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What is a Family Keeper, and Why Should I Care? 

October 04, 2023

Have you heard of a “family keeper?” We meet so many through Artifcts that we discuss them quite often and with deep fondness. But it’s only recently that we discovered there’s more than one definition for a family keeper, and the definition you know may influence how you interact with the keeper in your family, too. 

In Artifcts parlance, a family keeper is a positive, warm concept. A person becomes the family keeper by default or by choice. By default are those who gain keeper status through (a) accident of proximity—living closest to a family member with items they wanted to pass down and the stuff had to go somewhere—or (b) by legal right as the heir. In contrast, by choice are the keepers who are sentimental, family historians or genealogists, or perhaps simply collectors. 

How do you recognize a family keeper? They are your family members who save the old photos and heirlooms, write down the stories, and create (or suggest) the family cookbooks and scrapbooks. Who is the family keeper in your family? (Maybe thank them with a gift membership to Artifcts.) 

Now, a family keeper from the viewpoint of genealogists can be a bit different. As it turns out, many professional genealogists view family keepers as more like overly protective stewards who attempt to control the fate of the family’s heirlooms, historical research, and the like.  

Professional genealogist Thomas MacEntee, that "Genealogy Technology Guy" and founder of Genealogy Bargains, explains it best this way: “[Family keepers] think they ‘own’ their ancestors and don't tend to work well in collaborative environments such as FamilySearch where anyone can modify a family tree.” 

So why again should you care about family keepers? 

No matter how one defines a family keeper, as a group, keeprs are under a lot of pressure, and we guarantee you that they feel it. When we ask folks, “Got stuff?” family keepers are quick to say, “Oh, yes, more than you can imagine.” And that’s typically followed with something like, “And I don’t know where it will go next! I don’t know who cares. I can’t get them to listen.” 

Listening in this increasingly digital age is really challenging. It’s partly what inspired our piece “Storytellers, Beware.” Digital life complicates matters in a variety of ways, but topping our list are these two key points:

1. We are printing out fewer documents, photos, newspaper articles and the like.  

Remember what it was like to sit and chat through someone’s photos from a recent trip? Or to share the story behind a collection of family photos that caught your eye? That’s how family stories lived on: access and repetition.  

Three little girls in pjs in a kitchen looking up at the wall

What are these sweet girls gazing at? A collage of photos of their parents when their parents were as young as they are now!
Real. Printed. Photos. The adult taking the picture filled in the stories, verbally.

2. We consume information differently than in the past.

Why do the algorithms that make and break “influencers” thrive on video content? The youngest generations are subsisting on sound bites, DIGITAL sound bites, that they can access on a daily basis when and where they please. That simply is not a photobook, scrapbook, or any trove of physical documents or photos. It’s just not. Family keepers have to adapt and meet their loved ones where they at … in the digital universe.

If family keepers are left hanging, the likelihood that family stories and history and the family heirlooms will disappear forever increases dramatically. And then you’ll have to wait for the next family historian to come along and do their best to recreate it all, all being the stories and maybe even the genealogy. 

The heirlooms? They’ll be long gone. And with them could be a surprising amount of generational wealth, too. One Arti Community member told co-founder Ellen Goodwin recently that growing up he pushed his parents constantly to declutter. He went so far as to haul off items that in his view were unused, uncared for, and or broken beyond reasonable repair. One day he got rid of a wobbly table that his father refused to fix. As it turns out, repairing an antique table from a famous designer is costly and hard to come by. So his frustration wiped out not just the family history behind the table, but several thousand dollars from his one-day inheritance. Ouch! 

Now that you know, what will you do next?

If you're a family keeper, Artifct to preserve and share all those stories and all those items. Give family members the opportunity to surprise you with both what they may know and what interest they may have in the items for “someday” when you may not want to hold onto them anymore. Or maybe they can borrow them!

If you know a keeper, introduce them to Artifcts to ensure the family history lives on. Don't want to pay for yet another app? At the bare minimum use your five free Artifcts to tell your family story using a few choice photos, heirlooms, snippets of family videos, … the possibilities are endless.

Happy family history month. Happy Artifcting!


