that day as captured in the Artifct, zapping their collective ability to convey a piece of my childhood. Instead, I could photograph or video the album before dismantling, if that’s what I decide to do with the album.

  • Capture ALL the details. You scanned the fronts to get the job done quickly, but did you even look at the backs? Now that you have, how will you preserve the additional details on the back with the photo? In a good-better-best plan, this could be: 
      • Create an index as you go for your photos with the file name and other details you care about (location, people, event, ...) or edit the photo metadata (e.g. date, location, and other information stored with the image file) with the additional information; 
      • Transform the album into a photo book and add the information in the image captions;  
      • Artifct the photos and include what you know about them. Check out our interrogation techniques for photos.
  • Share the stories behind the photos. CONNECT with your loved ones. Don’t be annoying and share 100s of photos from a single trip. Tell them the “best of” or most meaningful moments. Artifct the best ones! Artifcts are easy to share, helping you get the story out there so it can live on. You might also share the Artifct with a friend who is going on a trip to the same place you went and want your tips! You can also easily share an Artifct to a friend’s or family member’s digital photo frame. Ask them how.  

If you are taking the time to create photo albums, maybe take time to create an additional Artifct or two to go with each album, even if the Artifct is of the album 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 photo album to life for the next generation.

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Other ARTIcles by Artifcts you may enjoy: 

Photos + Stories Go Better Together: A Conversation with Cathi Nelson, CEO of The Photo Managers

Storytellers, Beware!

Rescue Mission: That’s More Than a Photo

© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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