Eager for more? You might also enjoy:

Additional ARTIcles related to Genealogy & Family History

Artifcts Genealogy Gems Checklist

© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Telling My Story Without the Pressure of a Memoir

Reading time: 4 minutes 

Many of us feel overwhelmed by the prospect of telling our stories never mind authoring a memoir. One. More. Thing. To do. And, "How do I even get started?”  

Companies exist that will send you daily and weekly prompts to help; some will even call you. You answer a question at a time until you get to some state of "done." This is a solid, time-tested strategy for any of life’s larger tasks, breaking it down into something smaller.  

Those question-by-question approaches are not for everyone. You may feel pestered as well as stressed if you “get behind.” And not all of us are great with open-ended questions that lack true personalization.  

Another option is to work with a professional writer. No, not someone you meet for 30 or 60 minutes and with their notes they write or record your life story. Really? That’s a neat trick. If only life were so simple.  

We’re talking about the professionals like with LifeBook Memoirs, whose work is a true art, a physical family heirloom, and a gift. The level of care, privacy, and personalization to your needs, coupled with the product they print makes anyone a believer in the power of a memoir. 

But what if you want are not yet ready to plunge into the time and cost of a memoir and still want to privately make progress on your own? That's what we're talking about here today.

The Artifcts Approach to Writing Your Story, Your Memoir 

I’ve been telling my story through travel mementos, collections, books, photos and more, slowly but surely through my Artifcts. No outline. No grand scheme. As I come across or receive something that inspires me, I Artifct it.  

I'll use one of my most recent Artifcts as a simple example. I took my 13-year-old daughter to see the Broadway show Six. She loves choir and drama, and yet she couldn’t have been less excited in the days leading up to the show. I stayed quiet (which if you know me is quite a feat) and waited. The lights dimmed, the six wives and the all-female band took the stage. And ... magic! 

My daughter was enthralled, smiling, and shooting looks at me that said, “Wow!” After the show she told me it was even better than Hamilton. Never could I ever have imagined anything would outshine Hamilton in her eyes.  

When we got home, I Artifcted the physical playbill, the digital one with the six wives’ signatures, and a pic of my daughter at the theatre. Why? I’m not going to keep that playbill, but I am going to keep the memory of that day for always, for her, for me. 

Artifct of Broadway musical Six from Egoody

Fun fact: When I later searched Artifcts to pull up my Artifct, I found a second Artifct for Six. I had forgotten that my co-founder took her daughter to Six, too. Don’t you love uncovering surprise connections? 

The Best of Social Media, Meets the Best of Artifcts 

I always tell people that when we built Artifcts, all the social media giants were on Capitol Hill defending themselves and their policies. We had the opportunity to build something better. So, I’ve been privately Artifcting the big little moments in my life through the objects I collect without the pressure of view counts and follows. 

Then one day about two years into Artifcts, a genealogist challenged me to show how Artifcts could easily help someone to tell their life story. Apparently this is the holy grail of the genealogy world. I eagerly accepted that challenge and gave myself 10 minutes to complete it. 

How? Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I began at the beginning, using the Artifcts I had already created to tell my story in full color (and with audio, video, and supporting documentation, too).  

      1. Created a new Artifct 
      2. Titled it. I was literal, “My Life Story.” 
      3. Picked a category. I used “Life Moments: Other Life Moments.” 
      4. Filled in the story. Within the 10 minutes, I wrote an 1,100-word story that included approximately 40 Artifcts via @ mentions and wove in each of my family members, key friends and other loved ones with @ mentions, too, giving them instant ‘View’ access to my story.
      5. Added documentation. Totally optional, but in this case I chose to privately attach my birth and marriage certificates. 
      6. Tagged it. #LifeStory and #Genealogy made sense to me for single-click sorting to see other Artifcts with the same tags in the future. 


This 2.5 minute video shows you the @ feature in action.

Imagine the surprise of the genealogist who challenged me when I privately shared the Artifct with her and it was not just a story, but a multi-media surprise of layered stories about myself, my loved ones, the places of been, and the experiences I have accumulated, aka life!

The text of an Artifct blurred out for privacy but showing the title and names of linked Artifcts within the text

The green text represents the linked Artifcts that are sprinkled throughout my "life story" Artifct.
Don’t have 40 Artifcts? You could tell your story in 5 Artifcts, 30, or 100s. Artifcts you don’t weave into your story will always be one click away in your Artifcts collection for the full-er story! 

How Will You Write and Share Your Life Story? 

Artifcts is a gift. The reality is that if I were no longer here tomorrow, my family would know me and remember me with support from my Artifcts. No life story required.  

The life story Artifct I created is simple to create and a powerful, one-stop opportunity to hear the story from my perspective. And, best yet I can go in and edit and add to it any time I want. My story is not done. My perspective may yet shift, even on the way I see the past changes. And, who knows, one day my Artifcts may be the perfect fodder for LifeBook Memoirs to help me write my memoir. 

No matter how you choose to tell your stories, we beg you:

      • Create a digital backup. And make sure your loved ones know your story exists and how to get to it and ALL the supporting materials (photos, documents etc.) that went into it.
      • Do not let perfection or some idea that your stories don’t matter stand in your way. There’s no one “youer” than you!

We promise you it’s the big little details in life that everyone loves you for and wants to remember you for, too.


You may also enjoy these ARTIcles by Artifcts:

Not Sure What to Write? Tips From Author Jeff Greenwald

The Value of Cherished Objects in Our Life Stories

Timelines Have Arrived at Artifcts!

A Family History in Five Artifcts


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Join Us for the 12 Days of Artifcts, 2023 Edition

Join us for some holiday fun!

Starting Friday, we'll publish a daily theme to Artifct as part of our 12 Days of Artifcts. No turtle doves or partridge in a pear tree, but each of the 12 Days of Artifcts offers you the opportunity to take a breath amidst your holiday merriment and chaos. We'll provide the themes, you provide the Artifcts.

No matter your faith or tradition, all are welcome!

New to Artifcts or only have a free account? That's okay! Once you sign up free, you can create your first 5 Artifcts free and see what you think before buying a membership.

And you'll have no excuse for not being ready as we're giving you a head start by sharing with you today the daily themes. Let's have some fun. And remember, if you make any of your 12 Days of Artifcts public, tag them #12DaysofArtifcts for others to easily discover and enjoy. We look forward to Friday, December 1, for the first of the 12 Days of Artifcts!

Psst ... They'll be ANOTHER surprise on December 1, too. Make sure you pop over to to learn more.

Christmas tree made up of numbers, each with a topic to Artifct


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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The Fall Series of Evenings with Artifcts was a Smash Hit

The fall series of Evenings with Artifcts brought in people who were brand new to Artifcts and earned outstanding reviews from new and existing Arti Community members. In fact, 97% of survey respondents rated the series "very" or "extremely" valuable and informative. We’re feeling the love.

What does this mean for you? Well, to start with, we’re definitely bringing back Evenings with Artifcts this spring! And, we can start planning it with confidence and hopefully with your help, too. We’re on a mission to spur and support conversations about the ‘stuff’ in our lives and we’d love your input!

What Should We Talk About Next?

Here are but a few of the ideas that we received, verbatim, from survey respondents.  

      • Artificial Intelligence 
      • Export & integration tips with digital vaults (Just you wait. You’ll like what’s coming.) 
      • Bring Gena [Philbert-Ortega] back 
      • Repeat all your topics with new presenters 
      • Real Arti Community members and how they are using Artifcts (Sounds great! Write us at to volunteer.)
      • What to do with old photos (Start here, and we'll continue to expand!) 
      • The psychology of letting go of our own material possessions and helping others to do the same (We have an ARTIcles story on this topic scheduled for January! You may also want to read our ARTIcles related to health and aging.) 
      • What other family genealogy folks find working for them (Will do! We've had so many great conversations with genealogists and genealogy-related ARTIcles with our learnings so far.)

Sharing this wish list with you is both about transparency and about sharing the fun with all of you in the Arti Community! 

What do you think of these ideas? What would YOU like to learn and experience in the spring series? Write to us at and we’ll be sure to review all your suggestions!

Until then, if you're looking for the Evenings with Artifcts playbacks or related resources from any of our series, they’re all here for you. 

XOXO Artifcts


© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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